Saskatchewan

Saskatchewan's connection to McCrae's Remembrance Day poem

Chris Myers said his great-great-great-grandfather was the cousin of Alexis Helmer, the soldier whose death was said to be the inspiration behind John McCrae's iconic poem "In Flanders Fields."

Alexis Helmer, the man said to have inspired the iconic poem, is a relative of Regina's Chris Myers

Chris Myers said Alexis Helmer, the man whose death is said to have inspired John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields," is a relative. (Glenn Reid/CBC)

When Chris Myers hears the iconic poem written by Lieutenant-Colonel and physician John McCrae, he thinks of Alexis Helmer.

According to Myers, Helmer is the cousin of his great-great-great-grandfather.

Myers first heard about the connection from his parents as a child and it is something which stuck with him ever since. 

He said although the poem can be a bit depressing, it's also upbeat in some ways and that plays into its importance. 

Alexis Helmer was said to be a friend of John McCrae, who apparently wrote the poem after Helmer's death. (Veterans Affairs Canada)

"It really puts an uplifting spirit into such a dark time in history."

Myers looked back on school activities during Remembrance Day, such as gathering in his school's gymnasium to recite the poem and sing songs.

"It was important for us, but every year I think I took it more serious than, I think, lots of people did," he said. 

"It's such an important thing for our freedom, our past, our future, everything about it," Myers said. "To have something like that just drift away isn't the most fair for the people who fought for our freedom."

Helmer died during the Second Battle of Ypres on May 2, 1915. McCrae was said to be one of Helmer's close friends and helped bury the remains of the soldier after he was hit by German artillery. 

McCrae then began writing the poem on May 3, mere yards from Helmer's burial site. 

Myers usually spends Remembrance Day watching ceremonies in Ottawa before observing a moment of silence at 11, he said.

"A little bit of the connection to family and a bit with I'm just proud to be Canadian," he said. "It's important to me. It's one of the things I do every year."

With files from Glenn Reid

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