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Flanders Park Dedication Ceremony Honours the 100th Anniversary of "In Flanders Fields"

Posted On: 10/23/2015
The Castle Downs Recreation Society (CDRS), in partnership with Canada Lands and reserve units from the medical and artillery side, are excited to host a special unveiling ceremony for Flanders Fields Park. The event will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lieutenant John McCrae’s iconic poem In Flanders Fields. 

Since its publication in Punch magazine in 1915, "In Flanders Fields" has been one of the most memorable war poems ever written. Its author, John McCrae (1872-1918), began writing poetry as a boy in his native Guelph, Ontario, where he also joined the Cadet Corps and later taught at a local college. 

While attending medical school in the 1890s, McCrae became a captain in the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and wrote poems and short stories for publication. He deferred a pathology fellowship to fight in the South African War as an officer of the Royal Canadian Artillery (1899-1902), where he was shocked by the poor treatment of sick and injured soldiers. McCrae established a successful career in Montreal as a pathologist, lecturer, and medical scholar.

John McCrae enlisted within weeks of the outbreak of the First World War and was appointed as a doctor for the 1st Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. Upon arrival in France, McCrae was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Canadian Army Medical Corps and, in the spring of 1915, he tended the wounded and dying at the Battle of Ypres, in the area of Belgium called Flanders. 

The day after his young friend and former student, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed in the battle, McCrae sat on the back of an ambulance outside his dressing station. He could see the little cemetery where Helmer was buried, its wild poppies blown gently by an east wind. For twenty minutes, McCrae scribbled lines in his notebook, capturing the scene and the moment forever. In January 1918, McCrae succumbed to pneumonia and meningitis. He lies buried in Flanders. 

The CDRS view the creation of Flanders Park as a great symbol of our cultural heritage. It will recognize a great Canadian, inform the public of the stature and significance of the poem and its ties to remembrance, and pays tribute to those who gave their lives for our country, to those who have served, and to those who currently serve. There will be a bronze plaque of his hand-written poem and two storyboards speaking to the poem and to remembrance unveiled during the ceremony.

The event will be staged in Flanders Field Park in the northwest part of Griesbach on November 1st at 1 PM, and is open to all who would like to attend. The dedication will be shared with the 15 Field Ambulance; 20 Field Artillery Regiment, the Royal Canadian Artillery; 20 Field Battery Unit; the 1 Health Services Group; as well as by the public by many civic, provincial  and national dignitaries.