Category Archives: Canada’s First World War

The Alderville War Memorial: A Bizarre Monument or A Community’s Search for Meaning?

By Jackson Pind If you drive north from Highway 401 in southern Ontario along county road 45, you will come across the reserve of Alderville First Nation, nestled on the shore of Rice Lake. If you travel in this direction, which summer cottagers and scenic adventurers often do, you will notice a striking monument in the middle of the endless… Read more »

Atheists in the Trenches: Loss of Faith among Canadians in the Great War

By Elliot Hanowski Did the horrors of the Great War cause Canadian soldiers to lose their faith? Or is it true that there were no atheists in the trenches? The war has generally been seen as a powerfully disillusioning experience. Books such as Paul Fussell’s widely influential The Great War and Modern Memory portray the war as the origins of… Read more »

National Disunity and the Meaning of Vimy Ridge

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By Matt Barrett Attempting to identify the historical significance of Vimy Ridge for the general public, many historians, writers and politicians have often resorted to a nationalistic framework that depicts the battle as a vital step in the creation of an independent Canada. From April 9th to 12th 1917, the four Canadian Divisions fought together for the first time and… Read more »

Feet of Clay? Canada’s Vimy Ridge

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Nic Clarke The Battle of Vimy Ridge (9-12 April 1917) is held by many Canadians as a pivotal moment in the formation of a distinct Canadian identity, and, indeed, Canada’s transformation from British dominion to independent state.  At first glance this belief is not hard to understand.  Fighting together for the first time, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps… Read more »

Peaceable Kingdom or Emergency State?  The Legacy of Canada’s First World War for Security Regulation and Civil Rights

By Dennis Molinaro The First World War led to many profound changes in Canadian society, including expanding the security powers of the government and laying the foundations of the modern surveillance state. Through measures such as the War Measures Act and Section 98, certain wartime powers became a permanent means of judging people’s politics in peacetime.  Surprisingly, this legacy of… Read more »

“You want to put what, where?” Contesting Malpeque’s (Second) First World War Memorial

By Sarah Glassford “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” Nothing beside remains. -from “Ozymandias,” by Percy Bysshe Shelley I cannot think about the politics of commemoration without remembering a famous poem I read in one of my undergraduate English courses.  In “Ozymandias,” Romantic poet Percy Shelley reflects upon the transience of… Read more »

Unfit to Fight: The History of Rejecting First World War Volunteers – An Excerpt

By Nic Clarke Nic Clarke is an historian at the Canadian War Museum who has researched Canadian Expeditionary Force policy concerning the physical fitness of recruits, and the implications of rejection for volunteers.  The following is an excerpt from his recent book on the topic, Unwanted Warriors: The Rejected Volunteers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2015).  We publish… Read more »

Canada’s History and the First World War Centennial: A Conversation

ActiveHistory.ca has an announcement!  With contributors’ approval, Canada’s History will be selecting posts from the “Canada’s First World War” series on ActiveHistory.ca for inclusion in Canada’s Great War Album.   The album is Canada’s History’s online tribute to people and stories from the war, and carries on from their book project that recognized the centennial of the war’s outbreak. The arrangement… Read more »

A View from the (Editing) Trenches: Summer 2016 and the Challenges of (Knowledge) Mobilization

Sarah Glassford, Christopher Schultz, Nathan Smith, and Jonathan Weier Following a call for submissions, the Canada’s First World War series on ActiveHistory.ca began with a post by Nathan Smith in August 2014 – exactly a century after the outbreak of the Great War. Since that time, the series has posted 40  pieces, including this one. The posts cover topics ranging… Read more »

“Manna From Heaven” – A YMCA Physical Director at Valcartier and Salisbury Plain

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By Robert Alldritt Before he was a prisoner of war in Germany (a story explored in an earlier article), Sergeant William A. Alldritt served as a machine gunner with the 8th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). However, as documented in many of the letters he sent home and in letters written by his colleagues and fellow soldiers, he… Read more »