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History of The Poppy Factory

The origins of the Poppy Factory go back to 1922 when Major George Howson MC, an engineer who served on the Western Front in the First World War, founded the Disabled Society to help disabled ex-Service men and women.

Howson suggested to the British Legion that the Society should make poppies, and the artificial flowers were designed so that someone who had lost the use of a hand could assemble them. With a grant of £2,000, he set up a small factory off the Old Kent Road with five ex-Servicemen. It was here that the first British poppies were made.

A copy of the letter he sent to his parents about his ideas is displayed at the Poppy Factory.

In it he says: 'I have been given a cheque for £2,000 to make poppies with. It is a large responsibility and will be very difficult. If the experiment is successful it will be the start of an industry to employ 150 men. I do not think it can be a great success, but it is worth trying. I consider the attempt ought to be made if only to give the disabled their chance.'

Within a few months the factory was providing work and an income for 50 disabled veterans. As demand grew, the premises became too small and in 1925, the Factory moved to the current site in Richmond, Surrey. In the same year the charity changed its name to the British Legion Poppy Factory

The origins of the Remembrance poppy lie with two women:

Moina Bell Michael, an American teacher, was so moved by Colonel John McRae’s poem “In Flanders Field” that she bought poppies with money collected from her colleagues and sold them to raise funds for U.S ex-Servicemen.

Madame Guerin, a Frenchwoman, took up the idea and in 1921 made and sold millions of poppies throughout the US to raise funds for the rehabilitation of areas in France devastated by the First World War. She persuaded Earl Haig to adopt the poppy for the British Legion and sent French women to London to sell them.

In 1922 Earl Haig accepted Major Howson's offer to supply poppies. The rest as they say, is history-

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Colour Image : Picture Partnership/Dean & Chapter of Westminster
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