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 the poppy 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 or made prior contact).

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.”

To follow-on from Winnipeg’s empathy with the poppy: on 4 July 1921, The Victoria Daily Times (of Victoria, BC, Canada) printed an article in two parts – it referred to the “balance” of a report “as presented by Mrs. David Miller before the Municipal Chapter, I. O. D. E. at Government House on Thursday afternoon” and referred to Winnipeg. The first part was printed on page 6 and, transcribed below, is a piece about the poppy which was included in the second part, on page 7 [sic] MANY RESOLUTIONS AT NATIONAL I.O.D.E. (Continued from page 6) … Poppy Day. A resolution hailing from Winnipeg suggested the establishment of “Poppy Day” on Armistice Day as a means of raising money for the War Memorial day, and the presence in Toronto of Madame Guerin, who established the industry of manufacturing poppies among the women of France, was commented upon. The suggestion for the use of the poppy for this purpose will be sent out to the Chapters for their verdict. …”

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 [sic]:  “… 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 this image of her:

Madame E. Guérin. Edited from the 01 June 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

Madame E. Guérin. Edited from the 01 June 1921 edition of the Toronto Daily Star.

The 1 June article read [sic]:  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 ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea – a donor-recognition poppy 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 her poppy idea and were prepared to be the back-bone of the distribution of Anna’s 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 called Thunder Bay – Canada’s “Poppy City”), 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 .”

Prince Arthur Hotel, Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay). Courtesy/© Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel.

Prince Arthur Hotel, Port Arthur, Ontario (now Thunder Bay). Courtesy/© Prince Arthur Waterfront Hotel.

Port Arthur’s 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.”  [sic]:

“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.”

Prince Arthur Hotel, Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, Canada.  Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Prince Arthur Hotel, Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay), Ontario, Canada.
Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

The Star-Phoenix newspaper (of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) printed the same article, on the same day, but without the last sentence.

On the same day (04 July), the Vancouver Daily World and Toronto Daily Star newspapers printed near identical articles [sic]:  CANADA TO SELL POPPIES FOR FRENCH WAR WIDOWS:    Port Arthur, July 4 – 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 seventieth anniversary of that momentous day of 04 July 1921, a plaque was unveiled at the Prince Arthur Hotel, in 1991.

The Poppy Lady Plaque at Prince Arthur Hotel. Courtesy/© of Linda Ryma Photography.

The Poppy Lady Plaque at Prince Arthur Hotel. Courtesy/© of Linda Ryma Photography.

Poppy Lady Madame Guérin stayed at Prince Arthur Hotel, Port Arthur, Ontario. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Poppy Lady Madame Guérin stayed at Prince Arthur Hotel, Port Arthur, Ontario. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

On 05 July 1921, the newspaper editions were full of “The Poppy Lady of France” …

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 Leader Post (of Saskatchewan, Canada) printed the same article as Port Arthur News Chronicle had done, the day before (as already transcribed). It was printed in the ‘Woman’s World’  column, under the heading: PLANS TO MAKE ARMISTICE DAY BIG POPPY DAY.  Madame Guerin in Canada From France to Ask Co-operation of G.W.V.A.”

‘Woman’s World’ column header. 5 July 1921, The Leader Post (of Saskatchewan, Canada)

‘Woman’s World’ column header. 5 July 1921, The Leader Post (of Saskatchewan, Canada)

On page 2 of the 5 July 1921 edition of The Port Arthur News Chronicle, the following article appeared.  It enlightened Canadians about much of Anna Guérin’s life [sic]:

Poppy Lady of France” Visitor in Port Arthur. 

Seeks to Aid Orphans of France Through Scarlet Flower of Soldiers’ Graves.

Madame Anne E. Guerin, known as “The Poppy Lady of France,” and also, a distinguished lecturer and war worker, is a visitor in Port Arthur the early part of this week while conferring with G. W. V. A. officials regarding a Poppy Day throughout Canada on Armistice Day, November 11.

It was in the Spring of 1919, while watching the children of devastated France as they made wreathes of brilliant red poppies for the graves of overseas soldiers, that the idea of securing help for the poorly clad orphaned children of destroyed France came to Madame Guerin.

“I saw then how these frail blood-colored flowers could be made the strongest binding link between our two countries,” said Madame this morning, “I saw how they could carry on the work of justice and rehabilitation for those poor children of devastated France, innocent victims of the war.”

Compared With Bernhardt

Madame Guerin, who is an officer of the French Academy and of Public Education, lived ten years in Madagascar, where she went as a bride, three months after its conquest by the French. During her residence there she was in constant touch with General Gallieni, called the savior of Paris, because he sent the troops to Marshal Joffre which turned the tide of the Battle of the Marne.  She helped the General in many ways to bring the customs of civilization to Madagascar, particularly by her writing and organization work.  It was her efforts along this line which gained for her the purple ribbon with which she was decorated by General Gallieni, thus making her one of the youngest officers of the French Academy.  On her return to France, she lectured in French and English on Madagascar and other African colonies.  She also spoke in English universities, schools and colleges on French literature and historical subjects, creating a new type of lecture and impersonation which has been classed between the art of Sarah Bernhardt and Yvette Guilbert.  In fact, throughout England she was proclaimed the Sarah Bernhardt of the lecture platform.

Served in War

Mme. Guerin gave 1,200 lectures before members of the royal family, clubs, etc. in Scotland, Ireland and England in the three winters preceding the war, and received the decoration of officer French Education from the French ambassador in London, M. Cambon.  When the war broke out, M. Guerin, a jurist of France, who had recently returned from an official mission in the Congo, was an attaché of the World Fair of Lyons, France.  M. Guerin, in common with his compatriots (he was an Alsation by birth) enlisted.  Mme. Guerin followed his example, leaving her two daughters in a boarding school under the supervision of her aged mother.  She came to America, crossing for the first time in October, 1914. Since then Mme. Guerin has been back and forth fourteen times, crossing twice a year even during the dangerous war times.  She lectured in the United States from October to May, being in France from May to October, helping the people of her district.  Week after week she lived near trenches, in order, she says, to renew her courage at the real source—by the unquenchable courage of the poilus.  From them she derived the inspiration for wonderful lectures, wonderful by reason of their sincerity and their simplicity.

Lectured in United States

Since 1914 to last November, Mme. Guerin gave 6,000 lectures in forty-five of the United States, nearly town by town.  When America entered the war, she began to speak for all war committees, for American loans, for relief work, winning in that country the name of “The Spirit of France Incarnate.”  In Octoberm 1918, a lecture tour was cut short by the flu.

“Mme. Guerin was then sent back to France.  It was planned that, after six weeks’ work among the soldiers, she was to return across the Atlantic in January to resume her work.  The armistice, however, was declared while she was on board ship.  As did every one else, Mme. Guerin believed the war over and that it would soon be possible to return to her family life.  But a journey through the liberated parts of France (still referred to as destroyed France) and a realization of the inconceivable miseries of the women and children who for four and a half years had been martyrized, causing her to return to North America to seek help for them.”

The same day (05 July 1921), Anna Guérin’s proposal of the previous day was 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 the proposal on 06 July 1921 and, in doing so, Canada’s veterans were 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).

Three days later, on 08 July 1921, the Los Angeles Herald printed [sic]: “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 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.””

Poppy Lady Madame Guérin. Edited from page xxxii, 'Service : The Story Of The Canadian Legion 1925 to 1960' by C.H. Bowering. Courtesy/© of The Canadian Legion. Thunder Bay Public Library duly acknowledged.

