Lest We Forget

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We Shall Keep the Faith

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.

Moina Michael – November 8 1918

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Moina Michael died in 1944; four years later the U.S. Post Office issued this stamp to commemorate her poppy campaign.

Moina Michael‘s poem was written on the back of an envelope as a hasty response to the better known In Flanders Fields which she had just read in a copy of the Ladies Home Journal that had been left on her desk.  John McRae’s poem also inspired her campaign to have the poppy become the symbol of remembrance of not only the war dead but those who returned wounded in body and soul.  The idea was first introduced at a lecture given by Billy Bishop at Carnegie Hall on February 14, 1919 and though it was initially greeted favourably no group took up the symbol as their own.  But Moina continued to push forward the idea until finally she met with some success when the newly formed National American Legion adopted the poppy as their symbol of Remembrance at their National Convention in September 1920.

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Those first poppies worn in 1921 were made by war orphans in France; over 2 million were sent to Canada. Photo: Canadian War Museum

But Michael’s was not alone in her desire to have the poppy become a sign of remembrance, Madame Anna Guérin, a French delegate to the Legion Convention that September took up the idea.  She saw it as a way to raise funds to rebuild areas in war-devastated Europe.  She made visits to many of the Allied countries including Canada championing the cause.  In 1921 she criss-crossed the country giving interviews and making speaking engagements explaining the two-fold purpose of her campaign: to remember and to rebuild.  In the summer of 1921 she convinced the Canadian Great War Veterans Association to adopt the poppy as their symbol of Remembrance.  That first year the poppies were made by children in France however the following year philanthropist and co-founder of the Veterans Association Lillian Bilsky Freiman opened her Ottawa home  and the first Canadian-made poppies were crafted in her living room.  In 1923 Vetcraft Shops, which Freiman had co-founded in 1919 to give work to returning servicemen, took over the poppy making.  The GWVA became the Canadian Legion ( the Royal Canadian Legion in 1959) and they have managed the national campaign since 1925.

In 1921 when those first poppies were worn people remembered those who fought in the earlier Second Boer War and that Great War that was to end all wars. Sadly H. G. Well’s optimism was not to be rewarded and we wear them 94 years later to remember our men and women who have served in the the many battles and mission since and are still serving today.  We wear them to remember those who died and, as important, as a sign of respect for those who returned having done their duty wounded in body or perhaps soul.

We must not forget and we must try, to paraphrase Moina Michael,  to teach the lesson that each one of them wrought in their own Flanders Fields.

On previous Remembrance Days I have written posts about many of the customs and ceremonials of November 11 and the history of those traditions.

Other Remembrance Days

Call to Remembrance – 2014

Lest We Forget – 2013

Lest We Forget – 2012

Lest We Forget – 2010

Taking Two Minutes – 2009

Lest We Forget – 2008

The Poetry of War

On the Wire – 2014

Poems of War and Loss – 2012

The Poetry of War – 2007

Animals In War

The Animals of War – 2014

Beasts of Battle – 2010

Author: Willym

A senior with the heart of a young'un

6 thoughts on “Lest We Forget”

  1. Great post, Willym! These women are mentioned in the little video I posted today but I certainly didn’t know all the details of their campaign to make the poppy a central symbol of remembrance. And I like Moina Michael’s poem too — have never seen it before.

    1. Thanks Debra. Loved that video. For me the most interesting was Lillian Freiman – fascinating woman in accomplished so much locally and nationally with so little recognition.

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