This year I shall be wearing a white poppy. I was prompted by being challenged by an old man from our village about not wearing a poppy when it was only mid-October – and I never wear a poppy until November. His presumption reminded me that there were – and are – many other people than combatants who fell in war or whose lives were irreversibly affected by war service. And it reminded me that I have a choice about whether I wear one or not, and that my choice is mine own, unlike all those who appear on the screens of the BBC and who appear to have no such choice.
The red poppy, although not originally a martial symbol, has increasingly become one. It is seen as an affirmation of alleigance to the British State as much as of remembrance of those who have fallen, and its merit and purity of purpose have been diminished.
Let me be clear – I fully support the work of the Royal British Legion in supporting veterans and the families of fallen servicemen and servicewomen. I have lost family in the Afghan conflict and have attended a cousin’s military funeral. And I know the pride that British people place in the Royal British Legion and our armed forces is not misplaced nor naive. I shall also wear a red poppy, but it might be the last year that I do.
But we should also remember the COs – the conscientious objectors – who were sent to serve in ambulance units on the front line and who also lost their lives, but whose names are not recorded on our war memorials. They, too, are deserving of our respect and remembrance.
In the UK, the Peace Pledge Union have been working for a world without war since 1934. I shall now support their work in addition to supporting the work of the Royal British Legion. The PPU sell a range of white poppies, posters and postcards, and any surplus money from their sale goes to support their educational work to promote a world without war. You can buy yours here.
I mentioned to my wife and to friends that I intended to wear a white poppy and why, and I will not be the only person in the village wearing one this year. There’s your answer, old man.