It was during a lull in the fighting during the 2nd Battle of Ypres in 1915 that Lt Colonel John McCrae wrote down the words “In Flanders Field the poppies blow.”
The poem was published by Punch magazine and the selling of poppies, originally by two ladies in France, was soon adopted by the Royal British Legion which was founded in 1921. The sale of poppies went to support those badly wounded in the Great War and to support their dependents. Welfare is still the focus of the RBL 100 years later and sadly, many wars later. Many veterans of WW11 are still with us but as we know their numbers are diminishing but more recent conflicts in Korea, Ireland, the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan to name only a few, sadly demonstrate man’s inability to live in peace with one another. The Poppy appeal in 2014 has a special poignancy in this centenary year. Superb programmes on TV and radio have shown the tragedy and heroism of soldiers and civilians. Locally the production at the Radcliffe Centre of “Silvertown Letters” and the “Words of War” production at Hilsden Church demonstrated not only the talent of local actors and actresses but the real impact of war on civilians and soldiers alike. The Poppy Appeal this year is still being counted but it is clear that the great generosity of local people will outstrip the collections of previous years. Businesses, schools, shops and thousands of individuals have supported the Appeal. The support of all collectors has been invaluable but special mention needs to be made of the Army and Air Force Cadets and their Officers; of the Woolpack Inn for the free use of the Cote as our organisational base- and for their hospitality; of the help of Barclays Buckingham in banking the donations; but most of all of the people of Buckingham and the villages for their great support. McCrae’s poem ends with the words “If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields”. It is to keep that faith that we have the Poppy Appeal today.