Poppy Appeal blues

Is this fair? British public opinion supports the troops but not necessarily the wars. However the Guardian makes a story out of the branding that goes with the Poppy Appeal like everything else these days.  I still get can’t get the infernal pin in right…

The Poppy Appeal is once again subverting Armistice Day. A day that should be about peace and remembrance is turned into a month-long drum roll of support for current wars. This year’s campaign has been launched with showbiz hype. The true horror and futility of war is forgotten and ignored.

The public are being urged to wear a poppy in support of “our Heroes”. There is nothing heroic about being blown up in a vehicle. There is nothing heroic about being shot in an ambush and there is nothing heroic about fighting in an unnecessary conflict.

Remembrance should be marked with the sentiment “Never Again”.

Ben Griffin

Ben Hayden

(Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq)Terry Wood

(Northern Ireland, Falklands)Ken Lukowiak

(Northern Ireland, Falklands)Neil Polley

(Falklands)Steve Pratt

(Dhofar, Northern Ireland)(Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Afghanistan, Iraq)

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  • Pete Baker

    Remembrance should be marked with the sentiment “Never Again”.

    Well, that’s all very well as a trite catchphrase.

    But never again?

    No World War II combatants appear to have signed.

    The common factor between the former services signees appears to be Northern Ireland – with one exception. There are only six.

    Perhaps if they expanded on why they now think that service was less than fruitful?

    If they are politically opposed to the actions in Iraq and Afghanistan then fair enough.

    But don’t dress it up as something else.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Frankly if I was British Id be very wary of the politicians wrapping themselves in the flag and poppy especially at this time of the year.
    They have managed to astutely deflect criticism of their war by constant references to our heroes and our boys.
    Any noble sacrifice of this and indeed previous generations is hopefully not compromised by the politicans and the PR people in Whitehall.
    All these statements issued by regimental colonels saying that the latest casualty was the bravest of the brave, great soldier, much loved……I kinda think that statistically some of them would have been in trouble a few times after a boozey night in Aldershot, Colchester wherever. Statistically soldiers (any army) have high incidents of domestic violence and petty criminality (like the fictional lad from Coronation Street) yet all of the victims of the current wars are exemplary. Now I dont expect anyone to speak ill of the dead……but that just seems a bit odd.
    Likewise the deliberate delay in releasing names (and there is a bigger delay than say five years ago) is not entirely for the benefit of the relatives….it enables the MOD people to get to the relatives first and get them onside with the “doing a job he loved” line.
    The last thing the British Government needs is a loose cannon like Mrs Gentle or the families of the Redcaps asking awkward questions.
    Im afraid that the “heroes” campaign is little more than a cynical attempt by politicians to hide behind men and families who have genuinely suffered.

    “Dont hit me……I have a baby in my arms”

  • joeCanuck

    A day that should be about peace and remembrance is turned into a month-long drum roll of support for current wars.

    If true, that disturbs me. Iraq should never have been invaded. The USA were totally justified in invading Afghanistan but once they rooted out Al Queda which didn’t really take long, they should have left. They have no business trying to install USA type democracy. Afghanistan has today been adjudged to be the 3rd most corrupt nation in the world.

  • wee buns

    The symbolic raison d’etre of the poppy as a War related icon, was that the seeds lie dormant & can stay in this state of suspended animation for several yrs until the conditions are right for germination, and can remain vialble for up until two hundred years underground.
    It was the bombings of WWars which perturberbed the earth, stirred life into the poppy seeds, causing the blood-red flowers to bloom profusely. Poignant or what.
    This is emotive, in itself.
    However the marketing of the symbol is cynical, manipulative (what else) and ultimately unrelated to the facts about poppys, the plant. Just emotive (what else) seemingly based on the blood colour…
    Why not use tomatoes as a symbol instead?

  • I yield to nobody in honouring the dead: I have ancestors killed on battlefields back to Bosworth Field, a grandfather in Doullens Extension number 2, and a girl cousin WRAC whose searchlight team at Yarmouth were done for by a sneak Heinkel. So I’m disappointed that it took the Guardian so long to recognise there always was a barely-hidden agenda to the whole Armistice Day theatricals.

    Nationally it is an occasion for celebrating the status quo, with royals and dignitaries in massed and hierarchical ranks. Even locally, one still finds the Boy Scouts and the like regimented to be “inspected” by the local pseudo-squire. Tug your forelock, boy! Such charades made sense in the charged atmosphere of the early ’20s: why, though, has it been necessary to add endless whistles-and-bells?

