I have yet to find anyone who welcomes war and every single veteran that I have ever spoken to, including members of my family, have been deeply hurt by the experience and most have told me that they wish there had been another way.
So wearing a red poppy bought from a stand which declares “The Glorious War” has always felt wrong for me. I have heard nothing about any war that would make it glorious, but plenty that describes them as horrific and never to be repeated.
Worse still is how the British Legion has used Eric Bogle's No Man's Land, one of my favourite songs. The British Legion have re-recorded the song with the final, anti-war, verse removed. There is currently a petition calling on the British Legion to apologise. These are the words that the British Legion wouldn't include:
And I can't help but wonder, now Willie Mcbride,
Do all those who lie here know why they died?
Did you really believe them when they told you 'The Cause? '
Did you really believe that this war would end wars?
Well the suffering, the sorrow, the glory, the shame
The killing, the dying, it was all done in vain,
For Willie Mcbride, it all happened again,
And again, and again, and again, and again.
The need for an alternative to the red poppy started in the mid 1920’s when a member of the No More War Movement unsuccessfully tried to persuade the British Legion to remove Haig Fund from the centre of their poppies. The white poppy itself dates back to 1934 when the Peace Pledge Union started to produce them as an alternative to red poppies in a move that attempted to separate the act of remembrance from military culture.
2014 is the 80th anniversary of the white poppy as a true alternative to the red, symbolising both the need to remember those who fell in wars but also a call for peace in the future.
As someone who believes that there is almost always a better way to end disputes than going to war, I am proud to wear a white poppy.
Let us never forget the fallen, but even more importantly let us try to do everything we can never to repeat the tragedy.