Tens of thousands of poppy seeds have been sown this week by schoolchildren, junior soldiers, civic leaders, clergy, faith groups and community organisations as a joint act of remembrance to mark the centenary of the First World War.
In Leeds, letters home from a Leeds Pal who joined Kitchener’s Call to Arms were read out at a poppy planting ceremony in a city centre park with schoolchildren, civic and faith leaders including the new Bishop of Leeds for the newly created Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, who blessed the proceedings.
He said: “A century is not a long time, but only 100 years ago the world fell apart in the most violent way. This simple act of growing poppies reminds us of our past and is a very visual way of pledging ourselves to serve together in the future.
In Dewsbury, Australian relatives of a First World War soldier buried in St John’s churchyard were the guests of honour as they joined local schoolchildren to sow seeds together. In Harrogate, junior soldiers from the army training camp planted poppy seeds in the camp’s memorial garden with the Bishop of Ripon, the Rt Revd James Bell and a Canadian GI bride will also sowed seeds at the church she was married in and had her children baptised.
These are just some of hundreds of poppy sowing events – large and small – across the country as the Church of England urged everyone to join them to plant poppies together to mark the centenary of the Great War this week.
Here in the Diocese of West Yorkshire and the Dales packets of poppy seeds were sent to every church and church school. And on Wednesday staff from each of the three offices in Bradford, Leeds and Wakefield planted their own patch of poppies.
Elsewhere, here is a flavour of events:
9.00am, Christ Church, High Harrogate: 90-year-old GI bride, Ruby Baxter from Canada planted poppy seeds with retired Bomber Command Officer, Eric Coling and Ruby's daughters visiting from Canada, Linda and Sandra. Prayers were led by ther Revd Arnold Clay.
9.30am, Wakefield Precinct: the youngest and oldest pupils from St Mary’s CoE Primary School walked up to the precinct with their parents and their teachers to help plant poppy seeds in flower beds near the cathedral. With them were the Lord Mayor, the Bishop of Pontefract, Tony Robinson (the newly appointed Area Bishop for Wakefield), senior clergy and staff from retail giants, B and Q who helped source the hundreds of packets of seeds for every church and church school across the new diocese.
10.00am, Dewsbury: the relative of a WW1 soldier whose grave lies in St John’s Church, travelled over from Australia to help plant poppy seeds with local schoolchildren from St John’s Infant School, Dewsbury Moor, clergy and staff.
11.00am, Keighley Shared Church (St. Andrew): poppies were sown with the Mayor of Keighley, council reps, members of the Royal British Legion and 'Men of Worth' in two flower beds south of the church.
11.15am, Christ Church Academy, Deighton Rd, Deighton, Huddersfield: Year 3 pupils planted seeds in their school garden with their assistant curate, the Revd Samuel Pervez, the Archdeacon of Halifax, the Ven Anne Dawtry and the first interim area Bishop for Huddersfield, Bishop Tony Robinson
12 noon, St Stephen’s West Bowling, Bradford:
Bishop Tom Butler (the Acting Bishop of Bradford) planted poppy seeds in the grounds of St Stephen’s West Bowling. The seeds were sown in planters used by the church’s gardening project which is part of the many wellbeing activities St Stephen’s puts on for local people. Bishop Tom was also presented with one of the knitted poppy badges made recently by a group of local Gurkhas who attend St Stephen’s knitting group.
12.30, Penny Pocket Park, Leeds: letters from a Leeds Pal were read out before schoolchildren joined civic and faith leaders including the Mayor of Leeds and the new Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, to plant poppy seeds together to create a wildflower garden amongst the gravestones.
The letters were written by Willie King, PAL number 1365. Willie was 18 years old when he joined the Call to Arms and left his home in Hunslet . He died aged 19. The letters belong to City Council Area Office for parks and countryside, Julian Cooke, who kindly agreed to join us for the event and let us have the letters.
Penny Pocket Park is a green oasis between the city bus station and Leeds Minster which is steeped in WW1 history – home to the Pals memorial. It is said that on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, every street in Leeds lost one man from the Leeds Pals.
WW1 padre and poet, Woodbine Willie was born in the parish and was curate at the Minster, then Leeds Parish Church.
1.00pm, St George’s Church, Ovenden Halifax: local school children, members of the local community and church members joined Royal British Legion representatives and Mothers’ Union members to plant poppies together around the war graves of a father and son in the church yard.
The vicar, the Rev Gordon Barley said:
“Last Spring, the folk at St George’s worked hard to transform the church grounds from a place of overgrown brambles and weeds to a place full of colourful plants and natural beauty. We were fortunate in securing a grant from the Bishop’s Development Fund to buy over 2,000 plants. This led to us being awarded by the Royal Horticultural Society three points (out of a possible five points!!) for a Developing Community Garden.
“So it is a real joy and honour to have Bishop Tony officiate at the Poppy Seed Planting Day to commemorate the First World War. “
The event took place at a grave commemorating the deaths of Lewis Greenwood who served both in the First and Second World Wars and his son Lewis Renshaw Greenwood who died aged 20 as a POW in the Tuchan Jungle Camp in Thailand. Poppies were also planted in the adjacent grave of Mr and Mrs Wilcock whose son Arnold was killed during the First World War and is buried in Belgium.
3.00pm in Harrogate: Poppy Planting Ceremony in the Memorial Garden (Alamein Company Permanent Staff and Junior Soldiers at the Army Foundation College with the Bishop of Ripon, Rt Revd James Bell.
Poppies were also planted at the Offices of the new diocese:
People from the parish of Easby, Skeeby, Brompton on Swale and Bolton on Swale planted poppies in each of their churches and both of their schools (Brompton on Swale CofE and St Mary's CofE, Bolton on Swale).
They are looking forward to growing together as a newly constituted parish, in the same way as their newly formed diocese.
Find resources to help at Marking the Centenary of the First World War.