Sunday, November 11, 2007

Remembrance Day- Lest We Forget

Every year on November 11, Canadians pause in a silent moment of remembrance for the men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country during times of war, conflict and peace. We honour those who fought for Canada in the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean War (1950-1953), as well as those who have served since then. More than 1,500,000 Canadians have served our country in this way, and more than 100,000 have died. They gave their lives and their futures so that we may live in peace.

History of the Poppy
Each November, Poppies blossom on the lapels and collars of over half of Canada’s entire population. Since 1921, the Poppy has stood as a symbol of Remembrance, our visual pledge to never forget all those Canadians who have fallen in war and military operations. The Poppy also stands internationally as a “symbol of collective reminiscence”, as other countries have also adopted its image to honour those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
This significance of the Poppy can be traced to international origins.

The association of the Poppy to those who had been killed in war has existed since the Napoleonic Wars in the 19th century, over 110 years before being adopted in Canada. There exists a record from that time of how thickly Poppies grew over the graves of soldiers in the area of Flanders, France. This early connection between the Poppy and battlefield deaths described how fields that were barren before the battles exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended.

Just prior to the First World War, few Poppies grew in Flanders. During the tremendous bombardments of that war, the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing “popaver rhoes” to thrive. When the war ended, the lime was quickly absorbed and the Poppy began to disappear again.

The person who was responsible more than any other for the adoption of the Poppy as a symbol of Remembrance in Canada and the Commonwealth was Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian Medical Officer during the First World War.

An American teacher, Moina Michael, while working at the YMCA Overseas War Secretaries’ headquarters in New York City in November 1918, read John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields”. She immediately made “a personal pledge to keep the faith and vowed always to wear a redpoppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance and as an emblem for keeping the faith with all who died".

Two years later, during a 1920 visit to the United States, a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom. On her return to France, she decided to use handmade Poppies to raise money for the destitute children in war-torn areas of the country. Following the example of Madame Guerin, the Great War Veterans’ Association in Canada (the predecessor of The Royal Canadian Legion) officially adopted the Poppy as its Flower of Remembrance on 5 July 1921.
Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear the Legion’s lapel Poppy each November, the little red plant has never died. And neither have Canadian’s memories for 117,000 of their countrymen who died in battle.

The poem was first published on 8 December 1915 in England, appearing in “Punch” magazine.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is what I call telepatia!

And I wrote mine before reading yours!!!