Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Poppies

Several Facebook groups have re-posted the news that a scheme to purchase poppies and sew them all over the British Isles to commemorate WW1 in time for next year has been refused funding by the Lottery, in spite of apparently being endorsed by Prince Charles and Cameron.

What, you may ask, has the planting of poppies to do with Female Poets?  Well, I think I have already mentioned on this weblog that the idea of using poppies as a means of commemoration came from Moina Belle Michael, an American poet who worked for the YMCA during the First World War.  Moina had read Canadian Medical Officer John McCrae's famous poem "In Flanders Fields" and was determined not to 'break faith'.

John McCrae's story is sad. He was born in 1872 and served on the Western Front as a Medical Officer.  He wrote the poem after the funeral of his friend Lt. Alexis Helmer who was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres.  McCrae noticed some poppies were blooming in the cemetery. They appeared to be the only flower that flourished in the mud and mess.   McCrae apparently threw his poem away (as one does!) but it was rescued by a fellow officer who sent it to "Punch" Magazine in England.  They published "In Flanders Fields" on 8th December 1915.   Following his service at the Front, McCrae was sent to work in a military hospital in Bologne - away from the shells. He fell ill on 27th January 1918 with Pneumonia and died the following day.

The main Facebook Groups involved are WW1 Buffs, Centenary News, and Remembering World War One.  If you have't joined any of these groups they are extremely interesting - here is the link to Stanley Kaye's Remembering World War One Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/rememberingworldwarone/?fref=ts

It has been said that scattering poppies indiscriminately is not a good idea - Health and Safety and all that.  However, I just cannot see how the wind and the birds can be stopped from scattering seeds - can you?

Don't forget the purple poppies in remembrance of the animals who died during the Conflict will you - details from Animal Aid.

Picture:  Mary Riter Hamilton's painting "Trench with Duckboards and Poppies" - http://latefruit.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/a-painter-of-battlefields-mary-riter-hamilton/

Mary was commissioned to go to Flanders by the Canadian Amputees Association who gave me permission to spread the word about her wonderful work as long as I mention them.  Thank you.

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