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Poetry at Knole

29th October 2018

Poetry at Knole

Canadian physician and poet Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae, volunteered at the age of 41 to join a fighting unit of the British Army as a gunner and medical officer. ‘In Flanders Fields’ memorializes the Second Battle of Ypres 1915, in the Flanders region of Belgium, where the German army launched one of the first chemical attacks in the history of war. For 17 days, McCrae tended those injured in the battle. The poem, written after the death in battle of a close friend, was first published in Punch magazine. It led to the adoption of the poppy as the Flower of Remembrance for the British and Commonwealth war dead.

McCrae died of pneumonia on January 28, 1918, while working at Boulogne No.3 General Hospital. He was buried with full military honours in the nearby Wimereux Cemetery.

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.

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