Poppy Lady Madame Guérin. Edited from page xxxii, ‘Service : The Story Of The Canadian Legion 1925 to 1960’ by C.H. Bowering.  Courtesy/© of The Canadian Legion.  Thunder Bay Public Library duly acknowledged.

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 who were 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.” or “Mademoiselle”) over the age of approximately 35 years of age is awarded the courtesy title of “Mme.” or “Madame”.   So the mixture of titles is not necessarily because of newspapers’ errors, it may simply be that more courtesy was afforded Mlle. Guérin 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 Day’ scheme 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 Madame Guérin’s ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ idea to the Australian Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League, did it send cablegrams to the British Legion; the New Zealand Returned Services’ Association; and the South African veterans 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 Gt. Britain, New Zealand and South Africa just did not make it known to the public.  Certainly, no evidence has been discovered at the Canadian end 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 Anna Guérin’s ‘American-Franco Children’s League.  It was agreed that Samuel would travel to New Zealand and Australia (and 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.

Queen’s Hotel, Toronto, Canada: Poppy Lady Madame Guérin was here in 1921. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Queen’s Hotel, Toronto, Canada: Poppy Lady Madame Guérin was here in 1921.
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

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 graves 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 1921, 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 the same day: The Saskatoon Daily Star (of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) printed a near-identical article headed TENDED WITH LOVE.  Graves of Canadian Dead Well Looked After, Says Madame Guerinand The Star-Pheonix (of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) did the same thing under “GRAVES WELL KEPT. Madame Guerin Speaks in Toronto; Will Supply 2,000,000 Poppies”.

On Friday 05 August 1921, 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 1921, 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 whatsoever:  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.”

Having left all her plans in the capable hands of her “two French organizers” – her sister Juliette and friend Blanche – Anna had taken her leave of Canada by now.  Anna travelled to New York and, probably, set sail for England around 19 August.  She arrived in Liverpool on 29 August – to continue her ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ 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 1921 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.”

On 19 September 1921, Canadian newspapers printed the same article under different headings:- ‘The Ottawa Journal’ “WEAR A POPPY IN MEMORY OF MEN WHO FELL IN WAR”; ‘The Edmonton Journal’ printed identical articles, but under different headings – POPPY FOR ARMISTICE DAY. G.W.V.A. Starts Its Campaign; The Victoria Daily Times (of British Columbia) “TO WEAR POPPIES ARMISTICE DAY.  People Asked By G.W.V.A. to Adopt Custom”; and The Saskatoon Daily Star (of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) “WILL WEAR POPPY. Veterans to Carry Token of “Great Sacrifice” on Armistice Day” [sic]:

“The memory of those who fell in the great war will be reverenced in Canada this year by the wearing of a red poppy on Armistice Day, according to plans 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 22 September 1921, Madame Guérin’s friend Madame Blanche Berneron was mentioned in The Gazette (of Montreal).  The piece was one of several that appeared under the heading of Social and Personal [sic]:

“This morning at ten o’clock, a meeting is being held in the Green room of the Ritz Carlton Hotel, to discuss arrangements for the Poppy Campaign to be held on Armistice Day.  Lady Williams-Taylor and Mrs. Rosaire Tribaudeau as co-presidents of L’Aide a la France and members of the Disabled Soldiers’ Employment Association, are calling the meeting and members of all organizations for the relief of returned men and their families are requested to be present.  Arrangements for the Poppy Campaign in the province of Quebec are in the hands of the Disabled Soldiers’ Employment Association, the officers of which are as follows: Honorary president, Lady Meredith; president, Lady Currie; vice-presidents, Lady Shaughnessy, Lady Atholstan, Mrs. C. C. Ballantyne, Lady Gouin, Hon. Mrs. H. W. Beauclerk, Lady Gordon, Mrs. A. E. Labelle, Mrs. D. Forbes Angus and Mrs. Herbert Molson.  Lady Williams-Taylor is organizer and the committee includes Mrs. W. J. Shaughnessy, Mrs. Huntly Drummond, Lady Allan, Mrs. Frank Meighen, Mrs. Howard Kelley, Mrs. W. K. deKapelle, Mrs. J. M. Almond, Mrs. H. S. Birkett, Mrs. A. D. MacTier, Mrs. Dubrule, Mrs. Henry Joseph, Mrs. Arthur Drummond, Mrs. Arthur Terroux, Mrs. D. C. Macarow, Mrs. L. E. F. Barry, Mrs. A. P. Shatford, Mrs. R. A. E. Greenshields, Mrs. George Duncan, Mrs. J. W. McConnell, Mrs. Albert Halstead, Mrs. George Starke, Mrs. John Turnbull, Mrs. F. N. Beardmore, Mrs. Hugh Owen. Among the speakers at the meeting will be Rev. Canon Almond, Rev. Canon Shatford, Father Hingston, and Madame Blanche Berneron, of Paris, representing the Children’s League.  Mgr. Gauthier, who is unable to be present at the meeting will be represented by Father Silvestre.”

On 27 September, the Toronto Daily Star printed a press release out of Ottawa:  TO WEAR FLANDERS POPPYThe 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.”    

On the same day (27 September 1921), the front page of The Ottawa Citizen printed the following article mentioning a wire from Madame  [sic]:


The custom of wearing the Flanders poppy as a memorial flower in honor of the men who gave their lives during the war is gaining favour the world over.  This morning a wire was received by the Great War Veterans’ Association from Madame Guerin, representative of the French Children’s League, who recently went from Canada to England in order to organize the distribution of the poppies to be worn on Armistice Day there.  Madame Guerin states that the British Legion, the organization representing the majority of ex-service men in the British Isles, has taken up the scheme and already complete success is assured by the maner in which the campaign is being receiving by the people generally.

The Prince of Wales and Field Marshal Lord Haig are acting jointly as chairmen of the campaign.  As in Canada, Great Britain purposes to accomplish three worthy objects by adopting the poppy as a memorial flower.  In the first instance, it will fulfil the longing in the heart of every loyal citizen to, in some tangible way, demonstrate the deep respect for those who sacrificed their lives for their country.  The funds derived from the sale of poppies will be, in the second instance, utilized for relief purposes for those who are in need of assistance as the result of unemployment.  Las, but not least, the orphan children of the devastated areas of France, who are engaged in making replicas of the original Flanders poppy, will be provided with a means of sustenance.

The campaign in Canada will be undertaken a few days prior to Armistice Day and it is expected that every person will wear a Flanders poppy on November 11.  Madame Guerin is sailing on Friday* for Canada, in order to supervise the distribution of the poppies here.”  [Friday* = in reality, Madame Guérin sailed the day after, on Saturday 1 October]

The Ottawa Journal, on 30 September, reproduced a piece taken from the Montreal Herald – to demonstrate how French & English-speaking communities existed together, with a mention of Poppy Day.   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 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.” 

During October, Anna had 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 10 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”.   The paperwork suggests Anna arrived in Canada on the 11th.

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 was looks as though Juliette had 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 ‘Inter-Allied Poppy Day’ in the western provinces of Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Alberta; and British Columbia.

A French-made poppy distributed on the streets of Canada, in 1921. Courtesy/© of the Museum of Vancouver [H990.214.29].

A 1921 Madame Guérin French-made poppy distributed on the streets of Canada, in 1921. Courtesy/© of the Museum of Vancouver [H990.214.29].

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.

On 6 October 1921, the Edmonton Journal (of Edmonton, Alberta) enlightened its readers about the forthcoming Armistice Day [sic]:


Hundreds of Artificial Flowers Have Been Received from France.

The poppy of Flanders, the blood-red flower that has figured in song and story of the deeds of vallant men on the battlefields, will be used in Edmonton and throughout the entire Dominion of Canada on Armistice Day to commemorate the memory of those who sacrificed their lives in civilization’s cause.

