“I’m proud to be a Canadian, where at least I know I’m free, and I will never forget the men who died, who gave that right to me”. What is the Royal Canadian Legion you might ask? The Legion is a nonprofit Canadian ex-service organization formed in 1925 by Veterans for Veterans to advocate for the care and benefits for all those who served Canada regardless of when or where they served. The Royal Canadian Legion also provides representation and assistance to Veterans including those currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Royal Canadian Air, Army and Sea cadets as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), Provincial and Municipal Police and their direct and affiliated members.
A little bit of history of the Legion: At the end of World War One, there were about fifteen Veterans groups and several regimental associations representing former service members in Canada with a common goal to help the returning servicemen in need, but their efforts were fragmented and mostly unsuccessful. In 1925 an appeal for unity led to the formation of The Dominion Veterans Alliance. The Legion was founded in November of that year in Winnipeg Manitoba. World War II brought an influx of new demands and the Legion increased its efforts to help veterans and returning servicemen and those who served abroad. Today, even with many name changes over the years, including the adoption of the current name, The Royal Canadian Legion has always been successful in all of its efforts and projects. Today’s Royal Canadian Legion was founded on November 25, 1925 with its Headquarters located at 86 Aird Place in Ottawa Ontario. The Dominion President today is Thomas D. Irvine, CD with the Honorary Grand President Larry Murray and the Grand Matron Julie Payette. Payette was invested as Canada’s twenty ninth Governor General on October 2, 2017 and is Canada’s Commander-in-Chief and represents the Canadian Crown. Remember, the Legion exists so that Canada never forgets.
In 2020 from the last Friday in October to Remembrance Day, Wednesday November 11, the poppy is worn on the lapels specifically, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month as a visual pledge to honor and remember all of those who sacrificed so much for our freedom. Each year in Canada more than 21 million poppies are distributed in Canada. A little known fact is that the Legion encourages the wearing of the poppy at funerals of Veterans and for commemorative events honoring Fallen Veterans. The red poppy gained fame following the wartime poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Lieutenant-Colonial John McCrae of Guelph Ontario, a Medical Officer while serving on the front lines in the First World War. The poem was written on a scrap of paper on May 15 following the death of a fellow soldier. The beautiful red poppy grew from the dirt and mud of the battle ground.
The Ontario Command of the Royal Canadian Legion is comprised of almost four hundred branches throughout the province with a membership of almost one hundred thousand members, making the Legion one of the largest service providers in Ontario. As the Legions are central places for people to gather and feel connected to their neighbors, most serve as a community center, hosting weddings, town meetings, BBQ’s and memorial services. Like many of you reading this, the Ranger has attended many functions in a Legion Hall such as General Foods and Kraft Company dinner and dance functions in a Legion Hall in Port Hope, Cobourg and in Bewdley. Ontario Legions are all volunteers for all their core activities that have a great impact on community based activities and they have one of the countries largest volunteer organizations committing countless volunteers hours each year.
For many years following World War 1, the Port Hope Chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire devoted countless hours of time raising funds for the design and construction of a a cenotaph next to the Port Hope Town Hall on Queen Street. The classical monument was inspired with Gothic touches with an unusual open arch crowns the top. This beautiful Cenotaph was unveiled in 1926. On the front of this monument are inscribed with the names of the local men of the 65,000 who died in World War 1 with a list of historic battles carved in the shaft for all to remember. Statutes of peace adorn the memorial looking out for the souls lost in many horrific battles. The local names of those lost in WW II of the 47,000 nationally, were added at a later date as well as a bronze plaque to acknowledge the Korean War. When North Korean troops pushed into South Korea on June 25, 1950 until 1953, Canadian men and women put their lives on the line, traveling to the other side of the world to aid the United Nations forces to restore peace in the “Land of the Morning Calm”. In this dangerous and harsh land, 516 Canadians lost their lives in service during this conflict.
With today’s aging legion veterans, the world wide pandemic restraints and lack of proper Federal/Provincial funding for such an important organization, you might consider a membership to support your local Royal Canadian Legion. How, you might ask? It is easy, fill out an application form and within a short time your name and background will be submitted to the Executive, then to a general membership meeting. A few of our local Legions: Port Hope Branch 30, 29A Thomas Street; the Cobourg Branch 133, 136 Orr Street; the Bewdley Branch 577, 5063, Main Street and the Grafton Branch 580, 10240, County Road 2.
Wearing my poppy proudly, Ranger.