Marking the WWI Centenary: 'Now poppies grow'

Blogger: GemSen When I first heard about the campaign to plant millions of poppies across the country to commemorate the WWI Centenary I thought it was a great idea. Apparently, so did Prince Charles and David Cameron, who both endorsed the project as a fitting way to commemorate the 100th Anniversary. Despite this support though, the local scheme proposed by two Kent branches of the Royal British Legion, has been in danger of not going ahead after it was denied lottery funding. Fortunately, the scheme has been saved by DIY chain B&Q and will still go ahead and will now become a national project, reported by the Daily Mail. Apparently, the Lottery Fund denied the £92,000 grant because of a ‘high level of demand’ for money and the issue was even brought up in parliament – causing a stir among MPs and former military chiefs. Conservative MP for Dartford Gareth Johnson, whose great-grandfather died in the war, condemned the HLF’s position, telling the House of Commons: "This project has received support from Prince Charles and numerous charities and respected organisations. "It was therefore surprising that the Heritage Lottery Fund failed to support this project when it came before them last month.

Replying to Mr Johnson, Culture Minister Hugh Robertson said: 'I would absolutely agree with you that if there is one thing that is synonymous with memories of the First World War it is the Flanders Poppy. That’s one of the reasons why I think this was such a clever idea. Mr Robertson added that ministers are not allowed to direct lottery distributors over how to spend money. The news that the project is now back on track has really pleased the organisers and the RBL’s director of fundraising, Charles Byrne, commented: “The Royal British Legion is pleased to confirm we are rolling out the Centenary Poppy Campaign, which originated in the Greenhithe and Swanscombe Branch of the Legion, UK-wide, and plans for the campaign including a partnership with a national retailer will be announced imminently. “The bid submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund by the Greenhithe and Swanscombe Branch of The Royal British Legion was for a local project to provide poppy seeds in the Kent area only. “The Legion is now working with the branch and the HLF on a renewed bid to enable the local project to go ahead." A Heritage Lottery Fund spokesman said: 'The Heritage Lottery Fund has been unable to support a grant application from the Greenhithe and Swanscombe Branch of the Royal British Legion for a Kent-based project to sow poppies across the county, not to be confused with the Legion’s proposed UK-wide Centenary Poppy Campaign.” "We are in discussion with the Royal British Legion at national level and will be meeting with representatives from the Greenhithe and Swanscombe Branch of the RBL next week." Launching next month, The Centenary Poppy Campaign aims to encourage the public, schools, businesses and local authorities to start sowing millions of seeds across Britain. The Government have already revealed that around £50million will be spent marking the anniversary of the start of the war and the 100th anniversary commemorations will start on the 4th of August, next year. A service at Westminster Abbey will be the main focus for the events, with a final candle to be extinguished at 11pm  – to mark the precise moment that Britain went to war with Germany. Fought mostly by soldiers in trenches, World War I took over Europe from 1914 to 1919 and was a bloody war that resulted in huge losses of life seeing an estimated 10 million military deaths and another 20 million wounded. At the time many had hoped that World War I would end all wars but it actually set the stage for World War II. Red Poppies soon sprang up! The poppy is such a significant symbol of the Great War because it is the only thing that grew after all of the fighting. The flower can remain dormant in the earth for years, but will blossom spectacularly when the soil is agitated. The fields of Flanders and Picardy regions of Belgium and Northern France and Flanders became the scene of destruction and red Poppies soon sprang up.

Most people know the great ‘In Flanders Fields’ poem by John Mcrae, but there were many WWI poets who wrote about their experiences and also mentioned poppies. Below is a rather aptly named poem for this story called: ‘Now Poppies grow’, by S.J.Robinson.

Now Poppies Grow

Here, once, a soldier died in stalemate slow,

now where he fell, bright poppies grow.

Once horror reigned and death was rife,

Missing comrades haunted soldier's life.


The shells, the noise, the battle throng,

a whistle foretold sleep eternal long;

For, over the top, he rejoined dead friends,

In that sweet peace which never ends.


Eighteen or twenty, maybe less,

soldier's age of death, upon that crest,

a wasteful loss, a generation flown -

There, lie many, still Unknown.


A chilling hush fills the mourning air,

they rest here, safe, without age or care,

beneath long grass, under air so still,

Peace hides their graves, in trench, on hill.


The most worthy monument? A poppied field,

to the carnage? The Iron Harvest yield,

but from where the birds in war have flown,

The ghosts of Ypres and Somme live on...


Source: Daily Mail & First World Find out more with Forces War Records… Do you know enough about your ancestors and their military past? Why not log on to Forces War Records and search our vast collection of records to find out more  – there could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered, and remembered… Why not delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting war diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war, as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are fortunate to receive such amazing real life war stories involving lashings of courage, and now you can read some of them – completely free of charge. You can now also record your findings and import your family tree at the click of a button on Forces War Records with your GEDCOM genealogy software files. GEDCOM files contain genealogical information about individuals that can be linked together, imported and exported. Use this new family tree feature and take advantage of the company’s extensive record collection.
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