Given Canadian John McCrae’s contribution to Madame Guérin’s scheme, with his inspiring ‘In Flanders Field’ poem, it was only fitting that Canada should play a pivotal role in the acceptance of the poppy emblem by Empire countries … and this Canada did very well indeed. Canada was the first Empire country to adopt and it set an important precedent for all other Empire countries to follow.
By the end of May 1921, Anna Guérin (Madame E. Guérin) was in Canada – all ready to commence organising a Canadian version of her League … ‘Canadian-Franco Children’s League’. The Toronto Star for that day reported that she, “The Poppy Lady of France”, had arrived on a “special mission to speak to the conventions of the National Chapter, I.O.D.E.* and the Catholic Women’s League of Canada on behalf of the women and children of the war devastated areas of her own country, “the real martyrs of the war.”” Actually, Canada probably knew little of Anna, or nothing of her, before she arrived. (*I.O.D.E. = Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire).
But earlier, on 22 April 1921, the Winnipeg Tribune reported that, at the 9th Annual Meeting of the Winnipeg Chapter of the I.O.D.E. (at the Fort Garry hotel, Winnipeg) “A resolution was sent to the National I.O.D.E. , asking it to adopt “Poppy Day” as a feature of Armistice Day to raise funds for the War Memorial in all parts of Canada.” (The author has this persistent niggle that perhaps Anna Guérin had visited Canada (Winnipeg?) before late May).
On 21 May 1920, the Winnipeg Tribune reported that “To honor the soldier dead on Decoration Day, June 5, the Public Parks board was authorized today to arrange for a supply of floral tributes to be placed on graves of soldiers who died both in the Great War and other wars. The city finance committee will make a grant of $150 to defray expenses.
A large wreath will be placed on the cenotaph and soldiers graves in all cemeteries will be decorated with flowers. Winnipeg Chapters of the I.O.D.E. to deck the graves with flags and red poppies.”
On 01 June 1921, in the evening, Madame Guérin addressed a meeting of the Catholic Women’s League of Canada at (Knights of?) Columbus Hall, in Toronto. The Toronto Daily Star (02 June) included a paragraph about her part within first annual convention of the League: “Madame E. Guerin of the Franco-Canadian Children’s League of France, was introduced. She made a touching appeal on behalf of the children and women of the war devastated areas in France, urging the wearing of a red poppy on armistice memorial day in memory “of your boys and our boys who sleep side by side in Flanders field.”
Immediately adjacent to the Catholic Women’s article was a small piece specifically about Anna, printed below an image of Anna. The text read:- MADAME E. GUERIN, representing the French branch of the Inter-Allied Children’s League, who made a touching appeal last evening to the Catholic Women’s League of Canada on behalf of the women and children of the war-devastated areas of France. She tells of poppies made to be sold by the women and children for wearing on armistice day as a memorial to “the boys of Canada and the boys of France who sleep side by side in Flanders field.”
It is believed Anna also spoke to the Great War Veterans’ Association’s women’s auxiliary. All the speeches were prior to approaching the Canadian G.W.V.A. veterans with her poppy concept of a ‘Poppy Day’ donor-recognition replica to be worn nationwide for Armistice Day – the profits of which, this time in Canada, were to be shared ‘twixt French children and Canadian veterans. Anna could go before the G.W.V.A. (the largest veteran organisation in Canada) confident in the knowledge that these women’s groups had endorsed the poppy idea and were prepared to be the back-bone of selling/distributing Anna’s silk poppies.
On 13 June 1921, while all this was happening in Canada, Anna Guérin’s husband (Constant Charles) Eugène Guérin was presented with the award ‘Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur’ by le Grand Chancelier, in Paris, France.
On 04 July 1921, Anna was a guest at the Great War Veterans’ Association luncheon and, in the afternoon, she addressed the Dominion Executive Committee. This occurred at the Prince Arthur Hotel in Port Arthur (now-Thunder Bay), Ontario where their two day conference was being held. In her Synopsis of 1941, Anna wrote: “It was thus decided that I should go first to Canada and Colonel Galbraith gave me a letter for the National President of the Canadian Veterans introducing Mme E, Guerin – Originator Of the National Popy’s Days etc etc .”
The Port Arthur News Chronicle (04 July) promoted the veterans’ conference “upwards of thirty delegates are attending … from each Province, met to outline the work of the Conference and draw up the various committees.” One of the attending “Delegates” on the list within the article was “Madam de Guerin, France”.
Adjacent to the article about the Conference, a piece specific about Anna appeared, headed “Madame Guerin would have Canadians Sell Poppies To Help French Orphans.”
“Madame Anna E. Guerin, called “The Poppy Lady of France.” is in Port Arthur today to ask the Dominion Executive Committee of the Great War Veterans for co-operation in making Armistice Day, November 11, a Poppy Day throughout Canada. Scarlet poppies made by the women and children of France, would be sold from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans on that day and the proceeds would benefit the 450,000 children in devastated areas of France, and the veteran of Canada. She hopes to make it an annual movement.
Madame Guerin, in an interview at noon today, pointed out that John McCrae’s world-known lines: “In Flanders fields the poppies grow. Between the crosses, row on row” had begun the movement. The verses in translated form are read in every school of France. On Armistice Day, when red poppies will be distributed throughout Canada, French children will lay wreaths of the bright flowers on the graves in France of 55,000 Canadians.
If she succeeds today in enlisting the War Veterans support in her work, Madame Guerin will leave Port Arthur Wednesday for Toronto, where she will begin preparations for “Warriors’ Day” at the Toronto Exhibition. Leaving the program there in the hands of two French organizers, she will proceed almost immediately to England to ask the Prince of Wales to become head of the Poppy Day movement in England.
In Port Arthur today Madame wore the blue-grey uniform and tam of the French Blue Devils. On her breast were pinned the purple ribbon, with which she was decorated by General Gallieni, this making her one of the youngest officers of the French Academy, and, also, the decoration of Officer of French Education. She was a guest at the Veterans’ luncheon in the Prince Arthur hotel today, and this afternoon outlined her plans to the G.W.V.A. Dominion Executive.”
On the same day (04 July), the Vancouver Daily World newspaper printed a short article of a couple of paragraphs … the second read “Madame Guerin, of Paris, who has been on this continent doing work on behalf of the French war orphans and widows will address the conference , laying before it a proposal to hold an annual sale of poppies on Armistice Day, or some other suitable occasion, the funds to be used for the first few years for the French widows and orphans, and afterward for such purposes as may be decided.”
In commemoration of the seventeenth anniversary of that momentous day of 04 July 1921 was commemorated with a plaque displayed at the Prince Arthur Hotel, in 1991.
On 05 July 1921, the Ottawa Journal gave Anna a paragraph within an article about the GWVA gathering: “Madame Guerin explained that her mission was to co-operate, in an unofficial capacity, with the Graves Registration Department in the direction of assisting relatives to place little tokens of intimate and personal remembrances on the last resting place of their dear ones.”; The Winnipeg Tribune wrote “The conference suspended its session to give welcome to Madame Guerin, “The Poppy Lady of France”, who asked the executive to place its sanction on a proposal to observe Armistice Day as Poppy Day in memory of the fallen.”
The same day, Anna Guérin’s proposal of the previous day was being discussed by the GWVA veterans. A motion was then passed to adopt the poppy emblem and wear it on Armistice Day. The G.W.V.A. Dominion Executive Committee officially approved it on 06 July 1921 and, in doing so, Canada was the first of the Empire countries to accept Madame Anna Guérin’s ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ scheme. (Lieut. Colonel David Ratz, C.D., M.A. acknowledged for clarifying the facts/dates by consulting the GWVA’s Committee Minutes).
A couple of days later, on 08 July 1921, the Los Angeles Herald belatedly heard and printed: “Canadians to Wear Red Silk Poppies. TORONTO. Ont. July 8.—Two million red silk poppies, made by French women and children, will be worn in Canada on Armistice Day, if plans which Madame Anna E. Guerin of Paris. France, now has under consideration are adopted. The proceeds from the sale of the poppies will be sent to France for the French children.”
