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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.
– John McCrae, 1915

November 11 is Remembrance Day here in Canada.  in the two weeks leading up to this day, Canadians wear poppy pins as a sign of Remembrance to all in the armed forces who lost their lives fighting in World War I and other wars.  the Remembrance poppy was inspired in part by the poem “In Flanders fields”.

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow, between the crosses, row on row…”, throughout elementary school, i can recall learning this poem, most memorable for these first 12 words.

so where is Flanders fields?  as it turns out, the name refers to WWI battlefields in and around the Flanders region of Belgium.  about 1.5 hours west of Brussels is the town of Ieper (formerly known as Ypres).  those who are well versed in WWI history may know of the “5 battles of Ypres”,  battles fought in or near the town.

Ieper is easy to get to by train from Brussels, but to visit the area and see the significant sites would be extremely difficult to do without a car.   as such, i elected to join a tour.  for a few hours, a small van brought a group of us to a few significant sites and the guide shared some history and important facts.  i may not have had any personal ties to WWI, but as a Canadian, hearing some of the stories and learning more about Canada’s part in that war really touched me.  physically being there to take in some of the history definitely made an impact.

the St. Julien Memorial, one of five Canadian war memorials in Belgium. the main feature of the memorial is the Brooding Soldier, a sculpture by Frederick Chapman Clemesha

Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery - the largest cemetery for Commonwealth forces in the world, for any war

Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing - the gate marks the eastern exit out of the town of Ieper

the dressing station where Canadian army physician and Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae apparently wrote "In Flanders fields" in 20 minutes