“Hundreds of the artificial poppies, made by the women and children of France, have been received by the local branch of the Great War Veterans’ association.  On November 11 they will be sold on the streets of Edmonton, the proceeds of the sale to be used for the decoration of soldiers’ graves, and to help the war orphans of the French republic.

The Poppy Lady

The idea of using the poppy emblem in commemoration of the war heroes originated in the mind of Madame de Guerin, the “Poppy Lady,” as she has come to be called, of France.  In the scarlet poppies she saw the color of the blood of brave soldiers, which had witnessed many times in the hospitals, where as a Sister of Mercy she had devoted herself to the care of the wounded.*  At once she conceived the idea of memorializing the poppy as an emblem of the fallen heroes and revolved that all the allied countries should use if as a remembrance of those who paid the supreme sacrifice.

Beginning her work in Paris, Madame de Guerin extended it to the United States and Canada, with the hope that Armistice Day should also become “Poppy Day,” upon which occasion the blood-red artificial flowers made by the women and children of France should be disposed of in street sales and the proceeds devoted to the welfare of French children and war veterans of the country in which the emblems were sold.

Veterans Will Cooperate

During the course of the dominion executive conference of the Great War Veterans’ association in Port Arthur, July 4, Madame de Guerin appeared before the assembly and pleaded her cause.  Her thought was considered a beautiful one, and the convention decided to cooperate with the “Poppy Lady” in the plan she had launched. 

To this end, the dominion command of the G.W.V.A. is now distributing supplies of the artificial poppies, which are of artistic and realistic design, to its various branches throughout Canada.  Armistice Day, therefore, will be featured by the poppy emblem, a fitting token of the brave deeds of Canada’s finest on the battlefields of France and Flanders.”

* where as a Sister of Mercy she had devoted herself to the care of the wounded” is not an accurate statement: inasmuch as, Anna Guérin did not care for the wounded in a personal hands-on capacity but did contribute indirectly. In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna admitted she knew she could not be a nurse but she knew she could do what she did best … raise funds to assist with that.  She had visited hospitals and knew the suffering.

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 organisations 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.; was influential in the creation of Vetcraft Shops in 1919 (originally known as “Vet-Craft”); 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.”  (Source: wikipedia)

Also on 11 October 1921, The Saskatoon Daily Star (of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) announced how the G.W.V.A. was trying to extend the poppy selling campaign [sic]:


Make Effort to Aid Women and Children of Devastated Regions of France.

W. F. Sharp, secretary of the local branch of the Great War Veterans’ Association, is making efforts to extend the poppy selling campaign to the points in district tributary to Saskatoon where no branch of the association has been established.

The poppy selling campaign is being organized to raise funds for the assistance of the women and children who live in the devastated regions of France.  Mrs. W. G. Dunlop, who lives in Vanscoy, where she is the Sunday school superintendent, visited Mr. Sharp yesterday evening, and stated the idea appealed considerably to her pupils who were all very anxious to assist in the sale of the poppies, as there is no branch of the G.W.V.A. located in Vanscoy.

Mr. Sharp stated this morning that he thinks the suggestion is a good one, and he would like the co-operation of organisations in other points in the district where there is no branch of the G.W.V.A.”

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.”

As was the case in the United States of American, 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 SALESPermission 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 18 October 1921, The Edmonton Journal (of Edmonton, Alberta) printed an informative article for its readers [sic]:

BLOOD RED POPPIES WILL BE WORN ON EDMONTON STREETS BY ALL CITIZENS ON ARMISTICE DAY. United Effort to Immortalize the Emblem of the Hero Dead; Supply of France Has Been Received from France.

Every patriotic citizen of Edmonton will be urged to wear an artificial replica of the blood-red poppy of Flanders Fields on Armistice Day, to memorialize the fallen heroes of the war.  In addition, churches, schools, and various organizations will be asked to help immortalize the emblem of the fallen dead by purchasing crosses, wreaths and bouquets of the poppies.

The Great War Veterans’ association having taken responsibility of fostering the movement in this city, every effort will be made to induce Edmontonians to help the orphans of France, and at the same time enhance the memory of the soldiers who fell in their country’s battles.

Poppies Received Today.

This morning large supplies of wreaths, crosses and bouquets of poppies were received from Ottawa for distribution.  Each church in the city will be requested to buy one of the crosses, and it is the intention that the various schools shall acquaint the pupils with the ideals and objects of the poppy movement, with a view to placing a wreath or bouquet in the school room as an emblem of the memory of the fallen.

The matter of placing the subject before school pupils, and making it, if possible, a special study previous to Armistice Day, has been taken to the school board and will be given consideration soon.  A letter has also been sent to Hon. Perren Baker, minister of education, requesting that a similar campaign be carried on in the rural schools.

Wear a Poppy

Already a number of applications have been received for wreaths and bouquets of the flowers, and it is anticipated that a ready sale will be found.  Besides some of the small locals of the G.W.V.A., several private citizens have asked to purchase wreaths.

The “Wear a Poppy” movement is sponsored by the Children’s League of Paris, of which Madame A. Millerand, wife of the president of France, is the leader.  It has been spread to all parts of Canada, and to many of the allied nations who fought side by side with France in the great war.

The poppies were made by French orphans and millions of them have been sent to the allied countries for sale on Armistice Day.  Part of the proceeds from the sale of the flowers will go toward the alleviation of distress among these children and the wounded veterans, through the medium of the Children’s league.

Of Artistic Design

The wreaths, bouquets and crosses of artificial poppies just received by the local War Vets are of beautiful and artistic design and represent hours of patient labor on the part of the French orphans, each flower having been hand-made and arranged in order.  As emblems of the fallen heroes’ memory they are particularly appropriate.

Persons interested in the poppy movement are asked to get in touch with the Great War Veterans’ association officials at the Memorial hall, who will supply price lists and any other information desired.”     

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.”

It was on the 19th and 20th of October 1921, that Blanche Berneron was in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.  She travelling on to Edmonton on the evening of the 20th.

On 19 October 1921, The Saskatoon Daily Star and, on 20 October, The Star Phoenix (both of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) printed the following article [sic]:


Madame Blanche Berneron, of Paris, representative of the Child’s Welfare League of France, arrived in the city this morning to institute the necessary preparations for the local poppy campaign, which is being inaugurated in Saskatoon by officials of the Great War Veterans’ Association.


“Let every true Canadian man, woman and child consider it a sacred obligation to wear the bright red poppy on Armistice Day.  It will serve to hold and preserve the link of affection between the two sister countries—France and Canada, at the same time help the poor child martyrs of the devastated regions of France, alleviate the distress in your own midst, and also keep alive the memory of those who brought back honor to their country, glory to their flag, and peace to the world,” said Madame Berneron to a representative from the “The Star” this morning.

“The crimson red poppy,” she continued has been adopted by the Great War Veterans as their memorial flower, to be worn of every citizen on Armistice Day, which will be known in the future as “Poppy Day.”  In order that the emblem will not be commercialised, these flowers are being made by the women and children of the devastated regions of Northern France, folks who live amid the ruins of the very battlefields where the boys fought and won, and where so many of them sleep.”


Madame Millerand, the first lady of France, is the sponsor of the “Wear a Poppy” movement, and was a prime mover in the organisation of the Children’s League in France.  This organisation is a clearing house for the relief work among the children of the war torn areas, and the funds raised through the sale of poppies will go towards the amelioration of the condition among these children and the wounded veterans.  The poppies have been made by French orphans and millions of them have been sent to the Allied countries for sale on Armistice Day.

