Poppies: what do we commemorate; what do we hope for?

On Sunday 11 Nov – the 100th anniversary of WWI Armistice Day – Bath Quakers again take part in the civic and military commemoration at the Bath war memorial. This year we will lay two wreaths joined together: one of white and one of red poppies.

In previous years Bath Quakers have laid a simple white poppy wreath. Each time it has been moved or stolen.

After careful discernment earlier this year Bath Quakers decided

because a white wreath alone may itself cause conflict, and cause hurt and offence to some, and those who sell red poppies also wish to end wars, we will lay two attached wreaths, one red, one white, to convey the complexity of this deep issue

This confirms our respect for the event and all participants, and our compassion for fallen military personnel and their families. At the same time it confirms remembrance of all victims of war and our determination to work for the peaceful resolution of future conflicts that we have sought to express in recent years.

The white poppy – now 85 years old – has become increasingly widespread, and also controversial. As the Daily Telegraph put it, writing about the Conservative MP:

Johnny Mercer said the white poppies – endorsed and distributed by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) – are “attention-seeking rubbish” and called for people to “ignore” those wearing them.

We assert that it’s more complicated than that. Bath Quakers are trying to convey compassion, commitment to peaceful outcomes and reservations about creeping militarism and the arms trade. We’re concerned not just by the sacrifice and pain of war, but also the injustice and futility of it. We’re more than happy to engage in any serious and sincere dialogue about questions of how to achieve peace and  appropriate ways to commemorate war.


Telegraph Twitter debate (sample)

Replying to @Telegraph

The rejection of the red poppy is based on wilful ignorance of the meaning of ‘remembrance and commemoration’ of the sacrifices made for peace. The ‘celebration of war’ defamation of the red poppy has sadly been passed down from one idiot, badly-educated generation to another.

Replying to @Telegraph

Why in the last few years all this pressure to wear a poppy anyway? Political, divisive, unnecessary.

Replying to @Telegraph

These Poppy’s insult our forces

Replying to @Telegraph

A sad reflection of the stste of modern Britain…since when did it become such a beta country…

Replying to @Telegraph

There’s all the coloured “ribbons” people wear for different charities, why is there such an outcry about different coloured poppies? Surely they all have their place, even if you don’t agree with the message behind them. Interesting that something about pacifism insights anger!

Replying to @Telegraph

Shame, and a sham.

Free speech comes in many forms,just ignore them.

Replying to @Telegraph

It’s a slap in the face to all those who gave their lives to protect freedom in our society

Replying to @Telegraph

@JohnnyMercerUK Remembrance Day honours the sacrifices of all those who have given their lives for their country & supports injured veterans. The white poppy brigade have hijacked the icon and date to divert donations to their cause & imply that their cause is more noble! #YUK

Replying to @Telegraph

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

I’m sure you understand that Wilfred Owen rhymed the Latin with ‘The old lie,’

Replying to @Telegraph

Wear red Poppy’s with pride … white Poppy’s have no place during November remembrance

Replying to @Telegraph

It’s all very well holding this point of view regarding war, which would be lovely in a perfect world.The fact is so many died fighting for our freedom. The reality is we honour the fallen.

Replying to @Telegraph

So where does the money go ??????

Replying to @Telegraph

Says the organisation that sells them, and, are you really saying this increase is as a direct result of what @JohnnyMercerUK said? #clickbait

Replying to @Telegraph

I notice Corbyn isn’t wearing a white poppy – scared to I s’pose – but is wearing the smallest red poppy badge you can get!


Monbiot article  Twitter debate (sample)

A white poppy still honours the fallen. The difference is that it’s a clear statement against militarism and further killing.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

Just don’t wear a poppy at all. There, solved. Most ppl don’t.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

Do much more appropriate to the sentiment NEVER FORGET. I’m getting one this year for the first time.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

My Great Grandfather died of his injuries in WWI, my Grandfather served in WW2 & refused to wear a red poppy for understandable reasons. I would like to wear a White (peace) poppy but I have previously been verbally abused for doing so. 😢

I understand. I find it is difficult to have actual conversations about war, myself being a pacifist. I 100% believe “war is good for absolutely nothing” (as the lyrics go), but people somehow think it is unpatriotic, disrespectful, and abhorrent that I have this belief.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

George, I usually agree with you but I find this really offensive? I don’t wear the red poppy to “celebrate the spilling of blood”, I wear it as a sign of remembrance to all those who fell, endured the horrors of war and the terrible sacrifices they made.

so does a white poppy. And it also recongnises the fallen from both sides – and the civilians…

I’m not arguing otherwise. And I do recognise the fallen from all sides, I’m not British. Civilians too, I don’t descriminate. I abhor war. Wear whichever poppy you like/or not.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

Red poppies do not celebrate or promote militarism and the posters that conflate this with Robinson et al are ridiculous. We were lucky as a family to only have members wounded and not killed in 1st and 2nd WWs and we recognise the loss that others suffered via the red poppy

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

It’s got nothing to do with celebrating the spilling of blood. It has everything to do with raising funds for veterans and recognising a debt to those that have given their lives for us. Your comments are inappropriate and bigoted

If we had a government that felt like you do, they would properly fund our Vets – physical and mental health. Clearly the MoD prefer to keep back the money that should be spent on those things to spend on next batch of missiles instead

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

When I wear a red poppy I am in no way celebrating the spilling of blood. Ludicrous. Not that I have a major issue with white poppies but demonising the wearing of red ones is wrong.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

The red poppy has also been hijacked by the Britains First, Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson lot. Its own symbolism is morphing into something distasteful.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.

It’s about remembering those who died and making it not in vain The red poppy and white poppy mean different things – they are not mutually exclusive

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields.

replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.

Replying to @GeorgeMonbiot

But where is the profit in peace? Warmongers must have war

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