The red poppy is a symbol of remembrance of those who died or suffered in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.

Canadian Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae first described the red poppy, the Flanders’ poppy, as the flower of remembrance. 

At the second battle of Ypres in 1915, when in charge of a small first-aid post, McCrae wrote a poem that has come to be known as 'In Flanders Fields'. The poem described the poppies that marked the graves of soldiers killed fighting for their country. 

In England in 1919, the British Legion sought an emblem that would honour the dead and help the living. The red poppy was adopted as that emblem and has been accepted as the emblem of remembrance. 

The red poppy has special significance for Australians as they were among the first to flower in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium in the First World War. In soldiers’ folklore, the vivid red of the poppy came from the blood of their comrades soaking the ground.

Australians wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day for three reasons:

  • in memory of the sacred dead who rest in Flanders’ Fields
  • to keep alive the memories of the sacred cause for which they laid down their lives
  • as a bond of esteem and affection between the soldiers of all Allied nations and in respect for France, our common battleground.

Today, cloth poppies are sold on, or around, 11 November each year. Proceeds from the sale of the poppies goes toward raising funds for welfare work.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow 

Between the crosses, row on row, 

That mark our place; and in the sky 

The larks, still bravely singing, fly 

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, 

Loved and were loved, and now we lie 

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw 

The torch; be yours to hold it high. 

If ye break faith with us who die 

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow 

In Flanders fields.

- Written by Colonel John McCrae (1872 – 1918)