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Poppy picked on First World War battlefield goes on display to mark Remembrance Sunday

Flower preserved for more than a century

Sabrina Barr
Sunday 10 November 2019 13:24 GMT
What was the Armistice?

A poppy picked on a battlefield by a soldier during the First World War has been put on display to commemorate Remembrance Sunday.

The poppy, which is said to be the oldest in the world, was picked by Private Cecil Roughton from a front line trench near the city of Arras, northern France in May 1916.

After picking the flower, the then-17-year-old soldier pressed it carefully to ensure that the stems and leaves would remain intact.

Private Roughton later taped the poppy to a page in an autograph book that belonged to his 13-year-old neighbour, 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 read: “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”.

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