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White poppy campaign launches with backing from Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance wearing a white poppy

White poppy campaign launches with backing from Mark Rylance

As this year's white poppy campaign is launched today, award-winning actor Mark Rylance has said he will be among the thousands of people wearing a white poppy.

Mark Rylance, whose awards include an Oscar and several BAFTAs, insisted that Remembrance Sunday should be a time to "refocus our every effort to avert war". He said that civilians should be commemorated alongside armed forces personnel, adding that it is "an offence not to remember their suffering".

White poppies represent remembrance for all victims of war of all nationalities, a commitment to peace and a rejection of militarism. They have been worn at Remembrance time since 1933.

In contrast, the Royal British Legion, who produce red poppies, say that they remember only British and allied armed forces personnel.

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the pacifist organisation behind white poppies, said that the war in Ukraine has led to more people suggesting that Remembrance should include both civilian and military casualties of all nationalities.

This year also sees a new enviornmental design for white poppies. The PPU has worked with Calverts, a workers' co-operative in east London, to produe white poppies that are fully recyclable in household recycling facilities.

"I have always admired and taken part in the white poppy remembrance of both civilian and military casualties of war," said Mark Rylance today. "Civilians far outnumber the tragic military casualties." He added, "I do not understand the white poppy ro be in any way an opposition to the red poppy in remembrance of military casualties. Unfortunately wars are fought with and against civilians today and I consider it an offence not to remember their suffering."

Mark Rylance continued, "I also deeply respect the origin and longevity of the Peace Pledge Union's campaign, created by the Co-operative Women's Guild in the aftermath of World War One, when our brave ancestors were promised it would be the war to end all wars. These suffering women, many of them grieving the loss of husbands, brothers, sons and fathers, also deserve our respect and remembrance."

He added, "Remembrance Day should be a day to remember and grieve the losses caused by war, but it should also be a day to refocus our every effort to avert war with all our tools of peaceful reconciliation of conflict. Too often in my life, Remembrance Day seems a kind of shoulder-shrug that war is inevitable. I do not believe it is."

Mark Rylance has been a longstanding supporter of peace campaigns. The picture above shows him speaking at a ceremony in London in 2017 to honour conscientious objectors.

The number of white poppy outlets is on the rise, with at least one outlet in almost every city and large town in the UK, as well as many smaller towns. White poppies can also be bought online from the Peace Pledge Union.

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 last decade has seen significantly increased demand for white poppies. Last year also saw an increase in the use of white poppies in ceremonies in city centres and universities. For example, Leicester University laid wreaths of both red and white poppies for the first time. In 2018, the centenary of the end of World War One, over 122,000 white poppies were distributed; this is the highest number since white poppies were founded in 1933.

The Peace Pledge Union will hold an Alternative Remembrance Sunday Ceremony in Tavistock Square, London on Sunday 13 November 2021. Many alternative Remembrance ceremonies will be held elsewhere in the UK, and in other cases white poppies will be included in official ceremonies.

You can see a list of white poppy outlets on the PPU website. Or order white poppies online from the PPU shop.