The wearing of the poppy

The following is an entirely personal set of musings about Poppy day and Remembrance etc. I know some people find some of my blogs at times too personal but I wanted to do this one: if you do not like it just move on to the next blog. It is poppy time again and I am back to wearing a poppy and yet feeling a bit uncomfortable about it. My discomfort exists at a number of levels:Firstly I do not want to offend anyone by wearing a poppy. I am aware that there are some people who find a poppy offensive: they may have good or bad reasons for disliking poppies. One can argue that they celebrate militarism and glory in what were actually awful events. I am not trying to celebrate militarism: I am trying to remember the sacrifice and death of the world wars by wearing it. I feel that I am remembering the young Germans who died in the First World War as well: they were not very different to my ancestors who fought on the British side. I even feel that I am remembering the Germans of the Second War as well. Just because the Nazi regime was itself evil does not mean that they were themselves all committing evil by fighting for their country: most had little choice. As such I know why I wear the poppy but clearly I cannot explain that to everyone I see in the street.

I also do not want to be seen as being critical of those who are not wearing a poppy. I remember an elder in our church apologising as he was reading the announcements on Remembrance Sunday but had forgotten his poppy. Not wearing a poppy: be it through forgetfulness, the thing dropping off or refusal to wear one should not be something to be ashamed of. I often wonder if there are a vast pile of poppies in Westminster so all the politicians can pick one up before going on television.

Poppies are sometimes used as a badge of Prodishness: I well remember Queen’s at poppy time and the instant badge of identity which the poppy implied: just as in a way Ash Wednesday provided an alternative badge. I do not really like the way a poppy tends to imply support for one side in Northern Ireland and indeed may be seen as implying a particular political position: one which I of course support. I happen to support hardline unionism and also happen to wear a poppy. I do not wear a poppy in order to demonstrate my unionism. Again I cannot explain that to everyone I meet.

So why do I continue to wear a poppy? Well because at the end of the day I want to remember and mark what happened in the world wars and indeed in the wars before and since: most of all I want to remember the people who fought, suffered and died, especially the ones I knew:

My grandfather who was ground crew for the RAF, my step grandfather who was a navigator on Wellingtons. Most of all I remember my father in law.

Elenwe’s dad was a lovely, frustrating, irritating old man. When I first met him he was a fit 84 year old. He did not talk much about his experiences but from what he did tell us he joined the army in 1939 to see the world more than from any great sense of patriotic duty. He was trained initially at Catterick before being sent to Singapore to the garrison there as a motorbike despatch rider. The defence of Singapore was very poorly organised and the British should have been able to put up a vastly better military response. They completely failed to appreciate that the Japanese would come down the Malaysian peninsula on the roads the British had made rather than mount a sea borne invasion. In addition they betrayed arrogance and were dismissive of the Japanese soldiers fighting abilities. Churchill was obsessed with the war in Europe and would not spare troops and most importantly equipment to mount a proper defence.

Anyhow this is not a history lesson. Elenwe’s dad had no involvement in fighting, the closest he got was that he always claimed his deafness in later life was related to being near the 15” sea guns when they were being fired (as opposed to great old age which seemed the more likely explanation). He was captured along with all the others and sent north, not to the camp on the River Kwai, but to a camp building the railway to it. He recounted having a pint of milk stolen on the journey which greatly annoyed him, little realising what lay in store for him. The work in the camp was extremely heavy, the food abysmal in both quantity and quality. The guards (who were themselves treated pretty badly) beat them regularly. A favourite form of torture involved pouring large quantities of water into the prisoners’ mouths and then repeatedly kicking them in the stomach. The thing he complained about most though was the time a soldier used a sword to behead a dog: funny what people take exception to. He recounted that the local people, little better treated than them tried to help the prisoners.

So many people died that the guards knew the last post from it having been played so frequently. Elenwe’s dad got some sort of tropical ulcer and was in what passed for the camp hospital. After he recovered, the doctors kept him as an orderly in the hospital which saved him some of the ill treatment. Later he worked in the cook house making food for the Japanese soldiers which got him slightly more and slightly better food as sometimes they let the cooks have a bit of the guards’ food. I asked him once about his faith in that place and he simply said that he trusted God to keep him safe.

Eventually after 3 ½ years they heard rumours that the British and Indian forces were advancing towards them. This might well have resulted in them being killed by their captors. However, the nuclear bombs and Japan’s surrender intervened. He said that one day the Japanese commander simply told them that Japan had surrendered. In some camps a Union flag was found and run up but I think little changed and they essentially all sat about and waited to see what would happen. After a few weeks the British duly arrived.

The most seriously unwell were airlifted in a series of hops back to Britain (usually via India). The healthier ones like Elenwe’s dad were sent to the sea and back on ships. He said that this helped him adjust a bit to freedom. So eventually they arrived at Southampton and he was demobilised and sent back to Northern Ireland. He used to recount how eventually he arrived at Clones on the train and then had to walk home as they were too busy on the farm to collect him. Then he restarted the life of a Fermanagh farmer who did nothing terribly strange and finally married at the age of about 50. All I can say is that I am extremely grateful that we were (to quote the Bible) able to show him his children’s children.

