Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – James William Williams, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Quebec City

Every soldier tells a story.

James William Williams – Jim to family and friends – was born on 19 January 1888, the first son of Rt Rev Lennox Williams (Bishop of Quebec, 1915-1935) and Caroline Annie (Nan) Williams (nee Rhodes). He was named for his grandfather, who had also been Bishop of Quebec. Photos on a family website show an active childhood with many cousins. He attended Bishop’s University for a year, then earned a BA from St John’s College, Oxford.

Williams attested in September 1915, serving in the 87th Battalion (Canadian Grenadier Guards). He married Evelyn Meredith on 3 Jan 1916. His unit sailed from Halifax to England in Apr 1916 and from England to France in Aug 1916. ACM Thomson, his best friend and wife’s cousin, was on board, too. Letters to his parents from France are posted on the family website.

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

On November 11th at eleven in the morning the bells of London rang out their joyous peals, for the armistice had been signed and the war was over. There was wild rejoicing in the city and the crowds went crazy with delight. But it seemed to me that behind the ringing of those peals of joy there was the tolling of spectral bells for those who would return no more. The monstrous futility of war as a test of national greatness, the wound in the world’s heart, the empty homes, those were the thoughts which in me overmastered all feelings of rejoicing.

Frederick George Scott, The Great War As I Saw It, Ch XXXV. Victory. November 11th, 1918.
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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Great War Veterans Association Memorial, Smiths Falls, ON

Many municipalities formed committees at the end of WW1 to determine how best to commemorate those who served and those who died and then to execute those plans. You know what it’s like to work by committee. It’s not surprizing that some would get frustrated by endless discussions about details and seeming lack of progress.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Remembering Edith Cavell

British nurse Edith Cavell was executed on October 12, 1915 – 105 years ago today – for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. Her death became a rallying cry for the Allies. In honour of Cavell, I invite you to revisit past posts showing the many ways in which she is memorialized.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cenotaph, Vars, ON

Old and new memorials of WW1 meet in a small park about 35 km east of downtown Ottawa, at the intersection of Rockdale Rd and Buckland Rd in the village of Vars.*

The original cenotaph is a fieldstone cairn on a concrete base. It was erected through the efforts of the Vars Women’s Institute and dedicated on 20 September 1931. A bronze tablet “in proud and loving memory of the boys of this community who laid down their lives in the Great War 1914 – 1918” lists 10 names. A second tablet was added to remember two men killed in WW2. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Arthur Conway Young, Tyne Cot Cemetery, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Today is International Day of Peace, devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace within and among all nations and people.

Each soldier tells a story. That story may be of peace.

Amongst the almost 12,000 burials in Tyne Cot Cemetery, the message on one gravestone stands out: Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian National Railway Employees, Ottawa, ON

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US … a day to celebrate workers.

The Canadian National Railway was formed in the years immediately following WW1, as the Canadian government took over smaller rail companies facing bankruptcy. CNR employees who had served in the war – many in the Canadian Railway Troops – formed the CNR War Veterans Association.

On Sunday 8 November 1953, a memorial plaque to honour the war dead was unveiled at Union Station in Ottawa:  Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Battle of Hill 70 Memorial, Mountain, ON

Between 15 and 25 August 1917, the divisions of the Canadian corps captured and held Hill 70, a defensive position near Lens that had been held by the German Army since October 1914. While the April 1917 offensive at Vimy Ridge was the first time the Canadians fought together, Hill 70 was the first time they did so under Canadian command, that of Lt-Gen Arthur Currie.

The victory came at a high price. Over 9,000 Canadians were killed or wounded, as were an estimated 25,000 Germans. Six Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Yet the battle remains in the shadow of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele, little known in Canada. Until the dedication of Hill 70 Memorial Park near Lens in 2017, a memorial in a park at 10480 Clark Rd in the village of Mountain (near Ottawa) was the only monument to the battle. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Park and War Memorial, Baie-Egmont, PEI

 

This Saturday (15 August) is National Acadian Day (Journée de la fête nationale des Acadiens) in Canada, honouring the history and culture of the descendants of French colonists who settled in Acadia in the 17th and 18th centuries.

After WW1, parishioners in Baie-Egmont (Egmont Bay), Route 11, Prince Edward Island erected a war memorial in front of Saint-Philippe-et-Saint-Jacques Catholic Church. When exactly? I can find no record. Perhaps when the fourth church on the site opened in 1923? Continue reading


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A Divided Loyalty

Several WW1-related mystery series are on the Great War 100 Reads book list, but only one title is amongst the first 100 books I read and reviewed here: A Test of Wills is the first in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series by Charles Todd (actually the mother-and-son team of Caroline and Charles Todd). Delving into the mysteries was a bit of a risk – with several books in each series, they could have taken over my reading.

Then this spring, I saw the latest Rutledge mystery, A Divided Loyalty. It’s set in Avebury. I could not resist being drawn into the prehistoric henge and stone circle. Continue reading