Governor Stuart Jack received Cayman’s first poppy last Monday in advance of this year’s Remembrance Day.
Attending the event were Cayman Islands Veterans’ Association President Capt Dale Banks and member Ewart Ebanks. Capt Bank’s grandson Robert Dale Terc presented the governor with his poppy.
The presentation precedes the Islands’ annual Remembrance Day services, which will take place at the Elmslie United Memorial Church, and at the Stake Bay War Memorial on Cayman Brac. The services will take place at 11am on Sunday, 9 November and all veterans and their family members are encouraged to attend.
Tuesday, 11 November, will mark the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I.
Traditionally, poppies are worn in many countries to honour those who lost their lives in wars. The CIVA distributes them locally, states a GIS press release.
Capt Banks told the Governor that the number of surviving veterans is rapidly diminishing.
‘There were about 130 members a decade ago, but now we are down to about half that number. We are also seeking assistance in selling the poppies. The donations will benefit veterans and their widows.’
Responding to Mr. Jack’s concerns regarding the effects of the rising cost-of-living, Capt Banks said the poppy appeal is the CIVA’s only fund-raising initiative. He said that these contributions help to meet the needs of some 30 veterans, from medical to housing, to monthly financial assistance, supplementing government’s monthly stipends.
Recalling the World War II years, Mr. Ebanks noted that every continent and ocean of the world was affected – and the Caribbean was no exception.
He said that for Cayman, war duties focused around Trinidad in the southern Caribbean because that island was then the only source of oil for the British forces.
‘Our service primarily involved helping to protect the oilfields and ports but Trinidad also had major shipping and air bases,’ Mr. Ebanks recalled. ‘It was especially bad in ’43. The main channels were mined, and the German U-boats were sinking ships with torpedoes. Our roles included minesweeping, as well as escorting convoys of military and transport vessels.’
He said that the Allies’ motor torpedo boats were also dispatched to collect survivors from the Atlantic.
However, Cayman’s involvement in the war effort extended to maintaining a strong Home Guard, serving in global merchant marine support efforts, and building the wooden (mine-deterrent) minesweepers for use in Trinidad.
Capt Banks, a third-generation military serviceman, also shared some memories: ‘During World War II more than 200 Caymanian men served in the naval and military forces of the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as in other supportive roles,’ he said. ‘We probably represented the highest per-capita numbers of all countries involved.’
Poppies are worn around the world in remembrance of all who were lost during the two world wars. Donations are exclusively used to assist and support veterans and their families. This flower reminds the community of veterans’ past sacrifices and continuing needs.
The poppy movement was inspired by the poem In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae of the Canadian military. In World War I, red poppies grew wild in the ravaged battlefields, becoming an eventual reminder of the bloodshed of that, and future wars.
More than 20 million military and civilian deaths occurred in World War I, with a similar number of injuries. Then, during World War II, an estimated 60 million people died, including some 40 million civilians through air raids, disease, starvation and genocide.