Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Vimy Memorial, Centre Block, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

On February 3, 1916, a fire burned the Centre Block of Ottawa’s Parliament Buildings to the ground. The exact cause of the fire was never definitively determined. With the country at war, rumours quickly spread that the fire stemmed from enemy sabotage. Careless smoking and faulty wiring were also suspects.

Rebuilding started immediately, with the cornerstone laid on 1 Sep 1916.

On a snowy Easter Monday, 9 April 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first (and only) time, in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, part of the Battle of Arras. Training and tactics won the ridge by 12 April, but at the cost of about 3,600 Canadian lives.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Osgoode Township Cenotaph, Metcalfe, ON

WW1 and WW2 monuments stand in front of the former Osgoode Township Hall at 8243 Victoria St (Regional Rd 6) in Metcalfe, now part of the City of Ottawa.

The WW1 monument was erected by the Metcalfe Red Cross Society in 1921. It is dedicated “in memory of the men of Osgoode Township who gave their lives in the Great War.” Nineteen names are in lead inset letters on the front panel and seven more names on the back of the monument. These seven and four more were carved into the granite plinths on the front when the monument was restored in 2012.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Glengarry Cenotaph, Alexandria, ON

A Celtic cross tops an eight-sided fieldstone cairn on Main St N (County Rd 34) at Elm St in Alexandria, ON, in memory of those from Glengarry County* who died in WW1. Known as the Glengarry cenotaph, it was sited on the highest elevation where it could be seen by all passing through the county. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Commonwealth Memorial Tablet, Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver

Starting in 1923 and through to 1936, the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission erected memorial tablets in several French and Belgian cathedrals, in memory of the British Empire dead of WW1. A similar tablet was unveiled in Westminster Abbey, London in 1926.

Other countries wanted one. Two replica tablets were purchased in Canada. One (pictured here) was unveiled in Christ Church Cathedral on 11 November 1928, the 10th anniversary of the Armistice. The original inscription has since been revised to include WW2 and the Korean War, and to update “British Empire” to “Commonwealth.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Brantwood Place Gates, Ottawa

Travelling along Main St in Old Ottawa East, large stone pillars form a distinctive gateway at the corner of Beckwith Rd. A closer look shows they are “dedicated to the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice and to the honour and glory of those men and women of this community who served in the armed forces” in 1914-1918 and 1939-1945. A landmark in the area, the gates were not always a war memorial. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Quatre-Vents Military Cemetery, Estrée-Cauchy, France

Every soldier tells a story. Some died of battle wounds, some were shot at dawn.

The area near Estrée-Cauchy was used by dressing stations for most of WW1, first by the French and then by British field ambulances. British, Canadian, French, German, Indian and South African soldiers were buried in Quatre-Vents. French and German bodies were moved to other cemeteries after the war, leaving 137 identified casualties in the burial ground enclosed by a low wall in the middle of a farmer’s field. Let’s look at three. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – James Wilson and Côme Laliberté, Poperinghe New Military Cemetery, Belgium

Every soldier tells a story.

Twenty-five Canadian soldiers were executed for military offences in WW1 – court martialled and shot at dawn. Two were found guilty of murder, one of cowardice, 22 of desertion. Privates Côme Laliberté and James Wilson were both shot for desertion. They are buried side by side at Poperinghe New Military Cemetery. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – West Carleton War Memorial, Carp, ON

West Carleton hasn’t existed as a township for 20 years, having been amalgamated as part of the City of Ottawa in 2001. Nonetheless, it lives on as a community and on 18 June 2016 the community dedicated a memorial to locals who died in war. The memorial is located in Carp village, at Donald B Munro Dr and Falldown Lane, across from the Fire Hall. It is a more visible remembrance than the plaque in the nearby Memorial Hall.   Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Cumberland, ON

A draped woman holding a floral wreath contemplates the public memorial in the village of Cumberland, erected “to the memory and honor of the citizen soldiers of Cumberland whose names are inscribed here on and who gave their lives for us in the Great War of 1914 – 1918.” The granite memorial, etched with crossed Union Jacks, lists seven local men killed in WW1: Charles H. McKenzie, Creswell J. Allan, Robert Leslie Taylor, Peter J. McLaren, William J. Spratt, John A. McKenzie and Thomas Foye. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – James Anderson Murray, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, Quebec City

Every sailor tells a story.

James Anderson Murray was born in Manchester on 17 January 1860. At age 14 he went to sea, working his way up from ship’s boy to captain. In 1892, he married Emily Shickle. They had a daughter, Phyllis.

In the early 1900s, Murray worked for the shipping line of Canadian Pacific Railways, sailing between Liverpool in England and Quebec and Montreal on the St Lawrence River. He was captain of the Empress of Britain and, briefly, the Empress of Ireland. In 1914, he retired from Canadian Pacific to become harbourmaster in Quebec. His family moved from England to Quebec City. Continue reading