Category Archives: Canada’s First World War

Exploring the Clash of Official and Vernacular Memory: The Great War in Brantford, Brant Country, and Six Nations

By Dr. Peter Farrugia and Evan J. Habkirk The American historian, John Bodnar has argued that “Public memory emerges from the intersection of official and vernacular cultural expressions.” Official memory in his conception is propagated by elites who attempt to advance their vision “…by promoting interpretations of past and present reality that reduce the power of competing interests that threaten… Read more »

Hidden Messages and Code Words: Bill Alldritt’s Letters as a Prisoner in First World War Germany

By Robert Alldritt During the First World War approximately 3000 Canadian soldiers were taken prisoner in Europe. As both Jonathan Vance and Desmond Morton have noted, Canadian POWs typically experienced a combination of monotony, drudgery and depression, often coupled with a sense of shame at having been captured. Accordingly, many POWs felt a driving need to escape, despite the threats… Read more »

“If ye break faith – we shall not sleep?”

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By Mary Chaktsiris and Stephanie Bangarth We leave you our deaths: give them their meaning: give them an end to the war and a true peace: give them a victory that ends the war and a peace afterwards: give them their meaning.” – Archibald MacLeish, ‘The Young Dead Soldiers Do Not Speak’ (1941) On March 18, 1931, A.W. Neil, MP for… Read more »

Further Writing on War, Loss and Remembrance: Reflections on In Flanders Fields: 100 Years

By Christopher Schultz Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields. – John McCrae, “In Flanders Fields,” Dec 1915 My high school had an award-winning music program. I… Read more »

“Trustees of the Future” and the Echoes of History

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By Calyssa Erb On 23 October 1916, two years into the Great War, Prime Minister Robert Borden spoke to Canadians with the goal of inspiring more citizens to get involved in the war effort. Nearly a century later on 22 October 2014, following the shooting at Canada’s National War Memorial in Ottawa and fears of another attack on Canadian soil,… Read more »

New Archives of Ontario Online Exhibit: Ontario’s WWI Hospital Overseas

By Mackenzie Warner One hundred years ago – November 1915 – Canada had passed the one year mark in the Great War that would continue for another three long years. In Orpington, England, a hospital commissioned by the Government of Ontario was under construction, and applications were flowing in from Ontario doctors and nurses who hoped to serve at their… Read more »

World War One: A Fight for Freedom?

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By Geoff Read If one looks at Veterans’ Affairs’ website one will find a page dedicated to the National War Memorial. The opening paragraph of the text on the page reads, The National War Memorial, also known as “The Response,” is a cenotaph symbolizing the sacrifice of all Canadian Armed Forces personnel who have served Canada in time of war… Read more »

Soldier-Candidates and the 1917 Wartime Election

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By Matthew Barrett, Queen’s University At a 1923 meeting of the Great War Veterans Association (GWVA) in Ottawa, General William Antrobus Griesbach, former Member of Parliament for Edmonton West and Senator for Alberta, remarked on the expected role of the ex-soldier in Canadian political life. “I had an idea at one time,” he explained, “that after the war over half… Read more »

Conscientious Objectors: Fitting Dissent into a Coming of Age Story

By Amy Shaw With the centennials of the events of the First World War and the sesquicentennial of those leading to Confederation this is a busy time in terms of commemoration. And, as both are presented as different kinds of birth of a nation, we’re paying a lot of attention right now to questions of identity. The trouble is the… Read more »

Racist Propaganda and the Shaping of Boys’ Attitudes toward War

By Stephen Dale What ideas and convictions motivated the legions of young men who so eagerly headed off to the trenches of the First World War? What were the boys who stayed home told about the events of that war as the carnage escalated? And what sort of patriotic stories could be peddled after the war to youngsters who had… Read more »