News & articles
White poppies should be worn on Remembrance Sunday rather than the traditional red poppy to commemorate civilian victims rather than Britain's military dead, actor Mark Rylance has said.
Mr Rylance called for white poppies to be worn instead as a symbol of peace and to recognise the civilian casualties of war.
Red poppies are traditionally worn every November as a mark of respect to war veterans, members of the Armed Forces who have lost their lives, and their families.
Mr Rylance said he was moved to wear white because 90 per cent of casualties of war are now civilians, not soldiers.
"The safest place to be on a battlefield was in the military," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
"I felt therefore that the remembrance only of the military dead and wounded and suffering was not very accurate."
If the country is to remember "the tragedy of war" every year, civilian casualties should be recognised, he said.
White poppies were first worn in 1926 but have been overtaken by red paper flowers, 40 million of which are made and sold by the Royal British Legion every autumn.
The money raised goes to support veterans, the wounded and their families.
Mr Rylance, a former artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre and a star of numerous films, said he did not wear a red poppy to recognise military sacrifices at all.
He said he had "enormous sympathy" for the suffering of soldiers and their families.
But he added: "I think it's a slightly different thing if you sign up to go out and fight in one of these wars and you know that 90 per cent of the people who are going to suffer will be civilian people who have not signed up to the war.
"So it is a slightly different thing if you have agreed to be part of it than if you are just a bystander or a child or people at a wedding who get hurt.
"I am a little concerned that the red poppy, which began in France as a way of raising money for children who were orphaned by war, has now become a way of raising money to cover the cost that I think the government or perhaps the arms manufacturers themselves would be better to pay for."
There is "a danger" that wearing a red poppy "perpetuates" the view that war is "inevitable", he said.
Benjamin Zephaniah, the poet, who was guest editor of the Today programme, said he also wore a white poppy, "at various times of the year".
"I want to remember all victims of war," he said. "For me, the white one says it all. I even want to remember victims from the other side, civilians and military."
He said he had "nothing against" the red poppy, but it did not go "far enough".