A poppy is displayed on a big screen for Armistice Day at Wembley Stadium in London. File picture: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Cape Town - To wear a poppy or not? That is the question in international geopolitics and in the British Premier League this week. 

Players in the league wore the poppy to mark the Armistice, which is commemorated as Remembrance Day on 11 November in South Africa. 

The day is observed by Commonwealth countries to pay tribute to war heroes and those who died in the World War l.

However, according to the Royal British Legion, adorning "a poppy is a personal choice and reflects individual and personal memories. It is not compulsory but is greatly appreciated by those it helps – our beneficiaries: those currently serving in our Armed Forces, veterans, and their families and dependants". 

But critics, including Twitter user @crimesofbrits - which has dedicated its timeline highlighting British war crimes - have lambasted leaders and sportsmen who wear the poppy as being in support of Britain's atrocities. 

British soldiers and some of their Nato allies have been accused of numerous war crimes in documented history. 

There was resistance from the BPL players, most notably Manchester United strongman Nemenja Matic and West Brom player James McClean. McClean has refused to wear the poppy since 2011, while Matic, having won it recently, changed his mind this year. 

Here is a list of four atrocities committed by the British army in recent history: 

Frontier Wars in South Africa

* The British army led by Sir Benjamin D'Urban, who commissioned the capture and killing of Hintsa ka Khawuta, a Xhosa king between 1830-1850 in the Frontier Wars. 

D'Urban reportedly referred to Hintsa as a savage, ordering that he be killed. 

D'Urban's man George Southey reportedly shot him in the back of the head and some of the British men used bayonets to extract Hintsa's teeth. 

Accounts of the events vary, but the common story is that his ears were cut and used as souvenirs. The Frontier Wars were a precursor to landlessness. This is just one of the hundreds of atrocities committed in the name of the British Crown across the continent.  

Bloody Sunday or Bogside Massacre

* The British Army shot and killed 13 unarmed protesters in Derry, Northern Island in  1972. They had been protesting the arrests of suspected Irish Republican Army members. McClean cited these killings as the reason why he doesn't wear the poppy. 


* In an Instagram post this week, Matic cited NATO bombings of Serbia in 1999 as the reason why he would not wear the poppy. As a 12-year-old in the village of Vrelo, Matic was affected by the bombs from the Nato allies, of which Britain is a member. There are dozens of war atrocities committed by Nato in that region.  

Falkland Islands

* British paratroopers were accused of shooting disarmed, unarmed or wounded Argentinian soldiers in combat in the early '80s, although conversely the Argentines were also accused of war crimes in the same conflict.  

Weekend Argus