Canadian Virtual War Memorial

John McCrae

In memory of
Lieutenant Colonel
John McCrae
January 28, 1918
Boulogne, France

Military Service:

Age:
45
Force:
Army
Unit:
Canadian Army Medical Corps
Division:
No. 3 (McGill) Canadian General Hospital
Citation(s):
Queen's South Africa Medal with Clasps, 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.

Additional Information:

Born:
November 30, 1872 Guelph, Ontario

John McCrae was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel David McCrae and Janet Simpson Eckford McCrae. He had a sister, Geills, and a brother, Tom.

John McCrae began writing poetry while a student at the Guelph Collegiate Institute. As a young boy, he was also interested in the military. He joined the Highfield Cadet Corps at 14 and at 17 enlisted in the Militia field battery commanded by his father.

The day before he wrote his famous poem, one of McCrae's closest friends was killed in the fighting and buried in a makeshift grave with a simple wooden cross. Wild poppies were already beginning to bloom between the crosses marking the many graves. Unable to help his friend or any of the others who had died, John McCrae gave them a voice through his poem. It was the second last poem he was to write.

On January 28, 1918, after an illness of five days, he died of pneumonia and meningitis. The day he fell ill, he learned he had been appointed consulting physician to the First British Army, the first Canadian so honoured.

Commemorated on Page 454 of the First World War Book of Remembrance. Request a copy of this page.

Burial Information:

Cemetery:
WIMEREUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY ; Pas de Calais, France
Grave Reference:
IV. H. 3.
Location:
Wimereux is a small town situated about 5 kilometres north of Boulogne. From Boulogne take the A16 to Calais and come off at Junction 4. Take the road to Wimereux north, D242, for approximately 2 kilometres, following the road through the roundabout. Take the first turn on the left immediately after the roundabout and the WIMEREUX COMMUNAL CEMETERY lies approximately 200 metres down this road on the left hand side. The Commonwealth War Graves are situated to the rear of the communal cemetery.

Information courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Digital Collection

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  • In Flanders Fields – 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
"In Flanders Fields" was first published in England's "Punch" magazine in
 December, 1915. Within months, this poem came to symbolize the
 sacrifices of all who were fighting in the First World War. Today, the
 poem continues to be a part of Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada and other countries.
  • McCrae Family Photo – John McCrae on left, with his mother, brother Tom and sister Geills (photo: McCrae House)
  • John McCrae – Born in Guelph, Ontario, on November 30, 1872, John McCrae was the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel David McCrae and Janet Simpson Eckford McCrae.
  • Reading – Reading was one of John McCrae's favourite pastimes. (photo: McCrae House)
  • Bonfire – John McCrae with his horse Bonfire, (photo: McCrae House).   In France, he took with him a horse named Bonfire, a gift from a friend.  Later, John McCrae sent his young nieces and nephews letters supposedly written by Bonfire and signed with a hoof print.
  • Bonneau – John McCrae and his dog Bonneau in France (photo: National Archives of Canada, C46284).  Bonneau was another of his animal companions and was also a casualty of the war, who had adopted John McCrae as his special friend.
  • The Flower of Remembrance – Before he died, John McCrae had the satisfaction of knowing that his
poem had been a success. Soon after its publication, it became the most popular poem on the First World War. It was translated into many languages and used on billboards advertising the sale of the first Victory Loan Bonds in Canada in 1917. Designed to raise $150,000,000, the campaign raised $400,000,000.
In part because of the poem's popularity, the poppy was adopted as the Flower of Remembrance for the war dead of Britain, France, the United States, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.
  • McCrae museum and memorial cenotaph – The home of John McCrae and his family in Guelph, Ontario, has been preserved and is now a museum.  A memorial cenotaph and garden of remembrance is also open to the public (photo: Ken Barton).
  • Medals – Left to right: Queen's South Africa Medal with Clasps, 1914-15 Star,  Victory Medal, British War Medal.  The medals shown in this picture are from the Canadian Military Medals and Decorations section of the Veterans Affairs Canada website.
  • Attestation Paper (front) – Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was born in Guelph, Ontario, on November 30, 1872.
  • Attestation Paper (back)
  • Circumstances of Death Registers – Circumstances of Death- Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
  • Grave marker – John McCrae's Grave in France.
  • Wimereux Communal Cemetery
  • Honor Roll – From the "University of Toronto / Roll of Service 1914-1918", published in 1921.
  • Photo of John McCrae
  • Commemorative plaque – This plaque is dedicated to Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, whose death inspired the 'Flander's Fields' poem.
  • Newspaper Clipping – Portrait of Lt. Alexis H. Helmer, who inspired the McCrae poem.  From the "McGill Honour Roll, 1914-1918". McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, 1926.
  • Memorial Plaque
  • Gravemarker
  • Photo of John McCrae – From: The Varsity Magazine Supplement Fourth Edition 1918
published by The Students Administrative Council, University of Toronto.  
Submitted for the Soldiers' Tower Committee, University of Toronto, by Operation Picture Me.
  • Memorial – The Clan MacRae Honour Roll, located at Eilean Donan Castle, the home of the Clan Macrae, near the town of Dornie on Loch Duich in Western Scotland; listing Lieutenant Colonel McCrae's name (column 5, 14th name from bottom) and including a quote from his poem "In Flanders Fields."
  • Stained Glass Window – A stained glass memorial window at St. Andrew’s Church, 161 Norfolk St., Guelph, ON is dedicated to First World War soldiers. It was erected by St. Andrew’s Church.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
"I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE BECAUSE I LIVE, YE SHALL LIVE ALSO IN MEMORIAM: THOMAS RUSSELL
ALEX M. DUNBAR
DOUGLAS C. RUSSELL
JOHN MCCRAE
WILLIAM SMITH
DONALD P. GIBSON
GEORGE W. MORROW
LORNE WALKER
R. HOWARD TILL GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN THAN THIS THAT A MAN LAY DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS FRIENDS"


