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Lest we forget - the red poppy symbol

The red poppy is a symbol of both Remembrance and hope for a peaceful future.

The poppy for almost a century has been a prominent symbol of remembrance, with millions of commemorative flowers produced every year to pay tribute to Britain’s war dead.

The poppy's origins lie in the opening lines of the war poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian officer John McCrae, first published in December 1915:

“In Flanders fields, the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row”. The opening lines of the World War I poem "In Flanders Fields" refer to poppies growing among the graves of war victims in a region of Belgium.

1921 The British remembrance poppy. Cotton and silk poppies were made in devastated areas of France by Madame Guérin, "The Poppy Lady from France"

The originator of Poppy Day for the widows and orphans of soldiers killed during the war.

The flower was adopted as a symbol by the newly-formed Royal British Legion, a charity established to provide support for members and veterans of the British Armed Forces and their families.

This grew from manufacturing poppies in a room above a shop in Bermondsey, south London to a facility in Richmond where 50 ex-servicemen and women work all year round producing tens of millions of the symbolic flowers.

The First World War Armistice

The Armistice was signed by representatives of the Allies and Germany, declaring an end to the First World War with the cessation of hostilities on land, sea, and air. An agreement was eventually agreed upon at 5 am on 11 November, to come into effect at 11 am Paris time.

Armistice Day is the anniversary of the signing of the Armistice that marked the end of the First World War in 1918 and is remembered every year on 11 November. And the second Sunday of the month is Remembrance Sunday - when services and processions take place around the country.

Did you know where the Remembrance Day quote ‘Lest we forget’ comes from?

At Remembrance Day services you usually hear the phrase ‘lest we forget’. Every November Britain honours those who have fought and died at war. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, the literal translation of “lest we forget” is “it should not be forgotten”.

The phrase is used to warn people not to forget those who have lost their lives at war, while we live through times of relative peace. You may see it written on poppy pin badges and other remembrance-related items. It is also inscribed on some soldiers’ graves and war memorials.

The phrase actually originates from the poem ‘Recessional’ by Rudyard Kipling, written for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. But was only adopted in its current use around a decade after the end of the First World War. The theme of the poem is the importance of a nation not forgetting the source of its success.

The phrase “lest we forget” occurs eight times in the poem.

The opening verse goes as follows:

God of our fathers, known of old, Lord of our far-flung battle-line, Beneath whose awful Hand we hold Dominion over palm and pine— Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet, Lest we forget—lest we forget!

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