If ye break faith – we shall not sleep

Commemorative poster for World War I. A lone soldier stands in a field of poppies, his head bowed as he looks down at a simple wooden grave cross. He holds his helmet in his left hand and has his rifle over his shoulder. In the background are the ruins of a house.

The title of this poster is taken from a poem written by Dr. John McRae (1872-1918), a doctor serving in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps. The poem, ‘In Flanders Field’, concludes with the lines

‘If ye break faith with us who die / We shall not sleep, though poppies grow / In Flanders fields’.

It was first published in Punch magazine in 1915 and is recited to this day at Remembrance Day ceremonies in Canada. John McRae died of pneumonia while serving on the Western Front in early 1918.

Peace Palace Library | Poster collection