Wednesday, November 01, 2006


How good to see everyone on the telly sporting their poppies.
More importantly, do you know that there are two distinct kinds?
I am a bit of a WWI geek, so have been trawling through some of the Earl Haig Fund original minutes from when it was founded, and the history of the poppy. I'm sure we were all brought up on the story that the fields started blooming poppies when the guns fell silent, but of course that is rubbish - it was November and they couldn't have bloomed until the spring. There may be some truth in the odd poppy blooming where the high explosive had churned the ground during the previous summer, but it appears the real reason is slightly different.
Poppies, of course, are where morphia comes from. The idea was it would symbolise the " balm" and soothing of pain of the War.
But back to my opening sentence. There are two kinds - very in evidence once you know.
The English poppy has a green oak leaf. The Scots does not.
The Scots - Haig was one - wanted a special remembrance for their ( relatively heavier) casualties.
I had the opportunity to visit the WWI battlefields last year. More than a quarter of a million Brits to this day visit the Somme in particular. What shocked me was at Notre Dame de Lorette, which is the French National Cemetary for ALL their wars with the famous WWI ossuary. Less than 20,000 French a year visit it. The French, of course, regard the Germans as their new best friends, and nothing is to interfere with their love in.
Some years ago I visited Oradour sur Glane - one of the several villages utterly destroyed by the Germans during WWII. It has been preserved as it was, which is the most eery and extraordinary thing.
The tour ends in the Church, where the village's women and children were burned to death and shot as they tried to escape. The tour guide says " Madames, Messieurs, this is what the Germans did to the French, we must NEVER forget".
I regret to say I am told they now say " This is what the Nazis did ( full stop)"
I've also visited Auschwitz - but that can wait for another day.

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