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Forget-me-not

Andy Barker
Andy Barker

My learning curve now includes knowing the wearing of the red poppy for Remembrance Day had its origins in the USA.

Its first use was initiated by Moina Belle Michael (1869-1944) in New York City on Nov. 9, 1918, two days prior to the Armistice to end the First World War. The inspiration to use the poppy was based on her poem “We Shall Keep The Faith” which she had written in response to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field”.

The poppy was adopted by the American Legion in Moina's home state, Georgia in August 1920 and by the national American Legion at its Cleveland convention in September 1920.

A woman from France at that Cleveland convention, Madame Anna E Guérin, was instrumental in spreading Moina's poppy idea to France and Canada. As well, in 1921 she met with Field Marshal Douglas Haig (Haig Road in this town), founder and president of the British Legion and persuaded him to take on the red poppy. Other Commonwealth countries including Australia and New Zealand came on board as well.

Moina was a professor at the University of Georgia. However, she was so highly dedicated to establishing the poppy as the flower of remembrance, and selling them to help American First World War veterans, that she became known as the Poppy Lady.

Moina was honoured in many ways: Distinguished Service Medal from the American Legion; WWII Liberty Ship - SS Moina Michael; a three cent stamp of her was issued by the US Post Office in 1948; a marble bust of her is in the rotunda of the State Capitol - Atlanta, Georgia; a street bears her name in her home town Good Hope, Georgia; and a section of US Highway 78 in Georgia (Athens to Monroe) is designated as the Moina Michael Highway.

America has two celebrations for its military, Nov. 11: Veterans Day and the last Monday in May: Memorial Day. Americans who choose to wear poppies will wear them on Memorial Day.

While Americans specifically honour their war dead on Memorial Day, Newfoundlanders honour our war dead on Memorial Sunday, the closest Sunday to July 1 and Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.

Newfoundland began to honour its war dead on July 1, 1917 on the first anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. That battle and all the deaths and causalities (1480 dead, 2480 wounded) on the land and sea in World War One was a shocking blow for the little independent country of Newfoundland with 241,000 people.

The red poppy was not embraced in the Dominion of Newfoundland as the forget-me-not, a little blue flower, was cherished here from the end of the Great War to long afterwards. People still wore forget-me-nots on Memorial Sunday in my boyhood of the early 1950's.

Some historians are of the opinion that the First World War shouldn't have happened. Thus, might we have avoided all the deaths and destruction of not just that war but the Second World War and wars in Korea and Vietnam as Hitler and communism (Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam) appeared on the world stage during or after the First World War? Might we have avoided nuclear weapons and the Cold War? Might Newfoundland, with no huge First World War debt to pay, still be an independent country?

The First World War and the wars and revolutions that followed it have been a great tragedy for the human race — millions on top of millions killed, and billions upon top of billions of every currency spent to finance war or rebuild after war.

The wars and revolutions in the last century had many repercussions. Thus, with all the war actions in Syria and other areas of the Middle and Far East, you have to wonder what is coming our way?

Hopefully, countries in those areas of the world will take their cue from the new Europe where for centuries prior to 1945 war was almost a seasonal sport with killing, pillaging and looting a pastime.

However, the new Europe (minus Putin) is much different as the UK gets ready to leave the European Economic Union – Brexit; it's not by the guns of war, but by stressful, yet peaceful, discussions to end the financial arrangement. That's progress.

In the meantime, the commemoration of Remembrance Day is so sad, as it reminds us of all who died oh so young. They did not live to enjoy the fullness of life they should have had on earth. The poppy with its red and black is appropriately symbolic as the blood and blackness of war is a plague upon the human race.

Newfoundland's original flower of remembrance, the forget-me-not, by its name reminds us to never forget all those who died in war. Yet, at the same time, its colour blue, symbolizes hope for a better tomorrow, a better world.

Such a hope was eloquently expressed by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Allied Commander Europe, 4 Star General, Second World War) who said in his departing address on Jan 17, 1961, "We pray that people of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied...and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love".

Pity the ways of old Europe, not the new Europe, are all still too common in the world.

