Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, 1872-1918 - Ontario Heritage Trust

Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, 1872-1918, Guelph

The distinguished soldier, physician and poet was born and raised in Guelph, Ontario. John McCrae graduated from the University of Toronto in medicine, practised as a pathologist and taught medicine at McGill University in Montreal. In 1899, he served in the South African War as an officer with the Royal Canadian Field Artillery. At the outbreak of the First World War, he re-enlisted with the 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery, as its Medical Officer. In 1915, contemplating the poppies growing amid the death and devastation at Ypres, Belgium, McCrae drafted the poem In Flanders Fields in memory of the dead. The poem appeared in Punch magazine that December and quickly became popular. Lieutenant-Colonel McCrae then served at No. 3 Canadian General Hospital in Boulogne as the Officer in Charge of Medicine. In January 1918, he died after contracting pneumonia and meningitis. McCrae is buried in Wimereux, France. McCrae's poem eventually inspired the use of the poppy internationally as an iconic symbol of remembrance.