About three millions of these flowers have been shipped to Canada for “Poppy Day,” free transportation having been furnished by the Canadian National Railway.


The distinguished visitor, who toiled incessantly throughout the war on relief work, typifies the French nation in her uniform of “French Grey” which she wears on her official mission, and recalls vividly to mind the gay “Poilu” and the shell shattered villages of Northern France.  She is filled with enthusiasm for the project which she is instituting in Canada. “We should never forget the men who lived for five years in the trenches suffering every privation.  If there is such a thing as Armistice Day we owe it to them.  That there is still distress among these men, even here in Canada, there is no reason to deny and it will take years to bring some of them back to their normal condition, following the tortures they went through over there.  Then in my own country,” she added pathetically, “The want and privation in the devastated areas is enormous.  These two classes will benefit from the “Poppy Campaign.”

Madame Berneron, who has covered Eastern Canada already, states that she was met with the greatest enthusiasm everywhere she went, and is receiving the fullest co-operation from every organisation and individual whom she has approached, Lord and Lady Byng have lent their patronage to the movement, in addition to several other eminent dignitaries and officials of Canada.”

The Star Phoenix (on the 21st), wrote about a recent visit by her, calling her the “Poppy Lady” and, again, spelling her real name incorrectly [sic]:

THE “POPPY LADY” EXPLAINS HOW TO SELL THE FLOWERS.  Mme. Berberon Is Guest of G. W. V. A. Auxiliary at Tea and Receives Welcoming Gift.

It was to be regretted that many more were not privileged to met and hear Madame Blanche Berberon, “the Poppy Lady,” whose arrival in the city a day earlier than was expected made more general arrangements for her entertainment impossible. In a quiet little room in the Veterans’ Home, surrounded by members of the Great War Veterans’ Auxiliary, Mme. Berberon, explained her mission—the strengthening of the sentiment of Armistice Day by the sale of the Flanders poppy, made by the women and girls of devastated France in loving memory of all who died “to bring honor to their flags, glory to their countries and peace to the world.”  The cost of the crimson flower goes back to France and the surplus remains in Canada to be applied to the alleviation of distress, first among those directly afflicted by war and then to all in need.

In thoughtfully-worded English the charming French woman paid glowing tribute to the Canadian soldier and urged this mute observance of Armistice Day as a means of cementing friendships between Canada and France and of perpetuating the memory of the noble manhood whose blood speaks in the flaming red of the poppy.

 Every house will be visited the day before November 11 by vendors of the little flowers so that no one need be humiliated by the lack of an emblematic blossom on Armistice Day.  The G.W.V.A. and the Army and Navy Veterans will see to that.

So keen was Mme. Berberon’s determination to suggest every possible means for the quick distribution of the poppies that as she talked her long, slim fingers fashioned a remarkably useful “basket” from a manilla bag that had been used to bring cakes to the tea.  As she pinned a poppy to the side she said: “You can carry your flowers like this.”

Mrs. Turbett, president of the auxiliary, and Mr. Sharp, the secretary introduced the guest of honor.  Mrs. Alex. Forbes poured tea at the prettily appointed table.  Mme. Berberon carried a sheaf of flowers, the gift of the auxiliary.”

On 20 October 1921, The Edmonton Journal (of Edmonton, Alberta) wrote about Blanche Berneron arriving that evening, albeit spelling her name incorrectly [sic]:


Madame Vernerun Will Attend Conference In Memorial Hall on Friday.

Madame Vernerun, representative of the “Poppy Lady” of France, will arrive in Edmonton late tonight in the course of her Canadian tour in the interests of the Poppy Day movement.

Arrangements are now under way with the Great War Veterans’ association here to have the French visitor outline the plan followed in other cities in connection with the campaign for memorializing the poppy emblem, and a conference for this purpose is to be held in the Memorial hall tomorrow afternoon.”

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.” 

Also on Monday 24 October 1921, The Edmonton Journal (of Edmonton, Alberta) mentioned Madame Berneron [sic]:


Archbishop O’Leary Has Warmly Endorsed Project for Armistice Day.

Quite considerable interest is manifested in the meeting to be held in the Memorial hall at three o’clock this afternoon, for the purpose of organizing the “Poppy Day” campaign in this city.  Archbishop O’Leary, of the Roman Catholic diocese, has given his hearty endorsation to the project, while many of the local associations have expressed a willingness to co-operate.

Madame Berneron, representative of the “Poppy Lady” of France, is to outline to the gathering plans for conducting an energetic campaign, and to explain the meaning and objects of the “Poppy Day” movement which is spreading throughout all the allied countries.

In connection with the sale of poppies here on Armistice Day, Madame Berneron points out that only the actual cost of the artificial flowers, which were made by the women and orphans of France, goes for French relief purposes.  The balance of the proceeds will be used for the benefit of soldiers’ dependents in Canada.”

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 [sic]:  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.”

Also on 25 October 1921, The Nanaimo Daily News (of Nanaimo, British Columbia) [sic]:


Nanaimo citizens will be asked to wear a poppy on Armistice Day, permission having been granted by the City Council at its meeting last night to the Great War Veterans to hold a tag day on November 11.  The application was made in a letter from Secretary William T. H. Firth in which he explained that the purpose of the tag day was to sell poppies made by war widows and orphans of France and the profits made will be devoted to the relief of destitute cases in the city and vicinity.  The poppies will be worn in memory of those who feel on the Fields of Flanders.”

Again, on the same day, 25 October 1921, The Leader Post (of Saskatchewan, Canada) printed [sic]:

AID REQUESTED FOR DEVATATED AREAS.  Madame E. Guerin, Known as “Poppy Lady of France,” Is Visitor in City.  ORIGINATOR OF DRIVE.  Has Delivered More Than 6,000 Lectures Since October, 1914, in Allied Countries.

Originator of the international “Flanders Poppy” campaign, Madame E. Guerin, known in all the Allied countries as the “Poppy Lady of France,” was in the city yesterday, and while here addressed the students of the Collegiate Institute and provincial Normal School under the auspices of the G.W.V.A. in furtherance of the sale of poppies here Armistice Day, November 11.  Proceeds from the sale of the flowers will be devoted to aiding women and children in the devastated war areas of France.

Wife of the president of a French Federal Court, Madame Guerin has been three times decorated by her Government.  She is an officer of the French Academy, an officer of Public Education of France, and an officer of Nicham for war work.  She has given more than 6,000 lectures since October, 1914*, in England, Scotland, the United States and Canada.

Plans Poppy Campaign

Madame Guerin planned the poppy campaign in the United States for May 30, Decoration Day, when millions of poppies were sold, and after having conferred with G.W.V.A. headquarters in Ottawa, planned the campaign in Canada for Armistice Day.  She then went to England to help the British organize their national poppy day.

“In England,” said Madame Guerin in an interview with The Morning Leader last night, “the campaign has been taken in a real patriotic spirit to help not only the children of France but also to assist the hundreds of thousands of unemployed soldiers.  The Prince of Wales is the patron of the British Legion, and Field Marshal Haig the active president, and both are keenly interested in the success of Poppy Day throughout the British Empire.”

Returning to Canada ten days ago from London, Madame Guerin attended the national convention of the G.W.V.A. in Port Arthur last week, where a resolution was passed adopting the Flanders poppy as “Canada’s flower of remembrance,” and pledging the members to assist in the Armistice Day campaign, each year.

To Meet Foch

Madame Guerin was disappointed at only being able to be here for a few hours, but she was obliged to leave last night for Winnipeg and Kansas City, where she will attend the big national convention of the American Legion and meet Marshal Foch, Admiral Beatty and General Diaz.  “I am going away confident, however,” she said, “that Saskatchewan will sell more than her quota of poppies.”

