Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Monument de la reconnaissance nationale belge, Paris, France

Belgium’s gratitude to France in WW1 is marked by a monument in Place de la Reine-Astrid, a grassy triangular park in the 8th arrondissement near the Pont de l’Alma. The statue was unveiled on 14 July 1923, on the occasion of France’s national holiday. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial South Park and Cenotaph, Vancouver

Memorial South Park is bound by E 41st Ave, Ross St, E 45th Ave and Prince Albert St, not far from Mountain View Cemetery in Vancouver’s Sunset neighbourhood. A tree-lined boulevard from E 41st leads to a granite cenotaph in the centre of the active park. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Colonel Walter F Rendell, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, St John’s NL

July 1 is Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, a solemn day of remembrance of the single greatest disaster in Newfoundland history. At Beaumont-Hamel, the Newfoundland Regiment was virtually wiped out in half an hour on the first morning of the Somme Offensive, July 1, 1916. All the officers were killed or wounded. On one of the bloodiest days of the war, only one other battalion had a higher casualty rate.

And what of those who served and returned? Each soldier tells a story. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Wellington Park Memorial Gates, Wellington, ON

Memorial Gates mark the entrance to Wellington Park at 251 Wellington Main St, Wellington, in Prince Edward County. The gates were dedicated on 1 July 1930 and rededicated in 2010. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Tyne Cot Cemetery and Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

With more than 11,900 who died in WW1 buried or commemorated, Tyne Cot Cemetery is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. More than 8,370 of the burials are unidentified.

The area was captured from the Germans in October 1917. One of the German blockhouses was then used as an advanced dressing station. The cemetery was to bury those who did not survive their wounds, about 350 in all. Following the Armistice, bodies from several smaller nearby cemeteries were moved to Tyne Cot. These include many of those killed in the Battles of Langemarck and Passchendaele. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canada’s Golgotha, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

Canada’s Golgotha, a 1918 sculpture by Francis Derwent Wood, documents the power of wartime propaganda. Its story documents what we want to remember – and forget – when the war is over.

The bronze sculpture is now on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa (part of the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art) with this description:

During the Second Battle of Ypres, rumours circulated that a Canadian soldier had been crucified on a Belgian barn door, a story the Germans denounced as propaganda. Whether truth or fiction, Canada’s Golgotha illustrates the intensity of wartime myths and imagery. The crucifixion remains unproven. Continue reading

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Lucia’s War

When I interviewed Susan Lanigan after the publication of her first novel, White Feathers, I asked about her most interesting writing quirk. “Music,” she revealed. “Every character has a soundtrack – Lucia’s naturally is a bit longer since she is the most musical – and I stick in musical references whenever I can.”

Music is front and centre in Lanigan’s new novel, Lucia’s War. We meet Lucia Percival in London in 1950, a successful opera singer. She is scheduled to perform her last concert, but she has no intention of going on stage. A haunting secret from WW1 has caught up with her. She is baring her soul and telling that long-held secret to an admiring music critic. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Soldiers’ Memorial, St Eleanors, PEI

St Eleanors is now a suburban neighbourhood in the northeast part of Summerside, Prince Edward Island. In the early part of the 20th century, it was a rural farming community.

A rough-cut granite memorial stands in a small park on the northeast corner of the intersection of North, South, East and West Drives, dedicated “TO OUR FALLEN HEROES 1914 – 1918.” Nine men are named (with some spelling errors). Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Ft Lt John Scholfield, St James Cathedral, Toronto

John Douglas Price Scholfield (Jack) was born in Toronto on 9 May 1894, the only son of Henry Chadwick Scholfield and Alexandra Laura (Sutherland) Scholfield. The family moved to Guelph, where Henry was a bank manager and was elected Conservative Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) in 1911.

Jack attended Guelph Collegiate Institute and Upper Canada College. On graduation, he joined Dominion Securities Corporation as a stockbroker. He attested on 30 July 1915 at Shorncliffe, Kent, England, and was assigned to the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps in March 1917. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – James C Richardson, VC, Adanac Military Cemetery, Miraumont, France

James Cleland Richardson was early to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, signing up at Valcartier in September 1914, aged 18. He fit the typical profile: a young man who had emigrated from the UK (in his case, Scotland) to Canada with his family. In his adopted home of Vancouver, he joined the Seaforth Cadets and distinguished himself as a piper.

In an August 1915 letter to his mother, Richardson wrote:

I haven’t heard of a piper playing in a charge yet and if the truth be known I don’t think there ever will be such an occurrence. Just picture a man standing full height playing the pipes, facing machine guns, rifles, bombs, shrapnel etc. How long would he last? The tighter you hug the ground in a charge the better for yourself and the worst for the enemy. This is not a war at all it is “scientific slaughter.” What chances have men against guns.

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