Banner Image: John McCrae Funeral Procession to Wimereux, January 29, 1918. M19188.8.131.52, Guelph Museums.
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.
Tickets coming soon!
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
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.
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.
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!
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 McCrae materials for a forthcoming anthology. Stay tuned for more significant Granfield discoveries!
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.
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.
Dr. Deb 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.
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.
John McCrae expert and former curator at Guelph Museums for 25 years.
And more! Further details coming soon.