NEXT year will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

And in less than a month millions will once again pay their respects as part of Remembrance ceremonies and are already starting to wear a poppy as an emblem of this.

But how many of us actually know how this practise came about and who was at the heart of it ?

Colchester historian Heather Johnson, who is in the process of writing a book on the subject, says the idea came from a need help the families of the fallen and the survivors whilst remembering those who had died.

She says while the poppy emerged as a symbol as a result of people being moved by the little red flower that grew on battlefields the actual Poppy Day idea was that of Madame Anna Guerin who became known as the Poppy Lady of France.

Heather says : “People at home heard about the poppies and received freshly-picked ones inside letters from serving loved-ones.”

Canadian poet John McCrae’s We shall Not Sleep immortalised it as an emblem in 1915 and as early as the next year poppies were being sold to raise funds.

Heather adds : “As early as September 1918, it is recorded Madame Guérin distributed boutonnières in Nebraska, U.S.A., for the ‘Food For France’ charity – connected to the American Red Cross.

“At the end of 1918, ‘La Ligue des enfants de France et d’Amérique’ was founded in Paris, with the poppy as its emblem.

“Madame Guérin founded the USA. branch of it, the American and French Children’s League - travelling around the states, establishing the committees that would hold her Poppy Days and Drives.”

By 1919 the emblem had become part of people’s psyche and by that August fundraising sales of the flowers began in earnest, says Heather.

A year later, the American Legion veteran association invited Madame Guérin to their Convention in Ohio and she went primarily to promote her Poppy Day idea - the first nationwide Poppy Day took place on May 30 1921.

She then visited Canada and took her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea to the veterans of the Great War Veterans Association.

Canada was the first Commonwealth country to adopt the idea and she then travelled to Great Britain with samples of her poppies.

When they loved the idea but had no funds for the poppies she offered to provide them and get paid later.

All the Guérin poppies were made by the orphans and widows of the devastated regions of France and it was Field Marshall Haig who suggested Armistice Day, together with that first British Poppy Day, on 11 November 1921 should be known as Remembrance Day.

Madame Guérin visited Belgium and Italy, sending a representative to Australia and New Zealand, and South Africa too, to present the idea

All Allied countries, except New Zealand which introduced Anzac Day, held their first Poppy Day on 11 November 1921.

In all countries, in the early years, women and girls were always predominately responsible for the organisation of Poppy Days and the distribution of poppies.