Before leaving she announced that arrangements have been made for the pupils in every school to sell two or three poppies each, and that to the school selling the largest number of poppies in proportion to the number of students will be awarded a beautiful French flag.

The campaign for the city has been placed in the charge of Capt. F. J. Rowan, assistant secretary of the G.W.V.A.  Booths for the sale of poppies are to be established in the departmental stores, the hotels, the post office and other strategic points for Armistice Day.  In addition to individual flowers, crosses, bouquets and wreaths of the scarlet flower have been made up, available for use in churches, hall, lodges and other institutions.”

N.B. *”She has given more than 6,000 lectures since October, 1914, in England, Scotland, the United States and Canada” is a slight error = she arrived in the U.S.A. in October 1914 and began her war-effort lectures then but her lectures began, in the U.K., in 1911.

WREATHS OF SILK POPPIES FOR “POPPY DAY”. Winnipeg Tribune 25 October 1921.

WREATHS OF SILK POPPIES FOR “POPPY DAY”. Winnipeg Tribune, 25 October 1921.

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):


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.”

Anna Guérin : Madame E. Guérin : Winnipeg Tribune, 26 October 1921.

Anna Guérin : Madame E. Guérin : Winnipeg Tribune, 26 October 1921.

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.   

“Representative Women Arrange Poppy Sale” : Winnipeg Tribune, 28 October 1921.

“Representative Women Arrange Poppy Sale”: Anna Guérin poses in a light “blue-grey uniform and tam of the French Blue Devils”. Winnipeg Tribune, 28 October 1921.

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).

On 26 October 1921, The Calgary Herald (of Calgary, Alberta) promoted Poppy Day [sic]:

SCARLET POPPY WILL BE WORN IN CAMROSE.  In Commemoration of Heroic Dead on Coming Armistice Day.  (Special to The Herald).  CAMROSE, Oct. 25—Camrose will take part in the “Poppy Day” campaign, launched by the G.W.V.A. throughout the Dominion and on November 7 there will be few people in town who are not wearing the scarlet emblem of sacrifice.  The I.O.D.E. will handle the supply of poppies in Camrose, the followers having been made by orphans in the devastated areas of France.  They are sold in Canada through the G. W. V. A. by Madame Guerin, the “French Poppy Lady,” and all receipts from their sale are to be devoted to local relief, distributed by the Great War Veterans or such body as may be authorized to handle the campaign.”

On Friday 28 October 1921, again in The Calgary Herald, Blanche Berneron’s itinerary was printed [sic]:

“POPPY LADY” SPEAKS. Mme. Berneron, one of the “Poppy Ladies of France,” who is in the city in the interests of the poppy day campaign, spoke to the children of Mount Royal school on Thursday morning, and to the children of Crescent Heights high school and the Normal school on Thursday afternoon, in which she explained the necessity of wearing a poppy on Armistice Day, November 11. On Friday Mme. Berneron will speak at the Commercial high school and South Calgary high school.  She will leave for the coast on Friday evening.”

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, 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 Wednesday 2 November, Blanche Berneron was back in Calgary – The Calgary Herald confirms this on the 1st [sic]:  “The monthly meeting of the Ladies’ Auxiliary to 50th Battalion Association will be held on Wednesday evening, November 2, at 7:30, in the G.W.V.A. club rooms.  It is desired that every one be on time owing to meeting with “The Poppy Lady” at 8:30.”

The same day, 2 November 1921, The Saskatoon Daily Star (of Saskatoon, Satskatchewan) announced the following [sic]: Byng to Be Patron Of “Poppy” Drive.  OTTAWA.  Nov. 1.—Baron Byng of Vimy, governor-general of Canada, has consented to act as patron of the Poppy Day campaign, according to a statement issued this morning by Dominion command officials of the Great War Veterans’ Association.”

Also 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 [sic]: 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.”

In her 1941 Synopsis, Anna Guerin wrote: “I went to the National Convention of the American Legion, in Kansas, where I had been invited …”  Whilst there, she fought for the poppy because the Legionnaires were debating the adoption of the daisy instead of the poppy.  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 [sic]:


“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.”

“POPPY LADY OF FRANCE.” The Ottawa Journal, 7 November 1921.

The Ottawa Journal, 7 November 1921.

“MME. E. GUERIN, the founder and promoter of the Inter-Allied movement of the Memorial Poppy Day, who came from Kansas to be present at the ceremony on Parliament Hill yesterday.”  The Ottawa Journal, 7 November 1921.

On 06 November, Anna arrived in Ottawa.  She was to be 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’ occurred on the 7th 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 during its campaign, which was considered a very large percentage for a population of 110,000.

The next day (8 November), 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 [sic]:


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.”

In the centre: The Victory Tower. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

In the centre: The Victory Tower. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Also on 8 November 1921, The Ottawa Citizen printed two articles. One told its readers about how successful the city’s Poppy Day had been … 40% would go to the G.W.V.A., thus 60% must have gone to Madame Guérin’s charity [sic]:


The Poppy Day campaign which opened a week ago ended yesterday afternoon with seven thousand dollars as the approximate result, forty per cent of which will go to the relief committee of the G.W.V.A.

Yesterday’s tagging brought in the sum of one thousand dollars, the number of tags sold running to over forty thousand.  Poppy Day will be held in other Canadian cities on Armistice day, Ottawa being the first to open the campaign. In addition to the committees tagging on Saturday, the following took an active part yesterday:

Under the convenership of Miss Blanche Millar were:  Misses Lena Levitan, Sara Millar, Mrs. Harry Cooper, Rose Goldman, Tillie Lacavin, Mrs. B. Edelson, Sara Horwitz, Rae Gorfinkel, Hilda Kammisky, Miriam Hollender, Rae Hollender, Fanny Feller, Rae Fine, Essie Smith, May Progash, Jean Progash, Ida Levine, Beck Benwick, Anna Golub, Lessie Caplan, Pearl Sionemsky, Lawrence Bent, George Harper, Fanny Smith, Anna H. Freedman.

The assistants in Dalhousie ward were Miss N. O’Connor, L Thorburn, H. Charleson, E. Turnbull, M. Learmonth, B. Learmonth, M. Imlach, M. Kennedy, M. McDonald, D. Pratt, U. Childernose, Mrs. J. A. McLachlin, Mrs. J. B. Reade, Miss Anderson and Miss J. Robertson.”

The other article, which was accompanied by a familiar image of Anna Guérin, alerted Canadians to Madame E. Guérin’s return to the country.

Canadians knew, at that time, who was putting the Remembrance Poppy on their lapels [sic]:


Mde. E. Guerin, internationally known as the Poppy Lady of France, the founder and promoter of the Inter-Allied movement of the Memorial Poppy Days, came from the big convention of the American Legion in Kansas City, which was attended by Marshal Foch and Admiral Beatty, to be in Ottawa yesterday to attend the memorial ceremony.  Mde. Guerin placed a wreath of Poppies adorned with French colors on the pylon, and also marched in the parade with the G.W.V.A.

Mde. Guerin was three times decorated by the French government, as an officer of the French Academy, officer of the French Public Education, and an officer for work done abroad.

Mde. Guerin helped to organize the National Poppy Day n the United Stated on their Decoration Day, May thirtieth, and also helped to organize the British Memorial Poppy Days, in England, Canada, Austalia, India and New Zealand.  The British memorial Poppy days are being held throughout these countries this week.

Mde. Guerin leaves today for Toronto where the Poppy Day campaign will be held on the eleventh of November.”

