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On May 2, 1915, the Canadian surgeon John McCrea witnessed the funeral of his friend, Lieutenant Alexis Helmer. Helmer was one of more than 70,000 Allied victims of the Second Battle of Ypres, the first battle in which the enemy used poison gas. McCrea noticed during the ceremony that the graves of the fallen soldiers were mostly overgrown with poppies. It inspired him to write "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 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
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields ... "