So I am in no way trying to force anyone to wear a poppy but that is why I wear mine.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Unionist or hardline unionist? pregnant or nearly pregnant.You also forgot that the nationalist population might not be too happy with the fact that a percentage of poppy money goes to the ex UDR and ex RUC. It’s strange how unionists complain about the provos ‘politicising’ the Irish language and they can’t (won’t) admit how they have done the same with the poppy. Anyway to thine own self be true.

  • fair_deal

    “why I wear mine”

    Most of all for my great grandfather,a Somme veteran, war prisoner and escapee who summed up his experiences in the trenches in one word “terbil”, my Great Uncle Willie who left one of his arms on a WW2 battlefield (Anyone from Coleraine of my age or older may remember the one armed doorman in Coleraine Post office – an old near neighbour of yours as well Turgon) and my father who suffers from PTSD as a result of his service. The rest of those in my family who served in the same wars and subsequent conflicts. Then all those who made similar sacrifices.

    “yet feeling a bit uncomfortable about it”

    Fuck the begrugders.

  • fair_deal

    “Then all those who made similar sacrifices.”

    Addition similar sacrifices and more

  • Rory

    So I am in no way trying to force anyone to wear a poppy but that is why I wear mine.

    Ok then, Turgon, you’ve convinced me, I won’t be wearing one again this year.

    I have too much respect for the memory of my grandfather, who fell at Mons as cannon-fodder for the rich and powerful, to further blaspheme his life and the waste of it in perpetuating such wanton waste as glory and allow the bastards who profited from his death to continue to profit from death, destruction and misery.

    Which is another reason why protesting against the RIR parade in Belfast on Sunday is something that those who treasure humanity over profit might well support. It would be a much more fitting tribute to those who gave their lives to feed rich men’s greed than wearing a bloody paper poppy!

  • percy

    Rory,
    forget all that balls, just wear one to remember the blood spilt, and the pitiful waste of life.

    I’m a republican, but this crap this w/end is a nonsense from SF.

    There is a time to protest the wars.
    There is a time to remember the dead.

    Do not confuse the two.

    I’m with fair-deal this weekend.
    Fuck the begrudgers.

  • picador

    Remember wars if you must but for God’s sake don;t force other people to remember them.

    Why o why does Poppy Day go on for two weeks? Why do we have to listen to the same old sanctimonious claptrap year after year? It is so goddamn tedious.

  • Why o why does Poppy Day go on for two weeks?

    If unionists had their way the whole year would be daisy-chained with ‘British’ ceremonies.

  • Driver

    Wearing a poppy is one thing, but do you ever see the cars that drive around 365 days a year with a poppy on the windshield – now that is taking the piss!

  • terry turnip

    Ah good old world war two – warm as a nice pair of slippers. Good against evil and all those easy answers that come with retrospect and too much timewatch.

    I got in a bit of a row with a Frenchman last night who complained about Irish neutrality during the war.

    I asked him should Irishmen have laid down their lives so France could continue to murder Vietnamese or Algerians or Tunisians or whoever else…at this he got very annoyed.

    You could ask the same of the Brits.

    My Great grandfather was blown to smithereens at Gallipoli, he was a lifetime soldier having served at Ladysmith during the Boer war. His son, my grandfather, was at the somme – shot himself to get out of it apparently – and went on to serve in the merchant navy in ww2 on convoys. He was on two vessels sunk by u boats and never got over injuries sustained.

    After the war he came back to good old Norn Iron where he was rewarded with dismal housing and turn downs for jobs for being, frankly speaking, a taig. He wrote to Brookeborough about this, citing his service, he never got a reply.

    I can respect an individuals decision to wear a poppy but good god, how abused it is in ” our wee pravince”

    No poppy for me thanks.

  • Big Maggie

    Here’s Margaret Atwood, writing in her 1993 novel The Robber Bride:

    At the beginning of November the French decorate their family graves with chrysanthemums, the Mexicans with marigolds, making a golden path so the spirits can find their way. Whereas we go in for poppies. The flower of sleep and forgetting. Petals of spilled blood.

    Each one of them has a poppy stuck into the front of her coat. Flimsy plastic but who can resist, thinks Roz, though she liked the cloth ones better. It’s like those awful daffodils for cancer, pretty soon every single flower will be hooked up with some body part or disease. Plastic lupins for lupus, plastic columbines for colostomies, plastic aspidistras for AIDS, you have to buy the darn things though, it protects you from getting hit up every time you walk out the door. I have one already. See?

  • Intelligence Insider

    Pancho’s Horse, no money from the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal goes towards ex-RUC men unless they were also members of H.M. Forces. Time to stop peddling your lies and bullshit. It is nationalists that are politicising this event and making fools of themselves all over the western world. Bush said that “you are either for us or against us” and the sooner we rid ourselves of those against us the better.

  • Big Maggie

    Insider

    Bush said that “you are either for us or against us” and the sooner we rid ourselves of those against us the better.

    Not the best time to mention Bush, his lies, and his sabre-rattling.

  • Rory

    If the choice was to be with Bush (and his little nodding dog, Blair) or to be against him then the people of the United Kingdom resoundingly declared that they were against him in the million-strong largest ever march against an intended action of government.