On 9 November 1921, a familiar image of Madame Guérin was printed in The Calgary Herald (page 9), under the heading “Poppy Lady” Brings Flowers From the Fields of Flanders”.  The following text appeared underneath the image [sic]: ”THE POPPY LADY” Who has come to Canada with her inspiring message, “We Shall Not Forget.”  She has brought with her more than two million reproductions of the scarlet flowers which grow over the graves of the men who fell in action in France and Flanders fields during the Great War, and on Thursday these tokens will be worn in memory of Canada’s heroes.  She is helping Canada unite with France on Armistice Day, to honor the dead who sleep in French soil.”

“Poppy Lady” Brings Flowers From the Fields of Flanders. 9 November 1921, The Calgary Herald (of Calgary, Alberta).

“Poppy Lady” Brings Flowers From the Fields of Flanders.
9 November 1921, The Calgary Herald (of Calgary, Alberta).

In the same issue (page 16), Madame Blanche Berneron was referred to although she was not named but she was the only “Poppy Lady” in Calgary [sic]:

Will Sell Poppies At Plaza to Aid Sunshine’s Work. Dancers Attending This Place of Amusement Friday Night Asked to Give Liberally.

The “Poppy Lady,” has come all the way from France to carry on the poppy campaign in Canada, and has been telling the people of Calgary what the sale of the scarlet blossoms would do toward helping the women and children of France.  That the money collected in the local poppy sale might serve a double purpose and not only provide means to help France in the business of re-establishing homes for its destitute families, but also help needy mothers and children in Calgary, the management of the Plaza will conduct the sale of these emblems of supreme sacrifice during the celebration of Armistice Day at the Plaza Friday evening for the benefit of the Herald Sunshine Society.    

In expressing the gratitude of this society to Messrs. Kolb and McCaw for this generous offer we would urge those in attendance at the Plaza on that evening to show their appreciation of what Canada’s fighting men, who lie beneath the flaming blanket in Flanders Fields did to protect the women and children of this Empire by giving all they possibly can when the poppy saleslady approaches them to help protect the mothers and children of Calgary from dire need during the fast approaching winter.”

Also on 09 November, the Toronto Star also 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 1921, ‘The Province’ (of Vancouver, BC) printed the following [sic]:


The people of Canada and the rest of the Empire will tomorrow adorn themselves and decorate their houses and offices with poppies.  It was a Canadian poet and soldier who did most to associate the Flanders Fields with the poppy.  A great general has asked that Armistice Day should be poppy day.  “On Armistice Day,” said General Haig, “you shall ask the people to remember the dead, who never die, in red poppies.”  Soldiers’ widows and the orphans in France made the silk poppies and cotton poppies which are offered on the streets and elsewhere in Vancouver.  Over the price that goes to the Children’s League of Paris, for the relief of the soldier families, the amount which we choose to pay for the memorial poppy goes to help like purposes here.  It is not a time to mark closely prices or values, but to bestow what we can in recognition of the men who made this Armistice Day a proud remembrance, and not an anniversary of gloom.”

Also 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”: Toronto Cenotaph, Armistice Day 1921. Toronto Daily Star, 11 November 1921.

“LEST WE FORGET: LEST WE FORGET”: Toronto Cenotaph, Armistice Day 1921. Toronto Daily Star, 11 November 1921.

“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, …  …”

Poppy covered car of G. B. Ryan & Co. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Poppy covered car of G. B. Ryan & Co. of Guelph, Ontario, Canada.
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

G. B. Ryan & Co.”, as per the notice on the poppy-covered car, shown above, was Dry Goods Merchant George Byron Ryan’s company.  The business was a “dry goods, millinery, clothing and furnishings” store on the east side of upper Wyndham Street (numbers 113 and 117), in Guelph, Ontario, Canada.

From 1895, home for George and his family was ‘Parkview’ at 88 London Road W (corner with Park Avenue), Guelph – which was/is only a half an hour’s walk from 108 Water St, Guelph – the home of the John McCrae, the well-known doctor; soldier; and author of the famous “In Flanders Fields” poem.  George’s business in Wyndham Street was even closer, only 20 minutes’ walk from the McCrae House.  “In Flanders Fields” is reported to have been written on 2 May 1915.  The poem was first published in the British Punch magazine on 8 December 1915.

Given that the poem has been found in a couple of Canadian newspapers as early as February 1916, the photograph of the poppy-covered car could possibly be as early as that.

However, it was in November 1921 that the words “In Flanders’ Fields” would be seen en masse on Canadian streets nationwide – because Poppy Lady Madame Guérin’s poppy sellers wore sashes bearing the emotive words “In Flanders’ Fields”.

Read more about George Byron Ryan here:

On Armistice Day, 11 November, Blanche Berneron was on Vancouver Island. 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.”

In the afternoon of Armistice Day, Blanche Berneron visited British Columbia’s capital city, Victoria.  The Victoria Daily Times (8 November) had printed the following notice [sic]:

Lady Alderson Chapter.—Members of the Lady Alderson Chapter are asked to attend at the North War School on Armistice Day, Friday, November 11, promptly at 2.30 p.m., when the picture of “The Burial of the Unknown Warrior” will be presented to the school.  Madame Blanche Berueron, “The Poppy Lady,” has most kindly consented to be the speaker on this occasion, and will be introduced by Mrs. Ricketts, the educational secretary of the Chapter.  A large attendance of members is expected, and the attention of out-of-town members is especially drawn to this notice.”   

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.

On 14 November 1921, The Calgary Herald (of Calgary, Alberta) updated readers on the amount of money raised from distributing the poppies [sic]:


Appeal Meets with Generous Response Throughout the Province.

Although the exact amount derived from the sale of Flanders poppies during the last week cannot be announced for some time yet, as returns from the various G.W.V.A. branches in Alberta are coming in slowly, it is estimated that approximately $20,000 has been contributed.

A number of the branches held tag days and in this way the amount was considerably augmented.

Ninety branches of the G.W.V.A. in Alberta took an active part in the campaign.  Almost from every branch has come the complaint that the allotment of poppies was insufficient for the demand, and it is declared the number of poppies required for next Armistice Day will more than double the number this year.  The innovation of a “Poppy Day” in every quarter has proven most popular.

Even today applications are being received for any that might be left over, but not a small, large or wreath of poppies is to be had.”

1921 Canadian Poppy (Madame Guérin, French-made). Courtesy/© of The Canadian War Museum.

1921 Canadian Poppy (Madame Guérin, French-made).  Courtesy/© of The Canadian War Museum.

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 Friday 18 November 1921, Madame Guérin attended the final meeting of National Poppy Day Campaign Committee for Quebec.  The Gazette (of Montreal, Quebec) printed a long article the next day.  The article contained emotional words spoken by Lady Williams-Taylor:  here is the article, apart from individual District results [sic]:

POPPY DAY FUNDS TOTAL $31,381.67.  Expenditures of £3,456.17 Leave Net of $28, 925.-50 for Division.  RESULTS BY DISTRICTS. Largest Single Box Collection Was $222.73—Votes of Thanks at Committee’s Final Meeting.

