On May 2, 1915, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, a Canadian artillery officer, was killed during the Second Battle of Ypres, hit by an 8-inch German shell, which caused unspeakable damage.  What remains could be found were gathered into sandbags and buried in a blanket that evening. The being no chaplain, Lt. Helmer’s friend, Major John McCrae, conducted the services, reciting from memory the “Order of Burial of the Dead” from the Book of Common Prayer. The exact location of Lt. Helmer’s grave is now unknown.

It is believed that later that evening, Maj. McCrae began writing his now famous poem, In Flanders Fields, which is today’s writing.  McCrae, a doctor, died of pneumonia before the end of the Great War, on January 28, 1918.  His collection of poems, including In Flanders Fields, was first published later that year.  It contained a handwritten facsimile of the poem, autographed by McCrae, which replaces “blow” in the first line with “grow”.  The following is the standard version as printed in the collection:

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.