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 Malaysian cyclist could face disciplinary action after 'Save Gaza' gloves protest
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Fifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage from US parenting groups
- 4 McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
- 5 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
Israel-Gaza conflict: Israeli targeting policy under scrutiny after shellfire hits a mother and child, a school full of refugees and a doctor’s home
Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
McDonald’s removes chicken nuggets from the menu in Hong Kong amid major food scare
Satellite full of sexually experimental geckos adrift in space, Russia loses control of mission
Costa Concordia finally towed from Giglio amid environmental concerns that cruise liner is a 'floating bomb'
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Arizona execution lasts two hours as killer Joseph Wood left 'snorting and gasping' for air
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...
Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...
£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...
£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...