The use of poppies to commemorate those who’ve lost their lives in war was inspired by John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields.
Canadian poet, physician and soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae (1872 – 1918) fought in both the Boer War and the First World War. In the spring of 1915 he was serving as a Major and a medical officer in the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery at the Second Battle of Ypres
Some of the heaviest fighting of the entire war took place at Ypres and McCrae treated hundreds of wounded soldiers in the trenches.
On the morning of 2 May his close friend and fellow soldier Lieutenant Alexis Helmer was killed by a direct hit from a German shell just after leaving his dugout. The tragedy moved McCrae to pen a tribute to his comrade in verse form, now a familiar recital at memorial services such as those on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.
His heart-rending lines reflected the poppies growing among the graves of fallen men. In military folklore, their vivid red colour came from blood staining the ground.
Touched by McCrae’s imagery, American professor and humanitarian Moina Michael wrote a response in 1918 in which she echoed his sad words:
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
[from We Shall Keep the Faith.]
Michael had the idea of selling silk poppies to help raise funds for her work on behalf of disabled servicemen. French and British veteran groups quickly followed the American example of adopting the poppy as an emblem of remembrance.
In 1921 the British Legion ordered and sold nine million poppies for Armistice Day on 11 November. The idea took root throughout the Empire, although the first poppies to come to Australia were made in France.
This release from the closing year of our extensive ANZAC Spirit 100th Anniversary Coin Series portrays red poppies either side of a military gravestone on which the first verse of In Flanders Fields is inscribed. The poignancy of the sombre scene is heightened by the forlorn appearance of a dead soldier’s helmet and boots, with a visual reminder of McCrae’s “bravely singing” larks in the background.
Struck from 2oz of 99.99% pure gold in The Perth Mint’s renowned high relief proof quality style, the coin is also engraved with edge lettering expressing the Anzac Spirit’s core values: PRIDE, RESPECT, GRATITUDE.
With no more than 100 ever to be released, the coin will be a rare and enduring tribute to the sacrifices made by those fighting in the First World War.
The Australian War Memorial logo is a registered trademark of the
Australian War Memorial TM & © 2018