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Remembrance Day: where to buy your poppy – or ‘bleuet’ – in France

It has become more difficult to order remembrance poppies from the UK due to EU VAT changes but you can buy them in France

The Royal British Legion operates six regional branches covering the entire country Pic: RMC42 / Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock

Every year, the Royal British Legion in France holds its annual poppy appeal, setting out collection boxes nationwide.  

Poppy appeal donation tins and boxes will be on display in churches and shops, as well as some office buildings, in areas where each regional branch of the Royal British Legion is operating. 

There are six branches across the country: Paris, Bordeaux & South-West France, Central Brittany, Lyon, Nice-Monaco, Nord/Pas De Calais, and Somme. 

Read more: Poppy Lady of France recognised with a new biography in English

Poppy represents lost lives in active service

As well as selling the flowers, individual branches also hold events to raise funds for the appeal. 

The Paris branch organises a coffee morning at the British ambassador’s residence, while the Nord/Pas-de-Calais branch holds International Poppy Days, during which veteran associations collect together. 

People in France can no longer buy their poppies online from the UK due to high customs fees and local VAT rates. 

French branches rely on selling physical poppies to raise money for the Royal British Legion. 

All proceeds from sales go to the Royal British Legion in the UK to support both serving and retired soldiers, as well as their families. 

The poppy represents all those who lost their lives on active service, from the beginning of World War One to the present day.

Read more: Why can I no longer order Remembrance Day items to France from UK?

Poppy appeal is worldwide

Elaine Dempster Baverstock, 60, who organises the poppy appeal for the Nice-Monaco branch, explained how a small distribution team can cover a wide area. 

“Although we are Nice-Monaco, we stretch from Bordighera in Italy as far as Saint-Raphaël in the Var,” she said. 

This year’s Remembrance commemorations will be especially poignant for the Nice-Monaco branch. 

After 30 years, Commander Michael Healey is stepping down as president. 

The 93-year-old, who has helped raise around €250,000 for the UK-based charity, is to take a back seat. 

“He was always a familiar sight around the coast,” said Mrs Dempster Baverstock. 

She came to France from Birmingham in 1986 on holiday and stayed. She became involved with the local branch of the Royal British Legion, founded in 1929, due to her husband’s interest, as well as having had several family members in the armed forces. 

“My father-in-law was in the army and my stepson in the air force. Locally, the charity was always a big thing.

“The poppy is not just for November, it is a massive worldwide thing,” she said. 

“We’re always looking for new members of all ages, and places to put the poppies. If anybody is interested in having a box, we can definitely sort that out.”

Find out more about the Royal British Legion in France at rblfrance.org 

Cornflower or bleuet is the symbol in France

The French equivalent of the poppy is the cornflower, or bleuet de France. 

They were created by two nurses, using blue fabric that echoed the uniforms of young French soldiers, also known as bleuets by older men. 

The cornflowers first went on sale on November 11, 1934. 

They can be bought around France and online.

As well as being used to commemorate Remembrance Day, the cornflower is worn on May 8, the day marking the German surrender at the end of World War Two, and July 14, or the fête nationale

Like the Royal British Legion’s poppy, money raised is used to take care of war and terrorism victims. 

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