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Preparation for Remembrance Day

Tynecot Cemetery

Having visited Ypres and many other places on the Western Front, it is hard to imagine the hundreds of thousands that died in what today is rich, green farmland. One of the original observers who saw a very different picture was McCrae, who dealt minute by minute with the dead and dying. He had been appointed as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery and was in charge of a field hospital during the Second Battle of Ypres. McCrae’s friend and former student, Lt. Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle, and his burial inspired the poem, In Flanders Fields, which was written on May 3, 1915. When he had finished writing the poem, he screwed it up and threw it away because he did not think it good enough! A fellow officer picked it up and sent it to the several newspapers in England. The Spectator rejected it but Punch printed it on 8 December 1915. It immediately became one of the most popular pieces of war poetry, both at home and on the front. It is one of the few to remain in common knowledge to the present day. What a slender thread to preserve the existence of this poem which has come to have such an influence on people in Commonwealth countries around the world.

In your preparation for Remembrance Day why not take a few moments to ponder that poem:

Cobbers Memorial,In Memory of those who fought and fell in the battle of Fromelles.

Cobbers Memorial. In Memory of those who fought and fell in the battle of Fromelles.

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.

Chaplain Ian S Whitley

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