Sealed With The Love of a World War One Poppy - 09/04/2014

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This beautifully poignant letter, with its enclosed poppy retaining the richness of its once glorious colour, was written on American YMCA paper, titled On Active Service with the American Expeditionary Force, reads as follows:

Dear Girl, I love you so, for your prayers and your love. If prayers will aide and they will God will take care of everything. Of course it is hard to understand this war in regards to the Lords will and means of protecting his people – but I guess it was not intended that we should understand.

In the meantime I must stop – sweet girl, I will be so careful and you must be good and write very often. Tell me everything as you do and let the French poppy which I am enclosing represent my kisses for you – dearest girl, all my love. Remember me to mother – yours Chas (more kisses).


Sadly nothing is known about Chas (Charles), a United States Armed Soldier who was sent to Europe in WW1, or his dearest girl back home in the USA. The United States campaigns in WW1 saw the Expeditionary Forces fight in France alongside The French and British Allied Forces in the last year of the war against The Imperial German Forces. By May 1918 over 1,000,000 US troops were stationed in France, with half of them on the front lines. Of particular note, the AEF helped the French Army on the Western Front during the Aisne offensive in June 1918, fighting its major actions in Saint Mihiel in late 1918. “We can be fairly sure,” remarked Mr Hanson, “that the French poppy picked up by an American serviceman represents a latter battle of WW1, perhaps when victory was in sight.”

“With the American Expeditionary Forces however sustained many casualties, with 53,402 battle deaths recorded amongst the 320,000,  the letter and pressed poppy really is,” remarked Mr Hanson, “an important symbol, not just representing WW1 servicemen who fought, but a symbol of the courage and support the French and British forces received from their American counterparts.”

Mr Hanson continued, “I am unaware of any other WW1 French poppies in American collections or museums, and certainly I feel the endearing nature of the letter, containing such romance and affection, together with the French poppy representing love and remembrance, is something to be preserved for posterity. Whilst we will never know whether Chas survived WW1, and returned to his beloved, his words live on reminding us of those brave men and their families.”

 The battlefields of Northern France and Flanders, which were ripped open by WW1 as it raged throughout Europe’s heart, saw the poppy as one of only a few plants which could grow on these, now otherwise barren, battlefields. The poppy has come to represent the immeasurable sacrifice made by comrades, and has become a lasting memorial to those who died in WW1. The poppy was subsequently adopted by the Royal British Legion for their fundraising appeal in aid of those who served, and continue to serve, in the British Armed Forces, after its formation in 1921 – with poppy wreaths used on Remembrance Day each year, to commemorate those who served.

 The poppy is beautifully captured in the poem by John McCrae, titled ‘In Flanders fields’,

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

Hansons will be holding a dedicated sale of militaria, ephemera and objects from the Great War, titled ‘A Century On’. Mr Hanson comments “It’s a sale to remember these heroes and what they gave for their countries, and be thankful for what they achieved for freedom. Whilst the poppy will clearly create worldwide interest, we feel it ought to be purchased by a collector or museum who may wish to put it on permanent display and in that regard, I hope we shall nurture important interest from across the USA, ensuring this American girls poppy keepsake returns home.”