11 Interesting Historical Facts about WWI and Remembrance Day

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11 Interesting Historical Facts about WWI and Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day is an important event for Canadians, as this is the day that we get together to remember those who lost their lives during World War I. Many of us already know that we wear a poppy to honor the dead, and that we do so because of a famous poem, but here’s 11 other interesting historical facts about Remembrance Day that you might not have known.

1. John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario.

John McCrae, who wrote “In Flanders Fields” was born and lived in a place many of us have visited in person – right in Guelph. He was born on November 30, 1872.

2. His poem got international recognition.

Because of his poem, the poppy was not only adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for Canada. Britain, France, the US, and other Commonwealth countries also use the poppy to symbolize the lost of WWI.

3. You can still visit the limestone cottage where he was born.

McCrae House was turned into a museum. Even on Remembrance Day, you can visit (although with COVID restrictions, there is limited ticketed entry).

4. John McCrae died far from home.

He passed away in January of 1918 from illness, likely pneumonia, and is buried in Wimereux Cemetery, near Boulogne, France.

5. World War I had many different names.

A few of the most common were ‘The War to End All Wars’, The War of the Nations, WW1 and ‘The Great War’.

6. It was triggered by the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife, Sophie.

How did an assassination in Austria manage to escalate into such a large war? There was a tangle of alliances made between countries in Europe to maintain a balance of power. Unfortunately, the alliances ended up pulling many other countries in.

 7. World War I was a truly global war.

Over 30 nations declared war between 1914 and 1918, and 65 million men volunteered or were conscripted from places as far away as Australia and the United States.

8. There were 250,000 children who fought in WWI.

The youngest was a boy named Sidney Lewis, who was only 12. He had lied about his age to join the service. To be fair, when they were caught, their commanders sometimes sent them back home!

9. Canadians began wearing poppies to remember in 1921.

Remembrance Day (before then called Armistice Day) didn’t become an official holiday until ten years later.

10. $14,000,000 is typically raised annually by the poppy campaign.

The money goes to support veterans and their families. With the pandemic going on, however, the Royal Canadian Legion has been struggling for funds. You can help support them by buying a digital poppy.

11. World War 1 ended November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m.

That’s why 11 is such an important number for Remembrance Day.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; 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

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