Remembrance Day 2023

November 12 - Remembrance Day

On November 10, early celebrations for Remembrance day took place at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Academy. After presentations, talks of veterans and songs, all the boys went to the school chapel for a Requiem Mass. Below, you will find some of the texts that were read at this occasion. 

The Poppy

In 1921, the Great War Veterans’ Association, the largest of several Canadian veteran’s groups, adopted the poppy as a symbol of remembrance. The Canadian Legion, formed in 1925, continued this connection. The poppy was worn on the left lapel and close to the heart to recognize the sacrifice of soldiers in times of war. They were initially made by disabled veterans and the proceeds of sales, then and now, go towards funding veterans’ needs.

The poppy remains an enduring symbol of remembrance in Canada, Great Britain, the nations of the Commonwealth, and in the United States for those who served or fell in service of their country.

The blood-red poppy had long been associated with the fighting armies of Europe, and the flowers often overgrew the mass graves left by battles. During the First World War, enormous artillery bombardments completely disrupted the landscape, infusing the chalk soils with lime. The poppies thrived in the environment, their colours standing out against the blasted terrain

The familiar symbol of the poppy owes much of its fame to Canadian poet and soldier John McCrae. In Flanders Fields, McCrae’s best-known poem, was inspired by and made reference to the poppies which grew along the Western Front.

McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario and served as a gunner in the South African War. He was later a professor of medicine and physician at McGill University in Montreal. McCrae enlisted quickly at the outbreak of the First World War, hoping for a position as a gunner, but doctors were in short supply and he accepted an appointment as brigade-surgeon in an artillery brigade.

At the Battle of Second Ypres in April 1915, McCrae spent 17 days caring for the wounded and performing surgery on Canadian and Allied troops. Exhausted and saddened by the death of a close friend, he composed “In Flanders Fields” during a brief rest. It captured the Allies’ belligerent mood and the requirement to “keep faith” with those who had already died.


Letter from a soldier

A letter written by soldier Thomas Harold Watts, June 1915,  during the First World War – to his friend back home.

Dear Arthur,

I expect you are wondering why I have not written, but it is an awful effort to get all correspondence off, and be on active service at the same time. I can’t say that I am enjoying myself out here. It’s awfully hot, and we are eaten up by millions of flies. Life in the trenches is not a picnic either we have about four or five days out of them and eight or nine in them. When we are out supposed to be resting, we have to go on working parties, digging etc., then wherever we are, we are always under shell fire, so it’s not much rest after all. The last shell we had in camp, there was four killed and seventeen wounded.

We have been under fire for three months now, and we should like a rest as the strain is tremendous on one’s nerves. I don’t think the troops in France get it quite as bad. Then again, the only comforts we have are sent from home, as the country here is quite barren, and we cannot buy anything in shops. Our food consists of half a loaf of bread per day, bacon and tea for breakfast, Bully beef and biscuits for dinner and Jam for tea and cheese. It’s awfully disappointing because I do look forward to a bit of chocolate and a few biscuits from home. I get a bath in a biscuit tin when I can, but when in the trenches I have to go all the time without a wash, so you can tell I am used to being dirty.

We live in a trench and it is a mercy it don’t rain otherwise we’d be washed away. The fighting just lately has been terrible. Our shells knock the enemy all ways and the sight in the trenches that we take is awful. We wear our respirators because of the awful smell of the dead. I’ll never get the sight out of my eyes, and it will be an everlasting nightmare. If I am spared to come home, I’ll be able to tell you all about it, but I cannot possibly write as words fail me. I can’t describe things.

How are they all down the club, and is Emmie still there, and is she better or not? Is Paice going to Looe this year? And where are you spending your holidays? Lord how I’d like a holiday, I am so tired and would give anything to get away from this continual banging.

Please remember me to all fellows who are left in the office. I can’t write to all separately, also for details of my experiences you must wait until I get back, if ever I do, of which sometimes I despair.

The papers tell you pretty full accounts, although they are rather anticipating events as to our advancing. Now I must close old chap, and thank you very much for all your kindness. Wishing you all the best

Yours very sincerely,

Harold Watts.