Recall that it was a Canadian army medical officer, LTC John McCrae, who is most responsible for the adoption of the poppy as a symbol of warriors’ ultimate sacrifice. McCrae, a pathologist by training, came from a military family. So it was natural that he would volunteer, at age 42, to serve in the Canadian army when Britain went to war against Germany. As a field hospital surgeon and commander during the second battle of Ypres (1915), McCrae, moved by the appearance of bright poppies in the otherwise desolate battleground, wrote the haunting poem “In Flanders Fields”:In Flanders fields the poppies grow 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.
McCrae did not survive the war. He died of pneumonia and meningitis, while still in service, nearly 3 years after writing his famous poem.
Will you wear your Poppy for the next few days?
©2012 Thomas L Snyder