POPPY ALTERNATIVE FOR FRANCE: LE BLEUET

Although it is reported that France showed solidarity with the U.S.A. in 1920 (and with other First World War Allies in 1921) by wearing the Remembrance Poppy, it is the bleuet (cornflower) which has been adopted as the country’s memorial flower.

The young French army recruits, who arrived at the Front from 1915 onwards, were called “bleuets” – because of the new blue version of jackets.   Thus, there was a personal French connection with the dainty blue flower – that also grew profusely on the battlefield with the poppy.

As with the poppy, women were behind the adoption of the bleuet as a memorial emblem in France … they were Suzanne Lenhard and Charlotte Malleterre.

Suzanne Lenhard was a nurse and her husband had been killed on the Massiges battlefield, in the Marne.   Charlotte Malleterre was the daughter of General Niox – who was the Commander-in-Chief of the hospital ‘Hôtel des Invalides’.

The two women arranged for the maimed French veterans (“les gueules cassées”) of the ‘Hôtel des Invalides’ to make the bleuets as an aid to their rehabilitation and as a means of earning money of their own.   Such an occupation was the only thing many could have coped with.  As Madame Guérin, and her French companion Robert Arbour, used to state whilst fundraising for these men – they did not receive a pension when they were medically discharged.

The soldiers would craft the petals from fabric and stamens from newspapers.  In the beginning, the bleuets were only sold locally, in Paris, and not on a national scale.

'Le Bleuet de France: petit; 5cms, tip to tip; vintage. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

‘Le Bleuet de France: petit; 5cms, tip to tip; vintage. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

In 1920, the creation of a bleuet made from tissue was suggested by the ‘Fédération Interalliée des Anciens Combattants’ [Inter-Allied Veterans Federation] – still to be made by the victims of war.   The ‘Bleuet de France’ emblem was soon adopted as the memorial flower of France.

In 1928, the French Republic’s President Doumergue granted his patronage to the creation of the Bleuet.  In 1934, the ‘Bleuet de France’ charity was formed.

The Bleuet was sold on the streets on each anniversary of Armistice Day, the 11th of November.   After the Second World War, authorisation was granted to also sell during the day of 8 May, the anniversary of the 1945 victory.

In the same way as the distribution of artificial poppies provides funds for the veteran organisations of Australia; Canada; Great Britain; New Zealand; South Africa; U.S.A; etc., the artificial bleuets give the ‘Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’ much needed financial support.

In 2014, the First World War Centenary year and the 80th anniversary of the ‘Bleuet de France’ charity, the ‘Bleuet de France’ announced that its bleuets would be made in France again – by injured French veterans.  Injured French veterans (“les gueules cassées”) had made the bleuets initially but, for many years leading up to 2014, the artificial cornflowers had been made in China.

Today, as the Royal British Legion and other countries’ comparable associations offer different items related to their poppy emblem, so does the ‘Bleuet de France’ charity offer different items related to its Bleuet.  This marketing produces additional funds, which continue to be needed to help veterans of more recent conflicts.

Sources:  http://www.alsace1418.fr/4-memoire/symboles/b-bleuet.html; a brochure about ‘Le Bleuet de France’, edited by the ‘Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’; and Dorothée Vincent.

Un Bleuet ... worn on the lapel on 11 November 1938. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Un Bleuet … worn on the lapel on 11 November 1938. Courtesy/© of Heather A. Johnson.


Below is the transcription of a ‘Bleuet de France’ booklet (opuscule), as it was printed in French [sic].  Following that transcription is an attempt at an English translation.  The booklet is believed to date to 1960 (?), given that it refers to results in 1959 [sic]:-

“LE BLEUET DE FRANCE. 

ÉDITÉ PAR L’OFFICE NATIONAL DES ANCIENS COMBATANTS ET VICTIMES DE GUERRE.   

HOTEL DES INVALIDES – PARIS (VIIF)

La création d’une fleur en tissue, fabriquée par des victimes de guerre, fut préconisée en 1920, par la Fédération Interalliée des Anciens Combattants dont le projet, quelques années plus tard, se matérialisait par l’adoption du Bleuet de France, fleur symbolique qui devint l’emblème des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de guerre destiné a honorer les “Morts pour la Patrie”.