At the final meeting of the National Poppy Day Campaign committee held yesterday afternoon in the Ladies’ Ordinary of the Windsor Hotel, the approximate results of the Armistice Day collections were announced, subject to a few returns yet to be received from other centres in the province of Quebec.  These will not affect the results so far as the city of Montreal is concerned, as the profits of the outside collections go to local objects in almost every case, although the returns have to come to the Montreal committee as the organizing body for the whole province.  The financial statement submitted to yesterday’s meeting by Mr. A. Tarut, the honorary treasurer, showed total receipts of $31,381.67, made up as follows: Tag-day proceeds, $24,974.82; sale of wreaths, etc, $1,830.40; donations, $1,557.50; Thanksgiving Day collections at three theatres, $1,303.65; province (incomplete), $1,113.30; accounts due, $600.  The expenditure totalled $3,456.17, leaving a net total of $28,925.50, which will be divided between the Disabled Soldiers’ Employment Association of Montreal and the Children’s League of Paris.    N.B. approx. $395,000 CAD/£230,000 in 2018

Lady Williams-Taylor, who occupied the chair, spoke as follows in opening the meeting: “I can hardly trust myself to speak of Poppy Day.  How little we foresaw five weeks ago what that day would be, what an ecstasy of remembrance, what an indescribably spiritual welding together of the finest and highest emotions of all classes it would prove.  Montreal as one, irrespective of place, power or position, silently mourned our great dead and assured loving care and solicitude for the living.  No one who looked upon the face of our stalwart soldier Governor-General as he stood before the cenotaph, rising from its bed of blood-red poppies, can ever forget the noble sorrow indelibly stamped upon it.  He loved his men who lie in Flanders fields, and his deepest concern is to encourage the living, particularly the broken and shattered, whose fate lies in our hands.  We must meet this great responsibility earnestly, reverently and with a practical commonsense that is difficult to command when our feelings are so constantly harrower.  The large sum which we garnered on that day is a great trust, but of that others will speak.  My part is to thank you who helped us for your devotion, your loyalty and you marvellous co-operation.”  … … The RESULTS BY DISTRICTS followed) … …


The largest return was from No. 1 district, with Mme. Thibaudeau’s second, Hon. Miss Shaughnessy’s third, and Verdun fourth.  The largest single box collection was by Nursing Sister Eardley, $222.73.  The box from Miss Edgar’s school contained $263.17, while Mrs. Jack Morris’ box from Dorval had $177.

Rev. Canon Shatford and Rev. Canon Almond expressed the thanks of the committee and of the institutions benefitted by the collection to those who had helped to make Poppy Day a success, and special votes of thanks were passed to Col. Webb and the Windsor Hotel (with an engrossed testimonial), to the French and English newspapers, to Miss Roche and her office staff, to the Bank of Montreal officers and employees, and to Police Chief Belanger and Captain Fisher.  Individual mention was made of the work of Mrs. Macarow and the Misses Caverhill, Mrs. D. W. Ogilvie, Mrs. Alex Woods, Mrs. Greenshields, Miss Clergue, Mme. Dumont Laviolette and Mrs. Halstead.  

Mme. Guerin, representing the Children’s League of Paris, returned thanks on behalf of her organization for the effort put forth by Montreal, and told how the inspiration for the Inter-Allied Poppy Day movement came to her from Col. John McCrae’s poem.”    

On 23 November 1921, The Leader Post (of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada) printed the following article [sic]:

SECURE $1,804 FROM SALE OF POPPIES.  Proceeds Being Divided Between French and Local Relief Agencies.  CORNWALL WINS FLAG.  Details of Collection Shown in Statement Issued by Capt. F. J. Rowan.

The total amount realized from the sale of poppies on Armistice Day by the local branch of the Great War Veterans’ Association was $1,804.39, of which $929.28 has been sent to the French Consul-General to be devoted to the women and children of the devastated areas of France.  The remainder, $875.11, is being retained by the Regina branch for application to the Last Post fund and local relief.

This information is contained in a statement issued yesterday by Captain F. J. Rowan, organizer of the fund locally, which shows the details of this collection to be as follows:

Cornwall school, with a percentage of 3.03 poppies sold by each pupil, wins the silk French flag donated by Madame Guerin to the school selling the greatest number of poppies in proportion to the number of its pupils.  Other schools accounted as follows: St. Joseph’s, $22.40; Holy Rosary, $26.65; St. Mary’s, $16.50; Innismore, $6.36; Lakeview, $19.45; North Annex, $22.80; Houltain, $75.86; Wetmore, $53.75, Connaught, $61.15; C.P. Annex, $3.50; Benson, $36.80; Albert, $75.85; Model, $40.35; Strathcona, $58.60; Victoria, $81.34; Cornwall, $20; Kitchener, $22; Collegiate, $109.70; St. Chad’s $6.35; Sacred Heart, $10; Normal, $45.80.

Other stalls accounted: Veteran Block, $60.10; Regina branch office, $78.56; Glasgow House, $82.39; Elite Café. $73.94; Regina Trading Co., $93.36; McCallum Hill Building, $51.01; Allen Theater, $36.20; Post Office, $188.73; Capitol Theater, $37.50; Parliament Buildings, $61.58; Fell’s Tea Rooms, $67.10; Rex Theater, $54.54; R.C.M.P. Barracks, $19.20; Postal employees, $57.59; Canadian Club luncheon, $27.47.”

On 06 December 1921, Madame Guérin’s sister, Mlle. Juliette Boulle, and friend, Madame Blanche Berneron set sail on the Canadian Pacific ship ‘Sicilian’ from St. John, New Brunswick – to take poppies to Cuba.

On that day, within a column of The Gazette (of Montreal), under the main headline of “BROAD IMMIGRATION POLICY EXPECTED”, a portion about a departure of poppies (from St. John, New Brunswick) concluded the article [sic]:


Mlle. Y. Boulle and Madame B. Berneron, who are among the passengers sailing on the Canadian Pacific Sicilian from St. John today, came from France last spring to carry on the organization work connected with the sale of poppies on Armistice Day.  Mlle. Boulle’s sister was the originator of the idea which attained such unusual success among all the former Allied nations.  Mlle. Boulle and Madame Berneron brought with them from France, for distribution in the United States and Canada three and a half million poppies which were made by the children of France, a large portion of whom became orphans during the Great War.

The Government of Cuba extended an invitation to Mlle. Boulle and Madame B. Berneron to introduce the idea to Cuba before returning to France, and assured them of a cordial welcome.  The poppies are being carried in large cases on the Sicilian.  It is expected that the poppy campaign will prove successful there during the Christmas season as both the idea and custom of having such a tag day are practically unknown in Cuba.”

The next day (7 December) The Toronto Globe printed a shorter version [sic]:

Poppy Women Return After Big Campaign. (Canadian Press Despatch). St. John, Dec. 6—Mlle. Y. Boulle and Madame B. Berneron, who are among the passengers sailing on the Canadian Pacific Sicilian from St. John today, came from France last spring to carry on the organization work connected with the sale of poppies on Armistice Day.  Mlle. Boulle’s sister was the originator of the idea which attained such unusual success among all the former Allied nations.  Mlle. Boulle and Madame Berneron brought with them from France, for distribution in the United States and Canada three and a half million poppies which were made by the children of France, a large portion of whom became orphans during the Great War.”

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”.

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).

An early Canadian Remembrance Poppy: c1922-1925 ‘Vetcraft’? It has been lovingly preserved in a family bible. Courtesy/© The Bradshaw Family.

An early Canadian Remembrance Poppy: c1922-1925 ‘Vetcraft’?
It has been lovingly preserved in a family bible.
Courtesy/© The Bradshaw Family.



Where The Poppies Grow: Audrey Debruyne as Madame Anna Guérin. Image© Shebafilms

Where The Poppies Grow: Audrey Debruyne as Madame Anna Guérin. Image© Shebafilms.

Poppy Lady Madame Guérin is portrayed by Audrey Debruyne in the 2018 Canadian docu-drama ‘Where the Poppies Grow – The Lakehead at War’ by Ron Harpelle and Kelly Saxberg.

