It’s been 102 years since the signing of the armistice to end the First World War. Armistice Day, as it was known in the earlier years, remembers and pays tribute to the brave souls who risked everything to defend freedom. Many had fallen but more returned, battered and bruised both physically and emotionally.
During the horrors of war, a Canadian surgeon, who was also a poet who would become world renowned, served on the front lines in Belgium. Apparently, John McCrae, consumed by reflection on the loss of lives, jotted down his famous war poem in 20 minutes during the Second Battle of Ypres on May 3, 1915.
In Flanders Fields has been spoken by millions of lips, whispered at dawn on battlefields and solemnly recited at countless cenotaphs across the world. It has been read to young and old alike.
McCrae enlisted with the Canadian Army when he was 41 years old. His attestation papers are found on the Soldiers of the First World War website, part of Archives Canada.
Entering his first and last name in the search box produces personnel records for a few John McCraes. The top one is the man we’re looking for.
On the forms, we can read the following for John McCrae: born: November 30, 1872, Guelph, Ontario; married: no; next-of-kin: Janet McCrae; eyes: blue; hair: brown; height: 6 feet; trade: physician; enlisted September 22, 1914 at Valcartier, Quebec.
John McCrae’s Attestion Papers
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.