En 1928, le Président de la République accorda son haut patronage à la creation de cet emblem qui, dès 1934, fut vendu sur la voie publique à l’occasion de la date anniversaire de l’Armistice du 11 novembre 1918.   Après la seconde guerre mondiale, les Pouvoirs Publics accordaient également l’autorisation de cette vente au cours de la journée du 8 mai, anniveraire de la Victoire de 1945.

LE BUT DE LA COLLECTE DU BLEUET

Apporter à l’Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de guerre, grace à sa vente, les fonds necessaries à l’amélioration du sort des Victimes de guerre les plus malheureuses et notamment les orphelins, les veuves et les ascendants que la solicitude de la Nation n’a pas permis de prendre entièrement à charge et qui, à l’origine, ne bénéficiaient pas de la protection légale.

Faire confectionner le Bleuet par des victimes de guerre, grands blesses, mutilés, veuves ou orphelins, afin de leur permettre d’améliorer leur sort et de leur fournir du travail.

COMMENT SONT RÉPARTIS LES FONDS

Les fonds recueillis sont répartis suivant un pourcentage établi chaque année par le Comité du Souvenir et des Manifestations Nationales de l’Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre, dont les members sont nommés par décret du Ministre des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre.

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UTILISATION DES FONDS RECUEILLIS 

Une partie des sommes collectées revient aux Associations collectrices, une autre aux Services départementaux ou régionaux d’Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre et le solde à l’Office National.

Les Associations d’Anciens Combattants et de Victimes de Guerre qui prennent en charge cette collecte en reversent le bénéfice a leurs oeuvres sociales.

Les sommes revenant aux Services départementaux sont réparties en secours complémentaires entre leurs ressortissants les plus malheureux et, notamment, les veuves, orphelins et ascendants, les combatants infirmes ou âgés sans pension.

Le montant qui revient a l’Office National est attributé chaque année, partie aux Services départementaux au prorata des sommes collectées par chacun d’eux, partie aux enfants victimes de guerre dépendant de ‘Office national pour être utilisé en aide complémentaire aux orphelins et pupilles majeurs.

ANALOGIE ENTRE LE “BLEUET DE FRANCE” ET LE “COQUELICOT DES FLANDRES” 

Le but recherché est de donner aux collectes du Bleuet l’importance acquise par nos amis britanniques avec le “Coquelicot des Flandres”.  En effet, la “British Legion” a créé en 1924 le “Coquelicot des Flandres” mis en vente dans tout ‘Empire Britannique le jour du 11 novembres et don’t le bénéfice revient aux oeuvres socials de cet organisme.   Cette vente rapport annuellement pour la Grande-Bretagne et les differents territories de l’Empire environ 950.000 livres sterling, soit plus de 1.200 millions de francs anciens. 

Nous sommes chez nous loin de ce compte, les collectes du 8 mai et 11 novembre 1959 n’ayant atteint qu’un total général de 190 millions de francs anciens.

Cependant, parmi les nombreuses missions incombant à l’Office National, l’une d’entre elles relative à l’aide apportée aux pupilles de la Nation attire plus particulièrement l’attention.

HUMAINE ET BELLE MISSION POURSUIVIE GRACE AU BLEUET DE FRANCE 

Bien que leur nombre diminue d’année en année, la tâche a accomplir à l’égard de ces jeunes ressortissants reste considérable.

Au cours de l’annee 1959, le nombre les pupilles de la Nation mineurs immatriculés dans les Services départementaux de l’Office National s’élevait à 130.563 unités dont 66.519 garçons et 64.044 filles.

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La plupart d’entre eux sont arrivés ou arrivent à l’âge auquel doit se décider le choix d’une carrière ou d’un métier et, souvent, des problèms délicats se posent, sur le plan financier, en matière d’entretien, d’apprentissage, d’orientation professionnelle ou d’études.

Dans ce dernier cas, le Ministere de l’Education Nationale examine les demandes de bourses avec une attention toute particulière, l’Office National apportant une aide complémentaire.

—- Soit sous forme de complement de bourse, si la situation familial le justifie ;

—- Soit sous forme d’équivalence ou de subvention d’études, lorsque les pupilles de la Nation ne bénéficient pas d’une bourse au titre du Ministère de l’Education Nationale.

Ces compléments ou subventions sont préléves, en partie, sur le produit de la collecte du Bleuet de France.

