Home Town Heroes | Why Wear a Poppy? | My Dearest Belle: World War I Letters | Holding Down the Homefront: 100 Year-old Archives
Early Remembrance Day poppies were made of cloth, often by disabled Great War veterans. © Parks Canada
Home Town Heroes - Why Wear a Poppy?
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row.”
—Lieutenant John McCrae
Why do you wear a poppy? Maybe your parents, grandparents or teachers told you to wear one. “Put it on for two weeks before Remembrance Day,” they might have instructed. “Pin it over your heart.”
Prepare to feel a deeper connection to this tradition. From November 1 to November 11, 2015, Fort Rodd Hill will share photos and stories of ordinary home town heroes. Follow on the website, Facebook or Twitter.
Why do you really wear a poppy? To remember people who died in the World Wars and other conflicts. To remember Fred the farm boy from Lizard Lake, Lewis the twenty year-old boilermaker from Winnipeg and Charles, the 43 year-old single accountant from Victoria.
Early Remembrance Day poppies were made of cloth, often by disabled Great War veterans.
This poppy with a golden maple leaf was worn to Vimy Ridge in France during the 1936 pilgrimage. Surviving veterans and next-of-kin of those who were killed were invited to the official opening of the Vimy monument.
Reason 11 of 11
Hugh Hampton © Parks Canada
Hugh Hampton, a 16 year-old painter’s apprentice who lived on Hillside Avenue in Victoria, lied about his age when he volunteered for overseas service, saying he was 18.
Trained as a machine-gunner, he was cooking for members of his platoon behind the front line near Arras, France, when he was badly wounded by an enemy artillery shell. He died of his wounds the same day August 9, 1918, aged 19.
Reason 10 of 11
Fred Kenney © Parks Canada
Fred Kenney, of Chicago, Illinois, came north to Toronto join the Canadian Army before the U.S. entered the war, as did thousands of other Americans. A stonecutter by trade, he was killed during an attack on Rosiers, France, by his unit on August 9, 1918. The diary of the 4th Battalion notes that “Many gallant acts were performed by all ranks in the face of extremely severe machine-gun fire.”
His sister in Victoria, B.C. was sent this official photograph of his grave, shortly after the war. The original wooden crosses were replaced with stone markers in the 1920s.
Reason 9 of 11
Don Bowes © Parks Canada
Don Bowes (at left) of Winnipeg loved to sneak out of camp to go dancing. His squadron of Royal Canadian Air Force Lancaster bombers was ordered to attack a target near Hamburg, Germany on March 31, 1945—just five weeks before the Second World War ended.
It was a daylight raid, and Bowes’ aircraft of 419 Squadron was late over the target; his fighter escorts had to leave due to low fuel. A small group of German jet fighters attacked, and Bowes’ aircraft—along with eight others—was shot down. Three of the seven aircrew parachuted, but Don Bowes, age 21, did not.
Robert Selby Graham © Parks Canada
Reason 8 of 11
21 year-old Robert Selby Graham was a store clerk in Winnipeg before joining the Army. He wound up serving in the 16th Canadian Scottish, of Victoria. Wounded during the battle for Vimy Ridge, he was evacuated to a hospital in England, where he died of his wounds.
His mother, as only next-of-kin, received this aluminum identity disc that her son was wearing on the day he was wounded.
Canadian war graves in the shadow of Vimy Ridge, about six months after the battle, 1917.
Major Conn Smythe © Parks Canada
Reason 7 of 11
Many well-known hockey players joined the military in the Second World War, some serving in a “Sportsmans’ Battalion” commanded by Major Conn Smythe.
Wounded in Normandy after D-Day, Smythe had also seen action in the Great War: as an artillery officer and as an air observer in the Royal Flying Corps.
He was awarded a Military Cross for gallantry at Vimy Ridge. After his aircraft was shot down, he became a prisoner of war—and wound up in solitary confinement after two unsuccessful escape attempts.
Charles Adams© Parks Canada
Reason 6 of 11
At 43, Charles Adams would have been like a father to many of the younger men in his company of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. An accountant, and a single man, he lived with his mother on Gorge Road in Victoria before the war.
He sent this hand-embroidered silk postcard home from France to a lady friend after carrying it into the trenches only a few weeks before he was killed in the big attack on Vimy Ridge, April 9th, 1917. He is buried in La Chaudiere Cemetery, in the shadow of the Ridge.
Adams postcard text: “France, Feb 2/17. Dear Mrs Hewlings,
I have carried this card for you for some time and have carried it up to this front in the trenches, where Fritz startles us once in a while, the desperate old rat that he is. What a grim effort he is going to make which will be the last.
With best wishes to you all for 1917, yours sincerely, C.E. Adams 227750 B Coy. 2nd C.M.R.”
[Coy is Company, and C.M.R’ is Canadian Mounted Rifles.]
Winnipeg Grenadiers © Parks Canada
Reason 5 of 11
Happy to be alive, these soldiers of the Winnipeg Grenadiers smile on board a hospital ship in 1945 after being liberated from nearly four years in Japanese prison camps.
Sent in 1941 to defend Hong Kong, they were captured when that city fell on Christmas Day. During their captivity, they faced starvation, disease, torture and being used as slave labour in shipyards and mines.
Lewis Shipman © Parks Canada
Reason 4 of 11
Lewis Shipman was a 20 year-old boilermaker in Winnipeg when he joined the Army and became a medic, proudly wearing the red cross. He was serving on board the Canadian Hospital Ship Llandovery Castle, returning from Halifax to England when it was struck by a torpedo from a German submarine. 234 lives were lost, including 14 Canadian Nursing Sisters.
The attack on the unarmed, well-lit ship was considered one of the worst atrocities of the Great War; the captain and several officers were brought to trial in 1919.
The victims of the attack have no known graves, and are commemorated on the Halifax Memorial.
Frieda Hazenfratz © Parks Canada
Reason 3 of 11
Frieda Hazenfratz, a young Victoria woman, sewed three cigarettes into this letter to her friend, Frank Dunn, serving in France. He never received them. Dunn, aged 27, was killed on September 23, 1917, near Ypres, Belgium. The letter was returned to her with the stark note “Killed in Action” pencilled on the envelope.
Dunn lies buried alongside many of his men, just outside Wijtschate, in Belgium (known to the troops as “Whitesheet”).
Young Cliff Logan of Victoria © Parks Canada
Reason 2 of 11
Young Cliff Logan of Victoria joined the Royal Canadian Navy when the Second World War began. It must have been a great adventure, being posted to the destroyer HMCS Fraser in Esquimalt and sailing across to Europe.
During the confused and hurried evacuation of British troops from France in June of 1940, HMCS Fraser was accidentally rammed by British cruiser HMS Calcutta. Cliff and 44 crewmates were lost in the cold waters of the English Channel. He was 21 years old, and has no known grave.
Fred Giles © Parks Canada
Reason 1 of 11
Fred Giles was a farm boy from Lizzard Lake, Saskatchewan. He joined up when he was 17, and found himself in Belgium in October, 1917 for the Third Battle of Ypres—better known as Passchendaele.
During the attack across a sea of mud, Fred disappeared. He has no known grave, and 18 year-old Fred’s name appears on the Menin Gate Memorial for the missing in Ypres.