St John Ambulance volunteers allowed to wear white poppies for first time

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The white poppy, a symbol of pacifism, can be worn for the first time by St John Ambulance volunteers, it has been announced. 

Rules stating that the traditional red British Legion poppy can be worn as part of the first aid charity's uniform have been amended and colour is no longer specified.

St John Ambulance volunteers will be able to wear white poppies this year

St John Ambulance volunteers will be able to wear white poppies this year

The Peace Pledge Union (PPU), the pacifist campaign group which makes white poppies, has praised the move.

PPU co-ordinator Symon Hill said: ‘We're pleased that St John Ambulance has recognised that many people wish to remember victims of war without the military associations of the red poppy.

‘How we remember the past affects how we live in the present. It is vital that we value non-British lives, and civilian lives, as much as the lives of British military personnel.

‘Remembrance is an important and sensitive topic and we need to listen to each other's perspectives.’

The change came after Simone Ramacci, a St John Ambulance volunteer and PPU member who lives in Colchester, Essex, asked to be allowed to wear a white poppy while on duty.

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He said he ‘could not in good conscience wear the red poppy’.

‘I hope more organisations will follow St John Ambulance's lead in becoming more inclusive,’ he added.

Ann Cable, chief volunteer at St John Ambulance, said ‘valid’ concerns about the commemoration of war had been raised.

She added: ‘Whilst many volunteers do choose to wear a red poppy, we realise this is not the case for everyone and there are a few types of poppy, not only red and white, that are increasingly widely recognised and worn in the UK during the remembrance period.’

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The PPU believes the white poppy represents ‘remembrance for all victims of war of all nationalities, a commitment to peace and a rejection of attempts to glamorise war’, according to a statement.

By contrast, red British Legion poppies ‘commemorate only British and allied armed forces personnel’, it adds.

Red poppies were first worn commemoratively in Britain in 1921, whereas the white poppy was first sold by the Women's Co-operative Guild in 1933.

St John Ambulance supports hundreds of remembrance events and also provides free first aid cover for the parade at the Cenotaph in London's Whitehall.