Friday, November 11, 2011

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.

John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario on November 30, 1878. His family background of Scottish immigrants was military with a strong sense of duty and Presbyterian with a strong sense of spirituality. McCrae joined the Guelph Militia while in High School and when attending the University of Toronto in 1892 joined the Queen's Own Rifles. He studied medicine on a scholarship and tutored to defray expenses. Two of his students became the first female doctors in Ontario. McCrae also studied medicine in England. In 1899 he fought as a Captain in South Africa, but resigned because of what he felt was poor treatment of the ill and injured.

John McCrae was a noted physician who filled his leisure time with poetry, sketching and a love of the sea. Many times he signed on as a seaman to travel between North America and England. In 1914, not unlike many of his generation, for a sense of duty and a sense of adventure McCrae reenlisted for King and Country, a field surgeon with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

McCrae's former student and friend Lt. Alexis Helmer was killed at the Second Battle of Ypres, also known as Flanders Fields. Amid the carnage and sadness John McCrae found an outlet by composing his most famous poem. In Flanders Fields was published in the magazine Punch in December of 1915 and immediately struck a chord with the grieving families and battle weary soldiers. The poppy was adopted as a symbol of remembrance throughout the Commonwealth.

John McCrae suffered from asthma most of his life and passed in the field on January 28, 1918 from complications from pneumonia. His life and work, including his poetry and medical text books, is honoured in museums and schools throughout Canada.

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918 Germany signed the armistice. It is on this date we pay tribute to the sacrifices made during the war to end all - and those which followed.


  1. Caftan Woman, I was truly moved by both the John McCrae poem "In Flanders Fields and the reminder of the brave solders who died in way too many wars over the centuries. Thank you for this valuable reminder that life is precious and war is hell, and your poignant salute to everyone observing both Veteran's Day and Remembrance Day.

  2. I read this poem in 10th grade English and had forgotten about it until now. I remembering being moved by it then and I still am now.
    Thank you for sharing-perfect for today

  3. Thanks for this. Do schoolchildren still learn this poem? Very powerful, the poetry of WWI - Siegfried Sassoon, Rupert Brooke.

  4. A wonderful story and poem. God bless our troops...

  5. Thank you all so much for stopping by the blog on what must be a busy Veteran's Day.

    "In Flanders Field" is a major part of Remembrance Day services in Canada. It is still memorized by school children, and sometimes is sung. Knowing the story of the man behind the words gives them even more meaning.

    In Toronto there is a program called Project Memory in which vets visit schools to share their stories. The personal contact means so much to both the vets and to the young students.

    Remembrance Day is quite an emotional time. On the happy side, my youngest sister Tracey always tries to buy her poppy from a vet who looks like he might be a flirt!

  6. A very heartfelt tribute, C.W. I always remember this poem. So many young poets, writers and artists died in WWI.

    The war to end all wars.

  7. CW,
    A beautiful tribute! Flanders Fields is such a moving poem and reflective of how I feel today, remembering the fallen and all who have fought for freedom throughout time.



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