They have worked tirelessly and with great purpose.
Their mission has been driven by admiration and respect for the service and sacrifices of those who were lost while fighting in our name in the carnage of World War I.
And next week, in the lead-up to the centenary of the WWI armistice, the work of the Returned and Services League’s “poppy ladies”, augmented by the efforts of countless others around the State, will see a sea of red handcrafted poppies installed near the State War Memorial in Kings Park.
There will be 62,000 poppies in total — each a tribute to a Digger who was killed in WWI, which effectively came to an end on November 11, 1918, when the guns of the Western Front fell silent after four years of bloody warfare.
The first part of the poppy project will see about 11,000 installed around the Flame of Remembrance at the State War Memorial on Wednesday.
The next 51,000 will go into the lawn behind the memorial, starting on Friday.
According to the RSL of WA, poppies were the first plants to bloom in the battlefields of northern France and Belgium.
The tradition of wearing the poppy began just before the official armistice of 1918, and was started by American YMCA secretary Moina Michael.
The poppy quickly became a widely accepted symbol of remembrance throughout the Allied nations, worn on Remembrance Day since then.
Poppies were first sold in Australia in 1921 and in the lead-up to Remembrance Day, they continue to be offered to the public by the RSL to raise funds for veterans’ welfare.
RSL WA chief operations officer Martin Holzberger said though Remembrance Day services were respectful commemorative occasions, the centenary of the armistice was also a moment to recall the celebrations in November 1918 which marked the end of the fighting.
Mr Holzberger said that more than 500 volunteers across the State would have poppies available for the public on Friday in return for a donation that would go towards veterans’ welfare.
“While wars have changed since the poppy tradition started, the needs of service personnel and their families have not changed,” he said.
One of the RSL “poppy ladies”, Judy Welch, said the Kings Park poppies had come from a wide variety of groups and individuals who wanted to contribute.
She said the project was a way to show her gratitude to the soldiers of WWI.
“It’s also very humbling” Ms Welch said. “Every one of these poppies represents a person.”
The RSL has appealed for help to “plant” poppies.
- Malcom Quekett, The West Australian