McCrae, John

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae is best remembered for In Flanders Fields, probably the single best-known and popular English-language poem from “The War to End All Wars.” He died of pneumonia and cerebral meningitis while on active duty Flanders on January 28, 1918.

He began his connection with the military becoming a gunner with the Number 2 Battery in Guelph in 1890, Quarter-Master Sergeant in 1891, Second Lieutenant in 1893 and Lieutenant in 1896.

During the South African war John McCrae served with the Guelph contingent which became part of D Battery, Canadian Field Artillery. John McCrae resigned from the Artillery in 1904 after being promoted to Major. He was not involved with the military again until 1914.

In August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany. Canada, as a member of the British Empire, was automatically at war, and its citizens from all across the land responded quickly. Within three weeks, 45,000 Canadians had rushed to join up; John McCrae was among them. He was appointed brigade-surgeon to the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery with the rank of Major and second-in-command. Before his death he was promoted Lieutenant Colonel.

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s funeral procession to Wimereux Cemetery, January 29, 1918. The coffin is followed by his horse Bonfire with McCrae’s boot reversed in the stirrups. Photo from the Guelph Museum.

“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.”

Written May 3, 1915

5 thoughts on “McCrae, John”

  1. My grandfather was one of Johns leutenants.he was shot three times that day ,captured,tortured by the germans.He managed to escape Gissen p.o.w camp several times .The final attempt he made was to over power a sentry,took his uniform and somehow managed to make his way back through no mans land to safety.He is in the famous war painting by Richard Jack.He is the soldier wearing a white shirt.He had gone to a nearby farm earlier that day to see if he could have a dry shirt.The farmer gave him a shirt and minutes later the gas attack began.He was one of John Mcrae’s best friends .John had lost his very best friends three days after the battle.Alexis Helmer suffered a direct shelling of his position.He was blown to pieces.John ,along with the help of fellow soldiers assissted in gathering up his dear friend.He was buried in flanders field.John wrote his famous poem shortly after .The bravery of these men cannot be overstated.My grandfather was lt Darcy Latimer.He and 9 of his closest friends volunteered to go fight .They were all from the Ottawa region.They called themselves the Ottawa 10.Only 3 came back.R.I.P.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful poem written with so much meaning during dreadful time in history.
    Sad how wars are only started by a few – but kill thousands.
    How come a few cant be dealt with?


  3. Interesting that the Canadian Corps Commander, General Sir Arthur Currie, attended the funeral. McCrae must have had some influence across the Corps, even at that time.


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