Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador
A German legend says that when God was naming the flowers he had named them all but one. The little flower said to God, âForget-me-notâ, and God said that will be your name.
© Sharon Adms
A handful of the flower forget-me-not- being held at a ceremony of remembrance in France.
Sharon Adams photo, Legion Magazine
And so it was, and so it is.
The forget-me-not is well known in northern countries and is famous in Newfoundland history.
The little blue flower was used in Newfoundland, and is still worn by traditionalists, on Memorial Day, July 1 to commemorate the brave Newfoundlanders who died in World War One and especially those who died on the battlefield of Beaumont-Hamel during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.
July 1, 1916 was a terrible day in Newfoundland history. We were still a Dominion of Great Britain at that time and the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, made up of residents from nearly every community in the province, was a key part of the Allied war effort.
The infamous day and battle will be the subject of debate forever but the fact is that the Allied forces attacked the Germans head-on on that tragic day.
The German gunners had a field day as they slaughtered numerous Allied soldiers. Among the troops who courageously answered the battle call on that morning were 780 men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.
It only lasted about 30 minutes but when the fighting was over the regiment was decimated with only 68 soldiers answering the roll call on the morning of July 2.
On July 1, 1917 the Dominion of Newfoundland chose the blue forget-me-not as the emblem to wear on Memorial Day to remember those brave young Newfoundlanders who fought and died for us in World War One.
Every Memorial Day the forget-me-not was passed out to school children in the province so the sacrifice of the soldiers would not be forgotten and the little flower became famous in our province.
However, when the rest of Canada joined Newfoundland in 1949 Newfoundlanders started celebrating Canada Day on July 1 and, over time, the forget-me-not faded from our memories.
As Canadians we took to celebrating Canadaâs birthday on July 1 and to wearing the poppy on November 11, Remembrance Day.
Thanks to people like Bud Davidge, however, the forget-me-not is seeing a resurgence in interest today and is once again becoming popular in our culture.
Davidge, of Simani fame, has written a number of songs that will help keep our culture vibrant and his song âThe Little Blue-Forget-Me Notâ will certainly help keep the tradition of Memorial Day and the famous flower alive in our history.
Davidge said that a former resident of St. Jacques, Jim Johnson, who was living in Halifax, wrote him in 1999 suggesting that he write a song about the forget-me-not and its role in Newfoundland history.
Davidge kept the thought in the back of his mind and it was while touring the World War One battlefields on a trip to Europe in 2003 that he decided to take his friend up on his suggestion.
âIt was like a spiritual feeling when I walked on the former battlefields and saw some of the monuments dedicated to the Newfoundland soldiers who fought in Europe during the war,â Davidge said.
âThat trip peeked my interest in writing the song and after we retuned home I decided to do just that.â
Davidge said that the forget-me-not was an appropriate symbol to remember the Newfoundland soldiers.
âThe blue symbolized the loyalty of the soldiers. The flower, which can survive in the hardiest of climates and grow in the toughest terrain, symbolized the toughness, strength and endurance of the Newfoundland troops.
âItâs fitting that weâre seeing the new interest in the forget-me-not today,â he said.
A verse in the song goes:
Forget-me-not, wee flower of beauty,
Your royal symbol proudly stands,
Blue as the loyal men that wore them,
Far from their homes in Newfoundland.
As time marches on we tend to forget past events of long ago. Hopefully, we wonât forget the Newfoundlanders who so tragically died in World War One and the role of the forget-me-not in helping us keep their memory alive.