Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cambrai Monument to the Missing, Louverval, France

On 20 November 1917, the British Army launched an attack toward Cambrai, an important German supply point, using about 400 tanks to great success … initially. Then the German army regrouped. By the end of the battle on 3 December, they had reclaimed almost all of the territory. The back-and-forth took a high toll, with over 40,000 casualties on each side.   Continue reading

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Memoirs of George Sherston

Having dived into the Regeneration trilogy, it seemed like a good time to read some of Pat Barker’s real-life protagonists. Siegfried Sassoon is first on the list. The Memoirs of George Sherston trilogy is Sassoon’s faintly fictionalized autobiography. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (the first two in the trilogy) recount his life from childhood into the war, to his arrival at Slateford, his fictional version of Craiglockhart War Hospital where Regeneration begins. (Sherston’s Progress is still on the reading list.) Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

The lessons which the people of England have to learn are patience, self-sacrifice, and confidence in our ability to win in the long run. The aim for which the war is being waged is the destruction of German militarism. Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of the manhood of the nation is not too great a price to pay in so great a cause.

Sir Douglas Haig, May 1916

I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth though the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.

George V at Tyne Cot Cemetery, May 1922

In this week of remembrance, may we learn from war as we strive for peace … and freedom and democracy and equality and justice.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – National War Memorial, LEGO version

Canada’s national war memorial in Ottawa depicts the country’s response to WW1: 22 bronze figures –representing infantry, cavalry, artillery, pilots, mechanics, sailors, sappers, foresters, nurses, stretcher-bearers and others – pass through an archway topped with allegorical figures of peace and freedom. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lt Col George Harold Baker, MP and Morning Glory

While at least 50 members of the Canadian House of Commons enlisted in WW1, few saw active duty at the front. Only one was killed in action.

George Harold Baker – Harry to his friends – was born into a prominent family of United Empire Loyalists. He followed his father into law and then into politics, elected Member of Parliament for the riding of Brome, Quebec in 1911. He was also active in the local militia, so he was quick to volunteer for active service in WW1. He was killed in action on June 2, 1916 at Sanctuary Wood during the Battle of Mount Sorrel. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Edith Cavell School, Moncton, NB

British nurse Edith Cavell was executed on October 12, 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. Her death became a rallying cry for the Allies. Her name was memorialized in many ways. Continue reading


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Regeneration

You might say that Great War 100 Reads began with Regeneration. Pat Barker’s trilogy of WW1 novels has been sitting on my reading pile for years, but always with other books on top of them. In the months leading to August 2014, I kept hearing about interesting projects for the WW1 centenary and thought about how I, too, could mark the occasion. First thought: I should finally get around to reading the Regeneration trilogy. Second thought: Ha! Reading a mere three books would be a pretty pathetic attempt at commemoration. And so began the idea that ultimately expanded to a reading list for the duration. Continue reading