photo by Getty Images
For me, as I wasn’t born yet, obviously, to see it put into the perspective of the poppies cascading out of and around the grounds of London Tower, imagining how many there are and knowing each represents a soldier from the Great War (1914 – 1918)…how could I not wear a poppy? But this isn’t my only reason.
This blog is meant as much to be a memorial of sorts to my father as it is a “poppy appeal”. In fact, it is how it were meant to be altogether as on the 22nd of October, he would have been 102, could he have lived. I know, you’re doing the maths in your head and thinking “ah, he couldn’t have fought in the Great War, he was but a babe in arms”. No, he didn’t fight in the Great War, but he did fight in WWII. And, he probably, possibly, could have gotten out of it, if he had wanted to.
My father was married and 26 when the war started going. And he were Quaker. He could have probably worked around this, possibly even managed a conscientious objector status, however, rather than waiting around to be conscripted, he joined. No ifs, ands, or buts..just did what he knew he had to do to keep England safe from the hands of Hitler.
My father loved England. He fought in Italy, Belgium, France, and within Blighty herself, where needed. He didn’t take the easy way as some young men, whom even though they were conscientious objectors, still joined but asked for (and received) non-combatant duties as in the case of Christopher Lake in 1940 shortly after becoming Quaker (cited from quakersintheworld.org). My dad fought and had the shrapnel scars to prove it.
He never liked talking about the War…not many men in those days did. I would ask him things and if it wasn’t too much of a secret, I might get an answer, but if it were, he would clam right up. I once asked him if he ever shot anybody whilst in service and he changed the subject quite deftly. I don’t know if it was because he did and he didn’t want to talk about it, or, if because he did not and wasn’t sure if it would de-mean him in my eyes as a soldier…nothing could de-mean that man in my eyes. After all, I was going to marry him when I grew up, wasn’t I? I think all little girls believe that for a little while, at least.
What does all this have to do with the Poppy Appeal? One of my fondest memories would be for us two to take a stroll into the village on a frosty first of November, having breakfast at a narrow little cafe with black and white tiled floors, sitting in hard bench booths and then stopping along the way home to purchase a couple of small, red poppies from a spry little wrinkled man in a cap, wearing a poppy of his own. And when my father paid him – always a bit more than the poppies sold for – the little man would smile a wide, toothless smile when my father waved off the change and told our WWI veteran to buy himself a hot cuppa with it. Then, we would wend our way home, wearing our poppies proudly. I still feel that feeling today when I buy mine each year. I only wish my dad were still here to do this with me.
Many people have different opinions about buying poppies and if you don’t feel it is necessary, then so be it. We’re all allowed our opinions and I have to respect that. Perhaps they’ve never lost a loved one in a War and I hope they haven’t. Perhaps they have done and don’t feel enough was done for them. Maybe they just don’t realise what the Legion does for those who’ve lost a soldier family member or one who has been disabled because of their service. Perhaps they have not had a father like mine.