Posted on 27th September 2019
The White Poppy, sometimes known as the Peace Poppy, is a symbol that remembers all victims and sufferings of war.
This is in contrast to the Red Poppy that solely remembers those who fought in war.
The story of the white poppies begins in 1933 when the members of the Women’s Co-operative Guild started wearing them to symbolise that they were against war and violence. Workers from the Co-operative Wholesale Society began making white poppies and the money gathered from selling them went to help war-resisters in Europe.
In 1936 the white poppy was adopted by the Peace Pledge Union which continues to sell them to this day. The Union was set up in 1934 to campaign against war and is now the oldest secular pacifist organisation in Britain.
Jan Melichar, co-ordinator at the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) explains what the white poppy stands for:
“As far as we are concerned it’s a call to resist war and war making and all that comes with it. For the PPU, Remembrance Day is not only about remembering those who died, but also putting an end to war and violence. “It’s a very specific symbol, not a general symbol of peace.”
Remembrance Day and Red Poppies
Remembrance Day dates back to 1917 when King George dedicated 11th November as a day of remembrance for members of the armed forces killed during the First World War. The red poppy was first associated with those who lost their lives in the war after the famous poem In Flanders Fields, written by Canadian surgeon John McCrae.
At first the ceremony was an event dedicated to grieving families, but as time went by the war became more distant and the military started taking over with marches and military music.
The Royal British Legion adopted the red poppy as a symbol for their Poppy Appeal in 1921, in aid of those serving in the British Armed Forces. The same year it ordered 1.5m poppies for 11th November and raised more than £100,000 by selling them. The Legion then decided to set up its own poppy factory, with disabled ex-servicemen making up the workforce.
It was at this time that a lot of the public felt concern with the increasing ceremony of remembrance, especially as it was now being organised by the military itself. The Women’s Co-operative Guild formed out of this this concern. The women started wearing poppies to demonstrate their remembrance not by remembering war, but by pledging themselves to peace. Some chose to wear white poppies only, others were wearing both white and red poppies.
An Alternative Remembrance Day
The first alternative remembrance events began in 1938 when a pacifist religious service was held in Regent’s Park in London followed by a march to Westminster and the laying of a wreath of white poppies at the Cenotaph.
Buy and Wear a White Peace Poppy
Although, most commonly worn in association with Remembrance Day on 11th November, the White Peace Poppy can be worn all year round.