May 3rd, 1915 – In Flanders Fields is penned by Dr. John McCrae

One of history’s most famous wartime poems, “In Flanders Fields” was written more than 100 years ago today, on May 3, 1915, during the First World War.

A Montréal physician, Canadian officer, John McCrae, served as a major and a surgeon with the Canadian Field Artillery, in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Ypres was the Force’s first major engagement of the war.

According to the Canadian Encyclopedia –

McCrae sent a finished copy of “In Flanders Fields” to The Spectator magazine in London, where it was rejected. But a journalist who visited the field hospital where McCrae was serving at the front, took a copy back to Punch magazine. Punch printed it — anonymously, without McCrae’s name — on 8 December 1915.

Within months it was republished in other sources, with McCrae’s name attached, and quickly became the most popular poem of the war. Its powerful use of the symbol of the poppies blooming from the churned earth led to the tradition, to this day, of the poppy as a symbol of remembrance for those killed in service.

By 1917, “In Flanders Fields” was known throughout the English-speaking world. It was used to further the war effort, to raise money for the troops”

Today, the poem is read by millions in Canada and around the world each Remembrance Day and the poem initiated the red poppy as a symbol of Remembrance. A history museum in the ancient Cloth Hall in Ypres (now Ieper), Belgium, is named after the poem and the special exhibition gallery in the Canadian War Museum is also named after McCrae.

“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”

Composed at the battlefront on 3 May 1915 during the Second Battle of Ypres, Belgium.