An article headed ‘The Symbol Of Our Gratitude (The story of the Poppy) in the Western Star of Corner Brook, Newfoundland’ (02 November 1951) recalled what it believed to be the earliest reference to the Remembrance Poppy in Canada: “In Canada the earliest reference to the Flanders poppy as a symbol of remembrance is contained in an excerpt from the minutes of a meeting of the Great War Veterans Association held at Port Arthur in July, 1921. It read, “Following a motion suspending the regular order of business, Madame E. Guerin, ‘The Poppy Lady of France,’ was presented to the conference and asked to outline her suggestion as to the adoption of the poppy as a national emblem to be worn on Armistice day in memory of fallen comrades. It was moved by Comrade Churney, seconded by Comrade Hamilton, that this conference representing the Dominion Command of the G.W.V.A. of Canada hereby approves the proposal that the citizens of this Dominion of Canada accept the poppy as its flower of remembrance and recommend that the poppy be worn on the anniversary of Armistice day.””
There was one dissenting voice discovered in newspapers … from a namesake! On 05 July, the Toronto Daily Star ran an article headed “TAKES FIRM STAND AGAINST OVERLAPPING”. The article documented the situation whereby the ‘Franco-Canadian Orphanages Society’ “will send out letters to organizations throughout Canada, drawing attention to the work which the society has been doing for the past four or five years, not only for the orphanages established in France, but also for the children of the devastated areas and the French soldiers blinded in the war.
In line with a resolution passed at the annual meeting held a week ago, the Franco-Canadian Orphanages Society proposes to point out that any new organization seeking funds in Canada for French war orphans is unnecessary and in the nature of overlapping.
The resolution and present action are due to steps which have been taken to form an organization to be known as the “Canadian Franco League”. [Namely Anna’s League].
In addition to the overlapping which the Franco-Canadian Orphanages Society considers inevitable if other organizations seek funds for the same work they are doing, some confusion has already arisen over the fact that the promoter of the new movement is Madame Anna E. Guerin, who has the same name as the founder and organizer of the Franco-Canadian Orphanages Society, Mlle. M. Guerin, whose work is widely known in Canada. … …”
Mademoiselle Guerin would be worried that her supporters would give Madame Guérin their money, thinking she was the Orphanages Society “Guerin” and she had cause to be concerned about confusion. Some newspaper articles had, indeed, wrongly stated that the ‘Poppy Lady of France’/Madame Anna Guerin was connected to the Canadian organisation ‘Franco-Canadian Orphanage Fund’.
However, Madame Guérin was not doing “the same work” as Mademoiselle, far from it. She was trying to reach those widows and orphans who had slipped through the net and not receiving help from anyone else.
An interested party pointed out a very significant fact that might explain the possible misunderstanding between the “Mme. Guérin” and the “Mlle. Guérin”. There is a French tradition that a single woman (“Mlle./Mademoiselle) over the age of approximately 35 years of age is awarded the courtesy title of Madame (“Mme.”). So the mixture of titles is not necessarily because of newspapers’ errors, it may simply be that more courtesy was afforded on some occasions.
With success achieved at Port Arthur, the ‘Poppy Lady of France’ travelled to Toronto. There, she began making preparations for selling poppies on “Warriors’ Day” (27 August) at the Canadian National Exhibition, in Toronto. Sister Juliette Boulle and friend Blanche Berneron joined Anna there.
At this point in time, it has to be documented that Canada played a crucial part in promoting Anna’s ‘Inter-Allied Poppy’ to, at least, the Australian veterans of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League. At a guess, this took place soon after the G.W.V.A.’s adoption of the memorial poppy, after 06 July.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW, Australia [29 October 1921]) enlightens us on how this promotion came about: “… the Allied Nations’ Poppy Day originated in Australia through the receipt from the secretary of the Great War Veterans’ Association of Canada of a cablegram notifying that a movement had been started with a view to all soldiers and nations recognising the red poppy of the Flanders fields as a memorial flower to be worn on Armistice Day, that the American Legion and the Veterans’ Association of Canada had endorsed the movement, and that Madame Guerin, “the poppy lady from France,” was in Canada with millions of silk poppies made by the women and children of devastated France, and begged the Australian soldiers to promise her their moral support, and to take up a poppy campaign for Armistice Day in Australia. The league immediately replied by cablegram requesting information as to whether this lady had credentials, and was accredited by the French Government. The War Veterans’ Association cabled in reply that the French Ambassador at Washington confirmed personnel and enterprise of the Guerin Committee.”
If Canada’s Great War Veterans Association promoted the poppy to the Australian Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League, did it send cablegrams to the British Legion and the New Zealand Returned Services’ Association also? No evidence has been discovered to support this conjecture but the author has a niggling feeling that this may have been the reality but Great Britain and New Zealand just did not make it known to the public. Certainly, no evidence has been discovered at the Canadian about any cablegram dispatch – even to Australia.
On 14 July 1921, Madame Guérin was staying at Queen’s Hotel in Toronto. Colonel Samuel Moffat (a former US Red Cross Commissioner and Chevalier de la Legion d ‘Honneur) was also staying at the hotel. He worked for the ‘American-Franco Children’s League. It was agreed that Samuel would travel to New Zealand and Australia (an, perhaps, South Africa) to promote the ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ scheme on behalf of Madame Guérin. Samuel Moffat left Vancouver for New Zealand on 06 August 1921.
On 15 July 1921, the Toronto Daily Star printed the article “WOMEN FROM PARIS, FRANCE, HERE TO SELL POPPIES … Madam Berneron and Mlle. Boulle, both of Paris, France, arrived at the Queen’s Hotel today to commence their work for the great sale of poppies to be held next Armistice Day in aid of French orphans. The two women visited Secretary Turley* of the G.W.V.A. this morning and discussed with him plans for shipping the memorial flowers. They will likely make their headquarters at 41 Isabella street.” (*ex-Sergeant W.E. Turley).
Prior to French-made poppies being shipped in from France for Armistice Day (and because of Anna’s influence?), it appears that poppies were made for a Poppy Day … for a cause other than the French women and orphans. On 22 July, the Winnipeg Tribune wrote: “For weeks the Women’s service League has been making poppies, and several thousand of these flowers are now ready for “Poppy Day”, 27 July. The proceeds from the sale of these flowers will be used to help furnish the new club rooms for returned soldiers. In addition to the selling of the flowers on the streets, offices and homes, through the kindness of the fair board and the Women’s hospital aid society, poppies will be sold from a gaily decorated booth at the exhibition grounds. Mrs. W. L. Bertrand is convener of the committee, and A. M. Traill is treasurer of the fund.” This Tag Day raised $1,009.55.
On the afternoon of 31 July 1921, Madame Guérin spoke at a Memorial Service at Rivercourt Park in Todmorden (Ontario) – held by the Todmorden branch of the Great War Veterans Association. The U.S. newspaper ‘The Buffalo Enquirer (of Buffalo, New York) transcribed a “Special Telegram To The Enquirer” that had been sent from St. Catherine, Ontario, Canada [sic]:
“EVANGEL OF THE POPPY SPEAKS TO CANADIANS. (Special Telegram to The Enquirer.) St. Catharine, Ont., Aug. 4.—“I wish to tell you that the grave of your loved ones in France are gratefully and lovingly cared for. Now and evermore the name of Canada is written, not only at Ypres, at the Somme, at Vimy Ridge, but in the hearts of every ally the name of Canada is inscribed, and not more so than in the heart of France,” said Madame E. Guerin of La Ligue Francaise des Enfants to the throng which gathered at Rivercourt park to hear the memorial service for fallen comrades of that district held by the Todmorden branch of the Great War veterans yesterday afternoon.
Madame Guerin is in Canada and is touring all the Dominions of the British empire, as well as the old country, to establish the wearing of a red poppy on armistice day, as a remembrance of the fallen.”
On 01 August, the Vancouver Daily World reported on an event Anna attended the day before – Sunday, 31 July: “HEROES’ GRAVES WELL CARED FOR OVERSEAS … I wish to tell you that the graves of your loved ones in France are gratefully and lovingly cared for,” said Mme. Guerin, of la Ligue Francais des Enfants, to the throng which heard the memorial service for fallen comrades held by the G.W.V.A. Sunday afternoon.
