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The man behind ‘In Flanders Field’

John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields in May 1915. Photo and info for article compliments of Wikipedia

In Flanders Fields is a war poem written during WWI by John McCrae, a Lieutenant Colonel and Canadian physician.  McCrae was reportedly inspired to write In Flanders Fields on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend who died in battle, and poppies started growing on the grave. Flanders Fields is a name that was commonly used in England to describe battlefields in Belgium and France. 

According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. 

The poem was published for the first time in the London magazine, Punch, on Dec. 8, 1915. Its popularity was said to be immediate. Since that publication, the poem has been reprinted in various forms hundreds of thousands of times. Sometimes, the poem was printed along with military recruiting efforts, and also to help boost the selling of war bonds. 

In the poem, McCrae mentions red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers. The reference of red poppies in this poem has resulted in the red poppy being the most recognized memorial symbol for soldiers who have died in conflict. 

McCrae was a poet and physician from Guelph, Ontario. He developed an interest in poetry at a young age and wrote throughout his life, and had poems published Canadian magazines and newspapers. His poetry often focused on death and the peace that followed.

At age 41, McCrae enrolled with the Canadian Expeditionary Force following the outbreak of WWI. He reportedly had the option of joining the medical corps because of his training and age but he volunteered instead to join a fighting unit as a gunner and medical officer.  It was his second tour of duty in the military. 

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