The story behind the coins
During the First World War, the landscape of France and Belgium turned to fields of mud where little or nothing could grow. But unusually warm temperatures in April and May 1915 caused vibrant red poppies to appear amidst the chaos and destruction of the Second Battle of Ypres.
It was the sight of these resilient flowers blooming on the battlefield that inspired a Canadian military doctor to write a poem in honour of his fallen comrades. And so it was, in early May a century ago, that Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae composed In Flanders Fields, now one of our nation's best-known literary works.
The poem inspired an American woman, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies to be worn in remembrance. The tradition was brought to England by Anna Guérin, and the idea of the poppy as memorial flower quickly spread through the Commonwealth.
Today, the poem and the poppy that inspired it remain two of the most recognized symbols of remembrance honouring every Canadian who has served our country.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae
Born in Guelph, Ontario, on November 30, 1872, Lieutenant- Colonel John McCrae began writing poetry as a student at Guelph Collegiate Institute. He joined the cadets at age 14 and, throughout university and medical training, he continued to write poetry and maintain a connection with the military.
When Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae was among the 45,000 Canadians who enlisted. He was appointed medical officer to the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery with the rank of Major.
Less than a year later, in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae wrote his most famous poem, In Flanders Fields.
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.