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Poppy seeds sown at St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Gravesend to remember the fallen

By Clare Freeman

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.”

Major John McCrae penned his now famous poem, In Flanders Fields, in May 1915 after he conducted the burial service for his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer.

The poppy came to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and quickly became a lasting memorial to those who died in the First World War and later conflicts.

Wally Howse, 97,with James Barber, 12.
Wally Howse, 97,with James Barber, 12.

This year marks 100 years since the start of The Great War and the Royal British Legion is running a campaign to plant poppies across the country.

The bright red Flanders poppies, Papaver rhoeas also known as corn poppies, have been planted by thousands of people for flowering from late July/early August.

The campaign was started by the Greenhithe and Swanscombe branch and called The 2014 Real Poppy Campaign but was then adopted by the RBL nationally and renamed The Centenary Poppy Campaign.

It has the backing of the Prince of Wales, who has called the campaign an evocative and poignant tribute and Prime Minister, David Cameron, pledged his personal support for this iconic campaign.

Phil Berry, chairman of the Greenhithe and Swanscombe branch, said: “We would like to see the UK covered in real Flanders poppies from August 2014.

“Just imagine thousands upon thousands of bright red poppies growing 100 years on, hundreds in every garden, hedgerow, field, even window boxes - the entire nation covered in poppies.”

To help ensure a national coverage, members of the RBL Riders’ Branch have agreed to assist in the casting of poppy seeds on behalf of those unable to do so themselves.

As of this month, more than 16 million seeds have been distributed, over a quarter of which are in Kent.

Last Tuesday, war veterans, teachers and pupils gathered together for a poppy sowing ceremony at St John’s Catholic Comprehensive School in Gravesend.

The ceremony marked the start of the school’s First World War commemorations.

The Flanders poppy seeds were provided by the Mayor, Cllr John Caller as part of the RBL’s campaign.

The funds raised will go towards the £1.6 million the legion spends each week on welfare to the Armed Forces community.

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