In the wake of this year’s Remembrance Sunday, sales of white poppies have reached record levels.
The traditional red poppy has been a symbol of remembrance for British soldiers and been used to raise money in aid of wounded British servicemen and women.
Recently, however, the red poppy is drawing more criticism for its perceived political message from pacifist groups such as the Peace Pledge Union, which sells an alternative white poppy.
This year sales of the white poppy are expected to reach over 110,000, the largest number ever sold since the PPU initiative was launched in 1934.
The PPU believes the red poppy celebrates Britain’s role in war and does not acknowledge the deaths of civilians.
A statement on the PPU’s websites says: “White poppies recall all victims of all wars, including victims of wars that are still being fought. It includes both civilians and members of armed forces. Today, over 90% of people killed in warfare are civilians.”
But Bradley Whittaker-Hardingham, 19, from Sheffield, who is a serving soldier in the Royal Engineers, disagrees with the idea that the red poppy is a political symbol, and that it celebrates the British conflicts in the Middle East.
He said: “In WW2 we fought the Nazis who had plans to take over the world. The PPU are literally showing disrespect to the heroes who stopped this from happening because they can’t stop going on about how Blair shouldn’t have sent troops to Iraq.”
The PPU has been criticised in the past for its support of appeasement of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, when the group recognised Hitler’s territorial claims in the Sudetenland as legitimate.
And in the 1980s Margaret Thatcher argued the white poppy appeal was diverting money that would otherwise go to the British Royal Legion and help support British soldiers.
Amy Gregson, spokeswoman for the Royal British Legion, said: “The Legion’s red poppy honours all those who have sacrificed their lives to protect the freedoms we enjoy today, including the freedom to wear the poppy of one’s choice. If the poppy became compulsory it would lose its meaning and significance.
“It is entirely wrong to suggest that the red poppy supports war. The red poppy is a universal symbol of Remembrance and hope.
“However, we see no contradiction in wearing other emblems alongside the red poppy, and recognise the right of any group or individual to express their views within the law.”