John McCrae

Discussion in 'Canada' started by U311reasearcher, Apr 5, 2009.

  1. On December 8, 1915, Punch magazine published a poem commemorating the dead of World War I. "In Flanders Fields" was written by John McCrae of Guelph, Ontario, after his experiences in the trench warfare around Ypres, Belgium.

    McCrae enlisted in the First Canadian Contingent soon after the beginning of World War I in 1914. He was posted as a medical officer to one of the artillery batteries fighting at Ypres in April 1915. He attended to the gun lines, and in letters home wrote that after casualties were reported to him by telephone, he would visit the scene to attend to the wounded, who could not be brought to his dressing station until dark. On June 1, 1915, McCrae was transferred to Boulogne No.3 General Hospital as officer in charge of medicine. He stayed at this position until his death, of pneumonia, on January 28, 1918.

    McCrae published other poems before the war in McGill University's University Magazine. "In Flanders Fields" is one of a collection of poems published posthumously in 1919 as In Flanders Fields and Other Poems.

    He was educated at the University of Toronto and in 1900 was appointed fellow in pathology at McGill University in Montréal. He later became a physician at the Alexandra Hospital and assistant physician at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montréal.

    John McCrae was not new to war. He had served as an artillery subaltern (1899-1900) in the Canadian Contingent during the Boer War in South Africa. A conflict over independence, the Boers were fighting against Britain's attempts to integrate South Africa into the British Empire. It was sparked after a failed coup, sponsored by the premier of the Cape of Good Hope Colony, Cecil Rhodes. Although Canadian volunteers went to South Africa at the request of the British government, divisions in Canada fighting a British colonial war prevented the Canadian Prime Minister at the time, Wilfrid Laurier, from sending regular troops.

    To see a short video about John McCrae, CLICK HERE
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  2. canuck

    canuck Closed Account

    One of the most famous war poems in the world is “In Flanders Fields” which was written by Canadian artillery officer and doctor Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He penned it May 3, 1915, during the First World War’s 2nd Battle of Ypres in Belgium.
    It was published in Britain’s “Punch” magazine December 8, 1915, and would quickly become widely known as a powerful call to remember and support those who were fighting and dying in the conflict. Pictured is a copy of “In Flanders Fields” hand-written by McCrae.


    Photo: Library and Archives Canada
  3. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake All over the place.... Patron

    Most accounts write of McCrae as if he was a doctor attached to the 1st Canadian artillery Brigade - their RMO. He was, but managed to combine his medical role with acting as second in command of the Brigade. He loved his service with the guns. He was one of the few Canadians with prior campaign experience, commanding a section of guns in one of the last battles of the Boar War. If he had not been a doctor McCrae could well have become a senior Canadian gunner.

    You can read his letters home to his mother here.
    The Heritage of the Great War / First World War 1914 - 1918

    The American Surgeon Harvey Cushing, wrote in his memoirs that Mccrae was never the same after May 1915.

    "The Death of a Soldier-Poet

    January 28th, 1918. Boulogne
    I saw poor Jack McCrae with Elder at No. 14 General last
    night — the last time. A bright flame rapidly burning out. He died
    early this morning. Just made Consulting Physician to the 1st
    Army — the only Canadian so far to be thus honored. Never strong,
    he gave his all with the Canadian Artillery during the prolonged
    second battle of Ypres and after, at which time he wrote his im-
    perishable verses. Since those frightful days he has never been his
    old gay and companionable self, but has rather sought solitude.
    A soldier from top to toe — how he would have hated to die in
    a bed. A three days' illness — an atypical pneumonia with extensive
    pneumococcus meningitis, as we learned this afternoon — for
    Rhea came for me and we went out with Sir Bertrand Dawson.
    They will bury him to-morrow. Some of the older members of the
    McGill Unit who still remain here were scouring the fields this
    afternoon to try and find some chance winter poppies to put on
    his grave — to remind him of Flanders, where he would have pre-
    ferred to lie. Was anyone ever more respected and loved than he?
    Someone has said that "children and animals followed him as
    shadows follow other men." Harvey Cushing.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
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