You may be familiar with his words, but do you know the man who wrote ‘In Flanders Fields’?
John McCrae was a Canadian military surgeon who volunteered to serve in both the South African War and First World War. While attending medical school, he had more than a dozen works published, including poetry and short stories.
During the Second Battle of Ypres at the beginning of May 1915, McCrae was inspired to write what would become his most famous poem, ‘In Flanders Fields’. The first few lines were scribbled after he, as brigade doctor (the chaplain being absent), had led the burial service for his closest friend.
The now oft-recited 15-line poem was originally rejected for publication. However, by 1917 McCrae’s words were already showing the popularity it would see for generations. Just two years after its anonymous publication the poem was already being used to bolster the war effort in Canada and the US, sell war bonds, and recruit soldiers.
To this day I still remember all the words to John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields’. I had to memorize it for my grade seven English class. Anyone else?
In Flanders Fields: 100 Years: Writing On War, Loss And Remembrance (2015) includes works by Roméo Dallaire, Margaret Atwood, Ken Dryden, and Tim Cook, among others.