Why is it Called 'D-Day' anyway... And what have Poppies got to do with it?
With today the 6th June marking the 70 year anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy during WWII, I thought it an ideal time to share some images I took during our recent trip to Thézan in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. Before writing this, I didn't even know why it was called 'D-Day'. All I really knew is I, like everyone else who enjoys freedom today, am truly thankful for those who risked (and lost) their lives as part of the Allied forces that freed Europe from the tyranny of the Nazi regime. But I have to admit my knowledge is patchy at best (thanks a mil, National Curriculum, for furnishing me with unparalleled insight into the Weimar Republic, yet managing to teach me ZERO about the actual wars).
No doubt someone will be able to shed some light on why it was 'D' and not, say A or the more mysterious-sounding Z, but I can not.
My ignorance on the topic also led me to ponder the reasons for which the poppy has become the symbol of remembrance. Obviously, they were profuse in the landscape once the conflict was over, but why was that? The BBC website explains it well...
Scarlet corn poppies (popaver rhoeas) grow naturally in conditions of disturbed earth throughout Western Europe. The destruction brought by the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th Century transformed bare land into fields of blood red poppies, growing around the bodies of the fallen soldiers.
In late 1914, the fields of Northern France and Flanders were once again ripped open as World War One raged through Europe's heart. Once the conflict was over the poppy was one of the only plants to grow on the otherwise barren battlefields.
"Disturbed earth" - what a simple yet evocative concept.
I also discovered that before being adopted in 1921 by the Royal British Legion as the symbol of their fund-raising appeals, the poppy had already become forever associated with remembrance after it was used as a key piece of symbolism in a poem called In Flanders Fields written in 1915 by Canadian surgeon Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae. It is one of the most popular and most quoted poems from the First World War. Here's an Excerpt.
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Poppies are bold and unapologetic and simple. These qualities give them their impact, whether individually or together with thousands of others in the landscape. Which, for me, resonates with the nature of war and remembrance; it was a collective effort and we hear mind-blowing figures quoting the vast numbers of fallen yet within that there were all these individuals, with their own lives, families and stories.
Here is my own little tribute to remembrance.
I took these photos just outside of Thézan where we were staying at a lovely little house called Maison Des Fleurs which I will review soon.