World oldest poppy goes on display to mark Remembrance Sunday
A mysterious scrapbook of pressed flowers that a soldier sent to his sweetheart while he was fighting in the First World War has come to light.
The book belonged to a woman named only as Lizzie and was used by her to keep flowers that her soldier boyfriend sent home from the battlefield.
The man, who is referred to as ‘Bert’ sent the cuttings to the young woman by post while he fought in the war from 1917 to 1919.
The plants include Ivy, plucked from foliage 11 miles from Arras in France, where the famous Battle of Arras took place. The page is dated 10 March 1918.
Another page features what is thought to be stonecrop from Riese in Italy, dated 16 July with no year, and a sprig from the Messines Ridge in Belgium from July 1917.
Private Roughton later taped the poppy to a page in an autograph book that belonged to his 13-year-old neighbor, Joan Banton, who received it as a gift in 1923.
While the carefully preserved poppy is usually hidden away from the public, 103 years after being picked it is currently on display at jewellery shop Hancocks in Mayfair’s Burlington Arcade for Remembrance Day weekend.
Guy Burton, director of Hancocks, said there was a “lot of interest in this poppy and its history”.
“When we show it to interested parties, often when discussing the First World War, the making of the Victoria Cross and Hancocks’ history, it always creates a turning point,” Mr Burton said.
Hancocks has been making the Victoria Cross – the most prestigious award of Britain’s honours system – since it was first established in the mid-19th century.
When Private Roughton pressed the poppy into his neighbour’s notebook, he wrote an inscription that reads: “Souvenir from a Front Line Trench near Arras, May 1916. C. Roughton 1923.”
In 2011, the poppy was included in an exhibition held by the Royal British Legion.
Two years later, it sold for £6,300 at an auction in Dorset, more than six times its estimate.
This year, Remembrance Sunday takes place a day before Armistice Day, which is observed annually on 11 November.
Armistice Day commemorates the end of the First World War when an armistice was signed by the Allies and Germany in France in 1918.
Remembrance Sunday is held on the second Sunday of November to honour the “service and sacrifice” of members of the British armed forces, British and Commonwealth veterans, members of the Allied armed forces and civilian servicemen and women who were “involved in the two World Wars and later conflicts”.