Author: John McCrae

John McCrae, c. 1914, by William Notman and Son

Originally from Quebec, Canada, John Alexander McCrae (1872–1918) was a poet, physician, and soldier who served as a lieutenant colonel in the Canadian army during World War I. He attended the University of Toronto as both an undergraduate and a medical school student, continuing his education in medicine at Johns Hopkins University. When war broke out in South Africa in 1899, McCrae volunteered to serve, doing so until 1904. In the intervening years he practiced medicine in Montreal. When Canada entered World War I, McCrae once again volunteered for service as a field doctor. In 1915, while serving in Belgium, he wrote his most famous poem, “In Flanders Fields,” after witnessing the death of a close friend. He then received orders transferring him to a hospital in France where, shortly thereafter, he died from pneumonia. 

In Flanders Fields

John McCrae

This famous poem grew out of World War I, with its unprecedented magnitude and scale of loss. Fallen soldiers by the tens of thousands were, and remain, buried in graves and fields far from home. Also, the ideological character of the battle raised new questions about how to properly honor the dead.