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McCrae 150 Symposium

November 26, 2022 @ 10:00 am - 4:00 pm

McCrae 150 Symposium

Commemorate McCrae 150 with a day-long speakers series featuring reflections on the life and service of Lt.-Col. John McCrae, the reverberations of the Great War, and what we can learn from this history over a century later.

Reserve your tickets through Eventbrite to attend.

Guelph Museums is honoured to host some of Canada’s foremost experts on Lt. Col. John McCrae and Canadian hospitals in the First World War, including:

Dr. Tim Cook

10:00 a.m.

Tim Cook and two world war 1 images

John McCrae and No. 3 Canadian General Hospital

This opening talk will situate John McCrae within the Canadian Army Medical Corps and No. 3 Canadian General Hospital. McCrae was one of more than 20,000 Canadian medical practitioners who served during the Great War. Located on the French coast, No. 3 Canadian General Hospital was staffed initially from McGill University professors and students, as well as Montreal nurses. In this hospital, McCrae and his colleagues struggled to care for, save, and rehabilitate the wounded soldiers who arrived from the battlefield. This was a battle for survival, with continuous study and application of new surgical procedures and healing techniques.

About the speaker:

Dr. Tim Cook, CM, FRSC is the Chief Historian and Director of Research at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. He is the author and editor of 17 books, monographs, and catalogues, including his newest, Lifesavers and Body Snatchers: Medical Care and the Struggle for Survival in the Great War (2022). His books have won multiple awards, including the Ottawa Book Award for Literary Non-Fiction (3 times), the J.W. Dafoe Award (2 times), the C.P. Stacey Award (2 times), and the Charles Taylor award for Literary Non-Fiction.

Dr. Cook is also editor of the UBC Press Canadian Military History series, a Director with Canada’s History Society, and a frequent commentator in the media. For his contributions to Canadian history, he has been recognized with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal, Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, and the Governor General’s History Award. He is a member of the Royal Society of Canada and the Order of Canada.

Bev Dietrich

11:00 a.m.

Photo of Bev Dietrich on the left, and John McCrae and Tom on the right.

My Dear Mater: John McCrae’s Letters Home

As a retirement project, Bev Dietrich assisted by historian Linda Granfield, worked on transcribing some of  John McCrae’s letters that he wrote home to his mother and other family members. Together they made several new discoveries and had a few “AHA” moments. Some events in the letters can be cross referenced with the collection at McCrae House. Bev will share findings from the letters, and she will debunk a couple of myths based on the letters written in John McCrae’s own words.

About the speaker:

Bev Dietrich has been involved in the museum field for 35+ years. She is the former curator of Guelph Museums having retired in 2017 after working 25 years at the museum. Bev graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University with a B.A. in history and attended the Museum Technology Program at Algonquin College in Nepean, ON. She is a graduate of the Ontario Museums Association’s Certificate in Museum Studies program and was a course director for the Collection Management course for over 15 years. Bev has just recently returned from Belgium, France and the Netherlands sharing her John McCrae expertise with travelers of the McCrae 150 Memorial Tour organized by Guelph Museums.

Lunch Break 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Susan Spencer

1:00 p.m.

Susan Spencer

A Different Kind of War: Canada’s Nurses and Doctors Answer the Call

August 1914 did not find the Canadian Army Medical Corps unprepared, but rather understaffed, undersupplied, and without effective logistical support. Despite this, the CAMC quickly pulled itself together and in November 1914 was the first Canadian unit to land in France. Within a year, despite ongoing struggles with the administrations of both the British and Canadian Armies and interference from various levels of government at home, the CAMC established itself as a trustworthy, respected, and dependable operation. Spread across a vast swath of geography and encompassing a multitude of diverse functions from medical care to safe water supply and rehabilitative medicine to literally retrieving the wounded from the battlefield under fire, the CAMC became a nimble, inventive, and brutally effective force in its own right. This presentation will only scratch the surface of the fascinating story of those who fought a very different kind of war.

About the speaker:

Susan Spencer holds an MBA from the University of Toronto. A lifelong student of history, Susan’s childhood passion for historical fashion inevitably led her to work at Fort Edmonton, where she cut her teeth in the business of making history interesting to the general public. She later moved east to Ontario and founded historical supply company Spencer’s Mercantile, through which she participated in some 25 historical events each year and further, had the opportunity to work directly with historical sites and organizations covering a variety of time periods.

In 2005, inspired by stories she’d heard all her life of her grandfather’s WWI exploits with the First Canadian Tunnelling Company, she began a research project aimed at recreating a unit of the WW1 Canadian Army Medical Corps, and in 2010, re-enacting unit Casualty Clearing Station #3 had its debut outing. Since then, she has focused her research on the medical services of the Great War and she is currently working on two books on the subject.

Linda Granfield

2:00 p.m.

Linda Granfield

You don’t say!–Digging for McCrae Discoveries

After 150 years you’d think historians had unearthed all there is to know about John McCrae…Not so! Join author Linda Granfield as she shares what she uncovered about William Dodge and Gilbert Tyndale-Lea. Who? You’ll find out!

About the speaker:

Linda Granfield is a historian and has been investigating and writing about John McCrae and his world since 1994. She is the award-winning author of more than 30 history books for adult and young readers. Linda spent the pandemic years collecting materials for a forthcoming McCrae omnibus.

She holds degrees from Salem State University, Northeastern University, and the University of Toronto. Many of her books deal with war and remembrance and she has been a consultant on various documentary and feature films about the First World War. Granfield has also provided historical notes/interviews for television and radio programs, managed media sites for First World War subjects, and has written articles of “first-time-finds” for historical journals. Her book In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae is now introducing a third generation of young Canadian readers to John McCrae and his First World War poem.

Dr. Debra Nash-Chambers

3:00 p.m.

Debra Nash-Chambers

The Poppy, Remembrance, and Commemoration: The Enduring Legacy of Lt. Col. John McCrae

In the wake of the Great War, Britain and her allies created memorials and rituals of remembrance to help individuals and nations reflect on their victory over their foes. Commemorations assisted in rationalizing and accepting the tragic losses of life and horrific injuries suffered during the war. An important symbol of remembrance, then and now, was inspired by Canadian Major John McCrae’s haunting 1915 poem titled “In Flanders Fields”. The poem captured the poignant image of poppies blowing amongst the crosses erected on the graves of the fallen, row on row. The publishing of the poem thrust McCrae and the poppy into public and private observances of remembrance. The wearing of poppies honours the memory of those who served in the Canadian armed forces and perished in declared wars or peacekeeping efforts. In Canada, the poem, the poppy, and McCrae remain important to collective memory locally, provincially, and nationally.

About the speaker:

Dr. Debra Nash-Chambers retired from teaching in the Department of History and in the North American Studies Program at Wilfrid Laurier University in 2021. She received her PhD from the University of Guelph and specialized in Social History. Her research interests include life on the Homefront in Guelph and Kitchener-Waterloo during the Great War, and the legacy of Lt. Col. John McCrae in postwar remembrance and commemoration.

For two decades she has been active in heritage and public history initiatives in Guelph and area. She is a past president of the Guelph Historical Society, a former chair of the Guelph Museums Advisory Committee, was a member of the 2014-2015 Guelph’s “In Flanders Fields” at 100 Commemoration Task Force and served on the editorial board of the Guelph Historical Society’s journal Historic Guelph, The Royal City.

McCrae 150 Wordmark OCAF logo


November 26, 2022
10:00 am - 4:00 pm
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52 Norfolk Street
Guelph, Ontario N1H 4H8 Canada
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