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Flashback: the significance of white poppies on Remembrance Day

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In the late 1980s controversy surrounded Cllr John Marjoram’s decision not to lay a red poppy wreath on Remembrance Day in his role as Stroud Mayor, instead laying a white poppy wreath.

Mr Marjoram, who was first elected to Stroud District Council in 1986 as a Green Party councillor, is a lifelong pacifist and supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and the Peace Pledge Union (PPU). When called for National Service in 1959 he declared himself a conscientious objector.

The White Poppy Appeal was started in 1933 by the Women’s Co-operative Guild, alongside the Royal British Legion’s red poppy appeal. The white poppy commemorated not only British soldiers killed in war, but also civilian victims on all sides, standing as “a pledge to peace that war must not happen again”.

In 1986 white poppies drew criticism from former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who believed they diverted donations to servicemen.

The PPU website explains: ‘the white poppy stands for three things. They represent remembrance for all victims of war, a commitment to peace and a challenge to attempts to glamorise or celebrate war.’

‘In wearing white poppies, we remember all those killed in war, all those wounded in body or mind, the millions who have been made sick or homeless by war and the families and communities torn apart. We also remember those killed or imprisoned for refusing to fight and for resisting war.’

Each year the PPU holds a National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony, this year returning to Tavistock Square in London on Sunday, November 14th after missing a year due to the pandemic.

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