Yesterday, 28 January 2018, was the 100th anniversary of John McCrae’s death. Best known for his poem, In Flanders Fields, McCrae was a physician and a soldier.
McCrae was born and raised in a limestone cottage at 108 Water St in Guelph. The home has been restored as the McCrae House museum. A monument in the garden is dedicated to his memory. Ontario Heritage plaques mark McCrae’s birthplace and final resting place.
At McCrae House:
LIEUTENANT-COLONEL JOHN MCCRAE, 1872-1918
The distinguished soldier, physician and poet was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario. John McCrae graduated from the University of Toronto in medicine, practised as a pathologist and taught medicine at McGill University in Montreal. In 1899, he served in the South African War as an officer with the Royal Canadian Field Artillery. At the outbreak of the First World War, he re-enlisted with the 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, as its Medical Officer. In 1915, contemplating the poppies growing amid the death and devastation at Ypres, Belgium, McCrae drafted the poem In Flanders Fields in memory of the dead. The poem appeared in Punch magazine that December and quickly became popular. Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae then served at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne as the Officer in Charge of Medicine. In January 1918, he died after contracting pneumonia and meningitis. McCrae is buried in Wimereux, France. McCrae’s poem eventually inspired the use of the poppy internationally as an iconic symbol of remembrance.
At Wimereux Communal Cemetery, France:
JOHN MCCRAE, 1872-1918
Born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, McCrae was educated at the University of Toronto’s medical school, graduating as a gold medallist in 1898. He served in the Boer War with the artillery and during the First World War attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Canadian Medical Corps. In the intervening years he taught medicine at McGill University, wrote poetry and earned recognition for his contributions to medical journals and his textbook on pathology. He is best remembered as the author of “In Flanders Fields”, a simple poignant poem which pays tribute to his comrades killed during the Second Battle of Ypres, in which McCrae saw service. He died in France and is buried here at Wimereux Cemetery.
The Canadian Centre for the Great War writes about McCrae’s life this week: Beyond the Poet: John McCrae and the Canadian Army Medical Corps.
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