White poppies tell the story of the alternative Remembrance Day

Re-posted from Co-operative News

The story of the white poppies began in 1933 when the members of the Women’s Co-operative Guild started wearing them to symbolise that they were against war and violence. Workers from the Co-operative Wholesale Society began making white poppies and the money gathered from selling them went to help war-resisters in Europe.

In 1936 the white poppy was adopted by the Peace Pledge Union which now coordinates the initiative. The Union was set up in 1934 to campaign against war and is now the oldest secular pacifist organisation in Britain.

Jan Melichar, co-ordinator at the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) explained what the white poppy stands for: “As far as we are concerned it’s a call to resist war and war making and all that comes with it.” He added that for the PPU, Remembrance Day is not only about remembering those who died, but also putting an end to war and violence. “It’s a very specific symbol, not a general symbol of peace,” added Mr Melichar.

white poppies

white poppies

An alternative Remembrance Day
The first alternative remembrance events began in 1938 when a pacifist religious service was held in Regent Park in London followed by a march to Westminster and the laying of a wreath of white poppies at the Cenotaph. A year later World War II began and the November Armistice Day Silence was cancelled.

After WWII sporadic actions were occasionally taking place but it was only in the early ‘80s that the white poppies began to be sold again. Margaret Thatcher gave white poppy a boost in popularity when she called it “a despicable little symbol” during Prime Minister’s Question Time.

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