    As an occasion for fund-raising what the Earl Haig Fund has done, and continues to do is admirable. Beyond that, all the associated flummeries are dubious.

    WIlfred Owen, as so often, had it right:

    No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells;
    Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
    The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
    And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
    What candles may be held to speed them all?
    Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes
    Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
    The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
    Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
    And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

  • cynic47

    When you go home remind them that we give our today for their tomorrow. Lest we forget.

  • Brian Walker

    ..All true Malcolm and yet not the whole story..
    for in late September 1918, Haig’s armies with morale apparently high broke through the Hindenburg line to victory. Among them as of course you know was Owen who was killed on Nov 4 a week before the armisrice..He was awarded the MC for his actions. Was he seeking justification for his war poetry through his bravery? Had the rage of the poetry been dominant on the battlefield who knows what the outcome would have been?

    Personally I’m happy to call them all heroes just for being there, regardless of “lions led by donkeys” etc.

  • tyrone taggart

    “I’m happy to call them all heroes just for being”

    A lot of them was their due to being conscripted. I don’t think that makes them Heroes just victims.

  • I’m not sure I fully understand your two first points there.

    We’d probably agree that the “morale” of later-1918 was the product of, rather than the cause of improved Allied performance and command.

    I don’t see a necessary disconnection between what Owen wrote and what he did. Would you apply the same bifurcation to Sassoon (particularly in the persona of “George Sherston”, Owen’s mentor, and arguably first editor)? or to Graves (well, yes, actually: now there is a really confused soul)?

    Neither, though, is not a fit line of debate in this context.

    Strictly on topic, my bile is reserved for the stunts of gutter-tabloids, such as promoting leggy wannabes as “the faces of the poppy appeal!” [exclamation point not optional].

  • Ooops: double negative. Chaucerian usage, of course.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Bri…………..the ‘Lions led by donkeys’ quote,has gone on,far too long,unchallenged !!

    Relatively speaking,more officers were killed than ordinary soldiers !!

    As for this annual,regurgatated Poppy whinge………….either wear it with pride,or don’t…….*simples* tch 🙂

  • “Unchallenged”?

    Not so. However, I’d even guess you could not give its proper attribution. For a start it’s not British and it’s not Alan Clark. Clark, should you care to check, himself attributed it to Colonel Max Hoffman speaking to Erich von Ludendorff.

    Even then it was not necessarily original. John Terraine, in The Smoke and the Fire [1980], gives a similar phrase to Francisque Sarcey. I think you’ll find that attribution takes us back to Le Drapeau Tricolore ([1871].

    Heaven save us from an armchair PanzerGeneraloberst.

  • joeCanuck

    Who went over the top to almost instant slaughter? The boys, and, yes, a few lieutenants and even less captains and majors. Now, of the main leaders, the generals, how many of them went over the top?

  • daisy

    I resent the fact that everyone on tv has to sport one. It’s become a de facto law: if you don’t sport one then you’re clearly a wrong ‘un. It’s come to the point were you have to explain why you don’t wear one and even then you’ll be judged for it. So much for freedom.

  • pippakin

    I don’t like the Haig connection and I remember old soldiers who would not buy a poppy because of it.

    But, it is necessary to have something. All very well to say the poppy celebrates war? maybe but so would almost any other emblem.

    The poppy started out as a mark of respect. The Cenotaph as a much needed grave for all those young people who did not go home. Old pictures show a nation in deep mourning. The day is not called victory day or veterans day. It is called Armistice day, those in doubt should look up the meaning,

    The establishment are leaches feeding off the natural emotions of those who have lost loved ones. It does not alter the fact that there is a need.

  • Halfer

    Im surprised at this Joe. Honestly I am.

    Regardless of the fact that non of the 911 murderers were from Afghanistan, which questions strongly your sense of justification for the invasion, It is a widely accepted theory that Al Qaeda is not as much an organization as it is and ideology. Bombing the mud hut villages in Afghanistan has only spread the resentment that fuels the lunatic fringe of muslim radicalism that is very much alive in Afghanistan and not “rooted out”.

  • Halfer

    was the headline ph-WAR?

  • Rory Carr

    “Heaven save us from an armchair PanzerGeneraloberst.”

    Self-criticism is most admirable, Malcolm but aren’t you being a little bit harsh on yourself?

  • Rory Carr

    But, it is necessary to have something.” – Why? What?

    …the poppy celebrates war?(sic) maybe but so would almost any other emblem.” – A white flag? A tin of beans?

    The Cenotaph as a much needed grave… – No it wasn’t. It was, and is, a memorial .

