Physician, army officer, and poet John McCrae is the author of the celebrated World War I poem “In Flanders Fields.” He wrote the poem during the Second Battle of Ypres in the spring of 1915, the day after the death of his good friend, Alexis Helmer, who was killed in action. It is said that McCrae wrote the poem on the step of an ambulance wagon overlooking the wild poppies that bloomed among the makeshift graves on the battlefield. The poem was subsequently published in the London magazine, Punch, to international acclaim. McCrae became a famous poet but continued to work as a surgeon in an artillery brigade during the war. His poem is recited annually at Remembrance Day ceremonies around the world. He is also credited with the idea of adopting the poppy as the official flower of remembrance, a practice which has been embraced in Canada, the United States, France, Britain, and Australia.
Lt.-Col. John McCrae
(BA 1894 UC) (MD 1898 Toronto)