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Fields of Paper Poppies Flourish in Britain in Rememberance of Armistice Day


Fields of Paper Poppies Flourish in Britain in Rememberance of Armistice Day

Fields of Paper Poppies Flourish in Britain in Rememberance of Armistice Day

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Every year about this time, millions of people in Britain, wear red paper poppies in recognition of Armistice Day and in support of their country's armed forces. This year, the annual November 11 observation, marking the end of World War One, holds special significance. British troops are again in harms way, this time in Afghanistan.

One of the British forces main tasks in Afghanistan is to curb the drug trade -- mainly policing the opium poppy fields.

Four thousand miles away, it's lunchtime in central London, and servicemen and veterans are trying to drum up business, soliciting donations by offering paper poppies, a symbol of support for Britain's armed forces.

On lapels all over Britain, the symbol born from a World War One poem by a Canadian military physician, lamenting the death of a friend. He cited that on the battlefields where the dead lay, poppies still grew.

Among those distributing poppies on this day: two Nepalese Ghurka soldiers. The Nepalese regiments are still part of the British Army. Captain Lal Bahdr Gurung says his countrymen will benefit, too. "It is for those who were involved in the wars. It is for everyone," he says, "It could be any nationality, like Nepal, British, Canadian, anyone who was involved."

Across the capital, outside Westminster Abbey, a field of remembrance for 60,000 who died in wars in the past century.

The crosses here commemorate not just the British who've fallen in war, but men and women from forces who fought alongside them. From South Asia, Africa and the Far East.

Author Kusoom Vadgama says soldiers and civilians from India played a huge role in the world wars. "Indians have contributed a tremendous amount of money, manpower, womenpower and dedication and loyalty to the British people," Vadgama said.

Although there's a ceremony like this every year, as Britain suffers heavy casualties in Afghanistan and hundreds of wounded soldiers come home, remembrance takes on even more significance.

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Veterans of World War Two landings on the beaches of Normandy, France attended. Phil Berry says the poppy appeal has long been part of his life. "It's something that I have supported since I joined the army in 1942 to commemorate then those killed in the first world war," Berry says, "and then the second world war, and now again in Afghanistan."

Berry points out the area reserved for British casualties of Afghanistan. There are about 9,000 British soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan. A total of 230 have died since 2001, making many question whether British forces should remain there.

Normandy veteran Les Birch says he'd like to see the troops come home. "No, you never win in Afghanistan, never ever," Birch says, "Even in 100 years, you'll never beat them."

In Britain it is a time of reflection, on old wars, and new.

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