Fringe Box



Letter: White Poppies Should Not Be In Opposition to Tradition

Published on: 12 Nov, 2018
Updated on: 14 Nov, 2018

From Ben Paton

The author’s name was originally shown as Ben Darnton. We wish to apologise for this error.

In response to: Laying A Wreath Of White Poppies

By all means promote peace. But why doesn’t John Morris and his Peace Party set themselves up in their own right rather than in opposition to a tradition that has lasted a hundred years?

Britain wanted peace in 1914 and subsequently.

To claim otherwise is historically inaccurate. It would be difficult to find a less bellicose man than the British Foreign Secretary of the time, Sir Edward Grey. He and the Foreign Office made repeated attempts to promote peace between Austria and Germany on the one side and Russia on the other in the years and months before August 1914.

The overwhelming majority of MPs and of the cabinet of the Liberal government of the day was against Britain fighting in any Continental war. Only when Germany invaded Belgium, a neutral country, whose neutrality Germany had confirmed only a year or two prior to 1914 did the Cabinet change its mind.

Letters back from the front show that most soldiers in the trenches were there from a sense of duty.

This was one of my great uncle Radcliffe Porritt’s letters last letters home from the Somme. It is written on a little, thin, squared paper in pencil. He died five weeks later aged 22.

“June 21st 1916

My dear Mother,

Just a line to let you know that everything is merry and bright except the weather. Many thanks for your last letter and parcels of cocoa and cakes. Parcels and letters are coming very badly now. I have not yet had the chocolates and cigars that you and Myrt mentioned in your letters. I have just had a letter from Auntie Alis dated June 12th.

Otherwise I have had nothing for what seems weeks. We are again in bangland and very busy. Oh! when will peace come. It seems so silly to make all this noise when even the lark is doing his best to make himself heard and the Dorothy Perkins bursting forth and rambling over the ruins of the houses they once clung to and blossoming in all their splendor. It’s quite pathetic. No mans land now is one glorious belt of wild flowers running right across Belgium and France. Poppies, corn-flowers, dogdaisies, buttercup, clover and nettles. Even the roads that cross it are green with moss and covered with dandelions. Looking at it from a well-chosen place on a glorious day it seems hard to realise that it would mean death even to go in search of a lark’s nest there.

Well I don’t think there is any more news. Huggins is in hospital with trench fever. Roxborough went on leave and was recalled when had been there about two hours.

By Jove I did enjoy my leave. I often think of it now. I wonder when I will have another. Personally I am hoping peace will be determined very soon. I have not seen a paper the last two or three days. But last time I saw one things seemed to be coming to such a head that I expected peace any day.

Well good awfully bye and lots of awfully love to you all.


PS You might let me know when peace is determined because it might not reach this out of the way spot.”

This death like that of the millions of others casts a shadow of nothing but sadness across the years. Radcliffe’s sister, my grandmother, insisted on going to France as a nurse. She was underage so her father had to accompany her. Radcliffe’s mother wore a broach with the Liver Bird crest of the Kings Liverpool Regiment in memory of him for the rest of her life.

Share This Post

Leave a Comment

Please see our comments policy. All comments are moderated and may take time to appear.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *