During the Great War, a strange phenomenon was noticed, the same one, in fact, that had been observed a hundred years before, during the Napoleonic Wars. Across the landscape devastated by artillery, along the trenches and near the battlefields, a blood-red flower flourished, the poppy.
This is no surprise, really, as a poppy needs only freshly plowed chalky soil to sprout!
In the Commonwealth countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand…), the poppy came to be associated with remembering the veterans, and especially the soldiers killed during the First World War, in exactly the same manner as the cornflower (bleuet) in France.
This allegory of the poppy results from a poem written in 1915 by a Canadian military physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. After his friend had been killed by a shell at Ypres, and laid to rest in a temporary grave marked only with a simple wooden cross, John McCrae was struck by the fact that poppies were growing between the rows. This phenomenon inspired his famous poem "In Flanders Fields" ("Au Champ d’Honneur").
Today, the tradition in the Commonwealth countries of wearing an imitation poppy on one's lapel in souvenir of the Great War, is becoming more universal.