9th November 1918
On Saturday 9th November, 1918, Moina Belle Michael was on duty for the Twenty-Fifth Conference of the Overseas YMCA. She had a few minutes to herself and found time to read a copy of the November Ladies Home Journal, where the poem 'We Shall Not Sleep' (later named 'In Flanders Fields') was marked and vividly illustrated in colour. Although she had read the poem before, she found herself transfixed by the last verse '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.' She describes it as being a spiritual experience, as though the silent voices were whispering to her. At that moment she pledged to always wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance. Three men from the conference then appeared at her desk to thank her for her efforts and to give her a cheque for ten dollars. She decided t obuy red poppies, and showed them the poem. It was then taken back to the conference, and after adjournment men came to ask her for red poppies. This was the birth of the Flanders Fields Memorial Poppy. On Saturday 9th November 1918 Moina was on duty for the Twenty-fifth Conference of the Overseas Y.M.C.A. which was being held at Hamilton Hall, Columbia University in New York City. She was in a room called the “Gemot”. It was a large, rectangular, gloomy room with tables and chairs, which was often used as a 'get-together' place. Soldiers, sailors and marines sometimes came to this room as a place to say farewells to mothers, sisters, wives and girlfriends before embarking for service overseas. The extracts of text from Chapter VIII read as follows: “On Saturday morning before Armistice, during the Twenty-fifth Conference of the Overseas Y.M.C.A. War Secretaries, November 9, 1918, a young soldier, the son of A. G. Kneble, New York City, Executive Secretary to the War Personnel Board of National War Workers Council, the governing board of our staff of the Y.M.C.A. Secretaries for Overseas, placed a copy of the November Ladies Home Journal on my desk at Headquarters. About 10:30 o'clock, when every one [sic] was on duty elsewhere, I found time to read it and discovered the marked page which carried Colonel John McCrae's poem, ‘We Shall Not Sleep’, later named ‘In Flanders Fields’. It was vividly picturized - most strikingly illustrated in color.” A black and white image of the illustration seen by Moina in the Ladies Home Journal. (3) Black and white image of the illustration in the Ladies Home Journal. The poem ‘We Shall Not Sleep’ (‘In Flanders Fields’) was reproduced next to a black and white image of the colour illustration from the Ladies Home Journal. Moina continued: “I read the poem, which I had read many times previously, and studied its graphic picturization. The last verse transfixed me — ‘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’. This was for me a full spiritual experience. It seemed as though the silent voices again were vocal, whispering, in sighs of anxiety unto anguish, ‘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’.
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Canadian Expeditionary Force Major Canadian Army Medical Corps 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery
Canadian Expeditionary Force Lieutenant Colonel Canadian Army Medical Corps No 3 McGill General Hospital, Boulogne, France