FLANDERS and Picardy in Northern France saw some of the bloodiest fighting of the First World War.

There was complete devastation. Buildings, roads, trees and natural life disintegrated into seas of mud - graves for the dead while still more men fought on.

Only one living thing bloomed - the poppy. Flowering each spring, it brought new life, hope and colour to those still fighting.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, the First World War ended. Many thousands had died or been physically and mentally scarred by their experiences.

Miss Moina Michael, an American War Secretary with the YMCA, bought red poppies with money that had been given to her by work colleagues, wore one and sold the rest to her friends in America to raise money for Servicemen in need.

Her French colleague, Madame Guerin, proposed selling artificial poppies in Britain to help ex-servicemen and their dependants.

The first Poppy Day was held in Britain on November 11, 1921, and was a national success.

Major George Howson, a young infantry officer who had been decorated for bravery, formed the Disabled Society to help disabled ex-servicemen and women to find work.

In 1922, members of the Disabled Society began making artificial poppies for the Legion. This lead to the creation of The Royal British Legion Poppy Factory.

The Poppy Factory makes poppies, wreaths and other items which support Remembrance and the Poppy Appeal.

In 1999, the Poppy Appeal raised more than £18.7 million, the largest total ever.

In 2000, the Legion is aiming to raise £20 million through donations for poppies, legacies, sponsorship, covenants, sales and fundraising events.