Mme. Guerin is touring all the Dominions as well as the Old Country to establish the wearing of a red poppy on Armistice Day as a remembrance of the fallen, She has arranged to send 2,000,000 of these poppies to the G.W.V.A. They are made by war widows and orphans of the desolated regions of France.” The Ottawa Journal ran a similar article on the same day, but named “Todmorden” (Ontario) as the G.W.V.A. branch holding the memorial service.
On Friday 05 August, the Brisbane Telegraph (Australia) printed a Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League’s annual congress statement, relevant to Canada: “SOLDIERS’ CONGRESS … … THE POPPY. It was decided; to accept a Canadian suggestion that the red poppy, so conspicuous on the fields of France, should be adopted as an international emblem on armistice day, and it was mentioned that a French lady – would visit Australia, bringing with her silk emblems manufactured by women in the devastated areas of France and Belgium.” ‘The Poppy Lady of France’ was never able to visit.
On 26 August, the Toronto Daily Star updated its readers on the poppies to be sold the next day. It tried to clarify the Mme.-Mlle.-Guerin-confusion issue but it probably did not help at all: “PLAN JOINT BENEFIT … The sale of poppies which the Great War Veterans’ Association which will carry on during Warriors’ Day at the exhibition, and later on Armistice Day or thereabouts, will be for the joint benefit of the Children’s League of France and the Distress Fund of the G.W.V.A. The Children’s League of France, promoted by Madame Guerin, is in no way connected with the Franco-Canadian Orphanage Fund which Madame Guerin, for a number of years a resident of Toronto, established and has supported so successfully with the generous co-operation of the school children and other friends of her war orphans in all parts of Ontario.”
Leaving all her plans in the capable hands of her “two French organizers” Juliette and Blanche, Anna had left Canada by now. She had sailed to Liverpool, England – to continue her poppy quest.
But the poppy campaign continued in her absence … on 27 August, the Toronto Daily Star ran a story about veterans gathering at Trinity Park (Strachan Ave. & Queen St.) that day: “There were thousands of them, in the most part in mufti. The khaki uniforms of the few who retained the apparel of their overseas service was pressed and every button shining.
The ladies’ auxiliary of the G.W.V.A. took the opportunity to sell poppy tags, a small red poppy for ten cents and a larger flower for twenty-five cents. The money is to be used for the widows and children of soldiers. Everyone made a purchase and the dark colours of sack suits were brightened by vivid spots of bright red. The dress of many who sold the poppies spoke of their own sorrow.” It is not clear whether these poppy sales benefited French widows and children or Canadian – it may have been solely a G.W.V.A. auxiliary event.
It was now 29 August and Anna was arriving in Liverpool. The aforementioned Port Arthur News Chronicle (04 July) had stated Anna “will proceed almost immediately to England to ask the Prince of Wales to become head of the Poppy Day movement in England.”
The Ottawa Journal edition of 19 September encouraged readers to “WEAR A POPPY IN MEMORY OF MEN WHO FELL IN WAR”. It reported that plans were “now being formulated by the Dominion Command, Great War Veterans’ Association. The inauguration of this custom will, war veterans believe, accomplish three worthy objects: First, the custom of wearing a memorial poppy on Armistice Day; secondly, as the poppies will be sold for nominal sums, it will supply a means of providing relief funds for the unemployed this winter; and thirdly, as the poppies will be purchased from the French war orphans, it will go a long way toward the relief of distress in that country.
The custom of wearing the red poppy on Armistice Day was initiated in the United States last year by Madame E. Guerin, of the French Children’s League, Madame Guerin laid the proposal before a meeting of the executives of the Great War Veterans’ Association held recently in Port Arthur and on their recommendation the local branches of the association throughout Canada are undertaking to act as distributing centres.” Other newspapers, like the Vancouver Daily World; Toronto Daily Star; Winnipeg Tribunal; and Toronto Globe, ran similar (if not identical in part) to the aforementioned article – on or close to the same date.
On 27 September, the Toronto Daily Star printed a press release out of Ottawa: “TO WEAR FLANDERS POPPY – The custom of wearing a Flanders poppy on Armistice Day, as a memorial flower, will be inaugurated in Great Britain this year as well as in Canada, according to a cable received by the dominion command. The Prince of Wales and Field Marshal Lord Haig are acting as joint chairmen of the campaign.”
The Ottawa Journal, on 30 September, reproduced a piece taken from the Montreal Herald – to demonstrate how French & English-speaking communities existed together. Montreal was described as “the meeting ground of the two races”: “The meeting held yesterday at the Ritz-Carlton in connection with the running of a Red Poppy Day on Armistice Day, November 11th, is typical of what is taking place in Montreal. The speakers include such prominent men as Father Sylvestre; Canon Alan Shatford, and Father Hingston, while Lady Williams-Taylor, who has undertaken the difficult duties of organizing the movement, was supported by the leading ladies of both races. Lady Williams-Taylor has done more than any other person in Montreal to promote the good feeling between the French and English-speaking communities, and, as she is a splendid French linguist, she is able to bring the various organisations together without any difficulty. Speaking as an ex-soldier, the disabled ex-service men have much to thank her for. When the unemployment crisis arose in June last, she came forward and in a very short time launched the association. Today, she is heart and soul in the Red Poppy Day movement, the success of which, as Canon Shatford remarked, is already secure.”
In October, Anna arrived back in Canada to finalise the arrangements for the poppy distribution. Anna had left Liverpool on 01 October and arrived in New York on 11 October, on the White Line ship ‘Celtic’. Her “Last Address in the UK” was “c/o American Express Co., 84 Queen Street, London”. That address was one of two that the American Express Company (general shipping/parcel agents for all parts of the world) had in London. Perhaps it was used as a ‘P.O. Box’ type of address, where post could be forwarded on from.
Passenger documentation is comprehensive. Anna’s appearance was: height 5’ 7”; brown hair/eyes; weight 135lbs; medium complexion; and no identification marks. Nearest relative was husband E. Guerin who was, at the time of sailing, in Vallon. She was “42” and “in transit”, going to join her sister Juliette living “Kent Building, Toronto, Ontario. c/o Great War Veterans, Toronto”.
In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna Guérin wrote: “When I arrived in New-York I was in time to be on Armistice day in Toronto where I had a tremendous reception as the ORIGINATOR OF THE FLANDERS ‘ FIELD’S POPPY’s DAY.”
It looks as though Juliette remained in Toronto, in an administrative role – whereas Blanche Berneron was out and about touring, to assist the Great War Veterans Association in promoting the poppy.
In the Abbotsford Post (British Columbia) on 07 October, an article headed “G.W.V.A. Activities” contained a little information about the G.W.V.A. and the poppy: “On the eve of Armistice Day we have “Poppy Day.” The orphan children of the devastated regions of France are making thousands of poppies, which we have undertaken to buy from them. These poppies will be sold by the G.W.V.A. all over Canada, as a reminder of the flowers blooming on the graves of our silent comrades in “Flanders’ Fields.” The small profit made by the sale in Canada will be used by the G.W.V.A. to supplement the members our monthly contributions to assist widows, dependants and returned men who are sick or in actual want.
To all our friends in Abbotsford and district, we want to say this: Our work is no selfish object. It is primarily for those who were loved by the Comrades we left overseas; and secondly it is for the strength and betterment of our Country and Empire.
We meet with many difficulties but we try to avoid friction. Nevertheless, such an organization always has its enemies. We are at all times ready to reply, either verbally or in writing, to any question regarding our conduct, and ask, in return, the opportunity to reply opening to backbiters. We admire open, kindly criticism; but we have nothing but contempt for slander used for selfish ends.”
The reasons for the difficulties; friction; backbiting; criticism; and suggested slander can only be guessed at. Perhaps it was rival veteran groups? Page 5 of ‘Service: The Story Of The Canadian Legion 1925 to 1960’ by C.H. Bowering states “Attempts were made to co-ordinate the activities of these organizations and groups, but suspicion and distrust made such efforts all but futile.”
Additionally, press coverage suggests possible committee problems e.g. some of the members of the executive resigned in the August but later stood again, to be given a vote of confidence by re-election. Was this due to internal or external criticisms though? Some veterans’ groups were infiltrated by those considered radicals/revolutionaries, they may have spread discontent if they did not agree with G.W.V.A. agendas. There again, the government may have been openly critical of the G.W.V.A. if there was discord over veterans’ issues?
