Having bloomed throughout late Spring and Summer on the ravaged battlefields of combat, the corn poppy appropriately became the Commonwealth’s icon of Remembrance.
The flower’s scarlet hue is rather too obviously symbolic of bloodshed but it is as much the tremulous tissue of petals and the fleetness of blooms that makes Papaver rhoeas such an evocative memorial flower.
History arranged that at 11am on a dull and cold 11 November, the guns of WW1 would fall silent in truce. Thenceforth the 1918 Armistice has echoed through each subsequent 11th month, commemorating all who fought and died, then and ever after:
Private Matthew Thornton, 28, from the 4th Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, was killed by an IED while on patrol in Babaji on Wednesday.
Come November, when poppies are no longer in bloom, it is the Autumnal shedding of leaves that conjure images of ‘the Fallen’. Toppling without number, tumbling side by side – a terribly pointillistic picture of war.
THE leaves that rustled on this oak-crowned hill
And sky that danced among those leaves, are still;
Rest smooths the way for sleep; in field and bower
Soft shades and dews have shed their blended power
On drooping eyelid and the closing flower;1
How fitting therefore that an arboretum has been dedicated as a National Memorial site, extending over the past decade from an armed services cenotaph to over 200 separate commemorations, symbolically planted with flowers or trees. Here a war widows’ rose garden and there a grove of 2,535 oaks representing all the British flagged merchant vessels lost to enemy action during World War II. These were the ships that carried medical aid, food, provisions and non-combatant passengers.
As the decades pass, many of the battlefields though still so scarred have returned to what they always were – pastures, woodland, hills, cornfields.
“I saw that bare country before me…the miles and miles of torn earth, the barbed wire, the litter, the dead trees. But the country would come back to life, the grass would grow again, the wild flowers return, and trees where now there were only splintered skeleton stumps.” Capt P J Campbell RFA
In his Western Front Photography, Michael St. Maur Sheil constructs an ode to Remembrance that we do well to dwell upon, each and every 11/11/11 anniversary.
Bloggers who’ve remembered:
All Nature My Garden – Lest we forget
Bush Bernie’s Garden Blog: Flower Flaunt Friday on this Remembrance Day
Elephant’s Eye – Some Corner of a Foreign Field
A Patient Gardener’s Blog: A thought for today