Michelle's independent resources for ESL Students at Vancouver Community College

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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Take Two Minutes to Remember

Today, on Remembrance Sunday, millions of people in the United Kingdom fell silent to remember those who served or died in war. 

Tomorrow on November 11th, millions of Canadians will  do the same thing.

As the clock strikes 11 a.m., they will pause for two minutes to commemorate  the day when Europe experienced its first moments of peace at the end of World War 1. 

Why November 11th?  
On 11 November 1918,  after four years of non stop warfare, the guns of the Western Front fell silent. The allied armies had pushed the German invaders back, having  heavily defeated them in many major battles in the previous four months. 

In November the Germans called for an armistice (an end to the fighting) in order to negotiate a peace settlement. At the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, Germany completely surrendered and signed the peace agreement with the Allies. 

The 11th hour. 

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month became very significant in the years after the war. The moment when fighting ended on the Western Front became universally associated with the remembrance of those who had died in World War 1. .

This first modern world conflict had brought about the mobilization  of over 70 million people and left between 9 and 13 million dead. Almost one third of those dead lay in an unknown grave.    
Why two minutes of silence ?  

On the first anniversary of the armistice in 1919 two minutes' silence was instituted as part of the main commemorative ceremony at the new  war memorial in London. 

King George V personally requested all the people of the British Empire, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand among others, to stop all normal activities for two minutes on the hour of the armistice  "which stayed the worldwide carnage of the four preceding years and marked the victory of Right and Freedom". 

The two minutes' silence was popularly adopted and it became a central feature of the ceremonies during which veterans are officially remembered. 

In Canada, Australia, New Zealand, millions will observe the two minutes of silence, even if they don't live in a province where Remembrance Day is an official holiday. But, many will not.  

Watch the listen to the following video that deals with this issue. Answer the questions BEFORE watching the video. 

A Pittance of Time 

On November 11, 1999 Terry Kelly was in a drug store in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. At 10:55 AM the store made an announcement asking customers to stop what they were doing and give two minutes of silence in respect to the veterans who have sacrificed so much for us.

Terry was impressed with that unlike so many other stores who completely ignore Remembrance Day, this store was playing a leadership role in adopting the two minutes of silence initiative. 

On that day, at  eleven o'clock, the store made another announcement requesting that people begin their two minutes of silence. Every customer, except for one man who was accompanied by his young child, showed their respect, bowed their heads and remained silent.
Angry at the father's behaviour  - which showed a bad example to his child, Terry wrote a song that showed how he felt and why he thought it was so important to be silent for two minutes. Terry later recorded A Pittance of Time and included it on his full-length music CD, The Power of the Dream.

The next video delivers a similar message:  . 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Poppy: A symbol of Remembrance

In Flanders Field 

by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
between the crosses, row on row  

that mark our places, and in the sky 
the larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard  amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago 
we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
loved and were loved, and now we lie
in Flanders fields .  

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
the torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die.
we shall not sleep 
  though poppies grow 
in Flanders fields.

Why the Poppy? 
For almost 100 years, people from Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, Australia, New Zealand and other Commonwealth countries have worn the red poppy as a symbol of Remembrance Day.

This simple red flower continues to be one of most visible ways  people can show that they remember and thank the millions of men and women who gave up their lives for their countries in World War 1, World War 11 and all other wars. 

The the association between the poppy and war dead goes back to the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s  when  soldiers noted how poppies seemed  to flourish on the graves of soldiers who had died in battle in Flanders, a region of northern France and Belgium.

In 1915, Colonel John McCrae, a medical officer serving near Ypres in Belgium, made the same connection between the fields of poppies and  the young soldiers who had been killed in  battle.  This 
inspired the immortal poem, In Flanders Field, which he wrote during a break from working with the wounded. 

The poem, one that almost every Canadian, British, Australian and New Zealand  child can recite from memory, reflects what he McCrae  saw and heard with his own eyes and ears while working to save dying and injured soldiers during a particularly deadly battle in Ypres, Belgium.

The Story Behind the Poem 

On April 22, 1915, the Germans used deadly chlorine gas against Allied troops  in a desperate attempt to create movement on one side or the other. Even though the effects of the gas were  terrible, the Canadian soldiers continued to fight without giving up, and held the line for another 16 days.
In the trenches where he was caring for hundreds of wounded and dying soldiers, McCrae was so deeply affected by the battle and its devastating results that he wrote a letter to his mother. 

The letter to his mother 

"The general impression in my mind is a nightmare. We have been in the most bitter of fights. For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots, except occasionally. 

In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds...And behind if all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way", (Prescot, In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, p.98 

The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae's best friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. 

Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses  marking the many graves. Although he couldn't help his friend, or any of the others who had died, McCrae spoke for them in this poem.  It was the second last poem he was to write. 


Listen to In Flanders Field being read out loud. Follow along, or read it at the same time - slowly and solemnly as it is meant to be read

How the Poppy Became an Official Symbol 

In November 1918 as the armistice ended World War 1, Moina Michael, an American teacher working at the YMCA Overseas War Headquarters in New York, read McCrae's poem. She took in McCrae's appeal  "to keep faith with the dead" and vowed that she would always wear a poppy as a sign of  remembrance.  In 1920, the United States proclaimed the poppy as its national emblem of Remembrance. 

The following year, Madame Guerin, a Frenchwoman, sold millions to raise funds for rehabilitation in areas of France. She also sent women to London to sell poppies and persuaded Earl Haig to adopt it for the British Legion.

In 1921 the Canadian Legion joined its British counterpart and officially adapted the poppy as its symbol of Remembrance. 

Why Should You Wear A Poppy? 

First, wearing a poppy is one very visible way to show respect and admiration for the men and women who  sacrificed their lives in order to help us retain the freedom and rights we take for granted.

Also  when you buy and wear a poppy, you will be helping military families, former veterans in need and their families. 

Where does the money go in Britain? 

Last year the poppy campaign in Britain raised £40 m ( that's about about $70 million Canadian).  The Royal British Legion said it spends £1.7m a week on care and support for military families, including grants, employment advice and funding, emotional support, tribunal and inquest advice, care homes and family breaks. This includes  the families of veterans returning from Afghanistan.

Where does the money go in Canada? 

It is difficult to get an accurate figure for the total amount raised in the Canadian poppy campaign, but a 2008 post on the Salvation Army's blog put it at about $16.5 million.

The legion distributes about 18 million poppies a year via its members, veterans, military cadets and through direct mailings. Assuming all are given out to Canadians, it amounts to average donations of less than a dollar per available poppy.

The basic purpose of Poppy Funds is to provide immediate assistance to ex-servicemen and women in need. This may include food, shelter or medical attention for them or their families. Also, education bursaries are granted to children and grandchildren of ex-service personnel.  

Poppy funds can be used for low-rental housing and care facilities, community medical appliances and medical research, drop-in centres, meals-on-wheels, transportation and related services for veterans their dependents. Facilities and services are often extended to the elderly or disabled in the community as may be available. 

Is the poppy relevant to the veterans of today? 

The recent role of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, and the creation of the Highway of Heroes Highway of Heroes as a sign of respect Canadians have shown for the families of the more than 160 Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan would seem to indicate that the poppy is still relevant. 


Write your answer in he comment box below 

1.   Do YOU think it is still important to wear a poppy?  Why or why not? 
2.   What else should people do instead?  Explain