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    Guinness World Record Holder for largest book signing ever, Orrin Woodward is a NY Times bestselling author of And Justice For All along with RESOLVED & coauthor of LeaderShift and Launching a Leadership Revolution. His books have sold over one million copies in the financial, leadership and liberty fields. RESOLVED: 13 Resolutions For LIFE made the Top 100 All-Time Best Leadership Books and the 13 Resolutions are the framework for the top selling Mental Fitness Challenge personal development program.

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In Flanders Field by Lt. Colonel John McCrae

Posted by Orrin Woodward on January 22, 2008

Flanders Filed pictureI listened to my daughter Christina recite a poem for her school project
tonight.  I decided to research the poem and I sure am glad I did!  The poem was written by a Canadian MD during World War I.  This post is dedicated to our brothers and sisters north of the border in Canada.  Laurie and I had the honor of speaking outside of Halifax,
Nova Scotia Canada two weekends ago.  I am very proud of the hunger, attitude and leadership we witnessed.  The Canadians are making a difference and watching the courage of so many leaders tells me the men of Flanders did not die in vain.  Here is the story behind the poem In Flanders Field and here is the link.

McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” remains to this day one of the most memorable war poems ever written. It is a lasting legacy of the terrible battle in the Ypres
salient in the spring of 1915. Here is the story of the making of that poem:

Although he had been a doctor for years and had served in the South African War, it was impossible to get used to the suffering, the screams, and the blood here, and Major John McCrae had seen and heard enough in his dressing station to last him a lifetime. 

As a surgeon attached to the 1st Field Artillery Brigade, Major McCrae, who had joined the McGill faculty in 1900 after graduating from the University of Toronto, had spent seventeen days treating injured men — Canadians, British, Indians, French, and Germans — in the Ypres salient.

It had been an ordeal that he had hardly thought possible. McCrae later wrote of it: 

Flanders Field Soldiers picture

“I wish I could embody on paper some of the varied sensations of that seventeen days… Seventeen days of Hades! At the end of the first day if anyone had told us we had to spend seventeen days there, we would have folded our hands and said it could not have been done.”

One death particularly affected McCrae. A young friend and former student, Lieut. Alexis Helmer of Ottawa, had been killed by a shell burst on 2 May 1915. Lieutenant Helmer was buried later that day in the little cemetery outside McCrae’s dressing station, and McCrae had performed the funeral ceremony in the absence of the chaplain. 

The next day, sitting on the back of an ambulance parked near the dressing station beside the Canal de l’Yser, just a few hundred yards north of Ypres, McCrae vented his anguish by composing a poem. The major was no stranger to writing, having authored several medical texts besides dabbling in poetry.

In the nearby cemetery, McCrae could see the wild poppies that sprang up in the ditches in that part of Europe, and he spent twenty minutes of precious rest time scribbling fifteen lines of verse in a notebook.

A young soldier watched him write it. Cyril Allinson, a twenty-two year old sergeant-major, was delivering mail that day when he spotted McCrae. The major looked up as Allinson approached, then went on writing while the sergeant-major stood there quietly. “His face was very tired but calm as we wrote,” Allinson recalled. “He looked around from time to time, his eyes straying to Helmer’s grave.”

When McCrae finished five minutes later, he took his mail from Allinson and, without saying a word, handed his pad to the young NCO. Allinson was moved by what he read:

“The poem was exactly an exact description of the scene in front of us both. He used the word blow in that line because the poppies actually were being blown that morning by a gentle east wind. It never occurred to me at that time that it would ever be published. It seemed to me just an exact description of the scene.” 

In fact, it was very nearly not published. Dissatisfied with it, McCrae tossed the poem away, but a fellow officer retrieved it and sent it to newspapers in England. The Spectator, in London, rejected it, but Punch published it on 8 December 1915.

In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD
(1872-1918)

Canadian Army

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.

What part are you playing in the media war to ensure these brave young men and the cause they fought for are remembered?  Let us not break faith with those who died to maintain our freedoms – they risked their lives defending freedom and we only risk rejection and derision defending ours.  We have no excuses!  God Bless, Orrin Woodward

3 Responses to “In Flanders Field by Lt. Colonel John McCrae”

  1. Cialis said

    Do you mind if I quote a few of your artticles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your site?
    My website is in the exact same area of interest
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    • Orrin Woodward said

      Cialis, That would be no problem with the link back to this site and sourcing the original article. Keep leading! thanks, Orrin

  2. Olesia said

    I had a little time to peusre your blog you are so talented and skilled! Thank you for the poem I had heard of it for years, of course, but I don’t think I had ever read it before. The poppy is superb!

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