And so as November comes around, the well-worn arguments about poppies arise from certain quarters so I thought I would put out there why I wear one. And, in my view, I think most people have something similar in mind.
Every year as I wear my poppy, I remember in particular the first world war in which three of my relatives participated. They were all volunteers – one might debate whether they were misguided, but for what ever reason, they felt they had to go.
My Grandfather was a career soldier so one imagines he approached this war in the same way he had all the others he had been involved in. I never met him but I did know he survived the war and eventually joined the Police when he left the army. I have his medals and they show he soldiered in many battles from the Punjab to South Africa. It is uncomfortable for me to see that the majority of these were in the creation or defence of Empire. But that was what the country wanted its soldiers to do in those days.
I also had two Great Uncles who joined the army as Privates in that war. One managed to rise to the rank of Serjeant (yes, for some reason they spelled it with a ‘j’ in the Medical Corps). The other joined the Seaforth Highlanders. Both were killed in action within a few weeks of each other in 1915 – one on the Western Front in the aftermath of Neuve Chapell, the other at Gallipoli.
To me the real tragedy is that this is actually a very ordinary story because almost everyone in Britain, France, Belgium, Germany, Turkey etc etc has a similar story. I wear the poppy to remember them, their families and their friends. Especially that my Great Uncles barely made it into their twenties – who knows what lives they could have had?
It is absurd to infer what my poppy shows that I thought any particular war was just. And it has nothing to do with nationalism or even patriotism. If anything, the opposite.