A sign of Remembrance

30 May 2018 by Claire Hunter

Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson

Australian War Memorial Director Dr Brendan Nelson.

The Flanders poppy has long been a powerful symbol of remembrance.  And now the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Dr Brendan Nelson, is urging Australians to put a poppy on their car to help mark the centenary of the end of the First World War and raise funds for Legacy and the Memorial.

“Popping a poppy on your car is a very simple way of … saying: ‘I care and I remember’,” Dr Nelson said. “It marks you as a person who simply wants to say: ‘I am grateful for the men and women whose sacrifices have given me the freedoms that I enjoy.’”

The vibrant red poppy flowers were among the first plants to spring up in the devastated battlefields of northern France and Belgium, and the poppy soon became widely accepted throughout the allied nations as the flower of remembrance to worn on Remembrance Day, marking the declaration of the Armistice at 11am on 11 November 1918.

“If ever there is an appropriate time to perhaps consider putting a poppy on your car, and show that you care about this, then this is it,” Dr Nelson said.

“The First World War was the war that changed us and it gave us a greater belief in ourselves and a deeper understanding of what it meant to be Australian.”

Today, the poppy remains a poignant symbol of remembrance, and the vivid red flowers are also used in wreaths on Anzac Day and adorn the panels of the Memorial's Roll of Honour.

“The commemorative poppy … has … been embraced as recognising all of those Australians who have served, who have suffered, and in particular who have died, in all of our wars and peacekeeping operations,” Dr Nelson said.

“I would like to see it go as far and wide as it possibly can, simply so we can, as a nation in this year of the centenary, have a universal, simple, relatively identifiable, symbol of commemoration and respect. And that’s what it’s about...

“If we can raise the profile of the centenary of the Armistice and awareness of the price that our nation and so many families have paid and continue to pay for service to our country, and at the same time raise some resources to support the Australian War Memorial and Legacy in our respective missions, then that’s a good thing to do,” Dr Nelson said.

“All of us are beneficiaries of everything that this place represents and it’s a simple thing to do … If you haven’t got a car, or you’ve got a car you don’t want to put a poppy on, you can always put it on your letter box. You can put it anywhere – [just] put a poppy on something that’s important to you [and] show your colours.”

Commemorative car poppies are available at the Memorial shop and online for $9.99. Proceeds from the sales will help support Legacy and the Memorial.