“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month…we will remember them.”
In Flanders Fields
By John Mccrae
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 were 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 die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Haunting words I know however as we enter the time of remembrance, with socially distanced Remembrance Sunday services having taken place across the UK and indeed the world, remembering the fallen in conflict around the world; not only service personnel but also the civilian casualties, the innocent men, women and children who have been caught up, through no fault of their own.
Making a Will was and still is very important for the service man on active duty even in peacetime, the major difference this was and still is called a “Privileged Will”, which extended and extends to any soldier on active service or mariner or seaman being at sea. The term soldier also includes shore based naval or marine personal and members of the RAF, although the term “Active Military Service” is open to some doubt with cases including Re Jones (1976) and Re Rapley (Deceased) (1993) calling into question what active service is.
These Wills were if not written before deployment were written in the field using scraps of paper and whatever writing implement could be found, and example of which is below, taken from a national newspaper archive:
A game of noughts and crosses and a will leaving a collection of Sir Walter Scott books to his best friend and the rest of his possessions to his mother was all that was found of Philip Woollatt.
The first world war soldier’s pocketbook – containing the informal will that all servicemen carried – was found furrowed by a bullet after a battle in July 1916 in which it is presumed the 21-year-old died.
This practice still carries on today so that the service man or woman can direct their estate to the right person or persons, rather than die intestate.
During this period of remembering and reflecting, if you are worried about your own estate please contact us.
A doctor by trade, Canada’s John McCrae volunteered for World War I in 1914 and served as a brigade surgeon for an artillery unit. The following year, he had a front row seat to the horrors of the Second Battle of Ypres, where the Germans launched an assault that included the war’s first use of poisonous chlorine gas. While tending to the wounded and mourning the dead—who included his good friend, Alexis Helmer—McCrae put pen to paper on “In Flanders Fields,” a poem written from the point of view of fallen soldiers whose graves are overgrown with wild poppy flowers. “In Flanders fields the poppies blow,” it reads, “Between the crosses, row on row.” John McCrae died from pneumonia and meningitis in 1918, but not before the poem became one of World War I’s most popular and widely quoted works of literature. Among other things, it inspired the use of the poppy as the “flower of remembrance” for the war dead.