Tuesday, 11 November 2008

SPT - Lest We Forget

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 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.
— Lt.-Col. John McCrae
Every Canadian school child knows this poem written by a WWI Canadian army physician in 1915. Wearing a Flanders Poppy for the first eleven days of November is a tradition that means a lot to me. Today, Remembrance Day, is our day to remember and honor the fallen soldiers who have protected our freedom at home and abroad. If you walk down the streets of a Canadian city in the first part of November everyone you pass will be wearing a poppy.
Today we had a unique experience . My kids and I tagged along with a home school group on their Remembrance Day field trip (thanks for thinking of me Tania and bringing us in on this).
This fellow, Mark, is a WWI buff who used to work at the Museum of the Regiments. He was saddened by the lack of young people at Remembrance Day ceremonies at the Museum and decided he needed to create something more interactive that would engage young people in appreciating the sacrifices made for them by Canadian soldiers.
So he created a real life replica of WWI trench warfare.
At first Chloe was excited to be out of doors,
until she noticed the smell. Mark had arrived earlier and lit fires all around the trenches, burning moss to create some stink and smoke. It was very effective, though not as smoky and stinky as it would have been in real trench warfare.
Carmen peering out of the bunker that gave a view of the battlefield that fell away down the hill.
A soldier would dig himself some shelter in the side of a trench where he might sleep.
Steven in a crater - as if from a bomb.
(yes, Steven's friend wore shorts)
Craters were created by bombing meant to tear apart the barbed wire, and thereby allow soldiers through to gain ground against the enemy.
At the beginning of the afternoon we had all drawn a colored paper from Mark's helmet. At the end we discovered that those who had drawn red had been killed (about 25 of us) those who had drawn blue were the injured, blind and amputees (about 8 individuals) and Jaclyn, who had drawn a green paper, survived WWI as a soldier - whole in body and mind.


lelly said...

what a neat post. i love your beautiful poppies - they usually sell little ones outside of the stores here, but i don't recall seeing any this year?

Kelly said...

What a great experience for your kids! It looks mighty chilly, but such a cool learning experience. I remember getting a poppy when I was a little kid in Bozeman, but I don't remember seeing them anywhere since. I think that's awesome that it's such a big tradition there.

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Ohhhhhh! I get it now. I didn't realize the man who wrote that was Canadian. I didn't know where he was from. We see that poem used more often around Memorial Day in the US and that is when the vets hand out crepe paper poppies, too. I love your tradition of wearing poppies the first eleven days of November.

What a great event to do with your kids...what a good thing for that man to start the interactive learning, too.

Thanks for such an informative post, Barb.

Jill said...

What an eye opening day.

Dacia said...

What a great post. I bet it was a great experience for all involved.

MaryRC said...

we need more people like him to help preserve history. it is so important, i glad you had such a memorable day..

crystal said...

LOVE this spt.

Cecilia said...

What an amazing post!

Tasha said...

ITs a huge pet peeve of mine that it is so rare to see people wearing poppies on Memorial Day Here. Its a beautiful poem, and an aching sentiment.

The monkey bunch said...

Wonderful day of remembrance. We only remember for 1 day instead of the days leading up to it and a lot of us forgot what the day was about to begin with- even those of us whose husbands are serving in Iraq right now! Thanks for helping us remember.

Amy said...

I love that poem, too, but didn't realize it was written by a Canadian. I loved reading this post.

Marie said...

Great field trip. I think the interaction makes it much easier for children, well everyone really, to understand what the war actually meant.

The coloured slips of paper activity was the most startling to me. What a loss of lives.

Courtney said...

what a cool post and experience for your kiddos...so neat!

Laurie said...

That is an excellent self-portrait.

I'm also glad you did this post. Living in England for a couple years, I wore the poppy and really felt more of the significance of Rememberance Day. Here, it hardly seems to be acknowledged, except that the banks and post office are closed and it gets a mention on the news. Not so much in the schools though. Very disappointing.

What an amazing field trip!

Elizabeth said...

What a lovely way to remember!

michelle said...

I love this! I am sorry to say I have never even heard that poem and I had no idea why you guys were wearing those cute poppies. Thanks for enlightening me.

Lene said...

I love the idea of wearing poppies.

What an amazing field trip for the kids.

April said...

This was so touching.

I am embarrassed to say I've never heard of this tradition, but it is so beautiful. I love seeing those red poppies on all of your coats. Really, so touching.

Lucy said...

I didn't know about the eleven days of wearing poppies. Very poignant and thanks for posting!

Hannah said...

I have never read that poem and have always wondered about the poppies. What a cool thing to do with your kids and kudos to WWI buffs who take action where they see a need. I would love to be able to take my kids to something like that!

Barb said...

The 11 days of poppy wearing is really just my neurosis about not wanting to overlap holidays so I don't pin on my poppy until after Halloween, but some people start wearing poppies the last week of October.

Michelle @ A Happy Heart said...

This is such a neat thing for this guy to do. I'm so glad this was an experience you and your kids were able to participate in. I've always loved this poem and have it on our living room wall.

Ann said...

Great post. I am living in QC and I did not hear about this??? Thanks for the history. It is sad when kids get the day off (and adults) and they can not tell you the meaning of the holiday. *I found you through SPT... :D feel free to check out my blog

Katie A. said...

Wow, that is a great way to get kids involved in the ceremony. Very neat. When I went to the Hollocaust Museum in Washington DC, they gave us eash passports with the identities of someone who had been in a camp. At the end, we turned to the back page to find out who survived or who did not and what happened. Very effective.

During one of my trainings, they gave us each a commemerative coin-type thing with a similar (or perhaps shortened) poem by John McCrae:

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,
We shall not sleep.

I love it.

Natalie said...

I think I saw a total of 4 poppies in Montreal all week before remembrance day. Apparantly, it's no big deal here. Too bad. Looks like you all had a fun (and educational) day!

cheetah said...


Do you remember Mr. McRae in Elementary School? He taught classes for the kids who had trouble reading. He was Lt.-Col. John McCrae's Grandson.

I just remembered that and thought I would pass it on.


Barb said...

I didn't realize the poppy tradition is stronger in Alberta than in Quebec.
Mark: I totally remember Mr. McCrae, I'm so glad you told me he's the poet's grandson.

carlo said...

wow, that is a moving way to spend the day. the colored papers brings the "life and death" of it to reality.

Tiffany said...

What an amazing experience! (It does look cold! I guess that makes it more realistic--brrr!)

I have heard the poem, but hadn't seen the poppy tradition! What a neat thing to do.

Jenny said...

What a wonderful activity for children. The poem is wonderful, love the poppy tradition also.

melanie said...

Such a memorable 'field trip'. I'm sure the kids will remember what they saw and the color of paper they drew to find out their fate.

jaclyn said...

everyone thinks it looks cold, and it's cracking me up - it was actually rather warm for November

annalisa said...

What a great tradition, and a good experience for your kids.

Tiffany said...

Thank you so much, Barb! That was sure sweet of you!