Do you remember my 92 year old friend Max who recently moved into a home for older people? Well, last weekend I went to visit him. He was wearing a red poppy, just like lots of people do every year in November. Max is a war veteran. He served with the Grenadier Guards during World War II. 

This Sunday, Max, like many other war veterans, is going to lay a wreath of red poppies at the war memorial. This is to remember all the members of the armed services who lost their lives during past and current wars. He asked me if I would like to come with him. I said I would. I also told him something my friend Ahmeti had said to me that had confused me.

Ahmeti said ‘My mum won’t wear a red poppy because wearing a red poppy means you are only remembering the people in the armed services that died fighting for Britain during wars. She said that lots of civilians died too. Lots of people who were fighting on the other side also died.  We should remember them too!’ 

I didn’t know what a civilian was and didn’t really understand what Ahmeti meant. Max tried to explain it to me. 

Max explained that ‘civilians’ are all the people who aren’t in the army, navy or air force (the armed services.) They have also died because of wars. In World War II, 40 million out of the 60 million people killed were civilians. He said that Ahmeti was right to think it was important to remember them too, and the soldiers who fought for the other side as they were serving their countries too. 

Max explained that some people preferred to wear a white poppy during November, instead of a red one, to show they remembered all those who died in war, and to show they are against wars in the future. 

‘If Ahmeti is right, why don’t you wear a white poppy instead of a red one?’ I asked Max.

‘Well, because sometimes I think war is necessary, even if it’s a terrible thing. Defeating Hilter was necessary, even if it meant a lot of people died, but I can tell you about that another day!’ Max paused for a moment and looked down at his feet, ‘and I also think that if someone serves their country and puts themselves at risk to try and protect others that should be honoured in a special way.’

What do you think? Do you wear a white or a red poppy on Remembrance Day?