DES CHIFFRES ET DES EXEMPLES 

A titre d’indication et pour l’année scolaire 1957-1958, le palmarès des pupilles de la Nation fut le suivant :

—- 1.461 ont été reçus au Brevet Elémentaire du premier cycle ;

—- 1.624 ont été reçus aux divers certificats d’aptitude professionnelle de l’enseignement technique (Centres d’apprentissage) ;

—- 444 ont été reçus aux brevets elementaires, industriel ou commercial (Collèges techniques) ;

—- 951 ont été reçus a la première partie du Baccalauréat ;

—- 1.015 ont été reçus a la deuxième partie du Baccalauréat ;

—- 997 succès aux divers certificats et diplômes de l’Enseignement supérieur ;

—- 4 ont été reçus a l’agrégation (mathématiques, sciences physiques, histoire et géographie, allemand) ;

—- 20 ont été reçus au certificate d’aptitude au Professorat de l’Enseignement du second degré ;

—- 4 ont été reçus dans les Instituts de préparation aux enseignements de second degré ;

—- 101 ont été admis aux concours d’entrée des Grandes Ecoles (Ecole Nationale

 D’Adminstration, Normale Supérieure, Polytechnique, etc…).

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Du dernier recensement effectual, il résulte que:-

2,763 pupilles sont d’âge pré-scolaire (moins de 6 ans);

32,644 pupilles sont d’âge scolaire (de 6 à 14 ans);

95,156 pupilles sont en formation professionnell, universitaire ou en placement (de 15 à 21 ans).

D’autre part, à l’effectif des 130,563 pupilles mineurs, il y a lieu d’ajouter:

Les pupilles majeurs susceptibles de pretender à l’aid financière des Services départementaux de l’Office National, c’est-à-dire:

Les pupilles de la Nation appelés ou maintenus sous les drapeaux;

Les pupilles de la Nation qui, ayant reçu l’aide des Services départementaux jusqu’à leur majorité, peuvent continuer à l’obtenir au-delà de l’âge de 21 ans pour études, traitements médicaux, préts remboursables, etc… Parmi lesquels nous citons en exemple, parmi tant d’autres, deux cas de pupilles majeurs ayant pu terminer leurs etudes grace aux subventions provenant du produit de la collecte du Bleuet de France.

I… Jean-Claude, né en 1929.

Entre en sanatorium en 1951.  Sorti en 1954.

Entre à l’école d’interprète en 1955.

Termine ses etudes en 1959 avec le diploma de traducteur interprète.

Au cours de ces cinq années, une somme de 460.000 francs lui a été attribuée.

B…André, né en 1929.

Père fusillé par les Allemands, mère infirme décédée en 1956.

Etudiant en medicine.

Passe son P.C.B. en 1953-54.

Actuellement en septieme année.

Depuis 1956, une somme de 328.000 francs lui a été attribuée.

CONCLUSION

Le Comité du Souvenir et des Manifestations Nationales a donc décidé l’édition de cet opuscule, pensant qu’a la lecture de cette courte presentation, chacun sentira de son devoir de l’aider dans la tâche qui lui a été confiée, et qu’en collaborant à la diffusion de l’insigne du Bleuet de France vous lui permettrez d’aider encore mieux les victimes de guerre.  Ainsi nous donnerons ensemble une prevue de foi et d’amour au souvenir des Morts pour la France de sollicitude à ceux qui sont restés à la charge de notre Pays.

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Il y a cette année encore des militaries français qui donnent leur vie sur les theatres d’opérations extérieures ou qui reviennent blesses au pays, augmentant ainsi chaque jour la masse des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre qui peuvent avoir besoin de notre aide.  Il est donc imperative que sous donnions plus que jamais à la campagne de Bleuet plus d’énergie et de dévouement. 

Participer à la campagne du Bleuet doit être considéré comme un devoir sacré pour chacun des members du monde ancient combatant.   C’est à vous en effet qu’échoit la responsabilité de s’assurer que les Morts des deux guerres et des theatres d’opérations extérieures ne sont pas oubliés, que leur souvenir se perpétue au cours des années par le Bleuet de France que l’un doit poerter en signe d’hommage rendu à ceux qui donnent leur vie pour la Patrie.

Le port de ce symbole ressuscitera leur esprit même et rappellera à tous leur sacrifice.  Ce sera également un réconfort et un encouragement pour ceux qui, revenus diminués physiquement, d’apprendre que leur sacrifice n’a pas été oublié par la population française.

