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Poetry of Direct Personal Experience
Our Collection of Aviation and Military Poetry

We Shall Keep The Faith
Moina Michael

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders’ fields,

Sleep sweet - to rise anew,

We caught the torch you threw,

And holding high we kept

The faith with those who died.

We cherish too, the poppy red

That grows on fields where valour led.

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies,

But lends a lustre to the red

Of the flower that blooms above the dead

In Flanders’ fields.

And now the torch and poppy red

Wear in honour of our dead.

Fear not that ye have died for naught

We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught

In Flanders’ fields.

Many people were moved by the pathos of ‘In Flanders fields’. Among them was Moina Michael (1869–1944), who worked in a YMCA canteen in New York. Two days before the signing of the Armistice (11 November 1918), she wrote a reply to McCrae: 'We shall keep the faith'. Michael set out to have the red poppy adopted in the United States as a national symbol of remembrance. The American Legion adopted it as its memorial flower at its annual convention in September 1920. In attendance was Madame E. Guérin, who had been invited to speak at the event by Frederick Galbraith, the Legion’s second National Commander.

Madame Guérin held the first Poppy Day in the United States in 1919. In 1920 she conceived the idea of ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’. This would remember the fallen and benefit the women and children of France, who would make the artificial poppies, and Allied veterans and their families. Known as ‘The Poppy Lady of France’, she made the poppy an international symbol of remembrance. Over the next year Guérin and others approached veterans’ groups in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and other countries, urging them to take up the practice.

The first Poppy Day

One of Guérin’s representatives, Colonel Alfred Moffatt, suggested the idea to the New Zealand Returned Soldiers’ Association (as the Returned Services' Association or RSA was then known) in September 1921. The RSA placed an order for 350,000 small and 16,000 large silk poppies with Madame Guérin’s French Children’s League.

The RSA planned to hold its first Poppy Day appeal just before Armistice Day 1921, as other countries were doing. When the ship bringing the poppies from France arrived too late for the scheme to be properly publicised, the association decided to wait until Anzac Day 1922.

The poppies went on sale on 24 April. The first Poppy Day appeal was a huge success – many centres sold out early in the day. In all, 245,059 small and 15,157 large poppies were sold. Of the £13,166 (equivalent to $1.35 million in 2021) raised, £3695 ($380,000) went to the French Children’s League to help relieve suffering in war-ravaged northern France. The association used the balance to assist needy, unemployed returned soldiers and their families; that tradition has continued.

Poppy Day grew in popularity . There were record collections during the Second World War. In 1945, 750,000 poppies were distributed nationwide – nearly half the population sported the familiar red symbol of remembrance.

Pont-de-Nieppe Communal Cemetery

SY 2022-11-08

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 • Last Modified: 08 November 2022, 14:51