TWO fragile poppies sent from the frontline by a North-East soldier to his wife have been featured in a Royal Mail commemorative collection.

The pressed flowers survive as a poignant reminder of John Harkess, a soldier from Washington, then in County Durham, who served with the Leeds Pals during the First World War until his death in March 1918.

John carefully inscribed his initials on the delicate petals, along with the names of several places where he served in France, before sending the flowers to his wife Ann in 1917.

He could never have imagined this simple romantic gesture would become a heart-breaking symbol of the human cost of the conflict.

Not only has an illustration of one of the poppies been featured on a commemorative envelope issued by the Royal Mail, but it was the inspiration behind the Durham at War logo.

Gill Parkes, principal archivist at the record office, said: “We couldn’t have found a more fitting logo for Durham at War. John Harkess’ poppies not only symbolise the sacrifice he made but remind us of the thousands of other men and women who never came home.”

To read John Harkess’ story, visit