In Flanders Fields

For those of us who will be using November 11th day off from work to head to the cottage, and don’t say it isn’t you….just kidding, I don’t think it is you…..let’s put it another way, for the folks who are unable to attend a Remembrance Day Ceremonies at your local Cenotaph, to honor our fallen, I thought it would be nice to post the words to the moving poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) “In Flander’s Fields”

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

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.

According to The Canadian Great War Project Lieutenant Colonel John McCrea was a physician with the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

Lieutenant Colonel McCrea was born in Guelph Ontario, graduated as a physician from The University Of Toronto, and went on to further his medical education and career at several Canadian hospitals and universities, including; McGill University in Montreal, University of Vermont, Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

He was also employed as a pathologist at Montreal General Hospital and as a physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Infectious Diseases.

When the First World War began in 1914, McCrae enlisted as the Brigade Surgeon in the First Brigade of Canadian Field Artillery where he also served on the artillery when necessary.

McCrea wrote In Flanders Fields, after he had witnessed the burial of a good friend,(Lieut. Alexis Helmer) He had just finished seventeen days treating injured men, including Canadians, British, French, and Germans in the Ypres salient.

John McCrea wrote the poem while sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near a field dressing station and showed it to a soldier who had been watching him write it, Sargeant-Major Cyril Allinson, who later recalled, “The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.

Colonel McCrae was dissatisfied with the poem, and tossed it away, but another officer retrieved it and mailed it back to England where it was evenutally published On December 8, 1915 in the magazine,Punch.

In the summer of 1915, McCrae was transferred from the artillery Brigade to the Number 3 Canadian General Hospital in Wimereaux, France, where he was second in command of medical services.

He was appointed as consulting physician to the First British Army, On January 24, 1918. Four days after his appointment, McCrea died from pneumonia, complicated by meningitis and ended up buried at Wimereaux Cemetery in France….

By the way, as a place, Flanders Fields is the name given to the World War I battlefields in the medieval County of Flanders, which spans southern Belgium and north-west France. It was used to generically describe all the battlefields.

Now….for those of you at the cottage tomorrow, or deep in the north woods chasing deer, here are the words from the Service of Remembrance. Perhaps you can print them off and say them yourself at 11:00. The lines are from Laurence Binyon’s ” For the Fallen ”

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them

Response: We will remember them.


When you go home tell them of us and say –
For your tomorrow we gave our today

Sources: The Canadian Great War Project
See also my earlier post, World War I Remembered

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