This Sunday, January 28th, will mark the centenary of the death of the well-known Canadian poet- John McCrae. Author of the poem In Flanders Fields, McCrae’s memory is immortalized in the words he wrote during the Second Battle of Ypres. The Canadian soldier, however, was more than just a poet. When the war broke out in 1914, McCrae was appointed medical officer to the First Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery and accompanied one of the first Canadian contingents that departed from Valcartier, Québec for England in October 1914.
The 1st Canadian Division fought two costly engagements in the spring of 1915, the 2nd Battle of Ypres and Festubert, which resulted in a combined loss of over 8 000 killed and wounded in the space of two months. Battalions lost up to three quarters of their fighting strength in a single engagement, with the PPCLI being reduced to just 150 men after they held the line at Frezenberg in early May. At this point, the division was moved to the relatively quiet front between Ploegsteert and Messines, where they would spend the summer months until September 1915 holding the lines. Continue reading “A well deserved rest: The 1st Canadian Division in the summer of 1915”