Why Wear One?

We started wearing handmade white poppies many years ago.  For us, wearing both red and white poppies is a way of saying “Remember the fallen, including civilians, and work for peace”.  We have had many meaningful conversations with strangers that started with “What’s the white poppy for?”.

I have always had respect and sympathy for veterans, who put their life, health and family on the line to serve. I believe they deserve recognition and support, but for years I was uncomfortable wearing a red poppy, because of the undercurrent of promotion and recruitment for current and future wars that I detect in many public events around the topic of  supporting veterans. The white poppy attracts questions, and gives me a chance to explain the nuances of my support.


In Britain, the idea of decoupling Armistice Day, the red poppy and later Remembrance Day from their military culture dates back to 1926, just a few years after the British Legion was persuaded to try using the red poppy as a fundraising tool in Britain.  A member of the No More War Movement suggested that the British Legion should be asked to imprint ‘No More War’ in the centre of the red poppies instead of ‘Haig Fund’ and failing this, pacifists should make their own flowers.

A few years later the idea was again discussed by the Co-operative Women’s Guild who in 1933 produced the first white poppies to be worn on Armistice Day (later called Remembrance Day). The Guild stressed that the white poppy was not intended as an insult to those who died in the First World War – a war in which many of the women lost husbands, brothers, sons and lovers. The following year the newly founded Peace Pledge Union joined the CWG in the distribution of the poppies and later took over their annual promotion.