November 10, 2011

11.11.11 Remember

The date 11.11.11 has had special significance since 1918. It was first celebrated in remembrance of those who were lost in the First World War. It is celebrated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, and this, the 11th year. Poppies are the symbol of this day, which is known as Veteran’s Day in the US, and Remembrance Day in many Commonwealth countries.poppy4The red poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem "In Flanders Fields". These poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of Flanders in World War I, their brilliant red colour an appropriate symbol for the blood spilled in the war. The annual Poppy Appeal raises more than £40 million a year.

In the UK, almost every person you see around this time of year is wearing a simple red poppy with one leaf. poppy1As these gentlemen grilled James Murdock, they all had their poppy on their jackets. These poppies are sold in every tube station, street corner and open venue by veterans of all sorts of UK wars. They generally cost £1.00 each. But you can get nicer versions than the generic paper ones.poppy3In this recent painting of HM, she’s wearing five poppies, but they are in a diamond brooch. The details in this painting are amazing, from the poppies to the time on her watch, which is set at 11:00. Unusually, HM’s legs are showing in this portrait, which was commissioned to celebrate the 90th Anniversary of the Royal British Legion who run the Poppy Appeal.  poppy2You can see the details of the five poppies and the diamond brooch better in this image. The wreaths are always made of faux poppies because real ones are not in season at this time of year. HM and her family, which has strong ties to the services, always place wreaths at the Cenotaph in London, and at other cenotaphs throughout the Commonwealth.

I still have a poppy I picked up in the UK the last time I was there, and it’s stuck in my jacket pocket as a silent remembrance of those who have served in our wars. It’s held together with tape and the colours have faded.poppu02As you move through the day, please stop to remember at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. poppy6Thank you.

PS…Here are some images from today’s memorials in the UK. Roll over the image to see the caption.Two-minute-silence Lloyds of London

Children-place-poppies-in Trafalgar Square fountain

Veterans-attend-Commando Memorial Spean Bridge ScotlandDid you remember?


  1. Nice post Meg. Your dad would be proud! I have the nice permanent Poppy pins from the them in London last year...they always elicit comments this side of The Pond.

    A fellow BCPL Alum's Son

  2. In Australia we'd sell sprigs of rosemary on Remembrance Day and Anzac Day to raise money for war widows and veterans. Rosemary has meaning to Australians because it grows wild in Gallipoli. I find it appalling that Americans actually have "Memorial Day Sales" at shopping malls. Apparently the appropriate way to thank a veteran for his sacrifice is by running up your credit card on material goods made in China.

  3. Hi Meg,
    Lovely tribute. Email me your address and I'll send you a new poppy if you like :-)

  4. I remember my sister coming home from elementary school and reciting "In Flanders Field" and I had NO idea the carnage associated with WWI. I was probably 6 years old. And she gave me a poppy. Poignant more so this morning, as I'm just off of watching the HBO stuff on Vietnam.

    Ps...I am NOT making this up. I just looked down to see what the word verification code is for this submission. And it's "coottlic". I thought that word verification was supposed to screen out the jiggy--NOT suggest it.

  5. Growing up in the south, the local VFW always sold paper poppies on veteran's day. It was such a tradition that veteran's day was known as poppy day for me. Hadn't thought about these since I was a little girl.

  6. Well said.
    I'm forwarding this to my daughter. Growing up in England, I understood the significance of this day and the meaning of the ubiquitous poppy.
    I hope she'll understand as well.
    Thanks for putting the day in context.

  7. Beautiful tribute! I remember seeing red poppies in bloom in Turkey in the spring many years ago.
    Thank you for your wonderful musings. I look forward to each and all of them.

  8. Hi Meg, No--we must never forget. And hopefully, when everyone is home from Afghanistan, Iraq, etc...we will never again confront sending the "best of the best" to war. Pray for peace and changing hearts. Mary

  9. Anyone in the Baltimore-Dc area can now see the restored Great War memorial onMaine Ave, a beautiful domed marble tribute that was left to decay for too long. This holiday is, to me, the most important in the calendar. Thanks for the post

  10. Yes, I did remember. Unfortunately as I was trying to leave for Veteran's Day services here, there was something hanging from the underneath of my car (tie rod? Gas tank strap?). I was very disappointed to miss the services. It's a mear moment in time we can give to remember those who have served. Nice post. Thank you.

  11. Thanks, Meg, for another thoughtful post.

    Can you tell us if there is any symbolic meaning connected with the the fact the HM is wearing five poppies? I'm just curious as to why five.

    Not that I approve of Memorial Day sales, but I trust that Hyacinth Bucket knows that here in the States, Memorial Day and Veterans Day are not the same holiday.

  12. What a beautiful way to honor veterans! As an American, I wasn't aware of the poppy tradition until I read your post. Thanks for sharing the poem as well as the images.

  13. A lovely tribute and informational post Meg. Thank you for reminding us of the great sacrifice that so many have made for our freedom.

  14. Thanks, anonymous. Yes I do understand Memorial Day and Veteran's (Remembrance) Day are two different holidays. There are Veteran's Day sales too. Not much is sacred anymore.

    My grandfather was a conscientious objector during World War I but volunteered as an unarmed medic in the trenches. To go into the trenches unarmed to tend to the injured was either foolhardy or brave. I like to think the latter was the case.

  15. I'm married to a veteran. I remember every day. Great post!

  16. This is a very affecting story about 'Poppy Day' as we always called it. I hadn't realised the Queen wears five poppies and I always lament the horrible paper ones you get now with a thick green plastic stem. They always used to be a sort of 'silk' or some kind of felty fabric with a wire stem and had some substance. I suppose times have to change.

    What an amazing image of the Two Minutes' silence in the Lloyds Building.

    It's always a treat to meet up with WW II veterans - generally rather jolly despite all they went through and terribly modest.


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