L’histoire du Bleuet et ses buts doivent donc être répétés de plus en plus, afin que chacun comprenne ce qu’il représente et, de ce fait, soit fier de le porter.

Il est difficile de trouver pour des articles ou discours des mots nouveaux pour encourager la campagne du Bleuet.  Toutefois, nous nous permettrons de vous suggérer dans cette brochure quelques texts qui pourraient peut-être vous guider dans la tâche qui peut vous incomber.

SUR LE PLAN DÉPARTEMENTAL

M. ………………… de l’Association ………………… nommé Président du Comité de la Journée du ‘Bleuet de France’ par le department de ………………… , demande à tous les members du monde Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre de porter le Bleuet au cours des journées du 8 Mai et du 11 novembre, donnant ainsi les premiers l’exemple du respect du aux Morts.

Le Bleuet de France est l’insigne du Souvenir qui ni le temps ni les années n’ont effacé de notre mémoire.  Montrons que nous n’oublions pas ceux de nos camarades qui servaient  à nos côtés et qui sont tombés pour que la France vive.

En arborant fièrement cet emblem du souvenir symbolise par le Bleuet en ce jour qui leur est consacrè, nous rendons homage à leur sacrifice.  Ce sont les Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre qui doivent dommer l’exemple.  La plupart d’entre eux portent à leur revers l’insigne des diverses organisations auxquelles ils peuvent appartenir.  C’est grâce à ses emblems qu’ils accesent leur appartenance à l’une ou l’autre des associations d’Anciens Combattants ou Victimes de guerre.  Portons donc en cette journée l’insigne du Souvenir, affirmant ainsi devant nos compatriots la gratitude de ceux qui tombèrent pour la Patrie, de notre Foi dans les principles de liberté pour lesquels ils combattirent et de notre communion avec eux dont le devoir sacré est de prendre soin des personnes que les héros tombés au champ d’honneur ont laissées derrière eux.

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N.B. La “British Legion” a été créé en 1921 et non en 1924.


“THE BLEUET [cornflower] OF FRANCE.

EDITED BY THE ‘OFFICE NATIONAL DES ANCIENS COMBATTANTS ET VICTIMES DE GUERRE’.

[OFFICE OF THE VETERANS AND VICTIMS OF WAR]. 

HOTEL DES INVALIDES – PARIS  (VIIF)

The creation of a tissue flower, made by the victims of war, was recommended in 1920 by the ‘la Fédération Interalliée des Anciens Combattants’ [Inter-Allied Veterans Federation] whose draft project, a few years later, resulted in the adoption of the ‘Bleuet de France’, the symbolic flower which became the emblem of Veterans and War Victims destined to honour the “Morts pour la Patrie” [“Homeland Dead”].

In 1928, the President of the Republic granted his patronage to the creation of this emblem, which from 1934 was sold on the streets on the occasion of the anniversary of the Armistice of November 11, 1918.  After the Second World War, the public authorities also granted authorisation to this sale during the day of 8 May, the anniversary of the 1945 victory. 

THE AIM OF THE BLEUET COLLECTION  

Thanks to its sale, necessary funds are brought to the ‘Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’ [National Office of Veterans and War Victims] to improve the lot of the most unfortunate War victims, including orphans, widows that the ancestors of the nation failed to take care of fully and who at the beginning, did not benefit from legal protection.

The seriously wounded and maimed victims of war, widows and orphans make the Bleuet [cornflower], to enable them to improved their lives and provide them with work.

HOW ARE THE FUNDS DISTRIBUTED

The funds are distributed according to a set percentage each year by the ‘Comité du Souvenir et des Manifestations Nationales de l’Office National des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’ [Committee of Remembrance and the National Office National Events Veterans and War Victims], whose members are appointed by decree of the Ministre des Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre [Minister of Veterans and War Victims].

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USE OF THE FUNDS COLLECTED 

One part of the money collected returns to the Collecting Associations, another to the departmental or regional services of the ‘Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’ [Veterans and Victims of War] and the balance to the ‘Office National’ [National Office].

The Associations of Anciens Combattants et de Victimes de Guerre [Veterans and War Victims] who take charge of this collection return the earnings to their social works.

