Edinburgh Napier University

Category: War Poets

Remembrance Day and The Poppy

World War One, Remembrance Day and The Poppy

The battles of the First World War (WWI) devastated the countryside of Western Europe. One of the plants that survived the churned-up battlefields was the poppy. As the soldiers saw scarlet poppies bloom through the terrible destruction, they were encouraged to see that life could recover. One soldier, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired to write the poem, In Flanders Fields, in the spring of 1915. 

“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.

Subsequently, Since WW1 the poppy has become the universal emblem of remembrance, symbolising the sacrifices that soldiers in past wars made for us. 

The Selling of Poppies

In the United Kingdom, artificial poppies are sold by the Royal British Legion in the run-up to 11th November (Poppy Day). Importantly this is when the Armistice (an agreement to end the fighting) began at 11am on 11th November 1918. Furthermore, sales from the poppies go to providing financial, social and emotional support to British Armed Forces serving soldiers, former soldiers and their dependents. This year is the centenary of the UK Poppy Appeal. 

The original Poppy Days were created by Madame Guerin to raise funds for the French widows and orphans of the War. In 1921 she took samples of her artificial poppies to the Royal British Legion and proposed an Inter-Allied Poppy Day during which all WW1 allied countries use artificial poppies as an emblem of remembrance.

The poppies would be made by French widows and orphans and raise funds for the families of the fallen as well as survivors of the conflict. Although the idea was initially not well received by the British public, the WW1 British Army commander Earl Haig was keen, and after that, when the Royal British Legion held its first Poppy Day on 11th November 1921, it was a great success. Those first poppies were made in France, but from 1922 British veterans made the poppies at the Richmond factory which now employs 50 ex-servicemen all year round. In 1926 Lady Haig’s Poppy Factory in Edinburgh was established to produce poppies for Scotland. Over 5 million Scottish poppies are made by hand each year. 

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War Poets Collection: Remembering Siegfried Sassoon

Siegfried Sassoon

September is the time when we celebrate the acclaimed war poet Siegfried Sassoon.

Siegfried Sassoon was born 8th September 1886, and died in 1967, on September 1st. Sassoon was a talented poet, writer and soldier. He received the Military Cross for bravery during the First World War.

He wrote fervent pieces that spoke of compassion for his fellow soldiers, and his anger towards those he believed could have ended the war sooner but instead prolonged it.

Sassoon continued to write for the rest of his life, publishing many important works such as Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer.

 

Sassoon was sent to Craiglockhart War Hospital (Now our Craiglockhart campus) during World War One. Here he met Wilfred Owen during his convalescence, and together they produced some of the finest war poetry ever written.

Craiglockhart War Hospital (old Hydropathic Hotel) photographs of Staff and patients

Craiglockhart War Hospital

You can visit our permanent exhibition area containing more than 600 unique items. It allows visitors to get an insight into war through the experiences of the poets. Access to the War Poets Collection remains limited due to social distancing, so if you would like to visit please contact us first.

The War Poets collection at Craiglockhart campus

Not only do we have many items in our permanent exhibit, but we also have a treasure trove of exciting new material. It has been loaned to Edinburgh Napier’s War Poets Collection for the period covering the Centenary of the First World War Armistice on November 11th. The new exhibits, which will be available for public viewing, include original photographs of celebrated war poet Siegfried Sassoon, work privately printed by him and an original of his famous war protest letter of July 1917. Read more about it here.

If you would like to read some of his works, here are some sources:

 

For Library Members

Siegfried Sassoon: poet’s pilgrimage

Siegfried Sassoon : (1886-1967)

Dr W. H. R. Rivers: Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves ‘fathering friend’

You can check out Librarysearch.napier.ac.uk for access to many more wonderful University materials

Online

10 Siegfried Sassoon Poems Everyone Should Read

The Siegfried Sassoon Fellowship

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/sassoon_siegfried.shtml

https://siegfriedsfellowship.wixsite.com/siegfriedsassoon

War Poets Collection

 

 

 

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