    Too damn right I was ‘agin’ him and too damn right I am still ‘agin’ him and all that he stands for. And, thank God, the good citizens of the US have at last woken up and they are ‘agin’ the prick as well.

  • Driftwood

    All symbols here seem to be ‘adapted’ by the ‘2 communities’. ie Plain Christian crosses by prods, or ones with a figure of jesus on it (crucifix?) by rc’s. Ash wednesday is obvious, that ‘fish’ symbol seems to appeal to evangelicals on car boots and lapels. Poppies and shramrocks, easter and Orange lilies. Even flags. What’s with the Palestinian and Israeli ones? Next it will be Barca and Real Madrid, to go with the old Firm. People seem to like having a sense of identity and affiliation with our ancestors.
    I see no reason to be offended by a poppy or a shamrock. As someone named after my Uncle who was killed with the KOSB’s in April 1945, fighting Nazism, I wear a poppy. when I see Jackie McDonald wearing one I physically cringe. That does offend me.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Intelligence, I see you have scotched my dirty lie about the RUC getting poppy money but did you overlook the UDR? Do they not get money from the poppies? Was it only a half lie I told? It must make ‘the vast majority of decent people’ swell up with pride to know that their well meant poppy money is going to provide holiday flats in Portrush and caravans in Scotland for the brave UDR. If I was English, I would have no problem giving but as I am neither British, unionist nor non catholic I won’t give here.

  • percy

    Rory,
    you’re still not getting it.
    There’s a time to protest and a time to remember!

  • skibbereen eagle

    Hi, I often view the Sluggger blog from Dublin and I note the poppy controversy. People are clearly entilted to wear any symbol as they wish. I am however surprised that for example on Northern TV the presenters are allowed to wear poppies. In a community where there is no consensus public services and those who work there should be endeavouring to perform their function in a non contentious manner whatever about their own personal feelings.

    Reading the blogs it seems that those of the broad Unionist community assume they have an automatic entitlement to wear this symbol when dicsharging public functions. Until there is a neutral public service serving all in a fashion devoid of contentious symbols any prospect of community harmony must be postponed.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    percy, there’s also a time to protest about what you remember, don’t forget!

  • pith

    Turgon, Is there anything in the world that isn’t about you?

  • WEAR YOUR POPPIES FOR GOD’s SAKE
    All your grandfather probably fought in the great war anyway
    A small paper flower can’t offend anyone really
    can it?
    or do they all have such a chip on their shoulder that you can’t even honour the dead!
    Give it UP!

  • Idon’tLikeRory!

    Rory!
    Why must you be so biligerant, juat wear a bloody poppy because your grandfather probably fought in the war anyway!
    You’d think that an Irishman never fought in the British Army

  • Steve

    Yeah and you’d think the british army wouldn’t have a history of indiscriminantly shooting Irish people….. you would be wrong but its a nice thought

  • Dave

    ” Until there is a neutral public service serving all in a fashion devoid of contentious symbols any prospect of community harmony must be postponed.” – skibbereen eagle

    That is why the political theory behind Parity of Esteem translates as parity of contempt in practice. You cannot promote esteem for difference by the dismal expedient of censoring the difference.

    In addition, the object of Parity of Esteem is to remove the rights of nations to a nation-state, and to invalidate the principle of self-determination. While the leaders of northern nationalism signed up to this concept in the GFA, they did so by misrepresenting the paradigm to their supporters as a process that would lead to an Irish nation state rather than being a process that was designed to dismantle it. So, in reality, the leaders signed up for it, but the people signed up for something entirely different. I’m not sure that the shift was any less top-heavy on the Unionist side.

    So, you see the shift among the leaders of northern nationalism from claiming that the Unionist are Irish to accepting that they are, in fact, British. The next step then is to argue that because they are British that their must be parity of constitutionality (or “rigorous impartiality” if any unified entity as a salient and legally binding GFA clause puts it) between British nationalism and Irish nationalism in order to have the required esteem between them. So, showing respect for the Britishness of Unionists is linked to showing respect to the armed forces of a foreign government. Next they’ll be implored to salute a visit from a foreign monarch as a means of showing their engineered parity of esteem. Or, at any rate, they would have been if Shinners didn’t realise that they are getting too far ahead of their supporters again – much like they did on the P and J issue.

    None of this engineered parity, of course, is reflected on the ground, since – rather obviously – you can’t engineer profound shifts of that magnitude unless you tell people exactly what the agenda is and unless they fully support it. And anyway, in regard to nationalism and self-determination, these are guiding principles and men will die for them again if they are stolen via duplicity just as they have died to secure them all through history.

    If you want parity between two nationalisms, then you can only have it with two nation-states. As the British and Irish already have a nation-state, the hybrid of NI should be divided between the two existing nation-states as the only possible means of achieving parity between them. You won’t engineer respect for a poppy among northern Irish nationalists because that symbol is associated with the armed forces of a foreign sovereign state and obfuscating it with being a symbol of Britishness alone (which folks do respect) is duplicitous and disrespectful in itself. Demanding it be so because it serves an elitist and ulterior political agenda won’t make it so.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    I wear a Lilly once a year, an Orange Lilly. I used to grow them in my front Garden up to Drumcree. Since then, the wee rebel buggers who live close by started to rip them out, and I’ve have to grow them in the back garden.

