I write this pretty much every year, to explain why I won’t wear a red poppy.
First published in October 2020.
Nothing at all to do with hating Britain or not supporting veterans, or being a lefty do-gooder, or any other blame you want to pin on me. It is because of my Dad’s uncle Tommy.
Here’s the story...
Tommy Parry joined up to fight in WW1. Some in the family say that he was underage, but I don’t know. Regardless, he was at Passchendaele, where he was shot by a machine gun. As he lay injured, a shell exploded nearby, and the mud it threw up pretty much buried Tommy.
One of his pals saw part of him sticking out the mud, and he was dragged back to his trench, presumed dead. As Tommy later said, his pals “dug me up to bury me”. The policy was not to retrieve bodies though. Officially, those like Tommy were abandoned. But Tommy was still alive.
Eventually, with an effort, he could walk again. But he rarely worked again due to his injuries and the effects of shell-shock. He was left deaf in one ear from the noise of the shell. And very traumatised.
Tommy died when I was a tiny baby. I have no memory of him at all. All the info I have is based on what my Dad (now also dead) told me. But Tommy hated poppy day. Not from disrespect to his pals, or those who died or suffered, but from a loathing of those who used that sacrifice to bolster jingoistic, mindless patriotism...
Those attitudes led to the war. They led to the millions of dead and wounded. And Tommy wanted no part in it. I have complete respect for those who serve on our behalf, and I will give money to the appeal. But I have to hear Tommy’s story, and do as he would wish. So I won’t wear a red poppy. I will wear a white one, for peace. And I’ll donate to groups that help those still suffering from the countless wars.
But I am not going to lend my voice to the jingoism. That’s how a million kids like Tommy got left for dead in the first place.
And when I see MPs glorying in how very red their poppy is, it repulses me. When I see them boasting about the emblems of wars that caused millions of deaths, and countless suffering... it worries the hell out of me. Because glorying in it is the opposite of what is needed.
By all means, respect the dead. But this empty swaggering is all wrong. Mindless, nationalistic flag-waving leads to politicians making decisions so they can look strong, rather than because it is what is needed.
It is dangerous. It is what Tommy hated. I am with him.
I am telling you this because it is my story. Your story will be different, and however you choose to commemorate (or not) is fine. But please remember: the choices people like me make are not out of disrespect. There is a history behind our choices.
So, do not kick off about it. Thank you.🔷
- The Battle of Passchendaele | Britannica
- White poppy: How is it different from the red remembrance symbol? | BBC News
- Remembrance & White Poppies | Peace Pledge Union
Russell Jones, Designer, data analyst, blogger.