For respite, he took long rides on Bonfire through the French countryside. Another animal companion was a casualty of the war,the dog Bonneau, who adopted John McCrae as his special friend.
He felt he should have made greater sacrifices, and insisted on living in a tent through the year, like his comrades at thefront, rather than in the officers' huts. When this affected his health in mid-winter he had to be ordered into warmer surroundings. To many he gave the impression that he felt he should still be with his old artillery brigade. After the battle of Ypres he was never again the optimistic man with the infectious smile. (Prescott. In Flanders Fields: The Story of John McCrae, p. 110)
He then ends the poem with one very strong note, "If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields"(13-15).
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 die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Writing letters and poetry also allowed John McCrae to escape temporarily from the pressures of his administrative duties atthe hospital. His last poem, "The Anxious Dead", echoed the theme of "In Flanders Fields" but was never aspopular as the earlier poem.
Back in in 1901, John McCrae picked up the thread of his life, resuming his studies in pathology. The years after the war were busy ones for the young doctor. As Governor's Fellow in pathology and resident assistant pathologist, he had the dual function of research work in the Medical Faculty laboratories at McGill and autopsy duties at General Hospital.
John McCrae considered it his duty to fight for his country. He obtained a postponement of the fellowship in pathology that had been awarded to him at McGill University in Montréal. Having had, as we have seen, previous experience in the Militia field battery he received a commission to command an artillery battery from Guelph.
It was not until 1914 that John McCrae again became involved with the military. He was among the 45,000 Canadians who joined up in the three weeks following the declaration of war. Once again he was an artillery man being appointed as 2 IC of the First Brigade of the Canadian Forces Artillery. Major McCrae was also appointed as Brigade Surgeon.
John McCrae resigned from the 1st Brigade of Artillery in 1904 after being promoted to Captain and then Major. He was notinvolved with the military again until 1914.
Although McCrae worked hard at his university teaching and at his increasingly busy practice, the advantage of working ina university was that he could take time off. He holidayed at various times in England, France and Europe . . . At times heworked his passage to Europe as ship's surgeon; he enjoyed ships and the sea. These were the compensations of a bachelor's life. (Prescott, In Flanders Fields: the Story of John McCrae, p. 70)
John McCrae sailed to Africa in December and spent a year there with his unit. When he left South Africa, it was with mixedfeelings about war. He was still convinced of the need to fight for one's country but shocked by the poor treatment of the sick and injured soldiers.
It is most likely that the guns of McCrae’s brigade would have been drawn by horses so it would not have been out of place for him to take his own personal horse, Bonfire, which had been given to him by a friend. Not unlike the fictional Colonel Potter in MASH who found solace with so to did John McCrae. For respite, he took long rides on through the French countryside. Another animal companion was a casualty of the war, the dog who adopted John McCrae as his special friend. The compassionate nature of John McCrae was exhibited in many ways, foremost amongst these were the letters he sent to his young nieces and nephews supposedly written by Bonfire and signed with a hoof print.
When the South African War started in October 1899, John McCrae felt it was his duty to fight. In order to serve in South Africa,he requested postponement of a fellowship in pathology that he had been awarded at McGill University in Montréal. Hewas subsequently commissioned to lead an artillery battery from his home town. This Guelph contingent became part of D Battery,Canadian Field Artillery.
An avid outdoorsman, John McCrae was invited in 1910 to serve as expedition physician when the Governor General, Lord Grey,journeyed by canoe from Norway House on Lake Winnipeg to Hudson's Bay.