Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was from Guelph Ontario Canada. As a medical officer, he witnessed first hand the horrific scenes of carnage and death along the gun line in Flanders Belgium in World War I.
John McCrae was no stranger to war. He had served as artillery subaltern in the Canadian Contingent of the South African “Boer” war. However, it was his skill as a physician learnt at the Alexandria Hospital and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal that earned him the medical post for one of the artillery batteries in Ypres Belgium in 1915. It is here that the horrors on the battlefield inspired him to write the most famous poem of the First world War, “In Flanders Fields”.
Sadly, McCrae never made it home from the war. He contracted pneumonia and died in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France on January 28, 1918.
The poem was first published in Punch Magazine on December 8, 1915.
To see a short vignette CBC on John McCrae and the creation of his poem “In Flanders Fields”, Watch this short CBC vignette.
The poem can also be seen in micro text on the back of the Canadian Ten dollar bill.