The sums returning to the Departmental Services are distributed in additional aid between their most unfortunate nationals and, in particular, widows, orphans and ascendants, the disabled or elderly combatants without a pension.

The amount due to the ‘Office National’ [National Office] is attributed each year, part to departmental services on a pro rata basis to the amounts collected by each of them, part to the child victims of war dependent on the ‘Office National’ [National Office] for use in additional aid to the orphans and major wards.

COMPARISON BETWEEN LE “BLEUET DE FRANCE” AND THE “FLANDERS POPPY”

The aim sought is to give Bleuet collections the importance acquired by our British friends with the “Flanders Poppy”.  Indeed, the “British Legion” created in 1924 puts the “Poppy of Flanders” on sale in all the British Empire on the day of the 11 November and the benefits are returned to the social works of this organisation. To Great Britain and the various territories of the Empire, this sale annually records about 950,000 pounds sterling, i.e. more than 1,200 million old francs.

We are far from this account, the collections of 8 May and 11 November 1959 having reached only a total of 190 million old francs.

However, among the numerous tasks assigned to the ‘Office National’ [National Office], the one relating to the assistance given to the wards of the Nation attracts the most particular attention.

HUMANE AND BEAUTIFUL MISSION PURSUED THROUGH BLEUET DE FRANCE   

Although their number is decreasing from year to year, the task to be performed with regard to these young nationals remains considerable.

During the year 1959, the number of minor wards of the Nation registered in the Departmental Services of the ‘Office National’ [National Office] amounted to 130,563 units, including 66,519 boys and 64,044 girls.

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Most of them have arrived or are arriving at the age at which the choice of a career or trade is to be decided, and often there are delicate financial problems arising, on the financial plan, in terms of maintenance, apprenticeship, vocational guidance or study.

In the latter case, the ‘Ministere de l’Education Nationale’ [Ministry of National Education] examines applications for scholarships with particular attention, with the ‘Office National’ [National Office] providing additional assistance.

—- Either in the form of supplementary scholarships, if the family situation justifies it;

—- Either in the form of equivalence or subsidy of studies, when the wards of the Nation do not receive a scholarship under the ‘Ministère de l’Education Nationale’ [Ministry of National Education].

These supplements or subsidies are levied, in part, on the proceeds from the collection of the ‘Bleuet de France’.

SOME NUMBERS AND SOME EXAMPLES 

As an indication and for the school year 1957-1958, the ranking of the wards of the Nation was as follows:

—- 1,461 were received at the Elementary Diploma of the first cycle;

—- 1,624 were received in the various certificates of vocational competence in technical education (Learning Centres);

—- 444 were received the elementary, industrial or commercial diplomas (technical colleges);

—- 951 were received at the first part of the Bachelor’s degree;

—- 1,015 were received at the second part of the Bachelor’s degree;

—- 997 successes in the various certificates and diplomas of Higher Education;

—- 4 were received at the aggregation (mathematics, physical sciences, history and geography, German);

—- 20 have been awarded the Certificate of Proficiency in the Teaching of the Second Degree;

—- 4 were received in the Institutes of Preparation for Secondary Education;

—- 101 have been admitted to the entrance examinations of the Grandes Ecoles (Ecole Nationale Adminstration, Normale Supérieure, Polytechnic, etc …).

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Results from the latest official census are: –

2,763 wards are of pre-school age (under 6 years);

32.644 wards of school age (6 to 14 years);

95.156 wards are in professional training, university or placement (15 to 21 years).

On the other hand, to the actual number of wards, there should be added 130,563 minors:

Major wards could claim financial aid from the ‘Services départementaux de l’Office National’ [departmental services of the National Office], that is to say:

The wards of the Nation conscripted or retained into the army;

The wards of the Nation who, having received the help from the ‘Services départementaux’ [departmental services] until their majority, can continue to study and to obtain medical treatment, repayable loans, etc, beyond the age of 21 … Among which we mention an example, among so many others, two cases of major pupils who have finished their studies thanks to subsidies from the proceeds from the Bleuet of France collections.

I… Jean-Claude, born in 1929.

Entered sanatorium in 1951. Released in 1954.

Entered the interpreters school in 1955.

Completed his studies in 1959 with the diploma of interpreter/translator.

During these five years, a sum of 460,000 francs was allocated to him.

B … André, born in 1929.

Father shot by the Germans, infirm mother died in 1956.

