Where the Poppies Grow

Screening Time

Saturday, 25 May 2019 at 3:00 PM – BMO Sports Lounge


When World War 1 was declared, young men across Canada rushed to sign up. One of those young men was Alfred Saxberg, a first-generation Finnish Canadian who saw the war as an opportunity to have some adventures. He would soon learn that there is much more involved in going to war.

Where The Poppies Grow: The Lakehead at War is a short docu-drama that follows Alfred as he enlisted, trained and headed off to battle in Europe with the renowned 52nd Battalion – one of the greatest fighting units in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. During his time in the trenches, Alfred faced enemy fire and was wounded at The Somme. He was sent for recovery at Shorncliffe Hospital in England, where he crossed paths with the decorated nurse Elizabeth Smellie who was also from the Lakehead.
Back in the Lakehead, family members left behind sent assistance and encouragement even as they made their own sacrifices and faced their own tragedies. Alfred’s sister Sadie kept him posted through a series of letters describing activities on the Homefront.

Following the war, the Lakehead would find itself front-and-centre when, at an Executive Meeting of the Great War Veterans’ Association at the Prince Arthur Hotel in Port Arthur, the decision was made to make the poppy the symbol of remembrance. This decision followed a presentation by Madame Anna Guerin – the Poppy Lady of France.

Where The Poppies Grow: The Lakehead at War is both a commemoration of the sacrifices of the First World War and the documentation of the historical contributions of Thunder Bay and region in the conflict. It is a moving portrait of a soldier and his community at war. Re-enactments and archival footage is used to illustrate the struggles and challenges that soldiers and their family members faced. Of particular importance is the place in history that the Lakehead plays in the designation of the poppy as an international symbol of remembrance.




Documentary History & Biography

Creative Team


Ron Harpelle


Kelly Saxberg, Ron Harpelle

Production Company

Franko Finn Films

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