‘Where the Poppies Grow’ is a docu-drama about one Lakehead (Port Arthur now Thunder Bay) soldier during the Great War.  Alfred Saxberg was a first generation Finnish Canadian who joined up at the beginning of the War and who was fortunate to return home in 1919.  It also looks at the sacrifices made by people from the Lakehead to secure victory in the war.

When the Great War ended, the people of the Lakehead took pride in the contributions they had made. Over 6,200 people enlisted, either as volunteers or conscripts. At home, the community supported the war by raising money to assist soldiers’ wives, children, and other dependents. There were also campaigns to help finance the purchase of military equipment and to send personal items to the soldiers overseas.

By the end of the War, approximately 800 people from the Lakehead were killed overseas or died of illness due to their war service.  Thousands more were wounded, in body and mind.

‘Where the Poppies Grow’ premiered on 4 November 2018, at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.  In December 1918, the docu-drama won Best Documentary of the Month (The Monthly Film Festival) and Best Film 2017-2018 (The Walleye – Thunder Bay’s Arts & Culture Magazine, Thunder Bay).  It was funded by the City of Thunder Bay (“City of The Poppy”) and the Northern Ontario Heritage Corporation, as part of Thunder Bay’s Great War commemoration events.

More information about ‘Where the Poppies Grow’, plus a vignette, can be found here:  and

An early Canadian Remembrance Poppy: c1922-1925 ‘Vetcraft’-made?
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Poppy. CWM 19800618-014. Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum.

Poppy. CWM 19800618-014. Courtesy of the Canadian War Museum.

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.”

Canadian Remembrance Poppy. c1960's. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Canadian Remembrance Poppy. c1960’s.
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

The Canadian Legion Remembrance Poppy shown above was acquired from a collection of items attributed to Major Ernest Cuthbert Banks.  Major Banks died on 15 November 1969.  Research has uncovered the fact that such a poppy was in circulation in 1964 – hence the dating of c1960’s.

Major Ernest Cuthbert Banks

Ernest Cuthbert Banks was born 7 January 1893 Scarborough, Yorkshire. (source: Attestation Papers).  Ernest was the son of Scarborough-born father John William Banks and York-born mother Margaret Cuthbert.

1893:   Baptised 15 March 1893, Scarborough, North Yorkshire.  Address of family: 65 Trafalgar Street West, Scarborough.

1901:   In the English 1901 Census, Ernest was living in Scarborough with his mother who was “Living on own means”.

1904:   Ernest arrived at Montreal, Quebec, Canada, with his mother, on 5 November 1904. Departed Liverpool. Aged “11”.  Ultimate destination was Winnipeg.

1914:   On 26 September 1914, Ernest was “Taken on Strength” into the Canadian Expeditionary Force: C.E.F. (perhaps as a Territorial?), 10th Battalion. Nominal Roll of Officers, Non Commissioned Officers and Men: Taken on Strength: 26 September 1914 at Valcartier; Reg. No: 19683; Former corps: 90th Regiment; Rank: Sergeant; Next of Kin: Mrs. Margaret Banks [mother]; Address: 102 Breadalbane Block, Winnepeg, Manitoba.

1916:   Canadian Census: Book-keeper, with widowed mother Margaret; Born 1892 England.

1919:   On 20 June 1919, Captain Ernest Cuthbert Banks arrived Vancouver, British Columbia, from Vladivostok, Russia.

1924:   Married: Ethel Doris Meneray on 1 July 1924, Winnipeg. “Earnest Cuthbert Banks” [same birth place/birth year 1894 – US WW2 Draft:  1942, Residence Chicago, Ill, USA.

1928:   Gained a Military Instruction ‘Proficiency in Riding’ certificate at Fort Osborne Barracks, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

1938:   Entered the U.S.A. to live on 16 December 1938.

1942:   Registered for World War Two Draft Registration.  Address: 5818 Winthorp Avenue, Chicago, Ill. “Salesmanager” for Paul S. Dougherty, 1217 W. 37th St., Chicago.

1968:   Living at 1830 Crescent Road, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. “Retired”.

1969:   Died 15 November 1969.  Buried: Royal Oak Burial Park Cemetery, Victoria, Capital Regional District, British Columbia, Canada.

Royal Canadian Legion Poppy - 'twixt 1980-2002 - and badge. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Royal Canadian Legion Poppy – ‘twixt 1980 – 2001 – and badge.
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

It is logical to deduce that the above-shown Canadian Remembrance Poppy was not distributed with the Royal Canadian Legion badge, which was found attached to it.   This is how the pair was acquired and (in order to wear the RCL badge with it) it was turned back-to-front by a previous owner – because of the original moulded design, presumably.

The following images show the Royal Canadian League poppy how it must have been distributed (left) and how it is being stored today, in the ‘Poppy Lady Madame Guérin’ archive – with its RCL badge.

Royal Canadian Legion Poppy – ‘twixt 1980- 2001 – and RCL adornment. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Royal Canadian Legion Poppy – ‘twixt 1980- 2001 – and RCL adornment.
Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Reputedly, in 1980, the original black centre was changed to green to represent the green fields of France.  Reportedly, in 2002, the centre reverted to black.

The Royal Canadian Legion recommends that, because the poppy is a “sacred remembrance symbol”, it should not be defaced in any way.  On the other hand, the RCL realises that it is better to wear a poppy with such an item, than not to wear a poppy at all!

Royal Canadian Legion Poppy : Descendant of Madame Guérin’s Poppy. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson

Royal Canadian Legion Poppy : Descendant of Madame Guérin’s Poppy. Courtesy/© of Heather Anne Johnson.

Madame Guérin “Founder of Poppy Day”. Painted by Canadian Harry Burke, 1997. Courtesy/© Tom Burke.

Madame Guérin “Founder of Poppy Day”.
Painted by Canadian Harry Burke, 1997.
Courtesy/© Tom Burke.

Above, shown, is a portrait of Madame Guérin, “THE FOUNDER OF POPPY DAY”, by Canadian artist Harry Burke – Harry knew who put the poppy on his lapel.  Harry trained as a Master Cake Decorator; he served in the Ontario Tank Corps Regiment during World War Two; and was a member of the [Royal] Canadian Legion.  More can be discovered here:

HE POPPY : by Canadian Grant Harold MacCarthy. Ottawa Citizen, 11 November 1927. Courtesy/© of Steve Clifford.

THE POPPY : by Canadian Grant Harold MacCarthy. Ottawa Citizen, 11 November 1927. Courtesy/© of Steve Clifford.

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. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Julian Hedworth George Byng. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

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.

Illustrative map in situ at Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France. Courtesy/© Heather Anne Johnson

Illustrative map in situ at Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France.
Courtesy/© Heather Anne Johnson

Julian Hedworth George Byng. Courtesy/© Heather Anne Johnson.

Julian Hedworth George Byng. Courtesy/© Heather Anne Johnson,

Canadian National Vimy Memorial and its ‘Mother Canada’ figure – overlooking the Douai Plain. Courtesy/© Heather Anne Johnson.

Canadian National Vimy Memorial and its ‘Mother Canada’ figure – overlooking the Douai Plain. Courtesy/© Heather Anne Johnson.

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 H. G. Byng: Thorpe Hall & Gardens, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex. Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

Julian H. G. Byng: Thorpe Hall & Gardens, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex.
Courtesy of Heather Anne Johnson.

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.

‘Thorpe Hall’, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, England. Courtesy/© of ‘Lifehouse Spa & Hotel’.

‘Thorpe Hall’, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, England. Courtesy/© of ‘Lifehouse Spa & Hotel’.

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.


Friday 23 November 1917, Chelmsford Chronicle [sic]:

After Dinner TalkThe 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 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.”


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