    It does not alter the fact that there is a need. – What “does not”? A need for what?

    Thank you so for cheering me up on this dreary rain-lashed morning, Pips.

  • pippakin

    Rory Carr

    Its Monday, raining, dreary and you…

    What’s the matter couldn’t you sleep, is the London rush hour too noisy for you?

    For what its worth I believe every country has the right to commemorate their war dead in their own way, why do we have to take sides. Its not true to say we don’t believe in the poppy because it celebrates war, most of the commenters on Slugger don’t believe in the poppy because it commemorates British dead and wounded.

    I will keep a half heartede watch for any similar comments and postings on American commemoration days and what is that day in summer when the Russians parade their army, tanks etc included, around Red Square. Didn’t spot any comments about that either.

  • Alan Maskey

    The BBC is ratehr repulisve. Why did Keith Wood wear a poppy on Saturday? NI watched a little of BBC News this morning; a Yankee actress had one but the weather forecadst lady, I think, may not have had one. It is also distracting.
    The EPL jerseys all over the weekend had poppies emblazoned on the jerseys.
    The Guardian article has a poi9nt. It is like Madeleine McCann business or Princess Diana’s funeral . Not taking away from Madeleine mccann but it did go a ltitle over the top. And as for Diana and the flowers, the Dutch made a fortune shipping them in from the four corners of the earth. This need to toi be part of the herd is not healthy.
    Also, one has to wonder about the governance of the RBL. Is it as corrupt/inefficient etc as Greenpeace, the UN or the Red Cross, for example? They seem more untouchable than Her Majesty, who is, to an extent, called to account over her finances. The RBL never is.

  • Alan Maskey

    BBC Lunchtime News reporting on the visit of war monger Obama to India. The BBC reporter, a local Indian hack most likely, was wearing a Poppy: Lest we forget the British (and Irish) terrorist occupiers who butchered the Indians and starved them to death. At least when Obama (Nobel Prize winner ffs) addresed the Indian Parliament, there were no poppies to be seen.
    Many Indians walk on two legs as opposed to the four most Irish prefer. The Indians also did not bother blowing up imperial statues after the British terrorists left.

    The Mayo Paddies and mad Biddies on the other hand have a Garden of Remembrance park ,where they worship dead British soldiers (no Irish need apply)
    Cornelius Coughlan, a local boy who killed Indians all round him during the Indian Mutiny, hgas been singled out for special worship Why insult Indians and democrats everywhere in this way?,
    The creep who founded the War Shrine is descended from people who fought in South Africa and other places for the Saxon shilling.

  • How goes the dyspepsia this morning, Mr Maskey? Or need I ask?

  • Alan Maskey

    Not bad thanks. I hope to get back into training in a few weeks.
    As regards this thread, it needs more bite to bear.
    1. Your tabloid link. From a RBL pov, surely the second picture, standing on the poppies, is a little bit iffy. We can’t criticise the babes or the RBL wsho, like the Orange Order, need to follow and pander to the masses.
    1a. I have linked before to Union Jack door mats on ebay. I am sure you know that all real armies (British etc) show tremendous respect to the flag and that ensigns and standards are still important long after their usefulness has expired.
    2. I question the governance structure of the RBL, along with much else. But the RBL is more untouchable than Her majesty, the Queen.
    3. We have the BBC stuffing the Poppy down our necks for weeks at a time. Kinda like the marching season. And creatures like Keith Wood, Dara O’Briain and Indian lackeys joining in.
    4. There have been a lot of War Poets’ quotes. But surely All Quiet on the Western Front and The Forgotten Soldier are right up there at the top. The Germans were people too, even if many British writers, Kipling in particular, thought otherwise.
    5. The Catholic Irish have to ocme to terms with this poppy death cult. The traditional and predictable ethnic RC Irish way would have been the boycott and the sneer. Now they are embracing it as if there was something praiseworthy in the slaughter for King and

    HE SHALL not hear the bittern cry
    In the wild sky, where he is lain,
    Nor voices of the sweeter birds,
    Above the wailing of the rain.

    Nor shall he know when loud March blows 5
    Thro’ slanting snows her fanfare shrill,
    Blowing to flame the golden cup
    Of many an upset daffodil.

    But when the Dark Cow leaves the moor,
    And pastures poor with greedy weeds, 10
    Perhaps he’ll hear her low at morn,
    Lifting her horn in pleasant meads.

    When I was young I had a care
    Lest I should cheat me of my share
    Of that which makes it sweet to strive
    For life, and dying still survive,
    A name in sunshine written higher
    Than lark or poet dare aspire.

