FIFA caused uproar recently when it turned down England and Scotland’s request to wear remembrance poppies on their armbands during a match on 11 November. The organisation has even threatened to deduct points from both England and Scotland if they ignore the ban during their World Cup Qualifier at Wembley. With the poppy making headlines, we look at what the little flower really stands for. Here are 10 things you never knew about your poppy…
1. White poppies are sometimes used as an alternative, worn as a pacifist statement to commemorate the dead but object to war.
2. The green leaf should traditionally point to the time when the First World War ended on the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
3. While most people wear the poppy on the left near to their heart, some say women should wear the poppy on the right. This is because the left is traditionally where medals are hung which should be reserved for men.
4. There’s a purple poppy to remember the millions of animals that have died as a result of conflict. It was created in 2006 and all proceeds go to the charity Animal Aid.
5. It’s sometimes said that the red of the poppy is meant to portray the blood shed in battle, the black represents mourning and the green leaf signifies the growth and repair after war. However, The Royal British Legion states the red does not signify blood. They also say it shouldn’t signify religion or politics.
6. In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to write a now famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’. After the First World War, the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance.
7. Scottish poppies have never had a leaf. They are made by a charity called Poppyscotland by veterans with disabilities. On their website they state: “Apart from being botanically incorrect it would cost £15,000 to make leaves for all poppies – money we feel is better spent on veterans. We might be slightly biased but we think the Scottish poppy looks nicer too!”
8. All funds from selling poppies go to The Royal British Legion, which helps members of the Royal Navy, British Army, Royal Air Force, Reservists, veterans and their families.
9. We wear a red poppy over any other flower because it grows wild in many fields in northern France and Belgium. This is where some of the deadliest battles of World War One took place and many men died. Poppies are tough flowers, and can grow anywhere, but are also delicate. It is thought they are a fitting emblem to remember those who died.
10.While they are often thought of as British, poppies are in fact widely worn on and around 11 November in Canada, Australia and other Commonwealth nations.