In Flanders Fields

by Aaron Dunlop

combined-poppies-800

I attended the remembrance service in Sidney, BC today with my son James. There was a good attendance; it appears more than most years because of the recent rise in global terrorism and also because of the 100th anniversary of WW1. It is important to remember those who fall in service and also those who suffer in the struggle for freedom. Here is a little history of the famous poem “In Flanders Fields.”

During the early days of the Second Battle of Ypres a young Canadian artillery officer, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed on 2nd May, 1915 in the gun positions near Ypres. An exploding German artillery shell landed near him. He was serving in the same Canadian artillery unit as a friend of his, the Canadian military doctor and artillery commander Major John McCrae.

Major John McCraeAs the brigade doctor, John McCrae was asked to conduct the burial service for Alexis because the chaplain had been called away somewhere else on duty that evening. It is believed that later that evening, after the burial, John began the draft for his now famous poem “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.

2 Comments to “In Flanders Fields”

  1. Hello Aaron:
    Thank you for the wonderful reminder of Flanders Fields.
    Elizabeth & I spent a very memorable several days with two professional guides in Belgium learning so much about the “Great War” which included a full day in Ypres and particularly at Flanders Fields. What an emotional and heart stirring experience!! It is impossible to explain the emotion that goes along with the experience.
    If ever you can, a visit there will add a whole new dimension to the meaning of “Rememberance Day”. Suggest you stay in Bruges where the bridge to the city is named the Canada Bridge to honour the Canadian soldiers who freed the city. To this day the people of Bruges treat Canadians with incredible hospitality.

    Blessings always,

    • Thanks for sharing Bill, I would love to visit the WW1 sites in France some day. I am writing about a Canadian man who was at the Somme and also at Vimy Ridge. Of course the Ulster (N. Ireland) Division was made famous at the Somme and the Canadians came into their own at Vimy Ridge. It is a fascinating history. I have also an great uncle buried there.
      Aaron

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