As I, along with millions of others across the country, observed two minutes silence at 11am on Wednesday I couldn’t shake off words I’d heard from a colleague a couple of days earlier.
‘I’ve never worn a poppy,’ my learned friend said. ‘I just don’t get it.’
I struggled to understand the words, coming as they were from such an intelligent and articulate individual. I’m not saying everyone should wear a poppy - so no Jon Snow-esque ‘poppy fascism’ quotes please - but yours truly was shocked by the lack of knowledge, and dare I say it respect, toward the symbol of remembrance. Really, you ‘don’t get it’?
It’s a shame the person in question didn’t bump into Peter Godmark, a 76-year-old former soldier whose comments about how to wear a poppy - and the symbolism associated with it - went viral this week after being shared more than 500,000 times on social media.
When a university professor approached the poppy seller, she got more than the spare pin she had requested.
Politely asking if he could reposition her poppy (traditionally, he said, women wear them on the right) he explained: ‘Red represents the blood of those who gave their lives, the black represents the mourning of those who didn’t have their loved ones return home, and the green leaf represents the grass and crops growing, and future prosperity after the war destroyed so much.’
Not exactly straight out of the British Legion’s handbook (who dismiss the claim the red represents blood) but an important lesson to be told, and one Peter fears will be forgotten after the passing of his generation.
And he has a point. One survey this year claimed that 38 per cent of the population did not plan to observe Wednesday’s silence - this figure shooting up to 51 per cent when looking solely at 18-25-year-olds.
And those who were said they may still partake in activities including online shopping, surfing the web, and posting on social media.
So thank goodness for Peter and the like. It was he I ended the two minutes silence thinking about, and all others who fought in the World Wars or subsequent conflicts.
Agree with the act of remembrance or not, I hope people still ‘get it’ for their sake.