From a very young age, we are taught about the poppies that grew on the fields of Belgium, France and Gallipoli in World War I. They remind us of the Anzacs’ sacrifice and bravery as we move into the future. But for Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight, the day took on a more personal meaning. Their fathers, Wal and Stan, fought for Australia and Britain respectively during World War II, and they wanted to honour them.
“This was a personal project for us. We decided to make 120 crocheted poppies to plant under my father’s battalion tree at the Shrine of Remembrance in Melbourne,” says Lynn.
The duo completed much of their crocheting in public, and soon strangers began offering their assistance. People of all ages put up their hands to contribute. By Anzac Day 2015, 5,000 little miracles were created by people across the world and laid at Federation Square, representing precious memories of the people who fought for our freedom.
“It grew organically. People are quite focused on World War I remembrance, but for the crafting community and people who hand-make poppies it’s an easy project to get involved in,” says Lynn. “If you can make one poppy, you can make 1,000 poppies.”
The beauty of the poppy is its simplicity: anyone can knit, crochet, sew or create a poppy out of a paper plate, yoghurt carton, or felt. And whether an individual labours lovingly over a single poppy or 3,500 (as did one volunteer), each has a place as we commemorate the sacrifices of World War I between 2014 and 2018.
“It’s about your remembrance and your personal interest in your ancestry, friends or service as a whole,” says Lynn. “On another level, it’s very public. For me and Margie, it’s still about our dads. For everyone else it’s about their personal story. It’s evocative.”
The poppies Lynn and Margaret began in 2013 have since become multiple art installations. They’ve even been at the Chelsea Flower Show in Britain, where the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, added her own poppy to the 300,000-strong display.
Their next goal is the most ambitious yet: create and source 50,000 poppies for the RSL’s 2018 Poppy Appeal, where they are expected to raise half a million dollars once sold.
“It’s been the most amazing community-led project. It’s so inclusive—from all different cultures and creeds, really there’s no barrier to involvement,” says Lynn.
Join the 5000 Poppy project by visiting 5000poppies.wordpress.com. All poppies can be sent to PO Box 115, Ashburton VIC 3147.