On 08 October, The Winnipeg Tribune notified its readers that “Madame Blanche Berneron, of Paris, has paid a visit to Montreal and has arranged for the inauguration of a “Poppy Day,” for Nov. 11, when the scarlet flower will be sold in Montreal streets on behalf of the Children’s League of Paris. The fund will be used to alleviate proteges of the league in France.”The beautiful artificial poppy shown above is one of Madame Anna Guérin’s poppies, which was distributed on the streets of Vancouver, leading up to ‘Thanksgiving Day’ and ‘Armistice Day’ in November 1921. It is held in the Collection of the Museum of Vancouver. The original owner had been one Miss Hatfield, the sister of Dr. W.H. Hatfield, who was head of the Vancouver General Hospital. Anna Guérin’s friend Blanche Berneron helped with the Vancouver poppy campaign arrangements.
Returning to the 1921 poppy campaign:
The Ottawa Journal, on 11 October, announced that Mrs. A.J. Freiman had been chosen as the Poppy Day organization convener at a preliminary organization meeting of the G.W.V.A. executive and representatives of various women’s organizations in the city, on 06 Oct. It had been formed “to popularize the poppy as the emblem of the “Great Forgotten White Army” which lies in Flanders fields.”
The article wrote about 2,000,00 artificial poppies, made by war orphans of France, having been sent for distribution all over Canada – 65,000 blooms and 2,000 wreaths had been allocated to Ottawa. “Lord and Lady Byng, patrons of the Poppy Day movement in Canada, will be asked to officiate at the remembrance ceremony on that day.”
Mrs. A. J. Freiman was Lillian Freiman (“Lily” nee Bilsky) born 06 June 1883 Mattawa, Ontario to Canadian/Russian/Jewish Pawnbroker Moses Bilsky & his German wife Pauline Reich. She married merchant husband Archibald Jacob Freiman (born Lithuania/Russia c1880) on 18 August 1903, Ontario (A.J. Freiman started Ottawa’s largest department store on Rideau Street). She was a Book Keeper before marriage.
When WW1 broke out, Lillian set up 30 sewing machines at her home and organised a Red Cross sewing circle to send blankets/clothing to soldiers overseas. This “circle” became the I.O.D.E. Disraeli Chapter in 1918. It is said she: co-founded the G.W.V.A.; influenced the creation of Vetcraft Shops in 1919; crafted the first Canadian poppies in her living room in 1921; and was first woman to become an honorary life member of the Royal Canadian Legion. In 2008, the Canadian government designated Lillian as a ‘Person of National Historic Significance’ for being “a gifted organizer and philanthropist who worked to improve the health and welfare of her fellow citizens.” (Wikipedia)
On 15 October, the Toronto Daily Star printed a Canadian Press Despatch out from Ottawa: “LEST WE FORGET” – Poppies will be worn by soldiers in uniform on Armistice Day. By order issued by the department of militia permission has been granted to personnel of the Canadian Militia to wear a poppy in the Lapel, or if this is impracticable, it may be worn on the jacket.”
Permission for Poppy sales on the streets had to be sought from the officials. Authorisation would appear in the newspaper, for instance – Winnipeg Tribune 15 Oct.: “AUTHORITY IS GIVEN FOR POPPY SALES. Permission has been granted for poppy day sale of flowers on Nov. 5 or Nov. 11. civil officials announced today. Application for Nov. 11 was made by the I.O.D.E. last fall and the G.W.V.A. in September of this year. Agreement was reached whereby the two organizations will hold a joint poppy day, poppies to be sold on the streets, in memory of the men who died in France.”
During the week commencing 17 October, the G.W.V.A. held an annual Convention in Port Arthur. It appears that Anna must have attended at some point. It was reported: “After coming to Canada several months ago, Madame Guerin returned to England to organize the same idea there, and arrived back just in time for the annual convention of the G.W.V.A. in Port Arthur.” (Toronto Star 10 November 1921).
On 19 October, the Winnipeg Tribune wrote: “The Princess Patricia chapter, I.O.D.E., will meet Thursday evening at the home of the regent, Mrs. William Downing, suite 11, Douglas block, for the purpose of making poppies for Poppy Day.” This is another example of additional Canadian ‘home-grown’ poppies being created to swell the supplies of French-made poppies and cater for the huge demands.
The next day, the Ottawa Journal announced their city’s plans: “POPPY TAG DAYS SET FOR NOVEMBER 5 AND 7. Poppy Day tags will be sold on the streets of Ottawa all day, Saturday, November 5 and during the morning of November 7, it was decided at a meeting of the Poppy Day committee in the G.W.V.A. rooms yesterday afternoon. Mrs. A. J. Freiman presided. Practically every women’s organization in the city was represented at the meeting. All arrangements were completed for the sale of the tags.”
The Winnipeg Tribune, on 24 October, stated it was believed that 200,000 silk poppies “made by French children of the devastated areas of France” could be sold in Manitoba on their Poppy Day, 11 November. “More than 7,000 advertising cards, together with descriptive matter, will be forwarded soon to the 275 organized districts of the province.”
By 25 October, the Ottawa Journal reported under the heading “HEAVY DEMAND FOR POPPIES”. The newspaper stated “The various regional commands of the Great War Veterans’ Association throughout Canada are clamouring for more poppies to sell on Poppy Day, November 11, than headquarters in Toronto can supply. The huge shipments of poppies received from the French Orphanages have all been spoken for, and 50,000 could be disposed of at once. The G.W.V.A. is now absolutely convinced that the sale of these poppies on Armistice Day will be a phenomenal success.”
On the same day, the Toronto Daily Star reported much the same: “BIG CALL FOR POPPIES. The G.W.V.A. headquarters, Isabella street, received eight telegrams yesterday for poppies for armistice day from different commands throughout Canada and the supply on hand is already exhausted. The committee in charge has placed orders amounting to $1,000 with the Salvation Army for the construction, by needy persons, of poppy wreaths and crosses for the decoration of churches, memorial tablets and graves but as yet no arrangement has been made for the provision of additional single poppies which are so much in demand. It is hoped that all veterans’ graves in Toronto will be decorated with wreaths of poppies on armistice day.”
WREATHS OF SILK POPPIES FOR “POPPY DAY”. Winnipeg Tribune, 25 October 1921: The picture shows Mrs. Edith Rogers, M.L.A., together with a display of poppy wreaths made by the children in the devastated areas of France and Flanders. These form part of the 200,000 poppies that will be sold under the auspices of the Great War Veterans’ Association in Manitoba for the benefit of destitute returned soldiers and their dependants on “Poppy Day”, Nov. 22.”
On 26 October, Anna visited Winnipeg to meet with the ladies of Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and the Great War Veterans’ Association women’s auxiliary. The Winnipeg Tribune printed this short piece about Anna, accompanied by a photograph of her (shown below): “BRINGS POPPIES FROM FRANCE FOR SALE HERE. Mme. Guerin, who is known throughout the Allied world as “The Poppy Lady”, has brought 1,500,000 poppies from France for sale in Canada on Armistice Day. She was the guest of the Women’s auxiliary of the Great War Veterans and of the I.O.D.E. at a luncheon in the Fort Garry Hotel today.”
Relating to the meeting on 26 October, the photograph below was printed in the Winnipeg Tribune, on 28 October – the following text accompanied it: “Representatives of the Independent Order of the Daughters of the Empire and ladies’ auxiliary of the Great War Veterans’ Association are working in co-operation in connection with the sale and distribution of poppies on Armistice Day throughout the province to raise money for the relief of destitute war veterans and their dependants.
