Why do people wear poppies?

  • 1 November 2016
Poppies Image copyright PA

In the days leading up to 11 November, you will see people on the TV and in the streets wearing a poppy.

This is a symbol to remember those who have given their lives in war.

This year, over 45 million poppies will be given out by 150,000 volunteers.

But why do we wear these red flowers to remember people in this way?

Why do we wear poppies?

The reason poppies are used to remember those who have given their lives in battle is because they are the flowers which grew on the battlefields after World War One ended.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Poppies growing in a field in France, which used to be a battlefield

This is described in the famous World War One poem In Flanders Fields, which you can read below.

Ever since then, they have come to be a symbol of remembering not just those who gave their lives in World War One, but all those who have died on behalf of their country.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Prime Minister Theresa May attaches a poppy to her jacket for this year's remembrance period

Every year, volunteers make poppies available throughout the country and people make a donation in order to get their poppy.

The money raised from these donations is used to help servicemen and women who are still alive, whose lives have been changed by wars that they fought in.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Former soldiers remember those who have lost their lives in war on Remembrance Sunday. You can see one at the front is carrying a wreath of poppies

It might help them to get jobs and somewhere to live, and will also help older war veterans with any support they may need.

It is also used to help those who have lost loved ones because of wars.

The charity that runs this Poppy Appeal is called The Royal British Legion.

Where did it all start?

Wearing poppies like this to raise money to help people who had fought in wars started in 1921.

This was year that the Royal British Legion was founded on 15 May.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Royal British Legion volunteers collect donations and give out poppies in the streets

However, back then the poppies weren't made out of paper like they are today. They were made out of silk.

They sold out straight away and raised more than £106,000 for those whose lives had been affected by the war, by helping to find them jobs and somewhere to live once they were no longer serving in the army.

In 1922, a factory was set up where disabled former soldiers were employed to make the poppies.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The poppies are made out of two plastic parts and two paper parts, and must be assembled by volunteers. Here you can see a pile of the green stems used to make poppies

This factory is still running - and producing many millions of poppies each year - to this very day.

While the majority of people wear their poppy on their chest, there is in fact no right or wrong way to wear a poppy.

As the Royal British Legion says: "We only ask you to wear it with pride."

In Flanders Fields - by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.


We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.


Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

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