Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was a Soldier, a Physician and a Poet whose inspirational poem is synonymous with the First World War.
At the age of 41, John McCrae enrolled with the Canadian Expeditionary Force following the outbreak of the First World War. It was his second tour of duty in the Canadian Military. He had previously fought with a volunteer force in the second Boer War.
He had the option of joining the Medical Corps because of his training but he volunteered instead to join a fighting unit as a gunner and medical officer. His father was also a military man and John McCrae had grown up believing in doing his duty and fighting for his country.
John McCrae fought in the second battle of Ypres in the Flanders region of Belgium and during this battle his close friend Alexis Helmer was killed on May 2nd.
The Lieutenant Colonel was present at the burial of Alexis Helmer and actually performed the service himself and was struck by all the poppies that were quickly growing around the graves of those who had died. This scene affected him deeply.
The next day he composed his famous poem while sitting in the back of an Ambulance outside Ypres. Today, this location is known as the John McCrae Memorial Site.
The poem and the poppy are prominent Remembrance Day symbols throughout the Commonwealth of Nations particularly in Canada where ‘In Flanders Fields’ is one of the nations best known literary works.
It also reminds us that in all acts of conflict past and present, where there is loss of life, each and everyone of them gave their tomorrow for our today.