Student in medicine.

Passes his P.C.B. in 1953-54.

At present in seventh year.

Since 1956, a sum of 328,000 francs was allocated to him.

CONCLUSION 

Le Comité du Souvenir et des Manifestations Nationales [The Committee of Remembrance and National Events] decided to publish this booklet, thinking that on reading this short presentation, everyone will feel it is his duty to help in the task entrusted to him, and that by collaborating in the distribution of the ‘Bleuet of France’ badge you will allow him to better help victims of war. Thereby we will give all evidence of faith and love to the memory of the Dead for France to those who remain in the care of our Country.

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Again this year, there are French militaries who either give their lives on the theatres of operations abroad or return wounded to the country, daily increasing the mass of Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre [Veterans and War Victims] who may need our help.   It is therefore imperative that we should give even more energy and dedication to the Bleuet campaign.

Participating in the Bleuet campaign must be regarded as a sacred duty for each of the combatant members of the ancient world.  In effect, it is to you that the responsibility falls to ensure that the Dead of the two wars and the theatres of operations abroad are not forgotten, that their memory is perpetuated over the years by the Bleuet de France that one must wear as a sign of tribute to those who give their lives for their country.

Wearing this symbol will resurrect their spirit and will remind all of their sacrifice. This will also be a comfort and encouragement to those who, being physically handicapped, will learn that their sacrifice has not been forgotten by the French population.

The history of the Bleuet and its goals have to be repeated more and more, so that everyone understands what it represents and, thereby, be proud to wear it.

It is difficult to find new encouraging words for articles or speeches for the Bleuet campaign. However, in this brochure, we will permit ourselves to suggest to you a few texts that could perhaps guide you in the task that you may be responsible for.

ABOUT THE DEPARTMENTAL PLAN

Mr. ………………… of the Association ………… named the President of the ‘Bleuet de France’ Day Committee by the department of …………………, asks all members of the ‘Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’ [World War Veterans and War Victims] to wear the Bleuet during the days of May 8 and 11 November, providing the first example of respect for the Dead.

The Bleuet de France is the badge of Remembrance that neither the time nor the years have erased from our memory.  Let us show that we do not forget those of our comrades who served alongside us and who have fell for the life of France.

In proudly wearing the Bleuet this day, this remembrance emblem symbolises that which is devoted to them and we pay homage to their sacrifice.  These are the ‘Anciens Combattants et Victimes de Guerre’ [Veterans and War Victims] who must set an example.  Most of them wear their lapel insignia of the various organizations to which they may belong.  It is thanks to their emblems that they display their membership of one or the other associations of ‘Anciens Combattants et Victimes de guerre’ [Veterans and War Victims].   So on this day let us wear the insignia of Remembrance, thereby affirming in front of our compatriots the gratitude of those who fell for the Homeland, of our faith in the principles of liberty for which they fought and our fellowship with them whose sacred duty is to take care of people as heroes fallen in battle that have been left behind.

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N.B. The British Legion was established in 1921 and not in 1924.


Le Coquelicot rouge et Le Bleuet de France. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Le Coquelicot rouge et Le Bleuet de France. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.


The following photograph depicts a small group of young French soldiers … who are “les bleuets”.  They are the newcomers – newcomers to the French 120th Regiment (120e).   They belong to “La classe 1919”.  These men were called up for their military service on 15 April 1918.   As the “class 1919”, the young men would all be celebrating their 20th birthday during 1919 (i.e. born in 1899).

These young men would have participated in the Second Battle of the Marne and, then, in the offensive in Champagne and Lorraine (July 1918) … … how many survived?

Les bleuets de la classe 19 : Soldats c1918. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Les bleuets de la classe 19 : Soldats c1918.   Courtesy/© of Heather A. Johnson.

The above photograph was sent to “Mademoiselle Suzanne Marchand à [at] Clairvaux, Aube” and the message reads: “Souvenir d’un bleuet de la classe 19, qui pense à vous.  Recevez mes affectueux sentiments”.  English translation: “Remember a bleuet of the Class 19, who thinks of you.  Receive my affectionate feelings”.   The name of the sender cannot be deciphered.


LORD DERBY’S FRENCH BOUTONNIÈRES

Shown below are two beautiful rare paper flower boutonnières.  The pressed paper flowers represent the poppy, the cornflower (le Bleuet) and the marguerite daisy (the ‘Marguerite de Paris’ or the ‘Paris daisy’).   It is believed that both boutonnières are French.

