One thing I’ve noticed this year, is a distinct lack of red paper poppies pinned to the lapels of the general public. I’m sitting in a coffee shop at the moment, with a quick head count of 27 other people here, and there are three of us with poppies pinned to our coats. Three.
Another thing that hasn’t failed to escape my attention, is the number of ‘fake’ poppies that spring up on craft sites and Facebook selling groups this time of year. Now this really gets my goat. Poppies made from fimo, covered in bling, natty hand knitted poppies- and the majority of them sold without a penny of the proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, who are aiming to raise £42million through the Poppy Appeal this year. According to the website, they’ve not made a million yet, with less than a week to go until Remembrance Day. Given that the population of the UK is approximately 63million, and the suggested donation for a paper lapel poppy is £1, it shouldn’t be a difficult target to meet. What’s a pound, once a year, from those many of us who really do owe so much to so few?
Now, in the same vein that Victoria Beckham couldn’t exclusively claim the word ‘Posh’ or Cadburys doesn’t have the monopoly on that particular shade of purple, the poppy does not ‘belong’ to the Royal British Legion.
But in buying a poppy, you should be supporting the servicemen and women who have fought to give us the freedoms that we have today, otherwise it’s just a soulless ornament. Remembering the war dead, and aiding military personnel returning to civilian life, assisting the wounded, supporting families who are casualties of modern day war- is not a question of vanity.
Coming from a family where my father was a Gunner in the Falklands, and a brother currently serving in the RAF on several tours of Afghanistan, those servicemen are my family. Had things been a little different, I would have been standing shoulder to shoulder with my brother in the Royal Air Force, but Small Boy put paid to that, so instead I buy my poppy every year and visit the Cenotaph to pray for him when he is at war. Yes, war. War isn’t confined to our history books, we are a country embroiled in it, tangled in it, grieving as individual families and collectively as a nation when yet another body of a fallen soldier is returned home. War is with us, and just because you can turn the TV off or not pick up a newspaper, just because it is not on your doorstep, doesn’t make it any less real, and doesn’t make it any less vital to remember. Only when we forget the horrors and atrocities of war, of what people can do to other people, do we run the risk of that history repeating itself.
The Royal British Legion aren’t just for the 11th of November, but it is around then that they have their biggest boost to their income, through the sale of paper poppies and those fiddly little pins. I’m all in favour of independent traders and small businesses, but have some respect and leave our poppies alone, or at the very least, donate the proceeds to where they belong.
Profiteering at the cost of diverting resources from the families of men and women who gave up their lives for your liberty is not illegal, but it is morally uncomfortable at best. I should imagine that most people wearing their natty knitted poppies or crystal brooches probably hadn’t thought of that.
To donate to the Poppy Appeal, click here:
Ms Jack Monroe, Southend on Sea.