A Moment to remember
Poems and Stories
A CANADIAN MOMENT
by William Bedford
The plaintive wail of the pipes
and the beat of the muffled drum
echo in the morning mist.
The Maple Leaf snaps in the breeze
above the bowed heads of the
mourners while John McCrae's
immortal words are read.
As the bugler sounds the Last Post,
the youngsters fidget,
and look forward to playtime.
The oldsters shuffle, and look backward
The past and the future
of this blessed land
at the 11th hour
on the 11th day
of the 11th month
for a Canadian moment.
OF BATTLES PAST, BATTLES NOW
AND BATTLES YET TO COME.
Vimy Ridge. The Battle of Britain.
The Battle of the Atlantic.
Hong Kong. Dieppe. Sicily. Juno Beach.
The Falaise Gap.
The Liberation of Holland. Kap Yung.
These are just some
of the battles long ago
that are etched in Canada's collective
Battles lost and battles won,
in blinding snows and blazing sun.
Sadly, we now add new names to
Our memory bank: Kosovo. The Gulf. Khandahar.
Sadder still, there will, inevitably,
be future battles and more names to
remember on each chilly November morn.
But remember them we shall.
Remember them we must.
A Canadian Moment
THE PLAINTIVE WAIL OF THE PIPES
AND THE SOFT BEAT OF THE
ECHO IN THE MORNING MIST.
THE MAPLE LEAF SNAPS IN THE WIND
ABOVE THE BOWED HEADS OF THE MOURNERS
WHILE THE WORDS OF JOHN MCRAE'S
IMMORTAL POEM: "IN FLANDERS FIELD." ARE READ.
AS THE BUGLER SOUNDS THE LAST POST
THE YOUNGSTERS FIDGET, AND
LOOK FORWARD TO PLAYTIME.
THE OLDSTERS SHUFFLE, COUGH
AND LOOK BACKWARD TO WARTIME
THE PAST AND FUTURE OF THIS
BLESSED LAND MINGLE HERE
AT THE ELEVENTH HOUR
ON THE ELEVENTH DAY
OF THE ELEVENTH MONTH.
LEST WE FORGET.
THE FINAL INSPECTION
The soldier stood and faced God,
Which must always come to pass.
He hoped his shoes were shining,
Just as brightly as his brass.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
How shall I deal with you ?
Have you always turned the other cheek ?
To My Church have you been true?"
The soldier squared his shoulders and said,
"No, Lord, I guess I ain't.
Because those of us who carry guns,
Can't always be a saint.
I've had to work most Sundays,
And at times my talk was tough.
And sometimes I've been violent,
Because the world is awfully rough.
But, I never took a penny,
That wasn't mine to keep...
Though I worked a lot of overtime,
When the bills got just too steep.
And I never passed a cry for help,
Though at times I shook with fear.
And sometimes, God, forgive me,
I've wept unmanly tears.
I know I don't deserve a place,
Among the people here.
They never wanted me around,
Except to calm their fears.
If you've a place for me here, Lord,
It needn't be so grand.
I never expected or had too much,
But if you don't, I'll understand.
There was a silence all around the throne,
Where the saints had often trod.
As the soldier waited quietly,
For the judgment of his God.
"Step forward now, you soldier,
You've borne your burdens well.
Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,
You've done your time in Hell."
It's the Military, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of the press. It's the Military, not the poet, who has given us the freedom of speech. It's the Military, not the politicians that ensures our right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It's the Military who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.
If you care to offer the smallest token of recognition and appreciation for the Military, please pass this on and pray for our men and women who have served and are currently serving our country and pray for those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for freedom.
Long ago and far away
across the ocean
wild and wide,
the young men stormed
an alien shore
where many of them died.
Here and now
old men remember
the valor and the gore,
and the boyish faces
of their youth
that are young for ever more
In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918),Canadian Army
IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
the crosses row on row,
mark our place; and in the sky
larks, still bravely singing, fly
heard amid the guns below.
are the Dead. Short days ago
lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
and were loved, and now we lie
up our quarrel with the foe:
you from failing hands we throw
torch; be yours to hold it high.
ye break faith with us who die
shall not sleep, though poppies grow
McCrae's "In Flanders Fields" remains to this
day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy
of the terrible battle in the Ypres salient in the spring of 1915. Here
is the story of the making of that poem:
Although he had been a doctor for years and
had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the
suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen
and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime.
As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery
Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after
graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating
injured men -- Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans -- in the
It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought
possible. McCrae later wrote of it:
"I wish I could embody on paper some of the
varied sensations of that seventeen days... Seventeen days of Hades! At
the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen
days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been
One death particularly affected McCrae. A young
friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed
by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that
day in the little cemetery outside McCrae's dressing station, and McCrae
had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain.
The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance
parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l'Yser, just a few
hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a
poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical
texts besides dabbling in poetry.
In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the
wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and
he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines
of verse in a notebook.
A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril
Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that
day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached,
then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. "His
face was very tired but calm as we wrote," Allinson recalled. "He looked
around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer's grave."
When McCrae finished five minutes later, he
took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad
to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:
"The poem was exactly an exact description
of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because
the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind.
It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It
seemed to me just an exact description of the scene."
In fact, it was very nearly not published.
Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer
retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London,
rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.