WORLD WAR 1: 1914 TO 1918
WORLD WAR 2: 1939 TO 1945
BORDER WAR: 1966 to 1994
By Lt Col. John McCrae (1892-1918),
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That marked our places, 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.
"In Flanders Fields" is one of the most notable poems written during World War I, created in the form of a French rondeau. It has been called "the most popular poem" produced during that period.
Canadian physician and Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae is popularly believed to have written it on 3 May 1915, after he witnessed the death of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, 22 years old, the day before.
The poem was first published on 8 December of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.
Since then the poem and the poppy has become symbols of remembering the terrible carnage of World War 1 and all wars since then.
11 November: Remembrance day.
November seems to be the month of anniversaries and remembrances - particularly the date 11/11 which has such significance for all those that has ever worn a uniform. The symbol of the Poppy is to be seen everywhere - on lapel badges, on the television and on the electronic media as people change their Facebook profiles to the poppy.
Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day or Armistice Day) is a memorial day observed in most Commonwealth countries since the end of World War I to remember the members of their armed forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty.
Remembrance Day is observed on the 11th of November to recall the end of hostilities of World War I on that date in 1918.
Hostilities formally ended "at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month," in accordance with the Armistice, signed by representatives of Germany and the Entente between 5:12 and 5:20 that morning. Although signed at approximate 5:20 the armistice only came into effect at 11:00 in order to give all the Armies enough time to inform their frontline units of the cease fire.
The date of 11h00 on 11 November 1918 has become synonymous with remembrance and 2 minutes silence is usually observed at 11h00 on 11 November in remembrance of all fallen soldiers of all wars. In South Africa memorial parades are held on the Sunday closest to 11 November.
The Armistice of 1918 was signed in the forest of Compiegne, in dining car 2419 of the Orient Express. It was kept there as a museum until it was re-used by the Germans in 1940 for the signing of the French surrender to the Germans. It was destroyed by SS troops in 1945 to prevent its capture by the Allies.
Significance of the poppy:
The area of Flanders consists of almost the whole Western part of Belgium. It saw some of the heaviest and bloodiest battles of the terrible First World War, between 1914 and 1918. There was complete devastation as whole towns, roads, farms and all natural life simply disappeared into a sea of mud and became a huge and muddy graveyard.
The only living thing that survived this sea of mud was the poppy. Poppies only geminate and flower in disturbed soil, and the colourful flowering of the poppies with the advent of the warm spring weather would bring some small joy to those still alive among the carnage. The poem - "In Flanders Fields" originates from this.
Flanders is also the only area on earth where red poppies grow. All other poppies in the rest of the world are white. According to legend it is the blood of all the soldiers that coloured the poppies red in this specific area. As such the red poppy has become the symbol of fallen soldiers.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them”