Category Archives: Canada’s First World War

“Deeply regret to inform you”: War and Loss in the Trapp Family

By Mike Bechthold The loss of a loved one during the First World War was often conveyed by a telegram beginning with the life-altering preamble, “Deeply regret to inform you….” This simple piece of paper heralded the deaths of sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers leaving families to pick up the pieces.  Rudyard Kipling, writing of the loss of his son… Read more »

Performing For War, Hoping For Peace: Canadian Actresses’ Transnational Engagements with World War I

By Cecilia Morgan It opened with a number of trumpet calls, followed by the boom of cannons. Then the curtain rose and the central attraction of the 1917 vaudeville production Liberty Aflame was revealed: Julia Arthur, dressed as the Statue of Liberty. According to theatre reviewer Alan Dale, “Miss Arthur stood, as all stars love to stand, in the absolute… Read more »

Golgotha?: D. Y. Cameron’s Flanders from Kemmel

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By Laura Brandon One of the aspects of war art that continues to surprise me is how personal it ultimately is. Any painting, however objectively representative of events it may purport to be, in it carries some measure of the artist’s subjective response to the incident, place, or person depicted. Furthermore, it is influenced by the artist’s personal circumstances and… Read more »

Marjorie Stinson, the Flying Schoolmarm

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By Liz Millward On December 4, 1915 Joseph Gorman of Ottawa graduated from the Stinson Flying School at San Antonio, Texas, and returned to Canada in order to sign up with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS). He was the first graduate for twenty-one year-old Marjorie Stinson, the instructor who taught him to fly in the record time of two… Read more »

Bleeding Him White: How Canada Stole an Indigenous Veteran’s Identity

By Lynn Gehl In the Anishinaabeg tradition dibaajimowinan, which translates to personal storytelling, is valued as a valid and legitimate method of both gaining and conveying knowledge. The dibaajimowinan method is holistic in that it values knowledge that is more than what is rational: it is emotional and spiritual too. As most know, the oral tradition was recognized in the… Read more »

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 »