Poppies to set sail this Remembrance Day

04 November 2021

The red blooms will light up Sydney Harbour in honour of veterans.

As the sun sets on 11 November 2021, Paul Graham, a veteran of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines who fought in Malaysia and the Suez Canal conflict, will stand in Circular Quay for the fifth time in as many years to watch red poppies bloom over Sydney Harbour. 

The image of the iconic Sydney Opera House illuminated with poppies in Flanders’ Fields is now world famous, thanks to Mascot RSL Sub Branch member Paul. 

While selling poppies to fundraise for the partner charity of RSL NSW, RSL DefenceCare, Paul was asked numerous times what the flowers symbolised. Appalled, he decided to take action to educate Australians about Remembrance Day, formerly known as Armistice Day, and why we pause on 11 November at 11am to remember those that have served, and are still serving, for their country. 

In 2015, Paul successfully lobbied Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore, the Sydney Opera House Trust, and then Premier of NSW Mike Baird to project poppies onto the Opera House sails on 11 November every year to mark the day guns fell silent on the Western Front signalling the end of WWI.  

“I hope all those who see the spectacular sight of the illuminated sails will take the time to pause and remember the contribution of all servicemen and women,” Paul said. 

In 1921, the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia imported one million silk poppies, made in French orphanages, to fundraise on Armistice Day. Each poppy was sold for a shilling: five pence was donated to a charity for French children, six pence went to the League's own welfare work, and one penny went to the League's national office.  

One hundred years later, the RSL continues to raise funds to support veterans and their families by selling poppies on Remembrance Day. Whether you’re out and about in your community or staying safe at home, please buy a poppy from an RSL member or volunteer or donate online to the Poppy Appeal to signify your respect and support for veterans and current serving members of the Australian Defence Force. 

RSL NSW President Ray James, and Afghanistan veteran and RSL Australia ambassador, Peter Rudland, will join the NSW Minister for Veterans for a special Remembrance Day service at dawn. 

The official NSW Remembrance Day service will be held at the Cenotaph at Martin Place, Sydney. The service will be live streamed by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and RSL NSW.