Which side do you wear a poppy on and what do the different colours mean?

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  • With Remembrance Day just days away, many are wondering what side do you wear a poppy on and what the different colours mean?

    November is a very important month in the calendar year which sees many members of the public start wearing a poppy to commemorate Armistice Day and Remembrance Sunday. The occasion involves paying tribute to those who fought and gave their lives during the First World War. And this is usually carried out through a minute silence, a special National memorial service and of course, the wearing of a poppy.

    Whilst we’re most familiar with the Royal British Legion’s red poppy, there are other colours out there. These include black, purple and white poppies which all honour other war casualties and causes worth commemorating. We’ve shared what each colour represent and the tradition for wearing a poppy below.

    What side do you wear a poppy on?

    Tradition suggests that you wear a poppy on the left side. This is because it is seen as a symbol of keeping those who died close to your heart. The left side is also where military medals of honour are worn, which makes it even more fitting.

    However, there are some people who say that men should wear poppies on their left for that reason, while women should wear them on their right like a brooch. But as the Queen wears her five poppies on the left, that’s all the confirmation we need on which side to wear a poppy.

    Queen Elizabeth II at the Remembrance Day service 2020

    Queen Elizabeth II at the 2020 Remembrance Day service. (Credit: Pool/Max Mumby/Getty Images)

    The Royal British Legion have publicly come out and shared that “there is no ‘correct way’ to wear a poppy”. And that simply wearing a poppy is merit enough, as you’re paying tribute to the soldiers who fought for our country.

    What does the red poppy represent?

    The famous red poppy represents those who gave their lives fighting during the First World War and other related conflicts.

    Representing remembrance and hope – the red poppy was chosen for the fields of these flowers that grew on sites where many WWI battles took place.

    It is an integral part of the Royal British Legion’s annual Remembrance Day campaign. And this year marks 100 years since the Poppy Appeal was founded.

    Part of the original poppy design included the words “never again”. Which served as a pledge that war must not happen again. Yet whilst the sentiment remains, the wording is no longer found on modern poppy designs.

    You can buy your paper poppy or poppy pin via the Royal British Legion online shop. Similarly you should be able to pick one up in person – with many poppy appeal boxes widely available in supermarkets, cafes and other public places.

    What does the purple poppy represent?

    A purple poppy is worn in honour to remember all the animals that died as victims of war.

    During the war effort, animals like dogs and pigeons were drafted in to help. And of course millions of horses were killed or injured in battle during the First World War. In fact, War Horse author Michael Morpurgo estimated that around 10 million horses died across all sides.

    In 2018, a War Horse Memorial was unveiled in Ascot near the racecourse. The horse statue – aptly named Poppy – is dedicated to the millions of UK, Commonwealth and Allied horses lost during WWI.

    “It pays tribute to the nobility, courage, unyielding loyalty and immeasurable contribution these animals played in giving us the freedom of democracy we all enjoy today, and signifies the last time the horse would be used on a mass scale in modern warfare,” states the War Horse memorial website.

    You can buy your purple poppy and support the Animal Purple Poppy Appeal through the organisation here. All the donations go towards equine charities like the World Horse Welfare and the Horse’s Trust

    What does the black poppy represent?

    The black poppy commemorates black, African, and Caribbean communities’ contribution to the war effort – as servicemen and servicewomen, and as civilians.

    The initiative, titled “Black Poppy Rose,” was launched in 2010 and aims to make the black poppy a nation-wide symbol of remembrance.

    “A symbol that signifies pride, honour and glory, with the hope that future generations will be inspired by these largely untold historical legacies,” reads a statement on the Black Poppy Rose website.

    You can order your black poppy remembrance pin or wreaths via their website. With proceeds helping to further promote and share stories of those who fought and gave their lives during the war.

    What does the blue poppy represent?

    Whilst blue poppies do exist, they are not connected to Remembrance.

    Florist Teleflora state that blue poppies are “noted as symbols of imagination, success and luxury”. And indeed the blue poppy is recognised as the national flower of Bhutan.

    What happened to the ceramic poppies?

    The ceramic poppies used in the Tower of London’s special centenary display in 2014 were sold to the public. Each poppy cost £25 each and over £15 million was raised and donated to six military service charities.

    Titled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, it saw the tower’s moat filled with thousands of ceramic poppies. Each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war. And artists Paul Cummins and Tom Piper created 888,246 ceramic poppies in total.

    The display ran between July and November 2014 and garnered lots of visitors from all over the globe. It marked 100 years since the start of World War One, which occurred on 28 July 2014.

    In 2018, the Tower of London followed up with another centenary display to mark 100 years since the end of WW1 (11 November 1918). Thousands of flames were lit in the moat in memory of the fallen. And this installation was carried out by designer Tom Piper and sound artist Mira Calix.

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