Tag Archives: “Dr. John McCrae”

The Flower Of Remembrance…….


Remembrance Day2-5

Written by:  Catherine Sampson – Trillium Equine Complex

THE POPPY SYMBOL MADE FAMOUS BY DR. JOHN MCCRAE’S poem “In Flanders Fields” was written as he sat on the step of a horse drawn ambulance wagon after performing a burial service for his good friend and former student, 22 year old Alexis Helmer.  Helmer died the previous day during the Second Battle of Ypres. Dr. McCrae, the Canadian soldier and surgeon whose love of animals and his dedication to medicine, evokes strong emotion from those words written so long ago on the battlefield while honouring the sacrifice of his fallen friend.

Dr. McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario on November 30, 1872 and served in the Second Boer War in South Africa and subsequently World War I. His letters home to nieces and nephews were signed using his faithful mount’s hoof print and written in his horse’s name. Bonfire, the grand chestnut, carried him throughout the war; a gift to Dr. McCrae by his friend John Todd.

John McCrae died on January 28, 1918 from a combination of pneumonia and meningitis. His funeral was led by his steed Bonfire in the traditional manner of fallen mounted soldiers. Dr. McCrae’s boots were placed in the stirrups backwards.

So next time you place that poppy on your lapel, think of John McCrae whose poem inspired its symbol of remembrance worldwide.

*Of interest, read the story of Bonfire in the book “Bonfire – The Chestnut Gentleman” by Susan Raby-Dunne

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