"Wear a White poppy for peace this Remembrance Day"

The White Poppy is an alternative to the British Legion's red Poppy Appeal poppy, worn on and around November 11th each year. Due to its origins and associations, it is controversial - however is growing in popularity since its creation in 1933. To those who wear it the White Poppy is a symbol of peace and an expression of the desire to prevent future wars: "the White Poppy symbolises that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers".

The origins of the White Poppy

The White Poppy was first thought of in 1926 when members of the No More War movement suggested that the red poppies should have a pacifist inscription in the centre, or that pacifists should wear a different symbol as red poppies seemed to glorify past wars. The idea was not really taken up until the Women's Cooperative Guild decided to embark on a peace and nonviolence campaign, having lost brothers, fathers and sons during the First World War. In 1933 the women of the guild produced the first wreath of white poppies. Money from selling these white poppies was sent to all parts of Europe to fund pacifist campaigns. In 1936 the Peace Pledge Union adopted the White Poppy as a symbol that "war must not happen again". Two years later, pacifists held the first alternative remembrace service on Armistice Day. Since then, the White Poppy has been produced and sold by the Peace Pledge Union.

What does the White Poppy mean?

The white poppy is controversial as many people see it as disrespectful to war veterans. The red poppy symbolises respect and honour for dead soldiers and proceeds from their sales go towards caring for veterans of war. To therefore have a white poppy that looks down upon wars and violence seems to belittle the sacrifice made by those who were killed in wars. The Peace Pledge Union makes a distinction between glorification of war and death - which it believes is inherently wrong - and remembrance of the dead and prevention of future wars:

The fate of 'our glorious dead' was desperately sad, but the word 'glorious' gave it grandeur. The idea that these British soldiers had 'given' their lives was sad (and misleading, considering the real events); the word 'sacrifice' gave the idea nobility. But there is nothing characteristically grand or noble about war. War makes everybody, living or dead, its victims. War makes people all over the world bring needless death upon themselves and the people they care about (as well as those they don't). To interpret slaughter as sacrifice is to turn away from what is true and real, in search of a comforting dream.
Such a sentiment is not designed as an insult to those who were killed in, or survivors of, war. It is simply the desire to prevent others from having to 'sacrifice' their lives in future conflicts.

Since the mid 1980s the White Poppy has had a huge growth in popularity. It is not designed to compete with the red poppy, and many people now wear them side by side in order to express respect for veterans and a desire for future peace. There are still problems, however: on Armistice Day in 1986 members of the British Legion shouted abuse at anti-war activists when they were laying down their white wreath, and many veterans and others feel insulted by White Poppies. The PPU does its best to educate people about what the White Poppy stands for, in order to reduce this conflict. In their own words, the White Poppy is simply

A symbol of grief for all people of all nationalities, armed forces and civilians alike, who are victims of war.
For all those who have died or are dying in wars
For all those who have died or are dying as resources to feed or house them have gone to war preparations
For all those who will die until we learn to live in peace
When shall we ever learn?