Above: “Representative Women Arrange Poppy Sale”. Reading from left to right, lower row: Madame Guerin, the “Poppy Lady”; Mrs. W.J. Boyd, I.O.D.E. Second row: Mrs. S. Brown, I.O.D.E.; Mrs. D. Williamson, I.O.D.E.; Mrs. D.A. Russell, I.O.D.E.; Mrs. C.R. Randall, G.W.V.A. ladies’ auxiliary; Mrs. F. Ostrander, I.O.D.E.; Mrs. J.J. Broadhurst, G.W.V.A. ladies’ auxiliary. Upper row: Mrs. L. McQuilian, I.O.D.E.; Mrs. J. Millan, G.W.V.A. ladies’ auxiliary; Mrs. P.G. Rumor, G.W.V.A. ladies’ auxiliary; Mrs. C.W. Martin, G.W.V.A. ladies’ auxiliary; Mrs. G.W. Andrews, G.W.V.A. ladies’ auxiliary”
After meeting the Canadian I.O.D.E. and G.W.V.A. auxiliary women on the 26th, Anna left that night to go to the USA, for the American Legion convention in Kansas City, Missouri . The convention was held from 31 October to 02 November and many “world famous heroes” were guests of honour there: Marshall Foch (France); Earl Beatty (GB); General Diaz (Italy); General Jacques (Belgium); and Gen. J.J. Pershing (USA).
“Demand for poppies indicates large sale” and this was the message being broadcast all over Canada. The article in Ottawa Journal of 31 October was very informative – it is an example of articles printed all over Canada, inasmuch as people and their respective responsibilities were posted in the press. It is reproduced in full, to demonstrate the organisation that had to be in place before “Poppy Day”:
“Although many days yet remain until the National Poppy Day campaign is officially opened, the demand for wreaths, sprays and clusters, the workmanship of the orphans of France, continue to flow into the sales room in the Canadian National Railway ticket office and to the headquarters in the Union Bank building. In the vanguard is the order sent in on Saturday by Mayor Frank Plant for a special wreath to be laid at the foot of the cenotaph during the Armistice Day memorial ceremony as the Capital’s tribute to its heroic dead.
The organization in charge of the big drive, which will close on Monday, November 7, at 2.30 p.m., follows: National Patrons, Their Excellencies Lord and Lady Byng*; patrons of the Ottawa organization, Mrs. Arthur Meighen, Lady Laurier and Lady Borden; general convener, Mrs. A.J. Freiman; sale of wreaths and floral decorations, Mrs. W.E. Hodgins, convener; tag day arrangements, Mrs. J.A. Wilson, convener; headquarters, Mde. De Salaberry, convener; distribution, Mrs. A.M. Dechene, convener; sales room, C.N.R. ticket office, Catholic Women’s League; headquarters staff, The Girl Guides; secretary, Matron-in-Chief Macdonald; treasurer, Mde. Marchand.
The following conveners have been named for the various wards throughout the city as follows: Rideau and Rockliffe, Mrs. Smillie; By, Mde. Laframboise; Ottawa, Mde. Pinard; St. George’s, Rideau river to King Edward avenue, Mrs. McKinnon, Col. By Chapter, I.O.D.E.; Central, Mde. De Salaberry; Dalhousie, Mrs. Featherstone; Wellington, Mrs. Anglin; Capital, Mrs. K. Thomas, Women’s Canadian Club; Victoria, Mde.de Salaberry; Ottawa East, Mde. Dagenais; Ottawa South, Mrs. Johnston; hindonburg, Mrs. Hardy; Central Station, Mde. Margoaches; St. George’s Ward, King Edward avenue to canal, Miss Ethyl Harris, Catholic Girls’ Club.” * See more about Lord Byng at the end of this chapter.
On 01 November, the Ottawa Journal reported that the Retail Merchants’ Association “have announced that they are in full sympathy and accord with the campaign to be conducted by the National Poppy Day committee among the merchants of the city during the next few days. The officers of this association have sent out an appeal to the store keeper to decorate their windows and in every way possible assist the workers in their drive. The sale of wreaths to the departmental stores, Government offices and the house-to-house canvass will be in charge of the various chapters of the Imperial Daughters of the Empire, and the response already encountered warrants the expectation of a very large sale.
There was a movement on foot to have all those who purchase poppies, whether they are wreaths, sheaves, sprays or individual tokens for decoration of store windows, homes or for other purposes, carry them to Parliament Hill on Monday afternoon, Armistice Day, and deposit them at the foot of the cenotaph during the memorial services. The magnitude of the tribute which such a move would carry could not be estimated. It would be a great, glowing memorial that could not otherwise be expressed. Later the floral offerings could be placed on the graves of soldiers in the local cemeteries. Positions will be allotted at the base for all those purchasing poppy decorations who wish to deposit them.
The tag day arrangements, which will be carried out on November 5 and up until 2.30 p.m. on November 7, are going ahead rapidly. The proceeds from this sale as well as from the distribution of the wreaths, etc., over and above the cost of the poppies will go to local relief to be distributed by the G.W.V.A.”
On 02 November, the Winnipeg Tribune reported “Wreaths of red poppies will be used to decorate the graves of more than 300 Manitoba soldiers buried in France. The ceremony will be performed on Armistice Day, Nov. 11, by representatives of the Children’s league of France.
Sprays of silk poppies will be used to decorate more than 100 honor rolls of soldiers killed in the great war, which adorn walls of Winnipeg schools and churches, officials of the “Poppy day” campaign said today.”
An interesting notification appeared in the Winnipeg Evening Journal on 02 November: “VETS SELECT POPPY EMBLEM”. “The red Flanders poppy will be adopted by war veteran organizations of Canada as the national memorial flower, P. G. Rumer, president of the Winnipeg branch of the Great War Veterans’ association, said today. The sentimental connections associated with this flower makes it the most appropriate emblem that could be adopted, Mr. Rumer said.
A communication received today from Madam Guerin, the “poppy lady” of France, who is attending the national convention of the American Legion in Kansas City, states that the legion also has adopted the poppy as its national memorial flower, Mr. Rumer said.” More about the American Legion and the poppy in Chapter 8: THE ALLIED NATIONS SAY “AU REVOIR MADAME GUÉRIN”
On 03 November, the Ottawa Journal printed a short piece headed “Twofold Service to Buy Poppies” … “Those who buy poppies for Armistice Day, November 7, do a twofold service. They assist the war orphans and women of France, who made the flowers and who profit from the sale, and they assist the needy relatives of soldiers whom the Great War Veterans’ Association will help this winter. The scarlet poppies are on sale at Sparks street headquarters, in the Union Bank Building, and on the street on November 5 and 7.”
On the same day, the Winnipeg Tribune wrote: “The human side of the “Poppy Day” campaign is demonstrated daily by the next of kin, who walk quietly into headquarters to purchase a spray or wreath with which to decorate graves, honor rolls or photographs of relatives who paid the supreme sacrifice in the great war, campaign officials said today.”
When the first street sale took place on Saturday, 05 November, the Ottawa Journal wrote “POPPY TAGGERS STAND IN SLUSH TO AID ORPHANS” … “Army of Girls Took Stand at Street Corners Before 7 O’clock. SELLING FLOWERS TODAY AND ALSO MONDAY MORNING. Girl Guides Assist By Covering the City With Extra Poppy Supply. “Buy a poppy” The request was made on every street corner this morning by an army of taggers with their scarlet flowers, significant of war days and needs that arose from the war. It is a brave army that stands on slushy streets all day today selling poppies for the benefit of orphans and women in France and dependant soldiers’ families at home in Ottawa. The hundreds of girls enlisted for the day were out before seven o’clock in time to meet the first early basket carriers on their way to market, and most men and women entered their offices wearing one of the flowers.
More Tags Demanded
The Girl Guides, under Mrs. Jack, were busy all through the early morning answering calls for more tags and the demand was brisk in nearly every section of the city. The early toilers were the first approached and these, like the civil servants, responded generously. Even the newsboys proudly displayed their brilliant button-hole. It is the ambition of the committee to have every man, woman and child wear a poppy on Armistice Day in memory of the fallen and at the same time to assist the dependants of the brave Poilus who gave up their lives in the great war and provide a fund for relief among local returned men.
Continues Till 5 P.M.
Today’s sale will continue until five o’clock to be resumed Monday morning at seven and carried on until two o’clock in the afternoon.”
On 07 November, Anna found herself in Ottawa. She was one of the VIP guests present in the VIP enclosure (along with Lord and Lady Byng) at the commemoration service on Parliament Hill. In 1921, Canada’s ‘Thanksgiving Day’ (07 November) and the Armistice Day ceremony and commemoration were linked together – the 7th being the Monday of the week containing 11 November. In Ottawa, it was reported that 44,000 poppies were sold, which was considered a very large percentage for a population of 110,000.
