The poignant poem “In Flanders Fields” has been recited in ceremonies for a century and made the poppy an international symbol of wartime sacrifices. On May 3, 2015, Canada Post issued a stamp to mark the 100th anniversary of the poem. It was written on the battlefield by John McCrae, a doctor from Guelph, Ontario, who served as a medical officer during the First World War.
On the battlefield in Belgium
In early May 1915, Major (later Lieutenant-Colonel) John McCrae was overseas in Belgium, bravely serving his country during the Second Battle of Ypres. The fighting, now in its second week, was heated. As a surgeon with the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery, Major McCrae would have been all too familiar with the casualties of the war. And just that week McCrae’s friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed instantly by a direct hit from an 8-inch German shell.
Honouring the war dead with a poem
McCrae was inspired to write his famous poem as a tribute to Helmer and to the thousands of soldiers who died on the Ypres Salient. It was first published anonymously in England’s Punch magazine in December 1915. It went on to become arguably the most popular poem of the First World War and inspired the choice of the poppy as a symbol of wartime sacrifices.
McCrae himself was an indirect casualty of the war. He died in January 1918 of pneumonia and meningitis. In 1968, 50 years after his death, the Post Office Department (now Canada Post) issued a stamp in his honour.
A symbol of remembrance for 100 years
On May 3, 2015, Canada Post issued a stamp to commemorate the 100th anniversary of “In Flanders Fields.” The design is based on the iconic imagery in the poem, including crosses “row on row,” singing larks and the fragile red poppy, which appears with the permission of the Royal Canadian Legion.
This year, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the poem, Canada Post has issued stamps to honour “In Flanders Fields.” Have a look at these beautiful stamps and collectibles.
Do you have memories of the poem “In Flanders Fields”? Share some of them in the comments below.
*The Poppy, when used as a symbol of Remembrance in Canada, is a registered trademark of Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion and is used with the kind permission of Dominion Command.