    Intollerant wee shits, that’s our problem.

  • Dewi

    Nice essay Turgon.

  • I Agree whole-heartedly with ulster my homeland

    Intolerant wee shits is the problem here in Northern Ireland
    Be tolerant of Poppy Wearers, you don’t HAVE to, best if you did though

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Does anyone know how to get rid of the Orange Lilly pest? The Lilly thrives well in the back garden where the pest can not enter, but I want to show my horticultural skills to the world and grow it in the front garden, where the pest seems more at home.

    anyone know how to get rid of the Orange Lilly pest?

  • Idon’tLikeRory!

    Yes, a good dose of Union Flag flying and regular recitals of Rule Brittania and God Save the Queen will usually deter such pests
    Alterativly electric fences

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Is nobody moderating this rubbish?

  • Steve

    I see the buckfast brigade has learned to type

    Now if they could just be house trained they would make excelent monkey butlers

  • Turgon

    Right I do not normally remove any comments from my blogs but the nonsense which was here until I removed it will not be tolerated.

    I had actually hoped that this blog would stimulate other people to comment about their memories of their relatives and I would thank those from all sides who have done this: especially fair_deal, Rory and terry turnip.

    Pancho’s Horse: sorry I have now moderated it.

  • Rory

    Percy,

    I agree with all of my heart that there is or, at least should be, ‘a time to protest and a time to remember’. It is the memory that causes me to protest. It is in protesting that my memory rejects the maudlin and the sickly sweet comfort that it might have been all for the good.

    In remembering the needless sacrifice of all those who died we remind ourselves to strive to do what little we can to stop the whoremasters of war from taking our grandchildren as they took my grandfather and all those poor men of his generation, including those who fell deluded, but no less dead, at the Somme. Prods and Taigs united at last as grotesque, jerking death-puppets that they might ensure the riches of the imperialists and the war-profiteers.

    I do remember, Percy, and it is because I remember that I rebel.

  • Driftwood

    Turgon
    I’d like to have you included me in your post 10.44pm Re: my uncle, but this post has now gone tits up with the fruit and nut cases. Pity, it was a good thread, now gone to the pond life.

  • Turgon

    Sorry Driftwood for not including you, an oversight on my part. As you can see I am fighting a running battle here removing nonsense. Hopefully soon alcohol induced stupor will take over from alcohol induced stupidity.

  • Ri Na Deise

    Out of genuine interest, What does the orange lily represent?

  • Ulsers my homeland

    “[i]Out of genuine interest, What does the orange lily represent?[/i]”

    “[b]Posted by Ri Na Deise[/b]”

    Out of interest, when does it become offensive?

  • Ri Na Deise

    You’ve lost me.

  • Ri Na Deise

    Hmmm according to Wikipedia it symbolises death,hatred or disdain when given as a gift.

    What does it represent to yourself UMH? Nothing so sombre I hope.

  • Reader

    Rory: If the choice was to be with Bush (and his little nodding dog, Blair) or to be against him then the people of the United Kingdom resoundingly declared that they were against him in the million-strong largest ever march against an intended action of government.
    That was before they elected Blair and his party back into Government, wasn’t it? And second place; the Conservatives.
    So, “resoundingly”, eh? Who did the million marchers vote for?

  • Diluted Orange

    Tennyson – “Our is not to question why. Ours is but to do and die”

    Maybe some of the begrudgers should remember that quote when they are hounding the RIR on their homecoming.

    The Iraq and Afghan wars are wrong IMO and have only exacerbated already fraught tensions in those regions. However, the soldiers aren’t there to question the politics of their surroundings and they are ultimately not to blame for the war. Their’s is one of the toughest jobs going – they are not afforded an opinion or a right to express their distaste at the circumstances they find themselves in. They put their lives on the line at the whim of other people’s foolhardy decisions.

    Sinn Fein are very quick to arrange a counter protest against, what they perceive to be the wrong-doings of the British Army. Yet it was they, not the soldiers on display, that ultimately had a say in whether those soldiers should have gone to serve in Iraq and Afghanistan, through the 4/5 MPs they had at the time at Westminster. They didn’t have to abstain in the vote to go to war but they did.

    Ultimately, their voting stance would not have mattered as the House of Commons overwhelmingly passed the motion to go to war. But, for me, from the moment that SF chose to cop out of exercising their voice on such an important matter, on the most powerful stage available to them in the UK, all because of some half-baked argument that they must maintain the ‘Republican tradition’ of abstentionism, when they are perfectly happy to have their pay cheques signed by Stormont, they lose their right to protest, with any shred of dignity anyhow. How can protesting, on the street, after the event be anything more than political grandstanding, when the same people had the opportunity to protest and with real power in their hands – power to change the situation for the better but squandered it?

  • The only poppy I would ever wear is a white one.

