November 11th is Remembrance Day. Today as I left Shopper’s Drug Mart, I was approached by an Air Cadet and asked to buy a Poppy. I glady opened my purse and gave him a toonie and went on my way with the new Poppy.
I got thinking about it and I know that Remembrance Day is to remember those who gave their lives in service to our country, and I thought about the poppy and the poem “In Flanders Fields” and I realized that I don’t really know that much about Remembrance Day.
Google, as usual, was very helpful in providing me with the information that I needed to understand more about the sacrifices that have been made by citizens of this country, Canada.
From the Royal Canadian Legion website: “Each November, Poppies blossom on the lapels and collars of almost half of Canada’s entire population. Since 1921, the Poppy has stood as Remembrance, our visual pledge to never forget all those Canadian who have fallen in war and military operations.”
In WWI, 628,736 Canadian troops participated, 66,573 died while 138,166 were wounded and 2818 were prisoners of war. In 1914, Canada’s population was seven and half million people. The militia numbered some 57,000. Within 3 weeks of the outbreak of WWI, 45,000 citizens had volunteered for military service. On October 3, 1914 the first 30,000 Canadian troops set sail aboard 33 ships from Gaspe Bay for England. The “Great War” lasted until the end of 1918.
WWII During 1939-45 hundreds of thousands of Canadians – more than 40% of the male population between the ages of 18 and 45, and virtually all of them volunteers – enlisted. 1,081,865 Canadians in Service, 46,777 Dead, 53,145 Wounded, 8,271 POW’s, 108,193 Total Casualties. Aboriginal Canadians: At least 3,000 status (treaty) Indians – including 72 women – enlisted, as well as an unknown number of Inuit, Metis, and other Natives. The actual numbers were no doubt much higher. Among this small number of identified Aboriginal members of the forces, at least 17 decorations for bravery in action were earned.
Canada has also particiapated in various capacities in the Korean War, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and in peace keeping missions throughout the world, including Bosnia, and Haiti as well as the current efforts of Canadian military in Afghanistan. Since 2002 there have been 97 Canadian Casualties.
When reading about the “casualties” the numbers are overwhelming but I reminded myself that each of those numbers represents a life. Somebody’s son, husband, brother, daughter, wife, sister…father or mother. That is what Remembrance Day is for! It is to honour each of those “numbers,” the individuals who said good-bye to their loved ones and bravely boarded a ship or plane not knowing when or if they would see each other again.
The poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae in Ypres. He expressed in his words of poetry, the fear of many soldiers…to die in battle and be forgotten. Lt.Col. John McCrae died of pneumonia at Wimereux near Boulogne, France on January 28, 1918 at the age of 45.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow