Each year, in November, many special events take place to commemorate Veterans’ Week (November 5th to 11th) as well as Remembrance Day.  This is a time to honour the courage, sacrifice, and service given by so many Canadians over the years.  Our veterans could be our grandfathers, our fathers, our mothers, our brothers, our sisters, our neighbours…

poppiesWe can remember and honour our Veterans, past and present, by: wearing a poppy, attending local Remembrance Day ceremonies, thanking a veteran by sending a “postcard for peace”, teaching our children about Remembrance Day, reading a “remembrance newspaper” written especially for school children Kindergarten – Grade 7 and up, talking with a relative or friend who serves or served with the Canadian Armed Forces, viewing “Heroes Remember” videos, planting a “Garden of Remembrance”.  Specific information about these activities can be found on the Veterans Affairs website. In addition, you can purchase a Heritage Stone to honour your loved one’s service; you can do this in our Museum or you can learn more about this and find an application form on our website.

REMEMBRANCE DAY IN CANADA ~ Canada’s first Remembrance Day service was held on November 11th, 1919, at 11 o’clock. It began as a way to honour those people who had given their lives in World War I, more than 65,000 of them.  A minute of silence across the country marked the end of the war exactly one year before, at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.  Originally called Armistice Day, the name was officially changed to Remembrance Day in 1931.

Although people believed that war on such a huge scale could never happen again, WWII broke out in Europe in 1939 and lasted until 1945.  Remembrance Days in Canada added to their honour roll more than one million Canadians who served in WWII.  Some came home safely, but many died at Dieppe and other battlegrounds far from home.  Others were lost in the skies and at sea.

At this time, we also honour the nurses who comforted and healed the wounded… the farm, factory, and office workers who did their part in the war effort… the families who scrimped on food and skimped on fuel, and went without luxuries so that soldiers would be better clothed and fed… the wives and mothers who packed parcels for loved ones overseas ( hand knitted socks, chocolate bars, letters… )… those who opened their doors to the awful news that a brother, a son, or a husband was missing in action, or had been killed…

But the Second World War wasn’t the last.  From 1950 to 1953, Canadian Troops fought in the Korean War.  There was the Second Boer War, and then the Afghanistan War… we remember their efforts on Remembrance Day as well.

Together on Remembrance Day, we take the time to think of all those Canadians who have given so much, for all of us… We pledge to remember what they fought for ~ freedom and a world at peace.  We think of the Canadians today who strive to foster peace in our world.  We remember… in one very special minute of silence.

THE LAST POST ~ Last Post is a song that is played on a bugle or trumpet, a farewell to soldiers who died.  Last Post is played before the two minutes of silence at Remembrance Day services.  Then a song called Reveille is played.  This tells how the memory of the dead lives on.

NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL ~ Many Remembrance Day Ceremonies will take place near monuments that honour those who died at war.  Often these are referred to as war memorials or cenotaphs.  On Remembrance Day, people will gather at these memorials to honour all Canadians who have fought for their country.

The National War Memorial on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, also known as “The Response”, is a cenotaph that symbolizes the sacrifice of all Canadian Armed Forces personnel who have served Canada in time of war in the cause of peace and freedom, past, present, future.  This memorial is the site of the National Remembrance Day Ceremony on November 11th.

The National War Memorial was first unveiled and dedicated by King George VI in 1939 to honour the response of Canadians in World War I ( 1914 – 1918 ).  Over the years, the memorial has come to symbolize the sacrifice of all Canadians who have served in time of war, and has been rededicated twice.  The first time was in 1982 to also include those killed in WWII and the Korean War.  The second was in 2014, to add those who died in the Second Boer War and the War in Afghanistan, as well as those Canadians killed in all conflicts, past and future.  it now serves as the pre-eminent war memorial of 76 cenotaphs in Canada.

NATIONAL MEMORIAL ( SILVER ) CROSS MOTHERS ~ The National Memorial ( Silver ) Cross Mother is chosen yearly by the Royal Canadian Legion to represent the mothers of Canada at the National Remembrance Day Ceremony in Ottawa on November 11th.  The Memorial Cross ( often referred to as the Silver Cross ) is awarded to mothers and widows ( next of kin ) of Canadian soldiers who died on active duty or whose death was consequently attributed to duty.

THE TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER ~ In 2000, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was placed in front of the National War Memorial.  The remains of an unidentified Canadian soldier who died in World War I were repatriated from France and with great ceremony, were buried in this special tomb.  The project began at the instigation of the Royal Canadian Legion, who developed the idea as a Millennium project, and then was taken on by the Canadian government under the lead of Veterans Affairs Canada.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was created to honour more than 116, 000 Canadians who sacrificed their lives for the cause of peace and freedom.  The Unknown Soldier represents all Canadians ( Navy, Army, Air Force, or Merchant Marine ) who died or may die for our country in past, present, and future conflicts.

CANADIAN VIRTUAL WAR MEMORIAL ~ The Canadian Virtual War Memorial ( CVWM ) is a registry of more than 118,000 Canadians who have given their lives in serving Canada or the United Kingdom.  It was established to allow all Canadians the opportunity to honour and remember their sacrifices.  The names in the CVWM are the same names recorded in the Books of Remembrance, which record those who have died in battle or as a result of their injuries from battle.  The CVWM provides information about each individual’s gravesite, any memorials and other information.  Families are invited to contributed digital files ( photos and scans ) that will help tell the story of each of the deceased.

QUICK FACTS ABOUT THE POPPY ~ In 1915, John McCrae, a doctor serving with the Canadian Artillery, honoured the poppy in his poem, In Flanders Fields.  In 1920, Anna Guerin, the French Poppy Lady, suggested that artificial poppies could be made and sold as a way of raising money for the benefit of orphaned children and others who had suffered as a result of the war. In 1921, Anna Guerin visited Canada and convinced the Great War Veterans Association of Canada ( predecessor to the Royal Canadian Legion ) to adopt the poppy as a symbol of remembrance in aid of fundraising.  Today the Poppy Campaign is one of the Royal Canadian Legion’s most important programmes.  Money raised from donations provides direct assistance for Veterans in financial distress, as well as funding for medical equipment, medical research, home services, long term care facilities… The Poppy Campaign begins on the last Friday of October and continues till November 11th.  The Lapel Poppy can be worn every day of the campaign and is removed at the end of the Remembrance Day ceremony.  Many people place their poppy on a wreath or at the base of the cenotaph or memorial as a sign of respect at the end of the ceremony.  The poppy may be worn at commemorative events throughout the year, such as anniversaries of significant battles or a memorial service.

JOHN McCRAE’S POEM ~ 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 your 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.

** Most of the information and wording in this post came directly from the Veterans Affairs website.  Take time to visit to learn more. They also have the image used in this post available for sharing on your Facebook page. **