War, peace and poppies

On 25 April each year, New Zealanders observe a national day of remembrance for all those who served in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZACs) during the Great War. The date itself marks the anniversary of the landing of New Zealand and Australian soldiers on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915. We remember all those who lost their lives during this war and other periods of conflict. We also reflect on all those who returned, never to be the same again.

ANZAC Day is not about creating division or glorifying war. It is a day to reflect on the toll that war and conflict takes. It is a call to never forget and never repeat the same mistakes of the past.

Why we wear the poppy flower

Around this time, many New Zealanders will wear the poppy flower as a symbol of remembrance and hope. The RSA runs its annual Poppy Appeal fundraiser around this time. Some will wear poppy pins in memory of their own family history or connection to New Zealand’s military history. Others wear poppy flowers in support of all military personnel and their families. Wreaths of poppy flowers will be left at monuments around the country. The poppy is also worn by millions of people around the globe, particularly around Armistice Day each November.

The tradition of wearing poppy flowers was inspired by a poem written during the First World War (1914 – 1918). In the spring of 1915, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian doctor who had recently lost a close friend in battle, was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields to write a now famous poem called 'In Flanders Fields.'

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.

Lest we forget

The poppy flower is symbolic not because it is the colour of bloodshed, but because it is resilient, and it is one of the few flowers that can grow from the barren and trodden ground of conflict. While the earth and memory are forever scarred by conflict, something delicate can grow from the bleakest circumstances.

This is a lesson that we can all heed, in many aspects of our lives. In the wake of conflict – whether we’re remembering the lessons from the past or reeling from current suffering – we have a choice. We can close our hearts and sow the bitterness of hate and fear, or we can open our hearts and sow kindness and empathy. We can choose to bloom. 

About FairWay

FairWay is New Zealand’s largest specialist conflict management and dispute resolution organisation. Our purpose is to lead the prevent and resolution of disputes.

For more information visit www.fairwayresolution.com or phone 0800 77 44 22.