  • latcheeco

    Onionists,here’s what yez did. You took an honorable symbol of courage and sacrifice and remembrance and crassly dishonored it by turning it into a political and sectarian badge to show off and beat the other side over the head with (kinda like this Sunday)and now your whinging as if butter wouldn’t melt in your mouths and that your intentions were all the time honorable and your using the very people you were supposed to be honoring as cover for your rascality(and for the record remember you don’t exclusively own the war dead, nationalist men like my great grandfather(who fell at Gallipoli with the 10th Irish,in the original Royal Irish)fought just as hard.

  • catchagrip

    Rory: “…the whoremasters of war” & “….that they might ensure the riches of the imperialists and the war-profiteers”

    think about it: that’s exactly who the SF/IRA warlords are and what their supporters have been doing for the past 40 years

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    “I wear a Lilly once a year, an Orange Lilly.”

    FYI…and so did Oscar Wilde!

    Regarding the poppy, it’s rediculous how it has become so politicized here. There should be no problem if folk wanna wear one. Down south in the ROI you can see a number of folk wearing them each year, and it’s not an issue. I’ve never worn one or considered wearing one myself despite having a great uncle Robert Doyle from Chapelizod, Dublin who volunteered, joined the Royal Dublin Fusiliers 8th Batallion and was killed in WWI. He is buried in West Vlaanderen, Belgium today. Such people should never be forgotton, especially those from an Irish Nationalist background who did more than their bit for the the war efforts despite their awful mistreatment at times by the British administration and overall sad Irish history!

  • Greagoir O’ Frainclin

    But I think there is a cheapening of the solemnity of the poppy’s symbolism when one sees almost everyone on British TV wearing one….I mean on Gardener’s World last night the chap was wearing one digging the garden. No doubt, all the panel will be wearing one on Simon Cowells tacky talent show tonight etc..
    Will all the players in the Premiership be wearing one today as well?

  • hmm

    My great grandfather fought in WW1 and two great uncles of mine fought in WW2. My grandfather had death threats from the IRA and they planted a bomb on the door of his shop and another under his car on two separate occassions. He saw the wires and is still alive 🙂 I used to wear a poppy in primary school, but I don’t anymore. I don’t think they fulfil their purpose especially (remembering the dead) in such a divisice place as this. Their presence is somewhat contorted. My dad still wears one, which is fine, but it’s not for me. I think the march tomorrow isn’t the best thing since sliced bread either. A civic ceremony (perhaps ecumenical as has been suggested) inside the city hall would be much better for all especially in this weather!

  • The Third Policeman

    My great grandfather Parky Doyle from Wexford fought in the trenches in France and was captured and spent most of WW1 as a POW, then he returned home and joined his local IRA unit. The men who sat beside him in the mud, glar, vomit and shite of France became the same men he waited to ambush in the lanes of Ireland.

    Would you have an issue Turgon if a UTV presenter wanted to remember men like Parky be wearing a Lily for 9 days leading up to Easter Sunday?

    My problem with both flowers is that they make dying for one’s country something honorable and dignified. Its not. Getting tore to strips by a Lewis gun, having your legs blown off by a land mine, choking to death on Mustard gas, there’s no dignity in any of that. And to take a flower, the pinnacle of nature’s beauty and equate that to the imagery of the mechanised slaughter of millions is something akin to blasphemy. Wanna remember the dead of the world wars, go to your local dump and get a hunk of scrap metal; a tin can, an old part of a gear box, the furrow of a plough. The floatsam and jetsam of human wastage. The shite that we have no need for so we throw in a heap and watch rot. The older, the rustier and the heavier the better. Now carry that around with you for the two weeks up to Rem day.

  • Steve

    In Canada I wear a poppy with pride as I am Proud of the contribution of the Canadian Army. They mad the nation proud of their accomplishments.

    I have no knowledge of any of my relatives serving in the wars at least no direct relations. My maternal grand father joined as was scheduled to go over seas in the 2nd world war but before departure he was diagnosed with polio and never went. His last name was Edwards

    My paternal grandfather was a Dutch Immigrant who had a deferment because he was a Saskatchewan wheat farmer and it was more important he grow the food then shoot the bullets

    My paternal great grandfather was a Rutherford who abandoned his kids when his wife died, no one seems to know exactly what happened to him so he may have served

    I only say this to show that I have no particular connection to the army but I still wear my poppy with pride.

    I don’t think I could in nIreland even as a visiting Canadian

  • So Steve, when the British army annoys you in its treatment of Irish people, no poppy, but when it operates as the arm of aggressive imperialism in WWI and after World War II, that’s ok cause the Canadians helped them too? I find that attitude strange to be honest. My opposition to the poppy is based on my opposition to all the slaughter carried out by the strong in order to oppress the weak. Hence why I would find only the white poppy acceptable.

  • Seamus

    My great grandfather was wounded at the Somme and his two brothers were both killed. They never recovered their bodies and are commemerated at Thiepval. I personally don’t wear a poppy. I see it as a British symbol and I am not British. Let the British people wear it.

    In the same way my great uncle was a member of the IRA. I do wear an Easter Lily every year because it is an Irish symbol and I am Irish. Let the Irish people wear their symbols as well.

    This society would be a lot better off if both sides simply tolerated the other’s symbols. Let Irish people wear their Lilies and let British people wear their Poppies.

