This blog post has no ambulance anecdotes in it; this is what the symbolic meaning of the remembrance poppy is to me.
The poppy was first used in 1921 as a symbol to commemorate the fallen military in the First World War. It was inspired by the war poem ‘In Flanders Field” by Lt Col John McCrae. Since then it has come to be a symbol of remembrance of military fallen in every conflict including and since the First World War.
Some see it as a political statement and a measure of patriotism, some as a glorification of war and others even as a racist slur. To me it’s none of these. I certainly don’t glorify war – I wish we as a species could at long last ‘grow up’ and accept differences, tolerate other viewpoints and all get on and love and help each other. John Lennon summed it up for me in his masterpiece ‘imagine’. End of rant.
I wear a poppy to remember and honour my great uncle Saville.
Saville was born in 1899 in a small Yorkshire town, Northowram. He joined the army in 1915, joining the Royal Army Medical Corps as a stretcher bearer. Some stories have been passed down through the family and one of my favourites is about how Saville and his colleagues dealt with wounds. If a wound was bleeding and they were struggling to stop the bleeding one trick they found to increase the pressure was to place a dressing on the wound then place a small stone, or even once a potato on the wound then strap a bandage around it – the stone would increase the pressure to stop the bleeding. Coming back to the 21st century, one type of trauma dressing we use has a plastic pressure bar insert (with a projection shaped like a small potato!) to be strapped over a wound to increase pressure and help stop bleeding. It always makes me smile to myself because I think that my uncle and his friends invented this gadget!
Saville was awarded the Military Medal for bravery during a particularly fierce battle making several sorties out into no-man’s land to fetch wounded soldiers back to safety. Tragically he was killed on the first of October 1918 – just weeks before the end of the war. A shell exploded above him while he was on his way to pick up some wounded soldiers and a fragment of shell casing struck him in the chest, killing him instantly. His mother, my great grandmother, never got over her grief at losing her son.
This is just one tragic story out of the hundreds of millions of casualties in the 20th century wars but it is very personal to me. I obviously never met my great uncle but I would love to talk to him and hope that he would be pleased I’m a modern day stretcher bearer.
That’s what the poppy means to me and that’s why I wear it.