YMCA brought to life the Remembrance Day poppy tradition

MILLIONS wear a red poppy on Remembrance Day worldwide as a tribute to the fallen in the war but did you know the ritual commenced at the YMCA?

The idea of the Memorial Poppy was the brainchild of Moina Michael at the Canadian YMCA Overseas War Secretaries' headquarters in November 1918. Moina stumbled across the poem ‘In Flanders Fields’, written by Canadian Lt Col John McCrae in 1915. She answered his poem with “We Shall Keep the Faith” and vowed to always wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance.

At a meeting of YMCA secretaries from other countries, held in November 1918, Moina talked about the poem and her poppies. An attendee, Madame Anna Guerin of the French YMCA secretary, took the idea further by selling poppies to raise money for widows, orphans, and needy veterans and their families.

The poppy soon became widely accepted throughout the allied nations as the flower of remembrance to be worn on Armistice Day.

Today, YMCA’s worldwide have carried on the tradition. At YMCA Brisbane the red poppy is proudly worn on Remembrance Day throughout our myriad of services and instilled within the ethos of the community.

YMCA Brisbane Chief Executive Officer Alan Bray said the red poppy significance has its origins in the work of the YMCA, which has a long and proud history of supporting our defence forces in times of war.

“We are extremely proud of playing a pivotal part in worldwide history,” he said.

“The humble bloom has come a long way on its journey since the symbolic representation of both war, peace, hope and sacrifice was initiated in YMCA Headquarters so long ago.”

Alan said “YMCA Brisbane will launch a Red Poppy campaign from early 2018 as part of recognising 100 years since the end of WWI.”

“Tributes will be given to those who gave their lives in the Great War and staff, volunteers, members, families and children will be invited to play a part in remembering those Australians who died by making, buying, selling, wearing and donating red poppies.”

The poppy possesses a universality, shared by few other such emblems and is increasingly used as part of Anzac Day observances.

The poppy remains today a symbol of bloody death, remembrance and a defiant rebirth.