French-made paper flower boutonnières c1919, belonging to the 17th Earl of Derby. Reproduced courtesy of The Earl of Derby Collection, Knowlsey Hall©.

French-made paper flower boutonnières c1919, belonging to the 17th Earl of Derby.
Reproduced courtesy of The Earl of Derby Collection, Knowlsey Hall©.

The boutonnières are pressed amongst the 1919 pages of the 1918-1920 scrapbook belonging to the 17th Earl of Derby – which he compiled whilst serving as the British Ambassador to France.   These three flowers have been seen described as the ‘Bouquet de France’ on postcards of that era.

The 17th Earl of Derby (K.G., G.C.B., G.C.V.O., T.D., K.St.J., P.C., J.P.) was born Edward George Villiers Stanley, on 04 April 1865.  He became a British soldier; diplomat; Conservative politician; and prominent owner/breeder of horses.

On 11 October 1915, Lord Derby was appointed Director-General of Recruiting.   Five days later, he brought in a programme which was called ‘The Group Scheme’ – although it is usually referred to as ‘The Derby Scheme’.  The Scheme was introduced to raise the numbers of men volunteering to serve the country during the First World War.

“Men aged 18 to 40 were informed that under the scheme they could continue to enlist voluntarily or attest with an obligation to come if called up later on. The War Office notified the public that voluntary enlistment would soon cease and that the last day of registration would be 15 December 1915.” – see more at http://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/enlisting-into-the-army/the-group-scheme-derby-scheme/

In December 1916, Lord Derby became Secretary of State for War.  In April 1918, he became British Ambassador to France (until 1920).  The 17th Earl of Derby died 04 February 1948.

On 11 June 1919, his only daughter Lady Victoria Alice Louise married Malcolm Bullock (Captain, Scots Guards) at the British Embassy Church in Paris.   Malcolm and Victoria were the maternal great-grandparents of British TV presenter Clare Balding.

The 17th Earl of Derby’s 1918-1920 scrapbook and its boutonnières. Courtesy of The Earl of Derby Collection, Knowlsey Hall©.

The 17th Earl of Derby’s 1918-1920 scrapbook and its boutonnières.
Courtesy of The Earl of Derby Collection, Knowlsey Hall©.


Une collection ancienne patriotique Française – les bleuets et ‘Croix de Lorraine’. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Une collection ancienne patriotique Française – les bleuets et ‘Croix de Lorraine’.
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

This is a French ancient patriotic collection … une collection ancienne patriotique française, acquired from France.  The little group is believed to date to the post-First World War era and includes two ‘bleuets de France’ and a ‘Croix de Lorraine’, with American and French patriotic ribbons.

The ‘Cross of Lorraine’, or ‘Croix de Lorraine’, was initially called the ‘Croix de Anjou’ – it appears to have been part of France’s heraldic history since at least the 15th Century.

During the First World War, the American 79th Infantry Division was nicknamed ‘Cross of Lorraine’ Division and it took the Cross as its insignia.  This may explain why this particular ‘Cross of Lorraine’ is attached to the French and American ribbons – signifying that service in France.

The ‘Croix de Lorraine’ ribbons represent the French ‘Tricolore’ and American ‘Stars & Stripes’ flags.  Additionally, there is a predominantly red ribbon with a repeated edge band of blue; white; red; white … this has not be identified – if a reader knows more, it would be great to hear from them.


 

Poppy and Cornflower : Le Coquelicot rouge et Le Bleuet de France. Vintage American Lapel Pin (Plastic). Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Poppy and Cornflower : Le Coquelicot rouge et Le Bleuet de France.
Vintage American Lapel Pin. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Le Bleuet : Cornflower growing in an English garden. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Le Bleuet : Cornflower growing in an English garden. Courtesy/© of Heather A. Johnson.

An 'end-of-season' bleuet or cornflower on Thiepval Ridge, Somme. October 2016. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

An ‘end-of-season’ bleuet or cornflower on Thiepval Ridge, Somme. October 2016. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Bleuet/Cornflower. Courtesy/© Diane Simpson.

Le Bleuet : Cornflower. Courtesy/© Diane Simpson.


Next Chapter:

REMEMBRANCE POPPY TIMELINE

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