In Flanders Fields: Mementos of a Zete Who Touched the World

The above mounted stamp plate-block was issued by Canada Post commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Brother John McCrae’s death of pneumonia at Boulogne, France, on the 28th January 1918 – shortly after his promotion to Lieut.-Col. Born at Guelph, Ontario in 1872, John McCrae entered the medical profession serving in the Toronto General Hospital then at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore. He volunteered for the South African War and was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Artillery. Returning from overseas he spent some 14 years in medical practice, writing and lecturing at McGill University in Montreal.

In 1915, at the age of 43, he assumed the rank of Major and served as Brigade Surgeon of the 1st Brigade Canadian Field Artillery in France. On May 3rd of the same year, Brother McCrae composed the memorable and poignant “In Flanders Fields”. Rarely was a lasting literary work composed under such adverse and dramatic circumstances – the locale was an artillery dugout by the Yser Canal during the 2nd Battle of Ypres.

The original manuscript, penned on foolscap paper, now in the Public Archives of Canada, differs in minor ways from a more generally known version. The displayed Canadian stamp reproduces the authors own handwriting on the original manuscript, the poem commencing with “In Flanders fields the poppies blow”.

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