Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Indian Forces Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

In WW1, the British Indian Army sent seven Indian Expeditionary Forces – over one million troops – to serve with the British Army and the Allies, in Mesopotamia, the Mediterranean, North Africa, East Africa and Europe. Of these, 138,000 served and about 9,000 died on the Western Front. They died not only from battle injuries but from exposure to severe winter weather.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Mount Allison Memorial Plaques, Sackville, NB

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US, a time when students and teachers are heading back to school. At Mount Allison in Sackville, New Brunswick, that ritual has repeated itself for over 175 years, first at the Academy, then the Ladies College and the University.  

In 1927, Memorial Library was opened on the campus, in honour of students and alumni who died in WW1. The ceremony ended with the reading of their names, a tradition that is repeated each Remembrance Day. Bronze memorial plaques in the main hall listed the names of students from Mount Allison University and Mount Allison Academy. More memorial plaques were added over time, including one for Nursing Sister Rena McLean, who died on the Llandovery Castle.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Vankleek Hill, ON

Continuing the summer of war memorials close to home in Eastern Ontario.

Vankleek Hill is a small town about half way between Ottawa and Montreal. The war memorial in the town is “dedicated to the memory of the Canadian Armed Forces from Vankleek Hill and District who gave their lives for world peace.” A plinth, top beam and four columns of grey granite encase a pink granite tablet with the dedication and names – 39 from WW1 and 42 from WW2. “Lest we forget,” Canadian Legion crests and a Korea War plaque emblazon the top beam.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Kemptville, ON

Another week of war memorials close to home in Eastern Ontario.

A statue of a young soldier stands atop the war memorial in Kemptville, Ontario, on the front lawn of the former North Grenville District High School at 304 Prescott Street (County Road 44).

The monument was originally erected in 1922, up the street beside the post office then at the corner of Prescott and Reuben Streets. Sponsors were the local Women’s Institute and the municipal councils of Kemptville, Oxford Township and South Gower Township. It was unveiled on 3 June 1922, in a ceremony planned by the Great War Veterans Association.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cenotaphs, Inkerman and Van Camp, ON

Another week close to home, featuring the many war memorials in Eastern Ontario.

Two Methodist (now United) churches, 6 km apart, in what is now North Dundas Township in the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry. Two small communities that remembered their young men who served and died in WW1 with cenotaphs similar in size and style. A plinth is topped with a rough granite slab with the years 1914-1918, on which is a polished granite carved with the names, on which is a stele decorated with a wreath of maple leaves. Both were likely erected by the same local monuments company.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Soldiers Memorial, Morrisburg, ON

On 9 September 1923, a large crowd gathered at the newly-named Monument Square at the corner of Main and Ottawa Streets in Morrisburg, Ontario, to witness the dedication of the Soldiers Memorial. The Countess of Minto (nee Marion Cook of Morrisburg) did the honours of unveiling the monument.

A bronze statue stands on a 9-foot granite base. The Morrisburg Leader newspaper described the statue: “The figure of bronze, 10 feet high, is that of an Infantry Man who, having laid off his equipment of war, is in the act of acclaiming Peace. His right hand is upraised while he shouts the glad tidings, and with his left hand he presses the victorious Flag to his heart. A wreath of Laurel leaves is held against the flag, a symbol of achievement.” The sculptor was George W Hill of Montreal.

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Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit Bag and Smile, Smile, Smile

Happy seventh anniversary to Great War 100 Reads. And an odd year it has been, with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to parallel the influenza pandemic at the end of WW1. A year to pack up your troubles. My world travels have shrunk to little more than 100 km from home. It has given me an excuse to explore the many war memorials close at hand.

It has also been a year where statues were a flashpoint of upheaval, as society questioned the legacy of the “great men” they memorialize – be they slave holders, slave traders, or architects of Indian residential schools – no matter their virtues. (Not that this is a new phenomenon. History has always been reassessed – and statues removed or altered – as times and opinions change.)

How have WW1 memorials fared over a century? They tend not to be toppled over for political reasons, perhaps because they tend not to honour individual “great men” whose deeds are re-examined. They are symbolic of the graves of all members of the community who died and are buried far from home. Many take the form of cenotaphs (empty graves), and statuary tends to be of generic persons.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Finch Township Cenotaph, Berwick, ON

Another week close to home, finding the many war memorials in Eastern Ontario.

On 11 November 1935, a memorial – local in every way – was dedicated “in memory of those from Finch Township who gave their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918.” The Berwick Women’s Institute was responsible for the project. Area farmers gave fieldstones to build the cairn on which a plaque was set. The cost was covered by a $100 donation from a local doctor, $25 from the Finch Township Council and proceeds of $149.65 from the dinner sponsored by the Women’s Institute.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Park and Cenotaph, Aylmer, QC

Another week of war memorials close to home, this time in West Quebec.

Memorial Park/Parc commémoratif – framed by rue Principale, rue Park, rue Symmes and rue Broad in Aylmer, Quebec – has been the town’s market square since 1843. In 1921, a war memorial was erected in the square, dedicated to those in the community who died in WW1. Funds for the memorial were raised by the local chapter of the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE).

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Munster Union Cemetery, Ottawa, ON

Continuing summer travels close to home, to the many war memorials in Eastern Ontario.

Munster is a village in the former Goulbourn Township, now part of the City of Ottawa. The Munster Union Cemetery was established in 1886 as a non-denominational burial ground.

In 1925, the local Loyal Orange Lodge (LOL 917) erected a monument in the cemetery, to remember three members of Lodge families killed in WW1. Since then the monument has been the site of Remembrance Day services in the village.

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