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Poppy Day

British Legion Poppy 1921

With Remembrance Day upon us we decided to look into how the poppy became so associated with that day. It wasn’t until the end of 1921 when Poppies were actually sold here in Britain for the first time. They were to become an almost immediate symbol of remembrance that we recognise today.

Poppies flourish in churned up soil so were a common sight on the western front where the land was torn apart by the fighting and shelling. While serving in Ypres in 1915 Canadian doctor, John McCrae, wrote his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. The first two lines of which say

“…In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row…”


In 1918, in response to John McCrae’s poem, an American YMCA worker Moina Michael, wrote her own poem “We Shall Keep the Faith” in which in the last few lines she says 

“…And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead…”

Following the war the Earl Haig Fund was set up by the British Legion in support of ex-servicemen and the families of those who had died in the conflict.  In 1921 a French YMCA worker and friend of Moina Michael, Madame Guerin,  visited the newly-formed Legion with samples of artificial poppies which she had been making in France to raise money for war orphans. 

The idea was quickly taken up and poppies, provided by Madame Guerin, were sold on Armistice day 1921 this first Poppy Day proved so popular that in 1922 the British Legion founded a factory to produce its own poppies and so provided work for disabled ex-servicemen – and this continues today.

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury November 11 1921

Here in Deal poppies may have also been sold, as they were elsewhere in Kent, for the first time in November 1921. Although this does not appear to be mentioned in the local press, a poem was printed in the Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury on November 12th; written by Claude Greening it suggests that people here had taken up this gesture.

The first actual mention of ‘Poppy Day’ in the area that we can find is in November 1923 when an advert was placed in by the Sandwich & District Branch of the British Legion in the Mercury.

Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury November 10 1923

Sources and further reading:
Deal, Walmer & Sandwich Mercury ~ courtesy of Deal Museum
Imperial War Museum
The British Legion