In Flanders Fields
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.
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918)
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918) is remembered for what is probably the single best-known and popular poem from World War I,“In Flanders Fields.” On May 3, 1915, Canadian physician, McCrae penned his most famous poem after witnessing the death of his friend, 22-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, the day before. McCrae was a Canadian physician who fought on the Western Front in 1914, but was then transferred to the medical corps and assigned to a hospital in France. He died of pneumonia while on active duty in 1918. McCrae’s rank was Major when he composed “In Flanders Fields.” He was up for promotion to Lieutenant Colonel when he died in January 1918.
As McCrae wrote his poem, Sergeant-Major Cyril Allinson was delivering mail when he noticed McCrae sitting at the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Yser Canal, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, Belgium. Allinson silently watched as McCrae wrote his poem and later recalled, “His face was very tired but calm as he wrote. He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.” Within moments, John McCrae had completed his poem to a fallen friend and when he was done, without a word, McCrae took his mail and handed the poem to Allinson.
An exact description of the battle front
Allinson was deeply moved. “In Flanders Fields was an exact description of the battle front. McCrae 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.” A collection of his poetry, “In Flanders Fields and Other Poems), was published after John McCrae’s death in 1918.On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, Canadians pause each year in memory of the thousands of men and women who sacrificed their lives in military service. Lest We Forget, that in Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row.