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Statue to “In Flanders Fields” poet unveiled in Ottawa

11:38 30/04/2015

Koen Verlaeckt, secretary-general of the Flanders Department of Foreign Affairs, is traveling to the Canadian capital of Ottawa for the 3 May unveiling of a statue in honour of the Canadian doctor and soldier John McCrae. 

McCrae served in the trenches near Ypres during the First World War and composed the famous poem “In Flanders Fields” while tending soldiers at Essex Farm in May 1915. McCrae dedicated the poem to his friend Alex Helmer, who was killed by an exploding grenade during a German gas attack. The poem refers to poppies, which led to the red flower being adopted worldwide as a symbol of remembrance.

“The horrors of the First World War on the western front are forever linked to the landscape of Flanders Fields because of the poem by John McCrae,” said Verlaeckt. “It is our duty to keep this memory alive and pass it on to future generations.”

The larger-than-life-size bronze memorial (model pictured) shows a sitting McCrae, notebook in hand. “The world-famous poem ‘In Flanders Fields’ and the poppy remind us of all the fallen,” said Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois. “We are unveiling a statue of John McCrae on the 100th anniversary of the poem’s composition to commemorate him and all the victims of war.”

The statue is located in front of the National Artillery Memorial on Sussex Drive, just east of downtown Ottawa. A duplicate of the statue is being unveiled later this year in McCrae’s hometown of Guelph, Ontario, about 500 kilometres southwest of Ottawa.

McCrae died of pneumonia in Wimereux, northern France, on 28 January 1918.


Written by Derek Blyth