    But I grew weary doing well.
    Besides, ’twas sweeter in that hell,
    Down with the loud banditti people
    Who robbed the orchards, climbed the steeple
    For jackdaws’ eyes and made the cock
    Crow ere ’twas daylight on the clock.
    I was so very bad the neighbours
    Spoke of me at their daily labours.

    And now I’m drinking wine in France,
    The helpless child of circumstance.
    To-morrow will be loud with war,
    How will I be accounted for?

    It is too late now to retrieve
    A fallen dream, too late to grieve
    A name unmade, but not too late
    To thank the gods for what is great;
    A keen-edged sword, a soldier’s heart,
    Is greater than a poet’s art.
    And greater than a poet’s fame
    A little grave that has no name.

    Know that we fools, now with the foolish dead,
    Died not for the flag, nor King, nor Emperor,
    But for a dream, born in a herdsman’s shed,
    And for the secret Scripture of the poor.
    Some of my own reflective favourities

  • HeinzGuderian

    Good to see Celtic,wearing the poppy emblem on their shirts !!

    A little off topic…..but can I just take this opportunity to congratulate Francesco Molinari,on his impressive win in the World Golf Championships in China ? At 50/1,I am,at last,able to buy my Poppy,and will be wearing it with pride !! 🙂

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I see Mike Tyson was wearing a poppy when interviewed on Sky News.
    Is it actually possible to get on TV at all without wearing one?

  • pippakin


    Mike Tyson? Well, I can’t imagine anyone forcing him.

  • al


    Shame about some fans seeing fit to use football as a platform for political hatred. Fair play to Celtic however for launching an investigation and saying they will ban those with the banner.

    Regardless of your views on the poppy in line with Celtic’s stadium policies these displays should not be allowed:


  • al

    Oh no Big Greg ain’t happy. It seems that this has happened before and that Celtic should launch some sort of historical enquiry to bring those nasty Celtic fans to justice:


  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I suspect he walked into the studio or whatever and said “wheres my poppy”?

  • better 3rd most corrupt then the alternative mind you. That cover from Time magazine earlier in the year was the end of the debate, if there ever was any, for me.

  • regarding extending the poppy’s meaning beyond the world wars, it is a befitting act to remember those who died in all wars and are indeed fighting as we get on with our lives.

    Those who feel motivated enough to make the same sacrifices for the greater good deserve the same respect and admiration.

    Whether the politicians get it wrong, is hardly the fault of the man or woman holding the line.

    Sometimes there are issues greater than politics and this is one of them.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    “Oh no Big Greg ain’t happy” How predictible and laughable.

    I’m a Celtic fan and I don’t approve of this protest – as you say, fair play to Celtic for the action they have taken.

    As for Campbell – blatent hypocrisy – so par for the course for him.

    I’m interested in the views of any fair minded person who assists in eradicating sectarianism from sport.

    However, Campbell never has anything to say about the many well documented displays of sectarianism/hooliganism from the “fans” of his beloved Glasgow Rangers.

    As far as I’m concerned, he can stick his whinging where the sun don’t shine. One either criticises all sectarianism or none.

    IMO, Campbell has no credibility outside the backwoodsmen of the DUP – as ever his hypocritical whinging will be ignored by the overwhelming majority of open-minded people.

  • al

    It’s a classic example of the older breed of politcians in NI displaying sectarian undertones. I’m just hoping some younger more open minded politicians filter into the system soon.

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk


    Yes, I couldn’t agree more.

  • Alan Maskey

    Fair play to the celtic fans who held up the banner. Why should we have poppies rammed down our throats? Let those who want to wear popies go out to Afghanistan and murder and mutilate Muslims.

  • HeinzGuderian

    They grow not old…..as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them,nor the years condemn. In the going down of the sun,and in the morning……WE WILL REMEMBER THEM !!

  • Rory Carr

    Fortunately we shall spared any rememberance of the infinitely forgettable Heinz.

  • Alan Maskey

    Who will we remember? I have gone to a Poppy day remembrance service; not many turn up. Maybe more babes/bait is the answer.

  • What angers me most about the annual poppy furore is the role television plays. Not only are dissenting presenters, pundits etc harangued for refusing to follow the pack, but we’ve also seen shows like the X Factor try to glamorise the poppy by encrusting them with diamonds. Hasn’t this cultural enforcement led to lost perspective?
    Check out my blog on the topic: http://marioledwith.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/the-poppy-to-wear-me-to-wear-me-not/