2021 – 100 Years of the Poppy Campaign

By Melissa Cole, Curator

From the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day, millions of Canadians wear a poppy as a visual pledge to never forget those who sacrificed for our freedom. This campaign goes back to 1921 when the poppy was adopted as a symbol of Remembrance by the British Legion. When the Royal British Legion adopted the poppy in 1921, so to did several other countries including Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States.

The idea for the Remembrance Poppy was conceived by Madame Anna Guérin of France. She was inspired by John McCrae’s poem “In Flanders Fields.” Anna had originally founded a charity to help rebuild regions of France torn apart by the First World War and created beautiful poppies made of fabric to raise funds.

The poppy was adopted in Canada on July 6, 1921, when Madame Guérin presented her concept to France’s allies, including The Great War Veterans Association, today’s Royal Canadian Legion. 

Poppies are a universal symbol of remembrance and sacrifice.  The tradition of wearing a poppy to honour veterans takes place in different countries around the world. Each country has tailored a unique design; therefore, poppies differ from country to country.

Poppies are frequently sent to and worn by expatriates living in other countries in Europe and beyond.  The English Poppy, produced by the Royal British Legion, is the poppy that is shipped out to different countries where expatriates live.  The English poppy worn in England, Wales and Northern Ireland has two petals, a green leaf and a black centre.  The Scottish poppy is similar, made of paper with a plastic centre, four petals and no green leaf.  The removal of the green leaf allowed for more funds to be directed to veterans and their families. 

Our poppy in Canada is sold by the Royal Canadian Legion, is made of moulded plastic covered in flocking.  The red piece of the poppy contains indents to mark four petals and contains a black centre.  The black centre was changed from green around 2001. 

The Royal Canadian Legion’s Poppy Campaign Posters.  These posters form part of a collection that was displayed each year in honour of Remembrance Day, in the front window at Mike’s Place, a local business located in downtown Oshawa.  The collection includes posters, brochures, two wreaths, and various styles of poppies.  

The poppy remains a 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.


Resources

https://www.britishlegion.org.uk/

https://www.legion.ca/remembrance/the-poppy/history-of-the-poppy

www.cmfmag.ca/history/poppies-from-around-the-world/

Where The Streets Get Their Names – The Poppy on the Signs

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

This is the time of year when we remember.  From late October to November 11, as a sign of respect and remembrance, I wear a poppy on my left lapel, honouring those who fought for Canada’s freedom.  If you drive around Oshawa, you might notice that poppies can be seen year round, on certain street signs: Vimy Avenue, Verdun Road, Veterans Road, Spencely Drive, Chadburn Street, to name only a few.  Some streets, like Vimy and Verdun, have been named as such for several years; the poppy is a newer addition, signifying that the street’s name is in honour of a battle, veteran, or one of Oshawa’s war dead.

The poppy has been a symbol of remembrance since the Napoleonic wars, however, a poem written by Canadian soldier John McCrae helped to solidify its position in our collective memory.  After the death of a friend, McCrae was moved by his grief and his surroundings, and he penned the 15 lined poem in 20 minutes.

The poppy was adopted by the Great War Veteran’s Association in Canada (later the Royal Canadian Legion) as its official Flower of Remembrance on July 5, 1921.  Lapel poppies began being made in 1922 and are still sold every fall leading up to November 11.

Vimy & Verdun
Vimy & Verdun

In the 1920s, Oshawa saw growth in our city, not only in population, but also in urban planning, for it was during the 1920s that Verdun Road, Vimy Avenue, St. Julien Street, Courcellette Avenue, St. Eloi Avenue, and Festhurbert Street appeared.  These streets have been named in honour of significant World War I battles. Interestingly, as was seen with Phillip Murray Avenue and Gibb Street, the spelling of Festhubert Avenue has changed over the years.  The spelling was originally Festubert, which accurately reflects the spelling of the Battle of Festubert.  As well, St. Julien is no longer in use; sometime between 1954 and 1956 the City consolidated three consecutive streets into one name. Yonge Street and St. Julian St. all became known as Oshawa Blvd.

Dunkirk Avenue
Dunkirk Avenue

Located northwest of Wilson Road and Highway 401 is a cluster of streets, including Normandy Street, Dunkirk Avenue, Dieppe Avenue, Sedan Court, and Brest Court, all named for battle sites in France during World War II.  They were named in the mid-1950s.

Since 2003, it has been a policy of the City of Oshawa to name streets within new subdivision plans in honour of individuals who lived in Oshawa and died fighting for their country. Many of such streets can be found north of Taunton Rd. E. and west of Harmony Rd. N.

A nomination form can be filled out with information that includes length of service, community service and length of residency in Oshawa, and handed into City Hall to be considered for the street name reserve list; this list is used for the naming of new street subdivisions.

If used, the war dead/veteran’s name will be put on a street sign with a poppy motif. Nomination forms can be found on the City of Oshawa’s webpage.

In April 2015, Chick Hewett Lane became the 51st street named for an Oshawa Veteran, named in honour of a local veteran who flew 35 bombing missions during the Second World War.

It may be a small gesture, but by naming certain streets after battles or soldiers, this helps to keep their efforts at the forefront, and it is one of the many ways that we show our respect and remember their sacrifices.  Lest we forget.

%d bloggers like this: