Were the fields of Flanders always covered in poppies?
Not to such an extent as during the First World War. In 1914 there were hardly any poppies on the battlefields. The soils of Flanders and the north-west of France were fairly poor. The poppy thrives on richly manured ploughed land. One British soldier remarked that the Somme was far poorer for poppies than his native Norfolk.
When did the poppies first appear in huge numbers?
In 1915 the first records appeared of no-man’s land being “ablaze” with scarlet poppies. From this time onwards, letters sent home by soldiers constantly referred to the fields of poppies, and featured heavily in soldier’s poems.
RED POPPIES IN THE CORN
I’ve seen them in the morning light,
When white mists drifted by.
I’ve seen them in the dusk o’ night
Glow ‘gainst the starry sky.
The slender waving blossoms red,
Mid yellow fields forlorn.
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