New stamp marks 100th anniversary of In Flanders Fields

Today at 11:30 a.m., Canada Post unveiled a new stamp to mark the 100th anniversary of In Flanders Fields, the poignant poem that made the poppy an international symbol of wartime sacrifices since it was first penned by John McRae one century ago.

Deepak Chopra, president and CEO of Canada Post, said the new McRae stamp symbolizes the bond that ties one generation of Canadians to another.

“This poem is written indelibly on our hearts in a way that helps us honour those who gave their lives in the service of this country,” said Chopra.

On May 3, 1915, in the First World War’s Second Battle of Ypres, McRae, a Canadian combat surgeon, was grieving the death of a friend and comrade, Lt. Alexis Helmer. Overwhelmed by the death and destruction that surrounded him, McRae wrote In Flanders Fields to express his sorrow and commemorate Helmer and the thousands of others who died in the conflict.

A five-stamp mini pane featuring the poem in McRae’s handwriting was also unveiled.

A five-stamp mini pane featuring the poem in McRae’s handwriting was also unveiled.

In Flanders Fields was first published in December 1915, in England’s Punch magazine. It is considered on of the most significant written works to come out of the First World War and inspired the choice of the poppy as a symbol of the sacrifices made in conflict. To this day, the poem is recited at Remembrance Day services in Canada and around the world. It and its French-language adaptation, Au Champ d’honneur, are engraved on marble plaques in Parliament Hill’s Memorial Chamber.

“Both John McCrae and his poem are national treasures,” said Transport Minister Lisa Raitt, who is responsible for Canada Post. “The poem has become an emotional touchstone as a means of remembering the sacrifices of those who served so that we may be free.”

Designed by Janice Carter and Tejashri Kapure of q30 Design, the stamp is based on iconic imagery inspired by the poem, including rows of crosses, bravely singing larks and the fragile red poppy, which appears with the permission of the Royal Canadian Legion. A five-stamp mini pane features the poem in the author’s handwriting in a version that varies slightly from that made famous by Punch.

The official first-day cover, pictured here, was cancelled in Guelph, Ont.

The official first-day cover, pictured here, was cancelled in Guelph, Ont.

The pressure-sensitive stamps, measuring 40 mm x 32 mm (vertical), are available in booklets of 10, while the five-stamp mini panes, with water-activated gum, have 13-plus perforations. The stamps were printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper using six-colour lithography. The official first-day cover was cancelled in Guelph, Ont.

This stamp (CSN # 487) was issued in 1968, 50 years after McRae's death.

This stamp (CSN # 487) was issued in 1968, 50 years after McRae’s death.

McCrae was an indirect casualty of war, dying on Jan. 28, 1918, of pneumonia and meningitis. In 1968 – 50 years after his death – the Post Office Department (now Canada Post) issued a stamp (CSN # 487) honouring his life.

For more information or to order the McRae stamp, visit canadapost.ca/shop.

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