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Master Cpl. Dave Payne and his son Draysen pin their poppies on the cross at the St. James Legion during Remembrance Day services in Winnipeg on Friday Nov. 11, 2005. (Ken Gigliotti/Canadian Press)

In Depth

Remembrance Day

Why the poppy

Last Updated November 1, 2007

The association between the poppy and war dates back to the Napoleonic wars when a writer saw a field of poppies growing over the graves of fallen soldiers.

During the Battle of Ypres in 1915, Canadian Lt.-Col. John McCrae was inspired to write the poem In Flanders Fields on sighting the poppies growing beside a grave of a close friend who had died in battle.

The poem was a great inspiration in adopting the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance in Canada, France, the U.S, Britain and Commonwealth countries.

The first poppies were distributed in Canada in 1921. Today the volunteer donations from the distribution of millions of poppies is an important source of revenue for the Royal Canadian Legion that goes toward helping ex-servicemen and women buy food, and obtain shelter and medical attention.

In Flanders Fields

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.

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.

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.

- John McCrae, 1915

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