The story of John McCrae

John McCrae wrote the poem 'In Flanders Fields' which inspired the use of the poppy as the symbol of Remembrance.

Both a soldier and a doctor, John McCrae was born in Canada in 1872 and fought in the Boer War. When Britain declared war on Germany McCrae was appointed as a field-surgeon in the Canadian Artillery. 

Canadian John McCrae was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres, a period that saw some of the most brutal fighting on the Western front.

Lt Alex Helmer, a close friend of McCrae's, was one of the casualties and it was his death that inspired the poem In Flanders Field. Written on 3 May 1915, McCrae submitted the poem to The Spectator, who declined it, and then to Punch, who published it in December 1915.

After Ypres, McCrae rose in the ranks, first joining the medical corps and being promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, then to Colonel, and finally named Consulting Physician to the British Armies in France (the first Canadian to receive the honour).

He died of pneumonia on 28 January 1918 and is buried in Wimereux, France.

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.