At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day, on the eleventh month of 1918, the guns across Europe finally fell silent, ending the fighting of what was known as The Great War.
The war had taken a terrible toll on everyone, and had destroyed much of the continent. The barren battlefields, covered with bodies and rubble and debris, proved fertile ground for the scarlet corn poppies, which became forever immortalized in the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” by Canadian surgeon Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.
Soon after, it became tradition for people from many countries across the world to wear poppies in the days leading up to Remembrance Day, then known as Armistice Day.
Mere days away from the 100th anniversary of the end of The Great War, both Kitchener and Waterloo will have ceremonies at their respective cenotaphs, and Cambridge will have three, one each in Hespeler, Galt, and Preston.
“[The Kitchener parade] starts at the city hall, and marches down King Street to Frederick Street, and then turns left on Frederick Street to the cenotaph,” said Christopher Pickering, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 50.
Two metal silhouettes of First World War soldiers are also being placed on either side of the cenotaph for the ceremony and Pickering noted that the Command from the Legion has asked for all church bells across the country to ring a hundred times at sunset.
“It’s called the Bells of Peace,” explained Jim Meyer, president of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 530. “It is what happened here across the country when Canada found out the war was over.”
“Waterloo’s parade will start at Bridgeport Road E and Regina St N at 10:15 a.m., and proceed to the Waterloo cenotaph across from the Waterloo City Hall for a ceremony starting at 10:30 a.m.,” added Meyer.
An innovative new approach to poppies has appeared this year, with the Royal Canadian Legion introducing digital poppies this year in an attempt to reach a younger audience.
“We really need to go with the times, we’re trying to reach a younger audience. We’ve got to keep up with the digital age, and this is a great way to do that. People aren’t usually walking around with money anymore these days, so this is a great way to get donations,” Executive Director for The Royal Canadian Legion Pamela Sweeny explained to London Morning’s Julianne Hazlewood on November 1.
“Go to mypoppy.ca, it walks you through creating your poppy, and you can dedicate it to whomever you wish. Your name appears on the other side of the digital coin. You also have the opportunity to make a donation which goes towards veterans and their dependents,” said Sweeny.
You then get a link that you can use to place your poppy on any of your social media accounts, as well as transfer between devices so that you can always have it.
When asked what Remembrance Day means to him, Pickering thought for a few moments before responding.
“If you feel like you can walk down the streets here and not feel harassed or intimidated or afraid to speak your mind, that is what this is all about. These are the freedoms you enjoy, the freedom of speech and movement and to congregate, these people fought and died for that principle,” he intoned.
“That is what Remembrance Day is about.”