John McCrae

John McCrae (1872–1918) was a Canadian doctor and teacher, best known for his memorial poem “In Flanders Fields." McCrae began writing poetry when he was a student at the Guelph Collegiate Institute, and also showed an early interest in joining the military. At the age of fourteen he joined the Highfield Cadet Corps, and enlisted in a militia field battery three years later.
In April 1915 during WW1, McCrae was stationed in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in an area known as Flanders, during the bloody Second Battle of Ypres. In the midst of the tragic warfare, McCrae’s friend, twenty-two-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by artillery fire and buried in a makeshift grave. The following day, McCrae, after seeing the field of graves blooming with wild poppies, wrote this now famous poem.

“In Flanders Fields” became popular almost immediately upon its publication. It was translated into other languages and used on billboards advertising Victory Loan Bonds in Canada. The poppy soon became known as the flower of remembrance for the men and women in Britain, France, the United States, and Canada who have died in service of their country. Today, McCrae’s poem continues to be an important part of Remembrance Day celebrations in Canada and Europe, as well as Memorial Day and Veterans Day celebrations in the United States.