The next day, the Ottawa Evening Journal reported on the “Impressive Service on Parliament Hill”. The article covered 1½ columns of page 19. It was only intended to reproduce a little of the piece: “In the enclosure at the top of the steps leading to the main entrance were Lord and Lady Byng, attended by ….” a host of VIPs, which included “Madame Guerin of France representing the orphaned children of France, ….” – all of whom a laid wreath at the cenotaph. However, with little published about this event, here is the article’s first third:
“IMPRESSIVE SERVICE ON PARLIAMENT HILL. Ottawa Celebrates Armistice Day at Flower-Covered Cenotaph.
Ottawa remembered the heroic sacrifice and the great part played by Canadians in the war at a solemn, impressive commemoration Armistice Day service on Parliament Hill yesterday afternoon. Men who had fought and come back, mothers and widows of those who had made the supreme sacrifice, and little children of the public schools met together on Parliament Hill and paid silent tribute, while wreaths of flowers were laid at the foot of the cenotaph which has been erected in front of the Victory Tower of the Houses of Parliament. Sick soldiers from the hospitals attended in automobiles, and once again they sang as in the old days on a Sunday morning before moving “up the line,” “O God, Our Help in Ages Past,” thrilled to the sadness of the “Pipers’ Lament,” played by the United Empire Pipe Band, and finally left the enclosure to the dying notes of the “last Post.” There were no speeches; only the atmosphere created to evoke for each man and woman in the vast crowd the sadness and the triumph of those four years of war.
Those Who “Went West”.
A bitter wind swept across Parliament Hill but the sun broke through the clouds, shone brightly on the white cenotaph and gave a little warmth to the gathering of 4,000 people, who stood on the cold ground throughout the solemn ceremony. Particularly impressive was the two minutes’ silence in memory of the heroic dead, and not a few had difficulty in keeping back a tear as they thought of the brave sacrifices of the vast army of splendid young men who “went west”.
Lord Byng, accompanied by Lady Byng, arrived on the scene at 2.30 sharp, and the playing of God Save the King, marked the opening of the ceremonies.
Previously the Great War Veterans, the La Salle Cadets, and La Garde Champlain had assembled directly at the foot of the walk leading to the new Victory Tower. In the rear of them were the nursing sisters, the Girl Guides and 120 school children representative of all the public schools in the city.
Royal Canadian Mounted in their striking scarlet uniforms and with pennants fluttering from their lances guarded the entrances to the grounds and the different enclosures in which the various officiating bodies were assembled. In massed formation were the G.W.V.A. and Salvation Army Bands with the Buglers of the 38th Battalion and of the United Empire Pipe Band.”
On 09 November, the Toronto Star reported that Anna was returning to Toronto for “the Armistice Day effort”. “She will present the G.W.V.A. wreath to the mayor on Friday to be placed on the cenotaph in front of the city hall.” The Toronto Globe ran a similar story. Toronto expected to return $10,000 on ‘Poppy Day’ but, in reality, made double that amount. Reportedly, over 1,000,000 poppies were distributed in Canada on that 1921 Armistice Day – with it being stated that the French children would receive $80,000 and the G.W.V.A. another $90,000 for unemployment relief.
On 10 November, the Toronto Daily Star printed an article: “MADAME E. GUERIN EXPRESSES HAPPINESS OVER PROSPECTS – CONFUSION OF SIMILAR NAMES.” Here is most of it: “Madame E. Guerin, who brought to Canada the idea and the poppies for the Poppy Day observance of the G.W.V.A. throughout Canada on Armistice Day, is in the city. …”
“… For the tag day in Toronto 110,000 poppies have been reserved of the million odd which the G.W.V.A. purchased from Madame Guerin. The Toronto G.W.V.A. have asked Madame Guerin to present to the mayor on Friday their wreath for the cenotaph in front of the city hall. She will be accompanied by a number of widows and orphans.
An unfortunate confusion has arisen in Ontario and eastern Canada through the fact that Madame Guerin, the promoter of the Poppy Day for the benefit of the war orphans of France has the same name as Mlle. Guerin, the promoter and directress of the Franco-Canadian Orphanage society which has been in operation, since 1917.
“My objection to the work of Madame Guerin,” explained Mlle. Guerin this morning “is that she came to Canada representing the American-Franco Children’s Legion [sic] which was organised in 1919 and has its headquarters in the United States and is represented in France by a committee. It was organized to strengthen and develop affection between America and France. I have kept my organization entirely Canadian, and have refused many times to go to the United States although I could have secured much more money. The confusion of names has undoubtedly meant the loss of money for my work. Only yesterday in Ottawa a man who is a friend of my work said to me ‘you are making a great amount of money with your poppy.’ In my mind Canada is the only poppy lady, and the poppies sold should be made in Canada.”
Madame Guerin explained that she was feeling very happy over the success of her venture, and felt that the G.W.V.A. would make far more for their relief work than she had ever dreamed they would. She explained that the poppies were sold to the G.W.V.A. at 6 cents each, and of the six cents she is able to present for the work in France three cents. “The results in Ottawa show that the sale of the poppies average 25 cents rather than 10 cents which means much more for the G.W.V.A.”
… and so … Armistice Day dawned in Canada, 11 November 1921 …
“LEST WE FORGET: LEST WE FORGET”
“While the City Hall was yet dim with early morning darkness the first silent tribute was placed on the cenotaph before it to-day. A nurse who had seen much service overseas paid homage to the dead. From then until noon there was a solemn procession of those who brought remembrances.” Toronto Daily Star, 11 November 1921.
On 11 November 1921, Governor-General of Canada Baron Byng’s ‘Armistice Message’ to the Canadian people was publicised. It was short and to the point: “Government House,” Ottawa, Nov. 10. “My message to the people of Canada: ‘Honor the dead by helping the living.’ “(Signed.) BYNG OF VIMY. “Governor-General of Canada.”
Governor-General Lord Byng of Vimy was in Montreal on this day, unveiling their cenotaph in Dominion Square. Immediately after the unveiling, at 11 o’clock, two minutes silence was observed. One mother, who had been chosen from all the mothers in the city who had lost sons, laid a wreath at the base of the cenotaph afterwards. (Winnipeg Tribune).
The Winnipeg Tribune reported on St. John, New Brunswick (not to be confused with the St. John of Newfoundland): “ALL WEAR POPPIES IN ST. JOHN, N.B. Few in this city who walked the streets today but wore the poppy of Flanders field in Armistice Day tribute to the dead. Distribution was in the hands of the Great War Veterans Association, assisted by scores of willing workers from all the women organizations of the city. Empire silence for two minutes at 11 o’clock was strictly observed in suspension of all traffic and business while thoughts reverted to the memorable day commemorated.”
Again in the Winnipeg Tribune: “ALL CANADA PAYS TRIBUTE TO FALLEN. All Canada, from coast to coast, combined thanksgiving and reverence in the celebration and observance of Armistice day. Flags flew at the tops of the poles in honor of the great Victory which the day commemorated, but the red poppies and the two minutes cessation from work at the eleventh hour of the day brought back to Canadian minds and hearts the memory of the sacrifice of her 60,000 dead “In Flanders’ Fields.
Throughout Canada the day was observed as a “holy day” rather than a holiday. Except for the two-minute silence in schools, factory and street, in all parts of the Dominion, business and work went on as usual. In many cities there were public services under civic and veteran auspices in memory of the immortal dead.”
