Significance of the Poppy
Red poppies made of light cloth or paper are popularly worn on and around Anzac Day as a mark of respect to those who died in the course of service to their country. The poppy has its origins in the early twentieth century, when red or Flanders poppies bloomed over the graves of soldiers in France and Belgium. The poppy is now the undisputed symbol of remembrance, although its design has undergone several changes over the decades.
The first poppy day in New Zealand was held on 24 April 1922 and it met with much public enthusiasm. In all, 245,059 small poppies were sold for one shilling each and 15,157 large poppies for two shillings each. Some of the money received was sent to the French Children’s League and the rest was used to assist unemployed soldiers in need, and their families, during the winter of 1922. So began the tradition of the Poppy Day Appeal as a means of raising funds for the welfare of returned service people and their dependants.
See our Poppy Day Image Gallery.
It was a Canadian poet, Colonel John McRae, who first described the Flanders poppy as a flower of remembrance. During the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first aid post, he wrote the following in pencil on a page torn from his field dispatch book:
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
Scarcely 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.
Colonel McCrae died while on active service in May 1918, but the concept of the red poppy lives on when we use it to salute the memory of those who made sacrifices for their country in wartime.
The sounds of Anzac Day
Every Anzac Day ceremony involves the playing of Reveille and the Last Post and the reciting of the Ode.
The New Zealand Army Band has made recordings of each of these which are able to be downloaded from our Anzac Day sounds.
Right click on these links and choose "...save target as..." to download the files to your computer.