Armistice Day 2016: Why do some people wear a white poppy?

Pacifist organisations say the red poppy has become too political 

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During the Remembrance period, some people prefer to wear a white poppy, sometimes instead of, or in addition to, the traditional red poppy.

While the red poppy is worn in specifically in honour of the armed forces and is distributed by the Royal British Legion, the white poppy, given out by the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), a pacifist organisation, serves as an alternative. 

There are three elements to the white poppy, according to the PPU.

It is intended to remember the all victims of all wars, rather than just those in which British service people were involved. It also demonstrates a commitment to peace and to challenging attempts to glamourise or celebrate war.

The white poppies were first conceived by the Co-operative Women's Guild in 1933, and they became used by non-violence and faith organisations. They were also frequently worn by the widows and children of dead soldiers.

While it is common to see red poppies worn in the UK during the Remembrance period, with millions sold each year, only around 100,000 white poppies are sold annually and are less easy to find.

The PPU believes the red poppy has become politicised. “In Northern Ireland, for example, it became regarded as a Protestant Loyalist symbol because of its connection with British patriotism,” the PPU website claimed. 

It continued: “A growing number of people have been concerned about the poppy's association with military power and the justification of war.”

The Royal British Legion has a neutral attitude towards the alternative symbol. The organisation’s website said: “We have no objection to white poppies, or any group expressing their views. 

“We see no conflict in wearing the red poppy alongside the white poppy. We do ask that the items are not offered alongside each other however as this would confuse the public.”

But the pacifist symbol has drawn some objection, most notably from Margaret Thatcher. The hawkish former Prime Minister expressed her “deep distaste” for white poppies in Prime Minster's Questions in 1986, leading to a media furore over the symbol.