In 1928 Major George Howson MC, the founder of The Poppy Factory charity, advocated for the use of Westminster Abbey grounds as a location where people could plant poppies to commemorate loved ones. His idea has continued to this day,
Howson had been commissioned as a second lieutenant in the 11th (Service) Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment in September 1914. He spent the war on the Western Front and received the Military Cross due to his actions during the Battle of Passchendaele, during which he was wounded. He promoted to Major and retired from the Army in 1920.
He was the founding chairman of the Disabled Society who were commissioned by the British Legion to make artificial poppies. The two organisations would later merge and the Poppy Factory developed.
The Field of Remembrance
Howson’s idea was accepted and crosses and further tributes were added to the poppy planting over successive years. The Field of Remembrance concept flourished and has continued for nearly a century for civilians and soldiers alike.
9 November 2023 saw the 95th Field of Remembrance with almost 40,000 tributes laid out and a service to mark the opening of the Field of Remembrance, which was held by The Dean of Westminster, The Very Reverend Dr David Hoyle MBE.
The service was attended by Her Majesty The Queen, who placed a personal cross of Remembrance to commemorate all those who have given their lives in service. It was a time when old friends and comrades and their families and friends gathered to place their own very personal tributes and view the tributes of others.
Members of each service attended as well as at least one or two familiar and much loved mascots: Watchman VI the sixth mascot of the Staffordshire Regimental Association was in attendance, as was Turlough Mor, the Irish wolfhound mascot beloved of the Irish Guards.
Open to the Public
The Field of Remembrance will remain open to the public until Sunday, 19 November and importantly, anyone can place or plant a tribute in memory of those who gave their lives in the service of others. This year’s Field of Remembrance saw 308 plots set out for military associations and other organisations.