    On the note of people being stoped from wearing symbols, like UTV only allowing their broadcasters to wear Poppies from a ceratin date, and Policemen in West Belfast and the Firefighter in Newry, I would ask Unionists would they be okay with broadcasters wearing an Easter Lily on air, with Policemen walking into East Belfast or the Shankill and a Firefighter in Ballymena wearing an Easter Lily or would they kick up a fuss about it?

  • Dave

    ” My opposition to the poppy is based on my opposition to all the slaughter carried out by the strong in order to oppress the weak. ”

    If i’t wasn’t for the bravery of men like Turgon’s father-in-law, you’d be marching up and down the Falls Road shouting “Seig heil!” along with the rest of the pacifists.’

  • Seamus

    Actually, it was probably more to do with the bravery of Russian and American troops than British ones. The British played their part but it was quite a small one. I wouldn’t personally wear a symbol to commemerate Russian war dead and they are a bigger reason that we aren’t speaking German than the British were.

  • Dave,

    I’m not a pacifist number one. Number two, it was the Soviets that won the war. Even Churchill acknowledged it.

  • Oilifear

    Turgon, I take little exception to anyone waring a poppy. It is neither my place to dictate where anyone should make a charitable donation nor do I have any particular reason to deny donations to the British Legion.

    What I do take exception to, however, is the confusion between marking Armistice Day and making whatever donation to whatever charity a person may wish.

    Let’s make a distinction: the day is being marked is Armtistice Day (Remembrance Day is a later term), the charity event is Poppy Day (much like Daffodil Day is for cancer charities in many countries).

    It feel it is a disservice to the day and it’s significance to confuse the two.

  • Dave

    Garibaldy & Seamus, refuting a claim that wasn’t made betrays anti-British sentiments. Who said the British won WW2? Nobody. The claim was that “the bravery of men like Turgon’s father-in-law” has given you freedom from the totalitarian alternative. That is the debt that you owe to them whether you choose to acknowledge their sacrifice or not.

  • Seamus

    You made a point that the reason that the Germans didn’t win the war was because of people like “Turgon’s father-in-law”. I took that to mean those who fought in the British Army. In reality if men like “Turgon’s father-in-law” hadn’t fought then I imagine that the Germans still wouldn’t have won the Second World War. The only British Service Men that actually had anything to do with the winning of the War were the pilots of the RAF, the “so few” I believe they were called.

    I have genuine respect for those who fight and die for their country. The old latin phrase of “dulce et decorum est pro patria mori” sticks with me. I respect those British servicemen who died for their country. I respect those Russian servicemen who died for theirs and Americans and Germans who died for theirs. I will not honour them by wearing a Poppy as they did not die for my country. I leave that honour to the men of my own country so I will only honour Ireland’s patriot dead, but I still have respect for the dead of other nations.

  • Rory

    I thought that perhaps I might add something that may have been ignored (by me at least) in the heat of opposing polemic. And it is this:

    I have no objections to nor do I take offence at the idea of anyone wearing a small, unostentatious emblem to remember the deaths of those from their family or community who fell in war and I respect not only their right, but more importantly, their choice to so do.

    I would rather that such quiet reverent commemoration is not hijacked by the unscrupulous to glorify the wars of profiteers and to justify their continuance today but it would be naive of me to expect that it might not.

    I cannot however, nor do I, fall into the trap of asuming that all who wear such emblems are either complicit with the manipulators of human grief nor should I be so arrogant as to assume that they must be their dupes, willing or otherwise.

    Contrarily, I must assume that they are free human agents acting on the best of motives and out of good principle, and so I do.

    So, if you choose, do, please, wear your poppy with my blessing for all men of good heart and good intent.

    In return I would ask that you respect my right, my motive and my exercise of principle in refusing to wear one as my way of showing honour to those of my family and community who died like the Irish airman of Yeats’s poem, ruing that,

    Those that I fight I do not hate,
    Those that I guard I do not love;
    My country is Kiltartan Cross,
    My countrymen Kiltartan’s poor,
    No likely end could bring them loss
    Or leave them happier than before.

  • stephen

    This is a subject that I find hard to approach.

    As a republican I could not bring myslef to wear a poppy as I feel that regardless of all the fantastic work done by the british legion for their soldiers, it is an icon that is misused and idolised by others for their political ends.

    I also recognise that many people spent the war years working down the mines or in factories under appalling conditions but are forgotten.

    Perhaps an alternative (does the white poppy option still exist?)is more suitable for those of us who have issues with the red poppy, or god forbid if it’s only paper, how about a green poppy?

  • catchagrip

    Seamus
    “I personally don’t wear a poppy. I see it as a British symbol and I am not British. Let the British people wear it.”
    and later
    “I respect those British servicemen who died for their country. I respect those Russian servicemen who died for theirs and Americans and Germans who died for theirs. I will not honour them by wearing a Poppy as they did not die for my country.”

    I sometimes give to people collecting on the street for various causes, be it dogs homes, cancer, 3rd world aid etc etc, and I do it various countries and often they give me a sticker to put on. I’m not a dog, I don’t have cancer (I hope), I not starving and I’m not a citizen of those other countries but I don’t refuse to wear the sticker. As far as I know the money collected by selling poppies goes to help old soldiers in various ways – as the other collections do for their causes. So, is the issue that you are against helping old soldiers in need?

