Whether born in UK or not; whether you came to this country out of choice or because of circumstances, we all now live in a free nation which has been defended by many service men and women. This people gave up family, friends, health and even life to protect and secure our freedom. For our tomorrow they gave up their today.
Today we celebrate Remembrance Sunday and will pray for those who have been affected by military conflict down the centuries. In solidarity with them, many of us have worn a poppy and our Church is adorned with poppies.
During the First World War (1914–1918) much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud: bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow. Bright red Flanders poppies however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write a now famous poem called ‘In Flanders Fields’.
McCrae’s poem inspired an American academic, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guérin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever ‘Poppy Appeal’ raised over £106,000; a considerable amount of money at the time. This was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing. The following year, Major George Howson set up the Poppy Factory to employ disabled ex-Servicemen. Today, the factory and the Legion’s warehouse in Aylesford produces millions of poppies each year.
We offer our prayers for the fallen and we pray for a world in which peace will reign. Honouring the fallen as we do this Sunday we honour both how they lived and how they died. Let’s hope that we may do as well.