At this time of year the majority of the people of Britain wear their poppy with pride. It can also be seen worn around the world where there are large communities of Britons.
The red poppy is our symbol of remembrance and this coming Sunday is the day when the nation commemorates all those who died in the world’s wars.
When I was young Remembrance Sunday was firmly linked with the veterans of World War I even though many had also died and suffered in World War II, Korea and other places where British forces served.
Now the survivors of World War I have all gone. However today I read a letter in the Daily Telegraph from Lt Col T.K. Courtenay (retired) who acts as a battlefield guide in which he told the story of the poppy.
“Despite the mud and desolation of the Ypres Salient, every year in springtime the seeds of the red poppy flourished. It was a Canadian doctor, Major John McCrae, who running his dressing station at Essex Farm, witnessed the physically and mentally wounded men brought to him for lifesaving surgery. Many survived; sadly, many did not.
“For McCrae the young red petals and green leaves of the poppy gave him hope and consolation among such carnage. This inspired him to write the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” and in the last lines lies the real message: If ye break faith with us who die/We shall not sleep, though poppies grow/In Flanders fields.”
Today it is the brave servicemen and women - from Britain as well as the USA - laying down their lives in Afghanistan who are most on our minds. It is a sad irony that Afghanistan is as famous as Flanders for its poppy fields – and is becoming infamous for its carnage.