This year marks the centenary of the first Poppy Appeal in 1921, following the founding of the British Legion on 15 May that year (it became the Royal British Legion in 1925).
1921 saw a contraction of the British economy following the Great War. More than two million people were unemployed, many of them disabled veterans, and there was great need to care for those who had suffered, both those who had served and their families. This was compounded by the influenza pandemic which lasted for two years and claimed, it is estimated, up to 50 million lives worldwide; double the number of deaths in the war itself.
In that first year the appeal raised £106,000, which was spent to help veterans needing housing and jobs, and this has now risen to more than £50m annually.
The red poppy is a symbol of both remembrance and hope for a peaceful future, and a reminder of life flourishing even in the darkest and most inhospitable places. The flowering of poppies on the battlefields of 1915, defying the death and destruction all around, inspired the poet John McCrae to write the now famous poem, ‘In Flanders Field’, which itself inspired others to adopt the poppy in memory of the fallen.