Please sign in to post.

Flanders Field

We looked all over western Belgium for the fields of poppies...do they still exist?

Posted by
12040 posts

The circumstances that brought about the noticable poppy fields in WWI were specific to the conditions of the war. The normally fertile soil of West Flanders was heavily polluted by the residue of the exploded shells, so one of the few plants that managed to grow naturally in no-man's land was the relatively hardy red poppy. Most of the former battlefields have long since reverted back to cultivated agricultural land, so no, you generally won't see entire fields covered in red poppies. Plus, the red poppy is mildly toxic to livestock, so farmers try to prevent it from taking hold on their grazing lands.

Now that being said... the province of West Flanders is currently making preparations for the expected flood of tourists during the centenial observations of WWI next year. Noting the familiarity of the red poppy as a symbol of the war, perhaps you will see some attempt to artificially replicate the poppy fields.

Posted by
23091 posts

at the right time of the year you can see them along the side of the road or mixed in some fields of crops.

They are wild so not encouraged, but fun to see. Also in England, France, Germany and Italy.

Posted by
988 posts

@Nigel - What is the right time of year?

Also, @Nigel, in 2018, we're planning on doing France and Belgium but will be in London on 11/11/18. I realize it's a bit premature, but if at some point you start seeing links to plans or events, could you PM them to me. I would appreciate it.

Posted by
1586 posts

Whenever I saw a few red poppies along the roadsides in Europe....possibly early May?...I could not help but remember the red crepe poppies we played with as kids on Veterans Day. Today is Veterans Day. Let's remember the service and sacrifice millions made for our freedoms today. Thank a vet!

Posted by
1020 posts

We saw tonnes of poppies growing wildly on the side of roads in Poland. That was the month of June.

Posted by
23091 posts

Time of year - depends on latitude, Italy earlier and England later; late Spring, Summer, early Autumn. They finished in my wildflower garden a month or so ago - my orange California poppies are still trying but, alas, failing.

I'm unlikely to remember 5 years from now to send PMs about a specific question. Maybe if you ask closer to the time.

I can tell you that if you are in England on the 11th day of the 11th month of the centenary of the armistice the whole country will be involved in solemn commemorations.

I just saw an outside broadcast from the Menin Gate in Ypres. We are reminded that in addition to all the men (and a few women) who returned to their home countries maimed and injured, and the millions killed in that war - the Menin Gate commemorates the very nearly 60,000 who were blown up so badly that they were never found.

I live in a large market town. That 60,000 who were never found is 10,000 more men than the entire population of my town.

It gives me pause.

Wear a poppy. Thank a Vet.

And remember those who will be forever young.

Posted by
547 posts

I always understood that red poppies often grew on disturbed ground, and that it was this, rather than the toxicity, that meant they grew in Flanders. I have more often seen fields of poppies in southern France, but you can find them in may places depending on the agriculture and climate.

The Menin Gate at Ypres is famous because buglers from the local Fire Brigade play the Last Post there every evening at sunset. It therefore attracts many visitors, especially school groups who sometimes add their own tributes. It is therefore an especially moving thing to witness. Ypres was destroyed in the war and then rebuilt. It has an interesting museum.

I have not seen the ceremony at the Menin Gate, but I have visited the memorial at Thiepval, which records the names of over 75,000 men who were missing after the Battle of the Somme. I have also been to many other cemeteries, memorials and world war sites. They are all worth seeing, and are not in competition.

Sometimes, it's not the large memorials which are most moving, but the ones which have the most personal significance for your own family, or those which contain some personal message.

Posted by
843 posts

We were in Italy in the month of June, and saw them growing wild along the road and in fields. It seemed that the land was in use, so no huge fields, but enough scattering to be noticeable. I too kept recalling the poem when I saw them, and remembered one of the highlights of our trip one year to London when rememberance day Sunday was actually the 11th with grande ceremonies taking place. I'm wearing my poppy pin today!

Posted by
12040 posts

"I always understood that red poppies often grew on disturbed ground, and that it was this, rather than the toxicity, that meant they grew in Flanders." That's part of it, but the lack of competitors due the unusually alkaline soil also helped quite a bit.

Posted by
9361 posts

I saw fields of poppies in Spain on my first trip there in 2007. It was very early May, in Castile y Leon.

Posted by
273 posts

I can't resist adding one of my favorite quotes from Kurt Vonnegut:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy, and when Dwayne Hoover was a boy, all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.
It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.
Armistice Day has become Veterans' Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans' Day is not.
So I will throw Veterans' Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don't want to throw away any sacred things.
What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.
And all music is.

Posted by
988 posts

When I was a child in Canada, I remember it was called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day, never Veteran's Day. I guess that's the American name, not really sure where or when that name became official here.
I wonder how they refer to it today in Canada?

Posted by
1020 posts

We call it Remembrance Day, and the services are often referred to as the "act of Remembrance". Every year there is a Silver Cross Mother; she is someone who lost a child in service. She represents all mothers who have lost a son or daughter who were serving.

I suppose everyone knows the poem was written by a Canadian?