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The poppy is a symbol of remembrance in many countries of the world. The last known surviving one from the battlefields of the First World War was picked by a Birmingham soldier and sold recently at auction. JUSTINE HALIFAX reports.

THE oldest surviving poppy from the First World war, which was picked by a Birmingham soldier, has sold at auction for PS6,300 - more than six times its estimate.

And its new owners have pledged it will be sometimes displayed to the public.

The frail and faded bloom, a fascinating memento of the conflict, went under the hammer in Dorchester recently, 97 years after it was picked from front line trenches by Private Cecil Roughton.

Pte Roughton, aged 17, from Moseley, who was serving with the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, plucked it as a souvenir when serving in the trenches of Arras in northern France in 1916, following a fierce battle with German troops.

Little did he know that he had unwittingly picked a flower that would stand for all those who give their lives for their country.

He pressed the bloom in the pages of a notebook and somehow kept it safe before eventually returning home with it.

In awe of his bravery, his 13-yearold next door neighbour, Joan Banton, asked him to sign her autograph book in 1923.

Pte Roughton gave her the poppy. This was two years after the flower had been adopted as a symbol of remembrance in 1921.

He stuck it in a page in her book and wrote: "Souvenir from a front line trench near Arras, May 1916. C Roughton 1923.

The memento remained in Joan's family and was put up for sale by her daughter, Sue Best, who lives at Corfe Castle. In 2010 the family lent the poppy to the Royal British Legion for an exhibition and it was restored and encased in acrylic.

It is thought to be the oldest poppy in Britain and one of only a handful that survive from the First World War.

One is in the collection of the Imperial War Museum.

Mrs Best said: "His gift was a wonderful gesture and one that my mother cherished dearly.

"I am selling it now because I want it to go to someone who will value it like we have."

After the war Cecil Roughton married Dorothy Gregory and the couple had two children, Anne and John. Dorothy died in 1966 and Cecil passed away on September 30, 1977, aged 81.

The poppy was sold at Duke's auctioneers and had an estimate of PS500 to PS1,000.

But auctioneer Guy Schwinge had also said: "This poppy represents a piece of history and is imbued with immense poignancy. As such it is priceless."

When it went under the hammer bidding was brisk.

The buyer was Hancocks of London, makers of the Victoria Cross.

The firm will keep it as an important memento and have assured Duke's that it will be used for public and charitable events, rather than being kept locked away in private.

With the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War approaching, interest is increasing in everything associated with the "war to end wars".

BLEUET DE FRANCE IN France the blue cornflower (Bleuet de France) is used symbolically rather than the poppy. Remembrance Day is a national holiday on November 11 both there and in Belgium. It commemorates the armistice signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiegne, France, for the cessation of hostilities on the Western Front, which took effect at 11:00 am in the morningthe "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month." Armistice Day is one the most important military celebrations in France, since it was a major French victory and the French paid a heavy price in blood to achieve it. The First World War was considered in France as the "Great Patriotic War". Almost all French villages feature memorials dedicated to those fallen during the conflict. ? The German national day of mourning is the secular public holiday of Volkstrauertag, which since 1952 has been observed two Sundays before the first Sunday of Advent. In practice this is the Sunday closest to November 16. The anniversary of the Armistice itself is not observed in Germany. Each of the major German churches has its own festivals for commemorating the dead, observed in November: All Souls Day in the case of the Roman Catholic Church, Ewigkeitssonntag or "Eternity Sunday" in the case of the Lutheran church. ? ON the morning of the Battle of The Somme, July 1, 1916, the British suffered 60,000 casualties - 20,000 dead. It was the worst toll for a single day in military history. Allied forces advanced six miles.


Supplies are brought up to the front lines over a newly captured road during the Battle of Arras in 1917
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Geographic Code:4EUFR
Date:Jan 18, 2014

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