Why was the
poppy chosen as the symbol of remembrance for Canada's war
The poppy, an international symbol for
those who died in war, also had international origins.
A writer first made the connection
between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the
Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that
fields that were barren before battle exploded with the
blood-red flowers after the fighting ended.
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 rhoeas' to thrive. When the war ended the
lime was quickly absorbed, and the poppy began to disappear
Lieut-Col. John McCrae, the Canadian
doctor who wrote the poem IN FLANDERS FIELDS, made the same
connection 100 years later, during the First World War, and
the scarlet poppy quickly became the symbol for soldiers who
died in battle.
Today, fields of brilliant poppies
still grow in France. Three years later an American, Moina
Michael, was working in a New York City YMCA canteen when
she started wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who
died on the battlefield. 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. In November 1921, the first poppies were
distributed in Canada.
Thanks to the millions of Canadians
who wear poppies each November, use of the little red flower
has never died. And neither have Canadian's memories for
116,031 of their countrymen who died in battle.
On November 11 of each year, the Royal Canadian Legion holds
memorial services across Canada to honour the Canadian
soldiers who died in the two World Wars, the Korean war or
the peacekeeping missions. This date represents the
armistice of the first World War.
Many Canadians believe that the most
important role of the Legion is to maintain the tradition of
Remembrance day. The Legion’s Remembrance Day programs allow
us to honour all the men and women who served and died in
military service in the two World Wars, the Korean war as
well as the peacekeeping missions. Every year, there are
thousands of dollars and voluntary hours committed to carry
out the Remembrance Day programs and activities.
The Poppy and Remembrance Day Campaign
takes place every November just prior to Remembrance Day.
The campaign aim is to raise awareness of the poppy as a
symbol of Remembrance Day.
Proceeds from this campaign support
veterans, ex-service members and their families who are in
need. Since adopted, the poppy has become one of the most
widely recognized symbols in Canada.
Every year, the Legion also organises a national poster and
essay contest in schools. The goal of this activity is to
try to make the youth understand what the nearly 116,000 men
and women who died in battle or peacekeeping missions have
done for us.
Every second summer, the Legion
organizes a pilgrimage for youth leaders to Canadians
memorials in Europe. The Legion also supports the Canadian
War Museum and other military museums in Canada.
The challenge facing the Legion today
is to convince young people and future generations of the
need to remember those who have died in the wars to give us
peace. The majority of Canadians don’t recognize the horror
of the wars because they have never been exposed to it apart
from what is seen on the media.
KEEP THE FAITH
answer to Lt.Col John McCrae
by Moina Michael - 1918
Oh! you who sleep in Flanders' Fields,
Sleep sweet - to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died.
We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders' Fields.
And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We'll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders' Fields.
IN FLANDERS NOW
An answer to Lt.Col John
by Edna Jaques
We have kept
faith, ye Flanders' dead,
Sleep well beneath those poppies red,
That mark your place.
The torch your dying hands did throw,
We've held it high before the foe,
And answered bitter blow for blow,
In Flanders' fields.
And where your heroes' blood was spilled,
The guns are now forever stilled,
And silent grown.
There is no moaning of the slain,
There is no cry of tortured pain,
And blood will never flow again
In Flanders' fields.
Forever holy in our sight
Shall be those crosses gleaming white,
That guard your sleep.
Rest you in peace, the task is done,
The fight you left us we have won.
And "Peace on Earth" has just begun
In Flanders' now.
Website designed and maintained by
All other problems concerning this site should be
reported through your branch contact