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Topic – In Flanders Fields

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In Flanders Fields

Poppy, symbol of Remembrance Day

Every November 11, people in many countries buy poppies to show they remember brave soldiers and are proud of them. Do you know why the poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day? It is because of a Canadian doctor who wrote the most famous war poem ever, “In Flanders Fields.”

A Brave Doctor

Statue of John McCrae, Guelph, Ontario

By the time World War I began in Europe in 1914, John McCrae had been a doctor for many years and had already served in the South African (Boer) War. McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, in 1872 and had been writing poetry all his life. 

By April 1915, McCrae was in an area of Belgium known as Flanders. The courageous doctor was in charge of a medical centre in the middle of the battle raging there. He tried to treat the injured men, but dead and wounded soldiers kept rolling down into his dugout operating station. McCrae barely had time to eat and sleep—there was not even time for him to change his clothes.

Death of a Friend

“In Flanders Fields”, John McCrae

In early May, a good friend of McCrae’s was shot and killed in battle. McCrae sadly buried his friend but wanted to do something more. He could no longer help his friend or any of the other dead soldiers around him. But McCrae knew that if he wrote a poem about them, he could tell of their lives and perhaps it would help people remember them.

Looking around, McCrae saw the blood-red poppies blowing in the wind in a nearby cemetery. They inspired him to write “In Flanders Fields.” But he did not think the poem was very good and threw it away! 

Luckily, another officer found the poem and realized how great it was. He sent it to magazines and newspapers in England and it was published in December 1915. The poem was an immediate success and it inspired people around the world.

McCrae continued to care for wounded soldiers in Belgium and France. He worked very hard. But, in January 1918, he came down with pneumonia. By the end of the month, this quiet but famous soldier, doctor, and poet was dead.

Still Remembered

Remembrance Day, celebrated on November 11 at 11 a.m

McCrae’s poem raised soldiers’ and civilians’ spirits during World War I. Organizers in Canada hoped the poem would help raise $150 million to support soldiers and others, but it brought in almost three times that amount.

Every year, Remembrance Day is celebrated on November 11 at 11 a.m., because that is the date and time in 1918 when the agreement that finally ended World War I was signed. Poppies are mentioned in McCrae’s famous poem and that is one of the main reasons the flower was chosen as a symbol of remembrance.

 

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.


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