"Lest we forget" On Remembrance Day members of the armed forces are commemorated for their ultimate sacrifice for our country.
The other common name for this day is Armistice Day which marks the date and time when armies in the first World War stopped fighting. November 11th at 11am in 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month) marks the end of the war in the UK - this date and time transitioned into Remembrance Day in commonwealth countries.
In Canada, Remembrance Day is a statutory holiday in most provinces as it is in most other countries where this day is observed on the national level.
The Ode of Remembrance is cited on Remembrance Day followed by the phrase "Lest we forget." :
The Ode of Remembrance:
They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.
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 fell in battle.
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.
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.
In May, 1915, on the day following the death of fellow soldier Lt Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, John McCrae wrote his now famous work, an expression of his anguish over the loss of his friend and a reflection of his surroundings – wild Poppies growing amid simple wooden crosses marking makeshift graves. These 15 lines, written in 20 minutes, captured an exact description of the sights and sounds of the area around him.
In Flanders Fields
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.
The poem was first published on 8 December 1915 in England, appearing in “Punch” magazine.
His poem speaks of Flanders fields, but the subject is universal – the fear of the dead that they will be forgotten, that their death will have been in vain. Remembrance, as symbolized by the Poppy, is our eternal answer which belies that fear.
Sadly, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae died of pneumonia at Wimereux, France on 28 January 1918. He was 45 years old.
The Flower of Remembrance
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 red poppy 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.
In the US, the country where the first poppies were worn in this way, the sight of them has diminished around the armistice anniversary.
The 11th day of November is known as Veterans Day, when a more common adornment on the lapel is a red, white and blue ribbon. But there are some poppies laid and worn for Memorial Day in May, in parts of the US.
The Poppy has always been a popular symbol of remembrance in Canada, the US, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. Over the years The Poppy, which was worn mostly by ex-pats internationally, has become visable in many other countries around the world as a token of remembrance for all fallen soldiers. They include Jamaica, Barbados, Nigeria, Brunei, Kuwait, Fiji, Malawi, Curacao and many more.
A Pittance of Time
On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM an announcement came over the store’s PA asking customers who would still be on the premises at 11:00 AM to give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.
Terry was impressed with the store’s leadership role in adopting the Legion’s “two minutes of silence” initiative. He felt that the store’s contribution of educating the public to the importance of remembering was commendable.
When eleven o’clock arrived on that day, an announcement was again made asking for the “two minutes of silence” to commence. All customers, with the exception of a man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect.
Terry’s anger towards the father for trying to engage the store’s clerk in conversation and for setting a bad example for his child was channeled into a beautiful piece of work called, “A Pittance of Time”.
Bringing Buddy Home
In 2009, the CBC made a video with Canadian Irish Tenor, John McDermott, who wrote the music and lyrics to "Bringing Buddy Home", dedicated to Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan and their families.
It is an extremely emotional look at the final journey of the soldiers that have perished in war, as their remains are returned to Canada, from the Ramp Ceremony in Kandahar, the Highway of Heroes and to the final resting place for these Canadian Heroes.
Vancouver's annual Remembrance Day ceremony is on Friday, November 11 at 10:30 amat the cenotaph in Victory Square (West Hastings and Cambie).
Prior to the ceremony, view the Vancouver cauldron at Jack Poole Plaza burst into flame as Canada’s flag is handed over from an older to younger veteran at 8 am.
The flame will be extinguished at 11:02 am to coincide with the ending of the two-minute silence at Victory Square.
Also, vehicles displaying BC veteran licence plates will be exempt from parking feesat City parking meters, in EasyPark parkades and surface lots as well as in Park Board operated parking facilities from November 6 to 12.
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