Where do poppies come from?

Every year a production team hand-make millions of Remembrance products for the Royal Family and The Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

In 1922 Major George Howson MC opened a factory. He had one dream: ‘to give the disabled their chance.’

Thousands of wounded soldiers, sailors and airmen were returning from The Great War without the means of earning a living and Howson was sure he could do something about it. Poppies had become popular as an icon of public Remembrance through the work of Anna Guerin of France and Moina Michael of the USA, who took Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders Fields”, and devised a practical way of raising vital funds for wartime charities.

The British Legion had been set up the year before and the very first Poppy Appeal – using silk poppies made by widows in France – had raised £106,000.

Howson saw his chance and asked Earl Haig, the founder of the British Legion, if he could make the poppies for their next Poppy Appeal. Howson decided to set up The Disabled Society with just 6 staff.

Within 10 years, the name had changed to The Poppy Factory and Howson was employing over 350 disabled veterans to make the poppies. The factory moved to Richmond in 1925 and in 1928 Howson founded the annual Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey.

Towards the end of the century, the needs of veterans started to change. They wanted to work in their local communities, to be closer to their families, and to utilise the wide variety of skills that they learned during their time in HM Armed Forces. This was the cue to innovate.

In 2010, The Poppy Factory embarked upon a hopeful venture – much like Howson did in 1922 – and took their expertise for employing disabled ex-Service personnel on the road to help veterans find the work they wanted in the places they wanted to be.

The Poppy Factory has now built upon its strong historical foundations to provide an exceptional employability service that supports hundreds of ex-Service personnel with health challenges into rewarding employment with businesses across the country every year.

This was such a successful venture between the two charities that it continues to this day; Today around 30 disabled veterans, their dependents, and a small team of home-workers, work year-round to produce wreaths, crosses and poppies to meet an annual order from The Royal British Legion.

The products are “sold” (for zero profit) to the Legion under special arrangement for it’s annual Poppy Appeal, which then uses the fundraising income from selling these to the public to fulfil The Royal British Legion’scharitable objectives – and so today around 30 disabled veterans, their dependents, and a small team of home-workers, work year-round to produce wreaths, crosses and poppies to meet an annual order from The Royal British Legion.

The products are “sold” (for zero profit) to the Legion under special arrangement for it’s annual Poppy Appeal, which then uses the fundraising income from selling these to the public to fulfil The Royal British Legion’scharitable objectives.

The Field of Remembrance

Every November the annual Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey is organised and run by the Poppy Factory.

Over 350 plots for regimental and other associations are laid out in the area between Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret’s Church. Remembrance crosses are provided so that ex-Service men and women, as well as members of the public, can plant a cross in memory of their fallen comrades and loved ones. The Field is opened every Thursday before Remembrance Sunday and stays open for a further ten days.

Started as the Field of Remembrance in 1928 with a few disabled ex-Service men who grouped around a battlefield cross, familiar to those who had served in Flanders and the Western Front and with a tray of poppies, they invited passers-by to plant a poppy in the vicinity of the cross.

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