M968.354.1.2x | John McCrae, about 1914

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John McCrae, about 1914
William Notman and Son
About 1914, 20th century
24 x 15.9 cm
This artefact belongs to : © Guelph Museums
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Keys to History

After completing some editorial work on a medical text in Atlantic City in July 1914, John McCrae sailed to England for a holiday. When Canada declared war on Germany on August 4, he immediately offered his services as a doctor and artillery officer.

Along with everyone else in the battlefields of France, McCrae experienced the nightmare of the trenches: constant gunfire, little sleep, endless mud, filthy water and incredible strain.

Working out of an eight-foot-square dugout, the doctor did whatever he could to stabilize the wounded so that they could be transported to hospitals behind the lines.

  • What

    McCrae's uniform includes what is commonly referred to as a Sam Browne belt. The name refers to Sir Samuel Browne (1824-1901), a British Army General who designed this shoulder-and-waist belt combination to facilitate single-handed sabre drawing and to divert some of the belt load from the hips. Browne designed the belt years before losing his left arm in August 31, 1858, while fighting as a Captain in the Indian Mutiny (1857-1858).

  • Where

    This photograph was taken at the Notman & Son studio on Union Avenue in Montreal.

  • When

    McCrae sailed home from England in early September of 1914 to make preparations to cross the Atlantic yet again. It is likely that this photograph was taken during his brief return to Montreal.

  • Who

    McCrae did not visit his mother in Guelph prior to leaving for the front. He had felt that it would be easier for both of them. A photograph of this nature must have become important for his mother in his absence.