The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

John McCrae

John McCrae was part of the 32,000 strong Canadian Expeditionary Force that landed in Plymouth in 1914 en route to the fighting in France. He was a member of the Canadian Artillery Brigade at this point but would later achieve fame as the poet who penned the lines:

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.

For a while, he was the most famous poet in the English language. His verse was extensively used to encourage the Americans to join the war on the side of the British Empire and to raise money through the sale of war bonds. It is largely thanks to this poem that the poppy was taken as a symbol of remembrance throughout the Commonwealth after the First World War. Poppies are still laid at the memorials on Plymouth Hoe at the precise point where John McCrae would've been paraded back in 1914!

Empire in Your Backyard: Plymouth Article | Significant Individuals

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by Stephen Luscombe