Photo Credit: Kathleen Wall 
http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/nic-inm/sm-rm/mdsr-rdr-eng.asp?PID=4435
  • Plaque – A stained glass memorial window at St. Andrew’s Church, 161 Norfolk St., Guelph, ON is dedicated to Lieut.-Col and Mrs. David McCrae and son John McCrae. It was erected by St. Andrews Church.

"TO PERPETUATE THE MEMORY OF THE REVERED FAMILY OF LIEUT.-COL. AND MRS DAVID MCCRAE WHO FOR MANY YEARS WORSHIPPED IN THIS PEW AND THEIR ILLUSTRIOUS SON LIEUT.-COL. JOHN MCCRAE PHYSICIAN, SOLDIER AND AUTHOR OF ‘IN FLANDERS FIELDS’."

http://www.cmp-cpm.forces.gc.ca/dhh-dhp/nic-inm/sm-rm/mdsr-rdr-eng.asp?PID=4437
Photo Credit: Kathleen Wall
  • Newspaper Clipping – PUNCH London England 1915 Dec 8.
First publication of 'In Flanders Fields', written in Belgium seven months earlier. By Dec. 29 issue, it is indexed as the work of Lt. Col. John McCree.
  • Statue – A sculpture of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, by Ruth Abernathy, was unveiled at Green Island, Ottawa, Ontario in May 2015. A copy was erected at the Guelph Civic Museum in Guelph, Ontario in 2015. The sculpture is of Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, with his dress as an Artillery officer and his medical bag nearby, as he writes. The statue shows the destruction of the battlefield and, at his feet, the poppies which are a symbol of Remembrance of World War I and all armed conflict since.
  • Memorial – This statue is located on Green Island, Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • Advanced Dressing Station – Boezinge, Ypres, Belgium. Advanced Dressing Station
  • Memorial – Tribute to John McCrae in Woodlawn Memorial Park, Guelph Ontario.  Photo by Ken Riley
  • Advanced Dressing Station Memorial – Boezinge, Ypres, Belgium. Advanced Dressing Station.

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