Referring back to the aforementioned Toronto Daily Star 10 November article, the paper perpetuated the “Mme/Mlle.” confusion in its article in the “SOCIETY” column [sic] of 12 November – by referring to Anna as “Mlle.”: “Armistice Day was brought to a close last night by a brilliantly successful ball in the lovely new ball-room at the King Edward given by the Dreadnought chapter, I.O.D.E., who have many delightful similar affairs to their credit. The five hundred guests were received at the entrance to the ballroom by the regent, Mrs. Denison Taylor … …Two interesting visitors who came with Mrs. A.E. Gooderham were Mlle. Guerin, the “Poppy Lady”, and her sister Mademoiselle Y. Boulle. Teh former wore a smart uniform of French blue with narrow belt and tam o’shanter hat to match. She also wore three beautiful jewelled medals, one as officer of the French Academy, another as an officer of the Public Education, and one as an officer of “Nicham”. Mademoiselle Boulle wore a becoming dark blue uniform with cap to match. … the ball was under the distinguished patronage of their excellencies Lord and Lady Byng of Vimy, his honor the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and Mrs. Cockshutt, Major.-Gen. and Mrs. Williams, … …”
It appears Blanche Berneron was in Vancouver at the time. On the same day, the Vancouver Daily World mentioned her in an interesting article about their Poppy Day: “Unique Gifts on Poppy Day. Nugget and Camouflaged Coin in Boxes. The amount brought in by the distributors of poppies and tags in the G.W.V.A. relief fund drive on Armistice Day, was $2200. When to this is added the contributions from the children in the different schools, officials believe the sum total will reach £3500 or $4000.
Many character-revealing incidents were recounted last night by those who counted the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that tumbled from the boxes.
In one box, a small gold nugget was found, evidently the contribution of some hard up prospector or his widow’s mite.
Another was the finding of a penny wrapped in tin-foil to give it the appearance of a quarter. This was dropped in a box on Hastings Street by a boy. The lad was evidently determined to wear a poppy and this was the only way he could manage it. “He got his poppy,” said the lady, “and he sauntered off with his chest out and his head in the air, as though his father had won the whole war single-handed.”
The record ladies’ collection boxes were brought in by Mrs. M. Jefferson and Mrs. W. Ford-Kay. “We have achieved one great object in that we have planted the Flanders Poppies in the heart of every child in Vancouver and have taught them that the words of Flanders Poppies and British Empire are synonymous.” Said Major Owen Martin, D.S.O. , who was in charge of the fund.
Capt. B.G. Rennie, was assisted, said that he could not express in words his appreciation of the kind co-operation given him by the school board, principals and teachers, and that the way in which they worked is evidenced by the astounding enthusiasm and generosity shown by all children throughout Vancouver.
Madame L.[sic] Berneron, who visited Vancouver as the representative of Madame Millerand, wife of the French president, who is in charge of the entire movement, said that the work here had been so well organized that she would not have to stop at all, that the G.W.V.A. here surpassed all other Canadian organizations for perfect organization.”
Mr. George Moore, organizer of 22 branches of the G.W.V.A., announced on 12 November in the Toronto Daily Star: “Poppy Day returns will total over $20,000 … The response was most generous … We had expected something in the neighbourhood of $10,000.”
Newspapers kept the public informed before and after the “Poppy Days”. On Saturday 12 November, the Winnipeg Evening Tribune reported how the Great War Veteran Association officials, assisted by the staff of the Bank of Toronto, “were busy until past midnight, by which time they had accounted for 90 boxes out of 350.” They had “aggregated an approximate total of £2,400. Checking will be resumed today.” The financial results were due to be made public the following week.
As promised, the Winnipeg Evening Tribune published the figures on 21 November. “… the gross receipts of the sale of poppies in Winnipeg on Armistice Day totalled £8,689.52. The campaign expenses amounting to $433.86, there is a net balance of $8255.66. Of this amount $4000 will be paid to the account of the provincial committee in charge for remittance to the Children’s league of France, while the distribution to the Provincial chapter I.O.D.E. and the ladies’ auxiliary of the G.W.V.A. will be $2,127.83 each.”
On Armistice Day, there was a “Parade At Nelson”, as described in the Vancouver Daily World (15 November 1921): “Headed by the combined Veterans’ and City band, the procession marched from the “Dug Out” to the Methodist Church where a memorial service was participated in by the clergy of all denominations. “Everyone who could buy them wore the “Poppies of Artois” made by the women and children of the war devastated areas in France, for whose relief the profits are devoted. The supply of poppies was early exhausted and three times the number could easily have been sold.”
On Saturday, 19 November 1921, Ottawa Journal announced: “Armistice Day poppy campaign” in Montreal had “realized $31,381.67.”
On the same day, the Vancouver Daily World reported the announcement of the local committee in charge of a total of $4,595.61. The amount to be given to the widows, wives and orphans of French soldiers was $2,020.62 and the G.W.V.A. relief fund benefited from $2,574.99 … “The suggestion was put forward that the poppies in the future be made by members of the G.W.V.A. was discounted by members of the committee, who pointed out that one of the chief reasons for the distribution of the flowers made in France was to keep alive the bond of friendship which now exists between the people of the two countries.” This commitment did not last long … see more in Chapter 8.
From Anna’s own hand we learn a little more about the poppy campaign success in Canada. Writing from Montreal, Anna wrote in a letter to Miss Moina Michael (08 February 1922): “Example, here in Canada, the Great war Veterans have had with 1,000,000 small poppies and 200,000 large ones $90,000 clear profit for their relief work in their different branches, and the French side will have about 80,000 dollars. I am just arrived here to settle this part. On the $80,000 the French Poppies will be paid, the expenses of the Campaign also and the balances, clear profit will go to the poor children of the battle fields; I am proud to say that my delegates*, two of them, left here to do the work with the Veterans while I was in England, have done splendidly, having run this campaign for the Veterans with their help, of course, with less than 6% expenses.” (*Juliette and Blanche).
The French-made ‘Decoration Day’ poppy shown above is held by the Canadian War Museum and catalogued as being from 1921. It appears to be remarkably similar to those distributed in the USA in 1920. Both Canada and the USA held a ‘Decoration Day’ at that time so, probably, this example was indeed from the distribution which took place on the streets of Canada in 1921.
On 06 December 1921, Juliette Boulle and Blanche Berneron had sailed from Canada on the Canadian Pacific ship ‘Sicilian’. (Toronto Globe 7.12.21) – they were on their way to Cuba. It was in December 1921, that the ‘Sicilian’ inaugurated a St John, New Brunswick – Boston –Nassau (Bahamas) route. The two women could have gone from Nassau onto Cuba or they could have disembarked from the ‘Sicilian’ at Boston; caught a train to New York; and then caught another ship sailing direct to Havana (New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Co).
Juliette and Blanche arrived back from Havana into New York on 05 February 1922. They had been staying with “Madam La Bouse, Prado, 36 Bajos, Havana”. The Passenger List documented that Juliette was going to join a ‘Friend’ – “L. Bolles, American Legion, Indianapolis”. This was National Adjutant of the American Legion, Lieutenant Colonel Lemuel L. Bolles (1st Army Corps) who had been on the 1919 Paris-formed first Executive Committee of the American Legion). Blanche was going to join ‘Friend’ “M. Meir 272 West 4th Street, NY”.
The aforementioned 08 February 1922 letter from Anna, in Montreal, to Moina contained: “As soon as I shall be through here, which will be, I hope, at the end of this week, I shall go to New York to make the plans of the Campaign*. My two delegates arrived yesterday from Cuba where they have sown the Idea splendidly. They are ready to work.” (*for 1922).
In June 1925, Canada hosted a conference of the British Empire Services League in Ottawa. There it was decided that the poppy would be adopted as the universal emblem of remembrance throughout the British Empire.
Please find above, another example of Poppy Lady Madame Guérin’s legacy – an early Remembrance Poppy pin which was distributed on the streets of Canada. It is reproduced here with kind permission of the Canadian War Museum.
The poppy has the accompanying text: “Early Poppy: An undated example of a handmade poppy. First World War veteran James Stanley Taylor, who served with the 14th and 174th Infantry Battalions, donated this poppy to the Canadian War Museum. Veterans’ magazines and organizations urged Canadians to buy poppies handmade by veterans which were ‘true memorials’, as opposed to commercially available copies.”
The inspiring symbol of the poppy: – ‘THE POPPY’ poem above was written by Canadian Grant Harold MacCarthy. He was only 16 years old at the time but the Ottawa Citizen newspaper thought it was good enough to publish on Remembrance Day in 1927. Grant had several uncles and cousins who served in the Great War, including George Geoffrey May who was killed at Vimy Ridge on April 9, 1917.
