Lt. Col. John McRae was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 1872. On May 3rd, 1915, he penned one of the most famous of World War I poems, ‘In Flanders Field,’ commemorating forever the bravery of those who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, McRae, a physician, died of pneumonia in France in 1918.
Since 1922, the poppy has been worn by thousands of Canadians in tribute to our fallen heroes. Initially the poppy campaign provided a source of employment and income for those who had fought in the Great War. Today, the annual campaign funds programs for veterans through the Royal Canadian Legion.
On May 17, 1916, young Jimmy Gammie, my great granduncle, left his farm to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Maybe he had seen the posters stating, “Your Chums are Fighting, Why Aren’t You?” All of 5 feet, 8 inches in height, Jimmy, who joined with his brother Peter, would fight in France with the 46th Battalion. He would know what it was like to hear bullets whistle as they closely passed, he would know the sound and vibrations of bombs exploding, he would know the pain of being wounded, and after recovering, he would know the fear of returning to the front lines. He would know dieing for his country. Jimmy never returned to his farm, there was no repatriation ceremony for him.
Jimmy’s grave, pictured below, marked for all to remember him.
Jimmy is buried in France, not in Flanders Field but in the Bucquoy Road Cemetery, near Arras, with too many of his comrades, not far from the bridge he was fighting to gain.
James Little Triggs was even younger, only 15 years of age and just under 5 feet in height, when he and his twin brother Phillip, followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy as cabin boys. On May 31, 1916, James didn’t see the shells coming, as he toiled away below deck, that would sink his mighty battleship and end his young life.
Today at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them along with those who did survive but who have had lives filled with memories of the terrors of war. And we remember those still fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom.