The first poppy found in war diary
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Monday 09 November 2009
Some fragile petals recovered from the diary of a First World War soldier are thought to be the oldest Remembrance poppies in Britain.
Dave Mason made the remarkable discovery as he was browsing through the diaries of his great uncle Len Smith, a sapper in the Royal Engineers, finding the delicate flowers pressed into the pages alongside the words “Actual Flanders poppies from ‘no man’s land’ 1915.”
The soldier, who would undergo risky surveillance missions behind enemy lines to sketch their movements, is thought to have plucked the poppies from No Man’s Land in Flanders Field during one of these operations 94 years ago.
Although the petals have dried out and become brittle they have preserved well, retaining their shape and vibrant red colour.
Mr Mason, 63, of Woodford Green, Essex, said: ''Len was a really gentle guy and this was epitomised in his love of flowers, which I think he collected as light relief from the war which was raging around him.
“The poppies were in kept in near-perfect condition and had kept their bright red colour because they were preserved between the pages. It's incredible really.”
The soldier kept a comprehensive diary of his experiences of trench warfare, including bloody battles at Vimy Ridge and Loos, and his notes, sketches and diary extracts have now been compiled and published under the title ‘Drawing Fire.’
Recalling a shelling at Vermelles, north France, he wrote: ''There were not any great doings at this part of the line - with much caution one could even peep over the top and it was lovely to see groups of red poppies among the infrequent patches of grass.
“Considering the numerous shell holes they were very numerous and made a very brave display – I know they thrilled me intently.”
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
Greece elections: Greek PM Alexis Tsipras takes aim at 'neo-liberal' Europe as country gears up for prolonged austerity battle
Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary: Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
Pornhub star Mia Khalifa receives death threats after being ranked the site's top adult actress
Prince Philip set to be knighted by Australia: Celebrate by reading his greatest gaffes
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'
competitive + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: An award-winning global multi-media...
£26017.21 - £32521.19 per annum + OTE $90,000: Sauce Recruitment: My client is...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of UK Magento hosting so...
£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen...