It is that time of year again where every poppy pinned to a lapel is joined by a newspaper column, blog or tweet on why no one should be wearing a poppy. To wear or not to wear a poppy is a debate raging everywhere, and unfortunately this controversy is dominating the discourse on commemoration and precluding the wider national debate we should be having on the subject.
Opium poppy extracts and their chemical derivatives were and still are invaluable in relieving the suffering of the wounded. It is therefore safe to say that both the opium poppy and the red poppy, or least the artificial variety, have been employed to bring immense relief to members of the armed forces, albeit in totally different ways.
The British way of remembrance is different to that of anywhere else. It is at once more high state ceremonial and yet more peculiar and intimate. There is nothing in the world to compare with the Festival of Remembrance, an event both regal and rococo which is extremely admirable and yet very odd. Held in the Royal Albert Hall with nearly the entire Royal Family in attendance, it is part church service, part military tattoo, and part entertainment.
It's impossible to know even a fraction of the personal stories, or the tales of individual acts of patriotism and valour that went on in those four horrendous years, and with the death of Harry Patch in 2009, the First World War has now all but passed out of living memory. But that doesn't mean that we can't be grateful for the collective, incalculable sacrifice that was made so that we've got freedom now.