The History of the Poppy
Most Canadians recognize the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae of Guelph, in May 1915.
Inspired by the verses, an American teacher, Moina Mitchell, vowed to wear a poppy in remembrance. Her example, in turn, inspired a French visitor to the USA, Mme Guerin, to raise money for victims of the war. By 1921, Canadian Veterans’ associations officially adopted the Poppy as the Flower of Remembrance.
In Flanders Fields
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.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
May 3, 1915
Who can use the Poppy?
The Royal Canadian Legion protects the Poppy trademark so that it can only be used for the benefit of Veterans and their dependents, and to preserve and honour the memory of the fallen. The Poppy and any symbol resembling it can only be used with the permission of the Legion.
How to wear the Poppy?
The Poppy should be worn with respect on the left side, over the heart. The Legion’s lapel Poppy is a sacred symbol of Remembrance and should not be affixed with any pin that obstructs the Poppy.
When to wear a Poppy?
The Poppy should be worn during Remembrance, from the last Friday in October until November 11. The Legion encourages the wearing of Poppies at funerals of Veterans, and for any commemorative event such as a memorial service, or the anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. As well, it is not inappropriate to wear a Poppy during other times to commemorate Fallen Veterans and it is an individual choice to do so.
How to remove a Poppy?
Poppies may be worn throughout Remembrance, including in the evening after Remembrance Day Ceremony. Some choose to remove their Poppy at the end of the day on November 11. Some choose to remove their Poppy at the conclusion of the ceremony and place their Poppy on the cenotaph or on a wreath as a sign of respect. This has become a poignant tradition each year at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa when thousands of Poppies are placed on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
When a Poppy is removed, it should be stored appropriately or it may be disposed of respectfully. We encourage anyone who finds a Poppy that has fallen to the ground to pick it up and brush it off so that it can be kept or disposed of respectfully.
While Poppies are always free, The Royal Canadian Legion gratefully accepts donations to the Poppy Fund, which directly supports Canada’s Veterans and their families in need.