 

 

Andy Barker can be contacted at abdp9@hotmail.com

Its first use was initiated by Moina Belle Michael (1869-1944) in New York City on Nov. 9, 1918, two days prior to the Armistice to end the First World War. The inspiration to use the poppy was based on her poem “We Shall Keep The Faith” which she had written in response to John McCrae’s “In Flanders Field”.

The poppy was adopted by the American Legion in Moina's home state, Georgia in August 1920 and by the national American Legion at its Cleveland convention in September 1920.

A woman from France at that Cleveland convention, Madame Anna E Guérin, was instrumental in spreading Moina's poppy idea to France and Canada. As well, in 1921 she met with Field Marshal Douglas Haig (Haig Road in this town), founder and president of the British Legion and persuaded him to take on the red poppy. Other Commonwealth countries including Australia and New Zealand came on board as well.

Moina was a professor at the University of Georgia. However, she was so highly dedicated to establishing the poppy as the flower of remembrance, and selling them to help American First World War veterans, that she became known as the Poppy Lady.

Moina was honoured in many ways: Distinguished Service Medal from the American Legion; WWII Liberty Ship - SS Moina Michael; a three cent stamp of her was issued by the US Post Office in 1948; a marble bust of her is in the rotunda of the State Capitol - Atlanta, Georgia; a street bears her name in her home town Good Hope, Georgia; and a section of US Highway 78 in Georgia (Athens to Monroe) is designated as the Moina Michael Highway.

America has two celebrations for its military, Nov. 11: Veterans Day and the last Monday in May: Memorial Day. Americans who choose to wear poppies will wear them on Memorial Day.

While Americans specifically honour their war dead on Memorial Day, Newfoundlanders honour our war dead on Memorial Sunday, the closest Sunday to July 1 and Remembrance Day, Nov. 11.

Newfoundland began to honour its war dead on July 1, 1917 on the first anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel. That battle and all the deaths and causalities (1480 dead, 2480 wounded) on the land and sea in World War One was a shocking blow for the little independent country of Newfoundland with 241,000 people.

The red poppy was not embraced in the Dominion of Newfoundland as the forget-me-not, a little blue flower, was cherished here from the end of the Great War to long afterwards. People still wore forget-me-nots on Memorial Sunday in my boyhood of the early 1950's.

Some historians are of the opinion that the First World War shouldn't have happened. Thus, might we have avoided all the deaths and destruction of not just that war but the Second World War and wars in Korea and Vietnam as Hitler and communism (Russia, China, Korea, Vietnam) appeared on the world stage during or after the First World War? Might we have avoided nuclear weapons and the Cold War? Might Newfoundland, with no huge First World War debt to pay, still be an independent country?

The First World War and the wars and revolutions that followed it have been a great tragedy for the human race — millions on top of millions killed, and billions upon top of billions of every currency spent to finance war or rebuild after war.

The wars and revolutions in the last century had many repercussions. Thus, with all the war actions in Syria and other areas of the Middle and Far East, you have to wonder what is coming our way?

Hopefully, countries in those areas of the world will take their cue from the new Europe where for centuries prior to 1945 war was almost a seasonal sport with killing, pillaging and looting a pastime.

However, the new Europe (minus Putin) is much different as the UK gets ready to leave the European Economic Union – Brexit; it's not by the guns of war, but by stressful, yet peaceful, discussions to end the financial arrangement. That's progress.

In the meantime, the commemoration of Remembrance Day is so sad, as it reminds us of all who died oh so young. They did not live to enjoy the fullness of life they should have had on earth. The poppy with its red and black is appropriately symbolic as the blood and blackness of war is a plague upon the human race.

Newfoundland's original flower of remembrance, the forget-me-not, by its name reminds us to never forget all those who died in war. Yet, at the same time, its colour blue, symbolizes hope for a better tomorrow, a better world.

Such a hope was eloquently expressed by US President Dwight D. Eisenhower (Allied Commander Europe, 4 Star General, Second World War) who said in his departing address on Jan 17, 1961, "We pray that people of all faiths, all races, all nations, may have their great human needs satisfied...and that, in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love".

Pity the ways of old Europe, not the new Europe, are all still too common in the world.

 

 

Andy Barker can be contacted at abdp9@hotmail.com

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