Back to top

White poppies to feature in Remembrance Sunday ceremonies

White poppy wreaths

White poppies to feature in Remembrance Sunday ceremonies

White poppies will feature in boh official and alternative ceremonies around the UK to mark Remembrance Sunday today.

White poppies stand for remembrance for all victims of war, both civilians and combatants, of all nationalities, as well as a commitment to peace and a rejection of any attempt to glamorise or sanitise war.

For the first time, a mixed wreath of red and white poppies will be laid by the Lord Mayor of Bristol (Paula O’Rourke) at Bristol's official Remembrance Sunday ceremony.

Leicester University and Aberystwyth Council are among the other public bodies to include white poppy wreaths in their ceremonies. At several other official ceremonies, local peace groups will lay white poppy wreaths alongisde red wreaths laid by other groups.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the pacifist organisation that produces white poppies, said the increased use of white poppies in ceremonies is a sign of growing acceptance of the need to remember all victims of war by working for peace.

Meanwhile, the National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony will take place at 12.00 noon in Tavistock Square, London, with people joining both in person and online. It is organised by the PPU.

The Alternative Ceremony will involve laying white poppy wreaths and observing two minutes’ silence to remember all victims of war. Speakers will include commentator and comedian Kate Smurthwaite, who was recently challenged on her decision to wear a white poppy when appearing on Channel 5's Jeremy Vine Show. Messages will be heard from peace campaigners in Russia and Ukraine.

Other white poppy-based events are taking place this weekend in cities including Brighton, Bradford and Norwich, and several smaller towns. Birmingham Town Hall will host a classical performance of Songs of Protest for Remembrance Sunday.

Labour MP Debbie Abrahams was among the attenders at a white poppy-based Remembrance event in Saddleworth yesterday (Saturday).

White poppies have been worn as a symbol of remembrance and peace since 1933. This year the PPU launched a new white poppy design, meaning that white poppies are for the first time recyclable in household recylcing facilities. They are made by Calverts, a workers' co-operative in east London.

“I always wear a white poppy. They've been around for 90 years," explained Kate Smurthwaite on Channel 5 recently.  "It's not a new thing but there's a lot of talk about them at the moment, which is really exciting and I'm really pleased to see it.

Kate, who will speak at the National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony today, added, "They commemorate everyone who dies in war, not just those in the British military but also those in other wars around the world and also civilians. So everybody from innocent civilians being killed in Yemen at the moment - often with military equipment that the Saudis may have bought from the UK - wars that are ongoing, people being killed, civilians in Ukraine, people who've been conscripted into armies often against their will. It memorialises everybody who's lost their lives in those situations and the money raised goes to support ongoing peace.”

Money raised through white poppy sales goes towards promoting nonviolent approaches to conflict and producing educational materials. Many white poppy wearers also donate to charities supporting veterans or other victims of war.

The PPU expressed sadness that alternative ceremonies have been attacked on social media by supporters of militarist policies. Felicity Cornelius-Mercer, wife of the Minister for Veterans Johnny Mercer, has repeatedly attacked white poppy wearers on Twitter in recent days. She described the Alternative Remembrance Ceremony as "pathetic" and "attention-seeking". The PPU said this is a shameful way to describe an act of remembrance for people killed in war, especially as the ceremony will itself include people who have experienced war or been personally bereaved by war.

Johnny Mercer has often attacked white poppy wearers in previous years. However, his colleague James Heappey, Minister for the Armed Forces, said yesterday that people should not be “shamed” for wearing no poppy or for wearing a white poppy.

You can join today's National Alternative Remembrance Ceremony online here from 12.00 noon.