Governor General of Canada: Julian Hedworth George Byng
Julian Hedworth George Byng was born at Wrotham Park, Hertfordshire on 11 September 1862. Wrotham Park was designed by Isaac Ware in 1754 for Admiral John Byng, Julian Byng’s ancestor. In 1913, Julian Byng purchased Thorpe Hall at Thorpe le Soken, Essex UK.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Major-General Byng was serving in Egypt … he quickly proceeded to the French and Flanders’ Fronts. He was appointed the commander of the Canadian Corps in May 1916 and was in charge of the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge in April 1917.
During the war, his wife (née Marie Evelyn Moreton: 1870-1949) placed their ‘Thorpe Hall’ home at the disposal of the British Red Cross Society and it operated as an Auxiliary Hospital.
Julian Byng unveiled many War Memorials after the First World War ended, in Canada and Great Britain – he became Governor General of Canada 1921-1926.
When Lord & Lady Byng returned to the UK in 1926, Lord Byng became the 1st Viscount Byng of Vimy. He served as Commissioner of the London Metropolitan Police and was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal, finally retiring with his wife to their country home in Essex, England – ‘Thorpe Hall’.
After returning from Canada, Lady Byng began creating a wonderful garden at the Hall – inspired, it is reported, by her travels in North America.
Lord Byng of Vimy died at ‘Thorpe Hall’, Thorpe-le-Soken on 06 June 1935. He is buried in the nearby hamlet of Beaumont-cum-Moze, at the 11th C Parish Church of St. Leonard.
In the early 2000’s, Thorpe Hall was demolished and a new residential spa/hotel was built in the grounds. This was completed in December 2010. Today, the ‘Lifehouse Spa & Hotel’ operates from the site.
THE FOLLOWING ARTICLES GIVE A FURTHER INSIGHT INTO LORD BYNG:
Friday 23 November 1917, Chelmsford Chronicle [sic]:
“After Dinner Talk. The Hon. Sir Julian Byng.
Essex again figures well in the splendid news of victory which reached this country from France on Wednesday. General the Hon. Sir Julian Byng, commanding the Third Army, which on Tuesday morning definitely broke through the famous Hindenburg line, is an Essex man by residence, having for some years resided at Newton Hall, Dunmow, and subsequently at Thorpe. It will ne recalled that the gallant General occupied a prominent place in the dispatch of Sir John French relating to the fateful days of December, 1914, when Sir Julian so successfully led the 3rd Cavalry Division in the neighbourhood of Ghent. General the Hon. Sir Julian Byng is the youngest son of the second Earl of Strafford, and half-brother to the fifth and present Earl. Before the present war he commanded the East Anglian Division of Territorials. Formerly he commanded the 1st Cavalry Brigade, and served through the South African War, during which he was thrice mentioned in dispatches. He is a keen soldier and a very energetic officer. While at Dunmow the gallant officer took a great interest in the Boy Scouts, being Chief Commissioner of the Northern District; and in 1912 he entertained Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck for the inspection of a Scout parade at Newton Hall. Sir Julian Byng has hitherto been best known for his year of command of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France, which he relinquished only lat June with “deepest feelings of regret.” He commanded the Canadians at Vimy Ridge, and before that was in command of a cavalry division which fought with Haig in the first Battle of Ypres. In 1912 he was Commander-in-Chief in Egypt. Lady Byng is a popular novelist. Sir Julian and Lady Byng’s many friends in the county will rejoice at the General’s great success. Only on Monday last did Lady Byng perform the opening ceremony of the British Farmers’ Red Cross sale at Thorpe-le-Soken.”
Friday 23 August 1918, Chelmsford Chronicle [sic]:
“Signs of the Times.
General Sir Julian Byng, who struck Wednesday’s blow at the Germans, played a different but equally valuable role during the great German offensive in March. It was Byng’s Third Army holding the northern portion of the great battlefield which stood firm and refused to yield ground in spite of overwhelming odds, and although the line further south was being pushed back hourly. General Byng, whose association with Essex is well-known, and whose home is in Thorpe-le-Soken, has been prominent in many of the big fights of the war. In Egypt when the war broke out, he was in France in time to command the 3rd Cavalry Division at Ypres, and received the command of a corps. He was in Gallipoli early in 1915, and afterwards, when the Canadian Army Corps wanted a new commander, the Canadian Government suggested Byng, and got him. A few months later the Canadian Army called itself “The Byng Boys,” out of compliment to the new commander. It was while under his command that the Canadians captured Vimy Ridge. Byng was made a full general lat November as a reward for his successful attack before Cambrai, when the Hindenburg line was temporarily overrun by the Third Army, to which he had been promoted.”
Friday 20 December 1918, Chelmsford Chronicle [sic]:
“Signs of the Times.
Sir Douglas Haig and his Army commanders had a triumphant reception in London yesterday. In the third carriage rode General the Hon. Sir Julian Byng, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., M.V.O., commanding the 3rd Army, and in the fourth carriage Major-General H. G. Ruffles-Brise, C.B., M.V.O., Military Secretary, General Headquarters. Sir Julian Byng, whose Army broke through the famous Hindenburg line and smashed the enemy day after day, is an Essex man by residence, having for some years lived at Newton Hall, Dunmow, and now residing at Thorpe Hall, near Clacton. General Ruggles-Brise is an Essex man by birth, son of the late Col. Sir Samuel Ruggles-Brise, and a member of a very well-known county family who have been seated for generations at Spains Hall, Finchingfield, where his brother, Mr. A. W. Ruggles-Brise, J.P., C.C., resides. The military experience of both these offices has been complete and varied, and they have a large share of the tribute we pay to the invaluable service they and their distinguished leader and their no les distinguished men have rendered to the Empire and the cause of freedom and humanity. Sir Julian and Lady Byng left London last night for Thorpe-le-Soken for Chris2tmas. They will remain there until General Byng returns to France about the first week of January.”
Friday 18 April 1919, Chelmsford Chronicle [sic]:
“GENERAL BYNG’S FUTURE. MAKING MANLY BOYS?
General Sir Julian Byng says that if he should ultimately retire from the Army he may take up a movement which will be “a further development of the Boy scouts’ organisation.”
The General, who resides at Thorpe Hall, was just before the war Chief Commissioner of Scouts in the Northern District of Essex, a work in which he was actively assisted by Mrs. Byng. On leaving to take over the command of the British Army in Egypt in October, 1912, he was presented with an inscribed silver ink-stand, subscribed for by 350 Scouts, Lady Byng being presented with a silver fountain pen and illuminated address. For several years he has been a great supporter of the movement. He is whole-heartedly in favour of scouting as a means of making manly English boys.
On Bank Holiday in 1912 he entertained Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck at Newton Hall on the occasion of their inspection of a Boy Scout parade, the previous year, in April, the late Lord Kitchener paid a visit to Newton Hall, and on that day the Dunmow troop of Boy Scouts, with representatives from other places in the district, formed a guard of honour for the famous Field-Marshal.
General Byng stated a day or two ago that his future rests with the War Office; at present he is serving on a War Office Committee which has work to do for some months. He is therefore—contrary to reports—not yet retiring from the Army.
A son of the Earl of Strafford, General Byng is 55 years old of age, and entered the Army 34 years ago. As everyone knows, he has done brilliant work during the war, in the Dardanelles and in France, where he commanded the Third Army
Sir Julian is said to be the original of Colonel Rendezvous in Mr. Well’s “Mr. Britling Sees It Through.” Colonel Rendezvous, it may be remembered, is the apostle of efficiency and national service. During his stay in Dunmow Sir Julian and Lady Byng formed the acquaintance of the literary and journalistic colony there, which includes Mr. H. G. Wells. Lady Byng has a high reputation as a novelist and writer, her books, “Barriers” (1912) and “Annie of the Marshland” (1913), having been very successful. She is daughter of the Hon. Sir Henry Moreton, K.C.V.O.
It is not generally known that Sir Julian is a descendant of the unfortunate Admiral who is immortalised in Voltaire’s epigram that from time to time the English shoot one of their admirals “pour encourager les autres.”
Canada’s story continues in CHAPTER 8: THE ALLIED NATIONS SAY “AU REVOIR MADAME GUÉRIN”