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War poet John McCrae’s medals up for sale

The Story

The war medals of famed Canadian poet John McCrae are about to go on auction. His surprised family thought the medals were lost.

Medium: Radio
Program: Canada at Five
Broadcast Date: Oct. 20, 1997
Reporter: Geoff Ellwand
Duration: 1:43
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-004458

Did You know?

• At auction, the medals referred to in this report were purchased by Arthur Lee, a Toronto-based businessman, who then immediately donated them to the McCrae House museum in Guelph, Ont.

• The Toronto Star ran a front page story on Oct. 26, 1997, with the headline "Give this guy a medal!" The story detailed Lee's purchase of these medals and his decision to give them to the Guelph-based museum.

• In 1998, Lee was honoured with a Meritorious Service Decoration by the Governor General. An entry on the Governor General's website describes him as "a role model and source of pride for all Canadians."

• The Oct. 26, 1997 Star report indicates that some of John McCrae's descendants were then not immediately clear on how the medals came to be in the possession of the person selling them at that time.

• In 2012, a news release was issued indicating that the McCrae medals would be "a permanent part" of the museum, as a result of the support of his descendants. In a 2012 statement, the museum acknowledged "the heirs of Lt. Col. John McCrae were the original owners of the medals currently displayed at the McCrae House museum in Guelph." The news release also said that McCrae's sister had left the medals with a law firm for safekeeping decades ago and they were then removed "at some point" following her death.


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