1. There are white and purple poppies
While the standard red poppy is by far and away the most popular, poppies can also come in other colours. Pacifists choose to wear white poppies on the day to show their opposition to all conflict and war. Purple poppies are also common and are worn by members of the charity Animal Aid, whose goal is to remind people that animals also lose their lives during wars
2. The traditional red poppies can be controversial
Not everyone is pro-poppies. In fact, some groups are firmly against it. Irish Republicans in particular are against the symbol as they associate it with the British Army who were deployed in North Ireland during the Troubles from 1968-1998. Some groups are not strictly ‘anti-poppy’ but choose to not wear one. This includes newsreaders and sports teams and the reason for this to maintain neutrality in front of a audience.
3. The Last Post is always played
A rendition of the Last Post is a common fixture on Remembrance Sunday, but why? The bugle call that precedes a minute’s silence was originally used in British Army camps to signal the end of the day. Every sentry post would be examined and the call would announce that everyone had been successfully inspected. A symbolic call, it was later adopted into military funerals and finally into Remembrance Sunday ceremonies.
4. The idea of poppies comes from a poem
Poppies are the symbol of remembrance as they grew on the battlefields of the Western Front after World War One. But who popularised this idea? The answer is Canadian former soldier, John McCrae. The opening lines of his poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, refer to the poppies being the first flowers to grow on the bloody battlefields.
The full poem is:
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.
5. The IRA used a Remembrance Day as a chance to bomb Loyalists in Northern Ireland
Known as the Poppy Day Massacre, the Remembrance Day bombings of 1987 were a terrible event. Taking place on the 8 November, twelve people were killed and 63 injured when an IRA bomb exploded at a war memorial. The bombings were located in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland and were partly in response to the killing of eight IRA men at the hands of the SAS at a police station in Loughgall, Northern Ireland. The killings were widely condemned and a second Remembrance Day was held a fortnight afterwards.