On December 8, 1915 Punch in England ran a piece titled “Flanders Field”.
This memorable poem was written by Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian from Guelph, Ontario. 40-year-old McCrae was more than a poet, in fact he was a doctor, soldier, author and artist.
On August 4, 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and Canada’s involvement was automatic. John McCrae, already a veteran again offered his services to the military. He was appointed as Brigade Surgeon in the First Brigade of Canadian Field Artillery.
In April 1915 McCrae was stationed in the area known as Flanders (near Ypres, Belgium) and was responsible for a field dressing station at the front and treated those wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres. He not only served as a surgeon but as a soldier and by performing burial services when required.
Following one such burial service, specifically the service of his friend, McCrae sat down and penned 15 lines of prose which would mark the hearts and minds of so many readers for decades to come. Through his words we, the descendants of these brave soldiers, can almost feel the breeze on our faces in Flanders Field as we picture those poppies growing amidst the crosses marking the graves.
Veterans and soldiers alike are honored today, on November 11, as people around the world gather to celebrate Rememberance Day. On this day, around the world, voices will rise and fall as we recite the words which remind us how much people will sacrifice for our freedom.
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.
I will remember. As I lay the family wreath upon the cenotaph today, I will remember to give thanks!