Red Poppies & Rain: The Poppy Umbrella Idea

Poppy on WW1 battlefield.

The Poppy Umbrella was the idea of retired Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Parker, O.B.E., WW1 historian and battlefield guide. Graham was inspired to create this unique umbrella as a vivid reminder of Remembrance all year round. Sales of this practical and eye-catching umbrella help to generate funds for Service-related charities, welfare and military heritage organizations.

Where the Poppy Umbrella Began

Lieutenant-Colonel Graham Parker with a Poppy Umbrella in the market square of Ypres where the idea for it came to him on 11 November.
Poppy Umbrella in Ieper (Ypres)

On 11 November 1995 Graham was in Ypres, the famous town on the First World War battlefields of Flanders. He was taking part in the annual Armistice Day ceremonies there. For several years he had been associated with the annual Remembrance events in Ypres (now called by its Flemish name of Ieper) and he had introduced the 11 November Armistice Day “Poppy Parade”.

In advance of the main parade of bands, standard bearers and soldiers, Graham marched off at the head of “The Poppy Parade”. Several hundred people, marching in ranks of four, set off from St. George's Memorial Church to make their way through the streets of Ieper to the morning ceremony at The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing.

A Sudden Shower of Rain

Just as “The Poppy Parade” set off there was a sudden heavy rainstorm. On reaching the market square and the Cloth Hall Graham could see crowds of visitors and local people lining the road to the Menin Gate. The downpour resulted in umbrellas of all colours suddenly appearing along the route.

Remembering the Battles of 1915

That year the Armistice Day Service was commemorating the 80th anniversary of the battles of 1915 in the Ypres Salient.

Arriving at the Menin Gate for the ceremony Graham’s thoughts turned to May 1915 and a soldiers’ cemetery close to Ypres called Essex Farm cemetery. This is believed to be the location where the powerful image of poppies growing among the soldiers’ graves was portrayed in the poem “In Flanders Fields”.

It is believed that the Canadian Army doctor and artillery brigade commander, Major John McCrae, wrote the poem on 2 May 1915 after he had buried his friend Lieutenant Alexis Helmer during The Second Battle of Ypres. Lieutenant Helmer's grave was subsequently lost and he is commemorated on The Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing (Panel 10).

“In Flanders Fields” Poem by John McCrae

The Poppy Umbrella Design

Joanna's design of the Poppy Umbrella inspired by the red Flanders poppies.
The Poppy Umbrella

The images of poppies on the old Flanders battlefield and the umbrellas lining the route on that wet Armistice Day in November 1995 were Graham’s inspiration at that moment for The Poppy Umbrella.

Graham's daughter, Joanna, created the design of the single red poppy on the umbrella cover.

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Launch of The Poppy Umbrella, 1998

Royal Hospital Chelsea In-Pensioners at The Poppy Umbrella launch.
In-Pensioners of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea

In May 1998 The Poppy Umbrella was launched at the Chelsea Flower Show. The very first Poppy Umbrella was presented to His Royal Highness the Duke of Kent by an In-Pensioner from the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Over the next few days of the Chelsea Flower Show over 2,000 Poppy Umbrellas were sold to the public and proceeds were passed to the Royal Hospital Chelsea.

Founding Rembrella Ltd.

Rembrella Ltd logo

Having completed 32 years’ Regular Army Service Graham remained on the British Army Staff in Belgium for a further 12 years. After his retirement in 1995 Graham founded Rembrella to administer The Poppy Umbrella.

Graham is a respected historian and battlefield guide, specializing in the study of The Western Front 1914-1918. Graham's uncle was killed in action during the last week of the Battle of the Somme in November 1916. Two of his wife's uncles are buried in France and three of their brothers also served in the British Army. Graham's cousin was missing in action off the coast of Italy in 1943.

See our page about us and our involvement with Remembrance and the First World War over the last thirty years at:

Who We Are

Buy a Poppy Umbrella

Click on the image to visit our Poppy Umbrella website at
Click to visit our Poppy Umbrella website at

You can buy a Poppy Umbrella in a range of popular styles direct from us at Rembrella Ltd online or from a number of charities and organizations selling the Poppy Umbrella in their gift shops.

Our Service-related Charity Donation

logo for the Not Forgotten Association

From 2008-2013 we donated proceeds from sales of our Poppy Umbrellas from our mail order website to the Help for Heroes charity caring for injured Servicemen and women.

Since April 2013 we have donated proceeds from the sale of umbrellas to the public via our website to The Not Forgotten Association. We are proud to help promote the fantastic work of this charity, which has its foundation in the returning wounded Servicemen and women from the First World War. A donation will be made by Rembrella Ltd. to this charity from the sale of each Poppy Umbrella purchased direct from our mail order website.

To find out more about The Not Forgotten Association see our page at:

The Not Forgotten Association

Donate directly to The Not Forgotten Association:

Buy a Poppy Umbrella

Other Retailers of The Poppy Umbrella

The gift shop at the Royal Chelsea Hospital.
Gift shop at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London

The Poppy Umbrella helps to generate funds for a number of ex-Service charities, military heritage organizations and centres of Remembrance including:

Proceeds made by these and similar organizations from the sale of Poppy Umbrellas go towards their work in the welfare, care and continuing Remembrance of serving and former Servicemen and women. As an ex-military family we are very proud that The Poppy Umbrella is helping to support this good work.

To buy your Poppy Umbrella from one of the charities and organizations selling Poppy Umbrellas to support their own good causes see a list of them on our Rembrella website at:

Our website: Poppy Umbrella Retail Outlets

Related Topics

Armistice Day Commemorations in Ypres

Bands march in Ypres at the ceremony on Armistice Day 11 November.
Bands at the Special Last Post ceremony on Armistice Day 11th November.

See our page about the various Armistice Day commemoration events which take place every year in Ypres, Belgium.

11 November Annual Armistice Day Commemoration in Ypres

The Story of the Remembrance Poppy

Read about how the delicate, wild poppy flower of Flanders developed into a symbol of Remembrance:

The Story Behind the Remembrance Poppy