‘In Flanders Fields’ and Wearing the Poppy

Veteran local writer Stephen Osborne wrote a nice piece for Remembrance Day about John McCrae’s classic poem and why he wears a poppy:

Now I always wear a poppy in November, and when I pin it to my lapel, I think of my grandfathers and the generations of plain people like them who go to wars made for them by others for the obscurest of motives. John McCrae died of pneumonia in 1918; he did not see his poem subsumed into communal memory. His poppies blowing and his larks bravely singing have entered the repositories of kitsch; they are immortal.

For the locals, here are Remembrance Day events being held around Vancouver. I always go to the one at Memorial Park South. Last year, I took some photos.


  1. Darren, I always struggle with this line:

    “If ye break faith with us who die”

    What do you think it means? What’s the torch and quarrel with the foe? Is it a call for survivors to continue the war? Or does it mean something else? I’ve always thought of Remembrance Day as an anti-war event, but others always point out stanza from which I just quoted and say that the poem and day are pro-war.

  2. To phrase it as a ‘call for survivors to continue the war’ is a very modern interpretation, but largely correct. It’s a call to arms to fellow, living soldiers to not surrender. There was, obviously, no moral ambiguity in McCrae’s mind about the war.

    I’ve always felt that Remembrance Day was neither pro nor anti-war. It recognizes that war is sometimes a necessity, and mourns the loss of life that results.

  3. Thanks. It seems that particular stanza riles some people up. I agree that the day is more about remembrance and recognition of loss of life. I said anti-war, but what you said is more on track.

  4. The poem was printed and posted in our “retirement home” – Hallmark Assisted Living, in Abbotsford, BC. I was curious and wanted to learn more about Dr. John McCrae and the poem. We all memorized it in school, 50, 60 or more years ago. We have a lady who is 103!
    Thank you for your comments, the questions and answers, that was helpful too.

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