They’re a much-loved symbol of remembrance, and it’s difficult to imagine the annual July 1st anniversary at Lochnagar Crater without them.
But for years, the Crater was bare – until Richard Dunning acquired it and the custom of using poppies inside the Crater began to evolve.
In the early 1980s, a couple of boxes of petals were scattered in the base of the Crater. These were soon joined by a small circle of Royal British Legion crosses.
As funding improved, the number of petals and crosses increased.
In 2011, Friend Warren Osborne introduced a large poppy made from red London Ambulance blankets – with a well-disguised black garden furniture table top as centre piece.
From 2015, the Crater was adorned by a huge poppy designed and hand-made by Elizabeth Stretton, who lives with husband William at Dukinfield in Cheshire. The material came in ten 10 m lengths, each 1.5 metres wide. It was sewn together in a 10m x 10m square.
It was too big for a local physiotherapist’s gym, so it was laid out at a Tameside Council dance hall. The material was folded into four, the petals were marked out and cut, until there was one big petal, unfolded into a natural petal shape.
The two-metre wide centre was placed in position, the veins were inked-in, and the folded poppy was then ready for transport to the western Front, in its own carrying bag with fixing tools.
This, together with the now-traditional holding-of-hands round the lip and the distribution of thousands of poppy petals by local children for visitors to throw into the Crater, is now a key part of the service on July 1st.
Thanks to William and Elizabeth Stretton, Iain Fry and other Friends, and to visitor Peter Edwards for information and pictures used in this article.