Message of Remembrance
November is the month of remembrance when we, in Canada, honour the men and women who have died in the service of our country. Almost a century ago in 1918 the Great War came to an end. After four long years of fighting, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the guns fell silent. Since then, November 11th has been set aside as a special day to remember the Canadian service men and women. On that day at 11am across Canada services will be held to honour them. One of the fallen was John McCrae, a medical officer from Guelph Ontario.
In the spring of 1915 John McCrae was surveying the battlefield in the area of Belgium known as Flanders. The Battle of Ypres had been waging for seventeen days and there were many dead to be buried. McCrae has been described as having, “the hands of a surgeon and the soul of a poet”. He was deeply affected by the contrast between the bodies being put in the ground and the poppies that were springing up from the ground between the graves. So moved was he by what he saw that he wrote the famous lines, “In Flanders Fields.”
John McCrae did not survive the war. He was one of more than 60,000 Canadians who died in World War I. The Second World War would claim 40,000 more. When the deaths from the Korean War, peacekeeping missions and the war in Afghanistan are added over 116,000 Canadian men and women have given their lives for their country.
The poppy is the symbol of remembrance. When we wear the poppy we honour the dead but we also remember the living. 200,000 Canadians were wounded in these conflicts. The government provides assistance in the form of Veterans Allowances and Widows’ pensions, but more money is needed to help the survivors and their families. The poppy fund helps greatly in this regard.
So when you buy your poppy, give generously, when you wear it, do so proudly, and when you sing O Canada and come to the lines “We stand on guard for thee” remember those who have died in the service of Canada.
In Flanders Fields: by John McCrae
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.