Sip Sip History - Bahamas Historical Society
The Significance of Poppy Day to The Bahamas
By Bahamas Historical Society
Nov 11, 2009 - 12:32:59 AM

The red poppy took on a metaphorical symbol of the blood of the dead.

Remembrance Day – also known as Poppy Day, Armistice Day (the event it commemorates) or Veteran’s Day is a day to commemorate the sacrifices of members of the armed forces and of civilians in times of war, specifically since the First World War. It is observed on 11th November to recall the end of World War I on that date in 1918. (Major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 with the German signing of the Armistice. The day was specifically dedicated by King George V on 7 November 1919, to the observance of members of the armed forces who were killed during war.

The red poppy took on a metaphorical symbol of the blood of the dead.

In Flanders Fields
John McCrae, 1915.

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.

In 1915, inspired by the poem  In Flanders Fields,  Moina Michael replied with her own poem:

We cherish too, the Poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led,
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies.

The Bahamas also sacrificed heroes to the First World War:


The ‘Gallant 30 go off to the First World War


(The text is mostly taken from The Story of the Bahamas by Paul Albury)


The Bahamas received the news of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 via the year old Marconi wireless system.

Crowds milled about the government bulletin board to catch every scrap of information as soon as it was posted. Newspapers were quickly bought up as sellers moved along the streets shouting: 'Extra! Extra! Latest War News!' Sponge and sisal merchants were informed by telegram that the markets of the world had collapsed in the face of a possible global upheaval and the resulting uncertainty.

On 7 August, three days after Britain entered the war, the Legislature was called into special session. The Governor, Mr Haddon-Smith, informed members that a bill would be introduced to legalize the issuing of necessary proclamations. He spoke of the blow to trade, the probability of hard times for Bahamians, and the possible necessity of relief measures. And he requested the Legislature to authorize the Governor-in-Council to provide what relief might be required.

That same evening, a public meeting was held in Rawson Square. The Governor pointed out that imported food might soon become scarce, and that Bahamians should exercise economy and do all they could to make the colony self-sufficient. A War Relief Committee was formed under the chairmanship of the Speaker of the House of Assembly. The first job this Committee set itself was to undertake a monetary collection. Voluntary contributions came from the well-to-do and the not so well-to-do. Gold sovereigns were mixed with widows' mites. Many workers gave a day's pay; children gave their pennies and half-pennies. Before the end of the year £3000 had been sent to London.

The economic gloom came to be overshadowed by a buoyant spirit of patriotism, the likes of which had not been known since the war of 1812. Many Bahamians were anxious to get into the actual fighting and, after undergoing preliminary training, the first group of selected volunteers turned out on the Eastern Parade for all the town to see. The Governor's wife presented them with a silken flag bearing the colony's Coat of Arms. The flag was attached to an historic staff which had once carried the colours of the old Bahama Militia. On 1 September 1915 this first contingent known as the 'Gallant Thirty' sailed. They were followed by a second contingent of 105 men in November 1915 and, in the following May, by a third contingent of eighty-seven men.

The Gallant Thirty (Thanks Paul Aranha for the names)

Captain William Fletcher Albury,  Bruce M Maura,  Fletcher Albury,
Horatio C O Brown,  Origen H Mason, Henry A Roach,
Frederick C C Lightbourn, James S Taylor, Heisal S Hall,
Robert J Atwill,  Charles Bain, G P Bethel,
Artie Kemp , Reginald Wood, Harold Bascombe,   
Frederick Flowers, A Henry Fountain, James Bain,
George H Johnson,  Charles Bethel,  Austin Dean,
James H Knowles,  George Aranha,  William Thompson,
Matthew Armbrister,  A Vincent Roberts, John Demeritte,
Dr R W Albury, Sidney Farrington, John Williams,

Altogether, 486 volunteers departed officially to become a part of the British West India Regiment. Other Bahamians joined the regular British, Canadian or American forces, making a grand total of about 700 men. Of those who enlisted in the colony, six were killed in action, three died from wounds and twenty-eight died from other causes.

The cost to the Treasury of recruiting, equipping and dispatching Bahamian volunteers was £27,621. Expenditure for a Home Defence Force amounted to £8655. To these two items must be added other contributions made by the Government, which collectively totaled £47,292. Voluntary contributions from the people amounted to £10,316. The economy of the colony did not suffer as much as had been anticipated. Exports to European markets were adversely affected, but those to the United States held up well. In fact some products forged ahead of pre-war years. For example during 1917 sponge sales at the local Exchange totaled £152,000, exceeding the best previous year, 1913, by £53,000. And sisal did better still, bringing in £181,700.

Government revenue, in 1913, amounted to a little more than £100,000. But that was an exceptional year, being more than £23,000 greater than the average of the preceding five years. During the war years it hovered between £77,000 and £90,000, which compared most favourably with pre-war receipts. However, there were annual deficits due chiefly to expenses connected with the contingents. These were met by loans which increased the public debt from £43,000 to £69,000.

Bahamas Historical Society Banquet:

A Gala Golden Jubilee Banquet under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency, The Hon. Arthur D. Hanna, Governor General of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas, is planned for Saturday, 7th November, 2009, at Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort Ballroom, Cable Beach, and New Providence, Bahamas. Cocktails at 7 pm. Dinner at 8 pm.  Dancing and serenading music by Doc's Melody Makers along with other entertainment. Donation $100.00 per person.  A souvenir programme is being produced and ad spaces are still open. Tickets are available at BHS and through Committee members.  To reserve banquet tickets, and for further information, telephone (242)322-4231 (daytime).

Eight (8) deserving BHS faithful members, supporters and volunteers will be honoured during the Banquet.  These prominent Bahamian citizens, some of whom were past presidents of the Society, are: Geoffrey A. D. Johnstone, KCMG, Dr. Vernell L. Allen, MBE, Dr. D. Gail Saunders, OBE, Mr. David Cates, Miss June Maura, OBE, MVO, Mr. Donald Venn-Brown, Miss M. Barbara Brown, MBE, and Mrs. Dorothea "Dollie" Foster.


Please join us at the following:

Thursday, 26th November, 2009 Presentation by: Darius Williams, on Liberated African Settlements in the Northern Islands of The Bahamas

Thursday, 3rd December Presentation by: Jane Baxter along with co-author Michael Marshall:  Historical Cemeteries and Burial Practices on San Salvador.  An "Archaeological" Study.

The Bahamas Historical Society (BHS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to stimulating interest in Bahamian History and to the collection and preservation of material relating thereto. Its Headquarters, the former IODE Hall, was a gift from the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE). BHS is on Shirley Street and Elizabeth Avenue in Nassau. www.bahamashistoricalsociety. com

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