  • Oilifear

    catchagrip,

    “… I don’t refuse to wear the sticker …”

    I bet you also wear the sticker for a whole month without taking it off.

  • LURIG

    I think the British Legion could give some leadership on this issue. I recognise that they do a lot of good work but they have been far too quiet on the wearing of the poppy by Unionist/Loyalist elements in a provocative way. A bit like the Church of Ireland on Drumcree the British Legion has buried it’s head on this. A statement from them along the lines of “we abhor and condemn those who wear the poppy as a politial, religious or sectarian statement” would be a positive start. They cannot continue to ignore this.

  • Seamus

    No, becuase that is not the primary reason for the Poppy. People don’t buy Poppies to contribute to the Royal British Legion, but to commemerate British War Dead. The Charity part is just an added part of it.

    It does bring up an interesting note as to why a charity should be the ones responsible of caring for old veterans instead of the British Government. Seeing every member of the British Cabinet wears a Poppy but then the Government leaves old war veterans completely high and dry. It is despicable.

  • catchagrip

    Olifear : I haven’t worn one in years, when I did it wasn’t for a month.

    LURIG
    perhaps the poppies could come printed with a statement along the lines of “I don’t wear this as a politial, religious or sectarian statement” or ” I do wear this …..” indeed perhaps all stickers, badges, emblems etc should come with such warnings….especially Liverpool Football Club – anyone wearing their badge is just up for stirring it!

    Seamus
    “People don’t buy Poppies to contribute to the Royal British Legion, but to commemerate British War Dead.”

    are you suggesting the money goes to build memorials or some such thing? If that was the case I think the public would stop contributing quite soon.

    If it’s OK to contribute to a charity and wear their badge then it applies to poppies as well. I’m sure there are those who those who try to use it as a politial, religious or sectarian statement or to intimidate but not many, and, in any case, I don’t think that’s a reason for the rest of the public to stop – just like wearing football badges (well, apart from LFC – downright sick those people are).

  • The only British Service Men that actually had anything to do with the winning of the War were the pilots of the RAF, the “so few” I believe they were called.

    Whoa, Séamus mo chara, that’s a fairly stark bit of revisionism for a Saturday evening…

    Until May 1941, the Soviet Union was not making any contribution to the war effort, save for supplying oil and other vital materiel to the Nazi state. Without the contribution of British soldiers in North Africa, German troops would have swept through Palestine – exterminating the Jewish population of the Near East as they went – and secured the oil fields of Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula with minimal effort; thereby obviating the critical oil shortage which gravely hampered German resistance in 1944 and early 1945.

    British troops in Italy, although ultimately following a grand strategy with little chance of success, tied up German divisions, including a number of elite divisions, which could have been put to greater use on the Eastern Front.

    British and Canadian troops executed almost perfect landings in Normandy, before annihilating the cream of German armour in tandem with the Americans. And then aggressively pursued the Germans across France and the Low Countries in a textbook example of blitzkrieg, saving countless innocent French, Belgian and Dutch lives. And the same troops may well have ended the war by the end of 1944 had not Monty’s overcaution at Antwerp and consequent overreaction at Arnhem not stalled their advance. But you can’t blame the troops, or the officer corps, for Monty’s folly.

    In invading and occupying Germany, British troops were not perfect, but behaved like choirboys in comparison with the rampant incidence of theft and rape that followed Soviet, French and, yes, American armies, let alone what Axis troops had done earlier in the war.

    British sea power destroyed the surface fleet of the German navy in short order, eliminating any chance of Germany secuting vitally needed materiel from outside Europe. And let’s not forget the sacrificial service of Merchant Seamen, many of whom were Belfast Catholics, in supplying the Soviet Union in the dark days of 1942 and 1943.

    British scientific genius produced radar, made a huge contribution the Manhattan Project, cracked most German codes for most of the war, and produced the technology and tactics which destroyed the U boot fleet from the Summer of 1943.

    And I’m not even going to start on Burma.

    None of this is to decry or minimise the heroic achievements of the Red Army – their often recognised blood sacrifice, and their rarely recognised strategic and logistical genius – not least in the single greatest military campaign in history: the 1000 mile march from western Russia, destruction of Army Group Centre in Belarus and advance to the Vistula in the space of three short months.

    I can well understand why people don’t want to wear poppies, given the way they have been abused by some in Northern Ireland, and would not presume to judge anyone one way or the other because they did or did not wear a poppy. But please let’s don’t sit comfortably at keyboards in Ireland in 2008 and piss on the extraordinary achievements of ordinary men without which the world would be a much worse place today.

  • Seamus

    “are you suggesting the money goes to build memorials or some such thing? If that was the case I think the public would stop contributing quite soon.”

    No. What I am suggesting is that people don’t buy Poppies just to contribute to the Royal British Legion. They buy them to remember those who died for their country. It is bought as an act of commemeration and rememberance rather as an act of Charity.

