Lay a poppy

Poppies are available to Shrine visitors in both the Sanctuary and the Visitors Centre for a gold coin donation.

Visitors can lay their poppy in several locations throughout the Shrine or the Shrine Reserve as a mark of respect to those who have served our nation. You can also lay a poppy online in the Books of Remembrance.

The Flanders Poppy

Today the poppy is a symbol of remembrance across the world and is the official flower of remembrance in many of the First World War Allied countries.The journey of the poppy from simple flower to powerful symbol starts with a poem written by a Canadian Doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McRae, whilst he was serving on the Western Front.

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 among 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.

- John McRae

The poem, so familiar to us today, struck a chord with many, but it was Moina Michael who penned a poem of her own in 1918, 'We Shall Keep Faith' and promised to wear one of McRae's Flander's poppies to remember the fallen. Her simple gesture was picked up across the world and the wearing of poppies on Remembrance Day is now part of the ritual of remembrance.

With the poppy already a popular symbol of remembrance in France and America, a group of widows of French ex-servicemen called on Earl Haig at the British Legion Headquarters in 1921. They brought with them from France some poppies they had made and suggested that they might be sold as a means of raising money to aid the distressed amongst those who were incapacitated as a result of war.

These first poppies were sold in the streets of London on Armistice Day, 1921. The experiment was an immediate success as the poppy was a touching reminder of the battle fields of Flanders where the small red flower grew. The poppy sales were assisted by the widespread publication of John McRae's beautiful poem 'In Flanders Fields'.

Such was the success of this whole venture that the Executive Council of the Legion set up a factory at Richmond and employed disabled British ex-servicemen to make the poppies. These activities were later expanded to the making of wreaths and crosses for the Fields of Remembrance.

And so, the poppy was enshrined forever as the symbol of sacrifice, the reminder of courage beyond the call of duty.

Here in Australia, the poppies are produced by those who have known the meaning of sacrifice; by war widows, by the disabled, by those in repatriation hospitals. Each year, over a million poppies are sold.

Poppies are a practical expression of assistance to those who need it. Above all, they symbolise a universal salute to those who have sacrificed their lives and allow for reflection on our history.