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First World War Centenary Poppy

As 2014 marks 100 years since the First World War has started, people all across the world are preparing for the 2014-2018 Centenary.  The Centenary will commemorate the death of almost 10 million Commonwealth soldiers who fought during the war.  Cultural manifestations, public gatherings, the Queens’ speech and lots of flower seeds, especially poppy seeds, planted all over UK will mark the event. Also, the beginning of the First World War Centenary will mark the recreation of the Royal Flying Corps, the ‘grandparent’ of the actual Royal Air Force.

Corn Poppy – The Symbol of Remembrance

One of the most loved symbols of remembrance, loss and hope for a different future, in the First World War in the UK, was the Corn Poppy (Papaver Rhoeas), which flowered along the battlefields. Around Europe preparations are also blooming. In Belgium, the official program is almost ready. A military grand service will be held at Saint Symphorien Military Cemetery, near Mons, where many British and German soldiers died and are buried. In the UK, the Queen is due to attend a special event at Glasgow Cathedral. The city has been chosen to be the main point of the events marking the start of the First World War. All across the country flags will fly on public buildings and people will decorate their houses with personal flags and Corn Poppy. UK Seed suppliers are already preparing wildflower seeds in preparation. Many people will buy poppy seeds, particularly original UK seeds.

Corn Poppy Commemorative Flower Seeds

In order to meet the demand, seed suppliers in UK offer special packages of flower seeds, especially poppy seeds that you can grow at home. For example, Landlife Wildflowers has created a Corn Poppy Commemorative Seeds Packet, containing 10 grams of native UK seeds, grown by them at Merseyside Farm, near St Helens. Their special wildflower seeds are all original UK seeds, ensuring the buyers to get perfect Corn Poppies. The UK will be covered with red Poppies starting next year. 


Poppies at Le HamelPoppies at Le Hamel

The Flanders poppy has long been a part of Remembrance Day, the ritual that marks the Armistice of 11 November 1918, and is also increasingly being used as part of Anzac Day observances. During the First World War, red poppies were among the first plants to spring up in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium. In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground. The sight of poppies on the battlefield at Ypres in 1915 moved Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae to write the poem In Flanders fields (see The recitation). In English literature of the nineteenth century, poppies had symbolised sleep or a state of oblivion; in the literature of the First World War a new, more powerful symbolism was attached to the poppy – the sacrifice of shed blood.

Moina Michael, who worked for the American YMCA, read McCrae’s poem just before the Armstice. She was so moved by it that she wrote a poem in reply and decided to wear a red poppy always as a way of keeping faith, as McCrae had urged in his poem. At a meeting of YMCA secretaries from other countries, held in November 1918, she talked about the poem and her poppies. Anna Guérin, the French YMCA secretary, took the idea further by selling poppies to raise money for widows, orphans, and needy veterans and their families.

The poppy soon became widely accepted throughout the allied nations as the flower of remembrance to be worn on Armistice Day. The Australian Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League (the forerunner to the RSL) first sold poppies for Armistice Day in 1921. For this drive, the league imported one million silk poppies, made in French orphanages. Each poppy was sold for a shilling: five pence was donated to a charity for French children, six pence went to the League’s own welfare work, and one penny went to the League’s national coffers. Today the RSL continues to sell poppies for Remembrance Day to raise funds for its welfare work.

Roll of Honour wall
The Roll of Honour dotted with red poppies

The poppy has also become very popular in wreaths used on Anzac Day. An early instance took place in Palestine, where poppies grow abundantly in the spring. At the Dawn Service in 1940 each soldier dropped a poppy as he filed past the Stone of Remembrance. A senior Australian officer also a laid a wreath of poppies picked from the slopes of Mt Scopus.

Poppies adorn the panels of the Memorial’s Roll of Honour, placed beside names as a small personal tribute to the memory of a particular person, or to any of the thousands of individuals commemorated there. This practice began at the interment of the Unknown Australian Soldier on 11 November 1993. As people waited to lay a single flower by his tomb in the Hall of Memory, they had to queue along the cloisters, beside the Roll of Honour. By the end of the day, hundreds of RSL poppies had been pushed into the cracks between the panels bearing the names of the fallen.

Bright red flowers of Papaver bracteatum flowering in northern Tasmania on Rememberance Day 2012


Leaders in Poppy Production

The Tasmanian Poppy Industry was pioneered by Glaxo Australia in the early 1960s. It is one of the success stories of Australian agriculture and manufacturing.

Founded with the objective of providing a reliable and secure source of opiate alkaloids, GlaxoSmithKline has grown to become one of the world’s major suppliers, with an international reputation for security, reliability and quality.

This growth has been based on the innovative development and usage of technology in all aspects of the operation, and has resulted in GlaxoSmithKline being recognised as the most cost-effective international producer.

GlaxoSmithKline continues to pioneer advances in the industry, providing world markets with a reliable and secure source of alkaloids for analgesic medicines.

Over 90% of the thebaine, codeine and morphine produced is sold to export markets.

Tassie poppies – helping the world

GSK supplies 25% of the world’s medicinal opiate needs from poppies grown by farmers in Tasmania.
Through significant developments and the application of innovative research and development, GSK continues to contract with and assist Tasmanian farmers to grow poppy crop, directly contributing to the word’s medicinal opiate needs. The opiates are extracted from the poppies at our factory in Port Fairy, Victoria and are used in a range of pharmacy and prescription medicines worldwide.
We are continually researching how to develop new varieties of poppy and improve growing techniques that will increase the poppy and alkaloid yields, and make the crop safer.






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