In Flanders Fields The Poppies Blow Between The Crosses Row on Row
By Robbie Mackay
Without doubt each and everyone of us has at least one family member who’s life has been sacrificed by war, a life cruelly taken so we can live and enjoy our lives today. In WWI we lost my dear Auntie Milly’s brother, William Mackay serving in the Royal Horse Artillery. My Grandfather’s brother Andrew ‘Andra’ Faichnie serving in the Royal Scots survived WWII but was deeply effected by his experiences and never lived a ‘normal’ life.
Tomorrow marks 100 years since the end of the First World War, it marks the day World War One ended at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month, back in 1918. With tributes in the shape of films, poetry and exhibitions having taking place over the course of the year the events have kept the centenary in our minds, however they will come to a head tomorrow. Each year in November, our nation marks the wars that have scarred our past and the bravery of the men and women who fought them. Armistice day and Remembrance Sunday, which both fall on Sunday 11th of November this year are a chance to remember not just those who fought, but what they fought for; our freedoms.
My memories of Armistice Day growing up as a small boy in Edinburgh consisted of participating in a 2 minute silence at primary school, then being packed off to my Grannie’s the following Sunday whilst my parents attended Remembrance and Armistice Day Functions at Redhall Barracks in Edinburgh, alongside active, retired and ex military personnel. Listening inquisitively as children naturally do, the chat which followed the next day sounded to me like a great party had been enjoyed by all. Of course at that age you can’t begin to comprehend what the day is actually all about, the significance of the humble poppy and why we should all wear our poppies with pride.
The remembrance poppy has been used since 1921 to commemorate military personnel who have died in war and represents a field poppy, namely Papaver rhoeas. Inspired by the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields”. Its opening lines refer to the many poppies that were the first flowers to grow in the earth of soldiers’ graves in Flanders, a region of Belgium. It is written from the point of view of the dead soldiers and in the last verse, they call on the living to continue the fight for justice. The poem was written by a Canadian physician, John McCrae in 1915 after witnessing the death of his friend, a fellow soldier, the day before. The poem was first published in the London-based magazine Punch. Today, they are mostly used in the United Kingdom to commemorate the servicemen and women killed in all conflicts. Small artificial poppies are often worn on clothing leading up to Remembrance Day/Armistice Day, and poppy wreaths are often laid at war memorials.
“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.”