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Honour. Thank. Remember. — A Simple Wooden Cross among Wild Poppies

By University Advancement and Communications Posted: November 10, 2020 8:00 a.m.

“Although the pandemic prevents us from gathering in person at Remembrance Day ceremonies, it does not preclude other forms of remembrance,” says Dr Chase.
“Although the pandemic prevents us from gathering in person at Remembrance Day ceremonies, it does not preclude other forms of remembrance,” says Dr Chase. Photo: U of R Photography

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.

            -- Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae

 

Those are the opening words of the famous First World War poem “In Flanders Fields,” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. It was originally published on December 8, 1915 and was inspired by the funeral of Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, McCrae’s friend and fellow soldier, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium. 

The day before the initial draft of the poem on May 3, 1915, Helmer was killed in battle and buried in a makeshift grave marked with a simple wooden cross standing among wild poppies blooming between the crosses that marked the many graves of fallen soldiers. 

More than 100 years after the poem was published in the British magazine, Punch, millions of people around the world – including members of our University community - wear red poppies at this time of year to mark Remembrance Day on November 11. This act shows support for veterans and their families, and honours those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the name of freedom and in service to their fellow citizens. 

“During the wars of the last century – the World Wars, the Korean war, and other conflicts – thousands of Canadians served our country at home and abroad. Many lost their lives far from home and their loved ones,” says University of Regina Interim President and Vice Chancellor Dr Thomas Chase. 

Among those who gave their lives were Regina College students who died in the First World War. According to the 1917 annual report of the College, “Eighty-four of our students have enlisted and already five of their number, Hugh Allingham, Everett Hunter, Duncan Robertson, G.W. Booth and Sam Rogers, have made the supreme sacrifice.” 

By the time the first Remembrance Day was marked on November 11, 1919, just one year after the end of the war, the College noted, “In all, 128 students, four teachers and three members of the board of governors enlisted; 12 students died in the line of duty.” 

Every year, the University of Regina holds events to mark Remembrance Day and honour the sacrifice of these students and so many other people who served. As a result of COVID-19, this year’s activities will look a little different as the University commemorates this important day through online and remote activities – but this makes them no less important or meaningful. 

“Since March COVID-19 has changed our lives, and will continue to do so for at least the next several months,” Dr Chase says. “Although the pandemic prevents us from gathering in person at Remembrance Day ceremonies, it does not preclude other forms of remembrance.” 

This week, many students, faculty, and staff will wear red poppies as in past years to honour, thank, and remember those who have served and those who lost their lives in service to Canada. The University will mark Remembrance Day by lighting the campus sign at the southwest entrance in red for the week, and by lowering the Canadian flag to half-mast in line with other public institutions. The University is also promoting the Royal Canadian Legion's digital poppy campaign and, on behalf of the University, the Regina chapter of the Legion will be laying a wreath at the Regina Cenotaph during its ceremonies on November 11.

The University invites everyone to join the campus community through the Digital Poppy campaign at mypoppy.ca/ and show your thanks and respect to those who have dedicated their lives to serving Canada and Canadians. Lest we forget. 

Related   

Remembrance Day is a time to look back on Regina College students who died in the First World War
U of R grads who served in the military talk about their experiences