    “Whoa, Séamus mo chara, that’s a fairly stark bit of revisionism for a Saturday evening”

    I didn’t enter the debate on the British War Effort to insult or offend anyone but rather because someone made a provocative statement that I would be speaking German if it wasn’t for the British Army. I personally feel that is incorrect. I believe that the British didn’t affect the outcome of the war. They probably shortened it and removed a large amount of civilian casulties but didn’t actually affect the outcome.

  • Stephen,

    White poppies are still available but in NI can only really be got online as far as I know. The Quakers sell them elsewhere, but whether they do so in NI I don’t know.

    On the WWII issue, it is essential to decouple WWII from the other wars in which the money donated through poppies goes to. Which were by and large wars in pursuit of imperialism and aggression.

    Just quickly on Sammy’s point about when the USSR entered the war. This was partly because of France and the UK rebuffing Soviet attempts to form an alliance, on which new evidence has recently come to light

    See here for details.

  • Once again, I prove hyperlink incompetent. It was a story from the Daily Telegraph about an offer from the Soviets to send a million men to the border to deter Germany if the UK and France would act similarly from October 19.

  • steve

    Garibaldy

    The simple answer is NO

    I can wear the poppy with pride in Canada because it shows support for Canadian Veterans

    I couldn’t wear the poppy in nIreland because it would be construed as support for the british army

    I couldn’t support the british army for its treatment of Canadians during the war, they viewed us as little more than cannon fodder even though our army was infinately more succesful then theirs.

    add that to their heinous record in nIreland and they will never get respect from me

  • I believe that the British didn’t affect the outcome of the war. They probably shortened it and removed a large amount of civilian casulties but didn’t actually affect the outcome.

    Although you aren’t the only person to argue this, it remains a very radical piece of revisionism and I wonder can you argue your point of view successfully? Let’s put it this way, had Britain capitulated post-Dunkirk, which many in Britain right up to War Cabinet level argued that they should, then Nazi Germany would have been able to impose a peace on Britain that would have decimated the Royal Navy and given Germany prime overseas territory (a share of Middle Eastern oil, for example). Hitler would then have turned his attention on the Soviet Union without the crippling supply problems that affected the Wehrmacht in the real world; also, he would not have had to ‘rush’ the invasion of the USSR to try and get the job done before the USA intervened in Europe’s war. Because the United States would not have intervened on behalf of the USSR after Britain and France had capitulated.

    It’s also possible that the USSR could have bested Nazi Germany all on its own. But far from certain – without American trucks and boots supplied by the British Merchant Navy, it is questionable whether the Red Army could have sustained its incredible land gobbling advances of 1943-5, despite the heroism of the ‘ordinary’ Red Soldier and the tactical brilliance of the Stavka.

    Of course, this is all hypothetical alternate history speculation but I am glad we did not have to see that speculation reality checked. Compared to what the world would have been like had Nazi Germany won the Second World War, then 30 years of Brookeborough and his woodentop allies was not too high a price to pay.

    Garibaldy – I’d be interested in seeing that story – just cut and paste the hyperlink and we’ll be able to click through.

    I couldn’t support the british army for its treatment of Canadians during the war, they viewed us as little more than cannon fodder even though our army was infinately more succesful then theirs.

    Steve, that’s so sweet! All armies treat their troops like cannon fodder, that’s one of the many reasons why war is a bad thing.

    And if the Brits forget the dismal but necessary crawl of the 1st Canadian Army through the Scheldt and Rhine estuaries, remember that the Dutch and Belgians don’t! Totally by chance, I was in Amsterdam on the 50th anniversary of liberation, and it seemed everyone in the city was a fat, grey haired Canadian sporting medals or an extremely fit Dutch girl hugging a fat, grey haired, Canadian sporting medals!

  • catchagrip

    Seamus, you said earlier that people should respect each others symbols and then later you say they shouldn’t buy poppies just contribute to the Royal British Legion. I hope you mean it’s up to the individual and that the everyone else should respect their decision. I agree a lot of money for charities is wasted on unnecessary “fluff”. I don’t understand why there is a fuss about poppies.

  • Sammy,

    If I got and paste it, it will screw up the whole page by stretching it beyond the normal point, and the administrators will get cross. I’ll post it in the comments story at your own blog.

  • Oilifear

    catchagrip, my last comment was a bit snappy, but you understand what I mean?

  • Seamus

    “Seamus, you said earlier that people should respect each others symbols and then later you say they shouldn’t buy poppies just contribute to the Royal British Legion.”

    I never said that they shouldn’t. I said that they normally don’t.

  • Shirley McGuffin

    More to the point: if we follow the money trail, where does the British Legion’s millions go? HM’s loyal citizens tkae this group a lot more seriously than HM herself. No doubt, many loyal ex soldiers were destitute after the Armistice (plenty of decorate Catholic ones were exterminated in the 1920s pogroms) but today? A French friend asked me what the symbol meant. She weas shocked at this swindle. In France, the French goverment takes care of such hoboes. Why does this huge organisation extort such huge funds and where does it go?

    Whilst we can accept that Micks may not like the poppy, there are bigger issues and concerns. It is good to honour our cannon fodder but should they be used as a pretext for this extortion? Accountability, please.