War and Flowers (Flanders Poppy)

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.

A poem written by John McCrae, after a close friend was killed in the Flanders area of Belgium and buried in a grave marked with a plain wooden cross at the second Battle of Ypres in 1915.

John McCrae died of pnuemonia on the 28th January 1918 in Boulogne, France. He was a doctor, soldier, poet and artist.

Born in Droitwich, Worcestershire on the 28th August 1887, Arthur Footman (my Grandad, my Dad’s Dad) is my direct connection with the First World War. Joining the Bedford Territorial’s before the outbreak of the war, he became an Infantryman and then he went on to join the ‘Royal Horse Artillery‘. He fought in the Battle of Mons, the Battle of Marne, the second Battle of Ypres and was present at the first Battle of the Somme. Like many others in his time, he must have gone through hell many times, more times than any of us could of imagine. Yet through all the chaos, having known he had fought in the second battle of Ypres makes me wonder, had he known, met and or had fought along side John McCrae, this is a question I know, could never be answered.

My Grandad was very lucky to have survived the 1st World War and was then demobbed in 1919. Many of his accounts of the war, he told to my Dad later in his life. One of those accounts that he told my Dad is that, he was captured by the Germans, tattooed but then escaped on the same day. Being shelled and shot at day after day was bad enough, but being tattooed with a prisoner number, seemed to have angered him more than any of the other.

My Grandad died on the 23/05/1969 and on the 23/05/1970 I was born, a date that my Dad is very unlikely ever to forget.

I have in other posts, mentioned the reasons why I wanted to do gardening and that I had followed my other Grandad’s footsteps, though I have never forgotten about the Grandad I never met. I have often wondered if there are any similarities in Grandad Footman and myself, the one thing I have found out, is that he used to love digging the trenches; now I know they are completely different scenarios, but there is quite a lot of digging in gardening.

For many in the First World War, they fought and died by the gun, but for a lot of people, it is the the Flanders Poppy that is a reminder to what had happened.

Flanders poppy seeds (Papaver rhoeas) can lie dormant in the soil for over 80 years before germinating, which is usually triggered by disturbance of the soil. During the First World War the battlefields were often churned up into a sea of mud, especially between the trench lines and in no man’s land and in the early part of the autumn Papaver rhoeas could be seen. Because of this the ‘Remembrance poppy’ is used in many countries as a reminder to those who had fought and died in this pointless war.

So for me, it is the flower that is greater than the gun…..

13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. thetattooedgardener
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 10:21:43

    Reblogged this on thetattooedgardener and commented:

    A post I had written two years ago about the Flanders Poppy and also my direct connection to ‘World War I’.


  2. Terry Tyler
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 10:50:21

    Love this 🙂


  3. sueturner31
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 10:53:08



  4. ontheedgegardening
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 14:32:13

    My grandfather, George Heavens, was a driver in the Royal Field Artillery. He had been a milkman, a family business in London, and they most likely had a horse to help him on the rounds. I presume this was why he became a driver. My father was born 9/09/17. George died 26/09/17 at Ypres at the age of 19, but like many others they never found his body. My grandmother, who was just 17 at the time, also had a one year old daughter. She never remarried and was a wonderful woman. I remember her crying as she watched the armistice, apart from that I never once heard her complain about her life. A lesson to us all.


  5. Whiskers
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 16:39:03

    Thank you for sharing this information and remembrance. My grandfather served in WWI, my father in Europe during WWII. Neither would talk much about what they experienced. Now I have a better understanding of the significance of the poppy.


  6. Julie
    Nov 09, 2014 @ 21:01:47

    A wonderful post.


  7. virtualhorizon
    Nov 21, 2014 @ 16:56:27

    Lovely post. I first read this poem in a very old poetry book I picked up at a garage sale years and years ago. I remember it tugged at my heart then, and it still does today. My grandfather (on my Dad’s side) served with the US Army in WWI in France. I don’t really remember him talking about it much but I have a few pictures of him in his fatigues. My other grandfather (on my Mom’s side, she’s originally from Germany) served with the German army in WWII and was killed in Russia. My Dad served 20 years in the Air Force, including a stint in SE Asia during Viet Nam, and my husband retired from the military, serving both in the Navy and Air Force. So this poem really resonates with me. Thank you so much for sharing.


    • thetattooedgardener
      Nov 23, 2014 @ 08:42:13

      It is a poem that grabs your heart strings. I’ve read a book called ‘The Last Post’, it was written when only a few remaining survivors of the First World War where still alive; a must read but a real tear jerker!
      Im glad you enjoyed the post 🙂


  8. thinking of the days
    Nov 22, 2014 @ 12:13:37

    Goodness…we share the same birthday….and my great Uncle Percy is my connection to the First World War..see here http://thinkingofthedays.blogspot.co.uk/search?q=remembrance+day.


    • thetattooedgardener
      Nov 23, 2014 @ 12:09:09

      Its an excellent day to be born on 🙂 Have just read your excellent post! So many real life stories like ours came from this senseless war/wars, you hope that human kind learn from this and do not repeat it!!


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