When I was a child, I vividly remember going to the War Memorial in my village of Turvey on Remembrance Sunday.  My overriding memory is of 2 parades – one with very old men and one with not so old men!  As the years went on the old men became fewer until there were none with their places being taken by the not so old men who of course themselves are now the old men! I remember standing in awe as I watched these veterans of the First World War who commanded such respect in the village. These seemingly ordinary men had led extraordinary lives which we knew little about. They had witnessed life changing world events which changed the course of history.

When I was 20, my interest with these historical events led me to read  Vera Britten’s Testament of Youth, which changed my understanding of what happened to a lost generation of young men and women in those utterly devastating years of the First World War. Testament of Youth is still one of my most loved and treasured books. This fascination with social and military history has never left me and so when the opportunity came to work with The Royal British Legion I couldn’t wait to share my ideas for designing something truly unique to help raise awareness of key historical events of the First World War to a new generation. When we went to meet the team at The Poppy Shop we were particularly pleased with our idea reflecting the time-honoured line “We will Remember them” from the poem, For the Fallen by Robert Laurence Binyon.  However, to my great excitement they suggested a series of mugs reflecting the historical events for each year of The Great War. I could look in more detail at these events, some of which I thought I understood and others I quickly realised I knew little about.

I was proud to think our mugs would tell the story of the First World War. I knew that many generations ago, men and women who worked in the potteries would also have been affected by these events and so it seemed entirely appropriate that a piece of china, made in the same way 100 years ago, should now tell of those heart-breaking events. Our first mug for 1914 starts with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo and the creation of the Western Front culminating in the First Battle of Ypres. The mug representing 1915 is based around the John McCrae poem “In Flanders Fields”.  In the base of each mug we have placed the British Legion poppy which has become the overriding symbol associated with this conflict and all others since, symbolising the Act of Remembrance for all those who gave their lives.  This Poppy is known as the 11.00am Poppy because the leaf is always at 11.00am symbolising the time, day and month when armistice was declared. 1916 saw the first tank used in combat and the defining naval battle at Jutland.  It also saw the start of the Battle of the Somme – one of the bloodiest battles of this Great War and saw a huge loss of life for little or no gain. This was seen as such an important battle that we were asked to design a separate “Mug full of History” to mark the centenary of The Battle for the Somme in 2016.The Americans joined the war effort in 1917 and the year is also remembered for the horses and tanks who fought side by side in the battle at Cambrai.  2017 marks the centenary of the end of the bloody Battle of Passchendaele.  As for the Somme, we were honoured to design another dedicated mug to mark this horrendous battle scarred by its appalling loss of life and the dreadful conditions in the trenches brought on by the constant rain and poor weather. The final year of this conflict, 1918, is famous for the formation of the RAF from The Royal Flying Corps & The Royal Naval Air Service and of course the declaration of the Armistice at 11am on 11th November.

The poppy has a long association with this day. After the conflict had finished and the battlefields were left empty and barren, the only flower that grew was the poppy. So many had died that the ground became rich in nitrogen and the poppy thrived. Sometimes known as Poppy Day, Remembrance Day has been observed throughout the Commonwealth to remember all those members of their armed forces who gave their lives so might live in a better world. Every poppy sold helps the charitable work of The Royal British Legion who seeks to help all members of the armed forces past and present, their families and dependants. In our village, we have a history of knitting and making poppies to sell alongside the paper poppies to help raise further funds for the British Legion.We are proud for our continuing work with the Royal British Legion because there are so many more stories to tell from VE Day, The Falklands War and the centenary of the RAF. At Susan Rose China, we will all be wearing our poppies with pride this November.


You might want to find out about defining historical conflicts which shaped our history by visiting http://www.iwm.org.uk/visits/iwm-london