A couple of years ago I wrote a post on entitled ‘I bought a poppy’ and every November since then, I get a lot of questions on how to wear a poppy for remembrance day. There seems to be very little formal etiquette with regards to how poppies are worn, so here is my how-to guide on how to wear a poppy for remembrance day.
Why do you wear a poppy?
Although I would encourage everyone to wear a poppy with pride, poppies are entirely a personal choice. If like me, you want to remember those who lost their lives in conflict and want to help the Royal British Legion raise it’s target of £42m this year, then absolutely you should make a donation and wear your poppy proudly.
When do you wear a poppy?
This has always been cause for a lot of discussion. I see many people wearing poppies from the very start of the poppy appeal, usually around the last week of October. Others suggest a poppy should only be worn in the week leading up to Remembrance Sunday. My personal view is poppies should be worn from 1 November until Armistice Day on 11 November as these days are fixed and therefore is impossible to get wrong.
What side do you wear a poppy?
The age old question. Do you pin your poppy on the left or right. Some people say left, as it’s worn over the heart. It is also where military medals are worn and more conventional boutonnières. I often hear that men should wear theirs on the left and women on the right, as is the traditional custom with a badge or brooch. I have asked many members of the Royal British Legion this very question when getting my poppies and I have always been told there is no right or wrong side, only that a poppy should be ‘worn with pride’.
History of poppy day
Poppies were first suggested as a symbol of Remembrance in the USA by Miss Moina Michael in November 1918 and were adopted by the American Legion in 1920. In August 1921, Madame Guerin introduced her poppies, made by a French-American charity’s widows, to the British Legion. The next suitable occasion for a poppy-linked appeal was Armistice Day and so the first Poppy Appeal was born. They didn’t know if it would work but ordered nine million poppies !
On the day itself, the first poppy was bought in London a few seconds after midnight. From that moment it was a seller’s market: the poppies were on sale at an official price of threepence but before breakfast single petals were selling Smithfield Market for £5. All day long motor cars fetched poppies and crate after crate was emptied until supplies ran out. A message from Queen Mary brought sellers to Buckingham Palace, but hearing that poppies were in short supply she bought only two. A basket of poppies auctioned at Christies’s raised nearly £500.
The first appeal raised £106,000 (nearly £30 million in today’s terms) and all the poppies were supplied from France. In 1922 the “Poppy Factory” was established in the UK to keep costs down and employing disabled ex-Servicemen to make the poppies. Three times as many poppies were ordered for the next appeal and it made £204,000 with lower overheads.
Note that poppies were “sold” when the appeal started but charity legislation now requires them to be ‘distributed in return for donations’.
For more detailed information on poppy day, please visit the website of the http://www.britishlegion.org.uk.