Today we pay our respects to those who have died during war, with Remembrance Day now a prominent feature in the annual calendar. A symbol of this day is that of the poppy, which is worn all across the UK to highlight that sign of remembrance. David Riddle, client director for Holmes & Marchant, who worked on the original design of the Poppy symbol for the British Legion which was originally launched by John Major when he was Prime Minister, discusses the thinking behind the choice of the poppy as the symbol of remembrance and what it has come to mean over the years.
“The Poppy replaced the old heraldic lion’s head that was used across all of the key signage and stationery for the British Legion as an organisation. There was a lot of loyalty towards the lion’s head from the Legion membership so persuading them to change to the Poppy was by no means easy. At the time the Poppy was only used for fundraising, but we felt it was a far better symbol for the British Legion as a whole. It is softer and has a real story behind it with its close associations with the First World War and the Poppy fields of Flanders. There is something really emotional about it too.
The symbol of the poppy has always stood for the remembrance of those “fallen” in the Great War, but it now seems to be just as relevant a symbol for all wars that we as a nation are involved. It seems to carry across generations much more than ever expected.
Does the poppy itself seem an odd choice of symbol in the first instance? Once you know the reason why it was chosen, its growing in the fields were the soldiers fell, then suddenly it all becomes clear. It’s very much the perfect choice as it symbolises the continuity of life as well as the abrupt ending that caused it to be chosen in the first place. The poppy dies, but in the spring the new growth and rebirth of the poppy begins. Its symbolism feels even more appropriate and somehow complete.
Another element of its appropriateness is its colour, again while it depicts the spilling of blood it also shows there was life and somehow of life that will be again. It stirs great emotion, both positive and negative as we have seen with Islamic extremist actions of late, again great testimony to its symbolic strength.
Not since the War of the Roses has a flower held such passion in its representation. Purely on the simplest design level, it hits the nail on the head
Today the Poppy continues to serve the Legion incredibly well as a highly potent symbol across both its commercial and fund-raising activities. It has become an eye catching and memorable iconic symbol which World War II veterans wear on their lapels with pride.”