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John McCrae was a poet and physician from Guelph, Ontario. He developed an interest in poetry at a young age and wrote throughout his life. He had the option of joining the medical corps because of his training and age but he volunteered instead to join a fighting unit as a gunner and medical officer. He had previously fought with a volunteer force in the Second Boer War. They attacked French positions north of the Canadians with chlorine gas on April 22, but were unable to break through the Canadian line, which held for over two weeks. In a letter written to his mother, McCrae described the battle as a "nightmare", For seventeen days and seventeen nights none of us have had our clothes off, nor our boots even, except occasionally. In all that time while I was awake, gunfire and rifle fire never ceased for sixty seconds And behind it all was the constant background of the sights of the dead, the wounded, the maimed, and a terrible anxiety lest the line should give way. McCrae performed the burial service himself, at which time he noted how poppies quickly grew around the graves of those who died at Ypres. The next day, he composed the poem while sitting in the back of an ambulance at an Advanced Dressing Station outside Ypres. Unlike the printed copy in the same book, McCrae's handwritten version ends the first line with "grow". 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. As with his earlier poems, "In Flanders Fields" continues McCrae's preoccupation with death and how it stands as the transition between the struggle of life and the peace that follows. It speaks of their sacrifice and serves as their command to the living to press on. Note that the first line ends with "grow". Cyril Allinson was a sergeant major in McCrae's unit. While delivering the brigade's mail, he watched McCrae as he worked on the poem, noting that McCrae's eyes periodically returned to Helmer's grave as he wrote. When handed the notepad, Allinson read the poem and was so moved he immediately committed it to memory. He described it as being "almost an exact description of the scene in front of us both". It is said he crumpled the paper and threw it away. Elder,  or Allinson. A third claim, by Morrison, was that McCrae worked on the poem as time allowed between arrivals of wounded soldiers in need of medical attention. It was then sent to Punch, where it was published on December 8, According to Allinson, the poem began with "In Flanders Fields the poppies grow" when first written. McCrae used either word when making handwritten copies for friends and family. Most recently, the Bank of Canada was inundated with queries and complaints from those who believed the first line should end with "grow", when a design for the ten-dollar bill was released in , with the first stanza of "In Flanders Fields", ending the first line with "blow". Soldiers took encouragement from it as a statement of their duty to those who died while people on the home front viewed it as defining the cause for which their brothers and sons were fighting. French Canadians in Quebec were strongly opposed to the possibility of conscription but English Canadians voted overwhelmingly to support Prime Minister Robert Borden and the Unionist government. He stated in a letter: It was one of the most quoted works during the war,  used in many places as part of campaigns to sell war bonds , during recruiting efforts and to criticize pacifists and those who sought to profit from the war. Describing it as "vicious" and "stupid", Fussell called the final lines a "propaganda argument against a negotiated peace". The years of war had worn McCrae down, he contracted pneumonia that day and later came down with cerebral meningitis. On January 28, , he died at the military hospital in Wimereux and was buried there with full military honours. A version minted in featured a red poppy in the centre and is considered the first multi-coloured circulation coin in the world. Other Canadian stamps have featured the poppy, including ones in , , ,  and Other postal authorities have employed the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, including those of Australia, Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and United States.
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