Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cenotaph, Grand Valley, ON

At the corner of Main St N (County Road 25) and Amaranth St, the centre of the village in Grand Valley, a cenotaph is dedicated “in honoured memory of the men of Grand Valley and East Luther, Amaranth and East Garafraxa Townships who died in the Great War.” It was erected in 1920, and rededicated in 1949 with the addition of side blocks for those killed in WW2. It was spared when a tornado hit the area in May 1985. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Royal Canadian Air Force Memorial, Kingston, ON

City Park, a large park just west of downtown Kingston, is home to many monuments that mark the city’s military connections. One park memorial, on Stuart St near Barrie St, is dedicated “to the glory of God and in loving memory of all who gave their lives and served with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Commonwealth Air Forces.”

It was erected by the 416 Wing of the Royal Canadian Air Force Association. City records indicate that it dates from around 1967. The epitaph – “they have slipped the surly bonds of earth” – is the first line of High Flight, a poem by American WW2 pilot John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Air combat was a new technology in WW1. Pilots could count their life expectancy in minutes, days or weeks. Half were killed in training.

Near the RCAF memorial, two oak trees are dedicated to “Grieving the tragedy of war, committed to the promise of peace.” One peace tree is about 100 years old. The other was planted on 21 September 2013, the UN International Day of Peace. A visit in any season but winter would show the peace trees to greater advantage.

PeaceQuest has recently published a WW1 walking tour of Kingston. You can find the podcast and map here.


Thanks to Vicki, host, driver, guide and chief snow clearer on the Kingston tour.

Welcome to more new followers who have joined this journey. I look forward to your comments.


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An Interview with Linda J. Quiney, author of This Small Army of Women

Linda J. Quiney’s This Small Army of Women, tracing the Canadian and Newfoundland volunteer nurses in WW1, is part of a growing scholarship on the role of medical women in the war. (Readers will know this is a particular interest of mine.) Linda is a historian and retired lecturer and serves as an affiliate with the Consortium for Nursing History Inquiry at the University of British Columbia. She has kindly agreed to discuss her work today with Great War 100 Reads.

What first interested you in VADs from Canada and Newfoundland?

Linda J. Quiney: It was more of a happy accident than an intentional undertaking. I was considering a research topic on women in the Second World War when a colleague mentioned a photograph she had discovered while researching a First World War topic. The image depicted a woman wearing a St. John Ambulance VAD dress uniform, but offered no clue to her identity or what her uniform represented. I had read Testament of Youth years before, Vera Brittain’s romantic journal of her wartime experience as a British Red Cross VAD nurse, but I had no idea there had been a Canadian or Newfoundland equivalent under the auspices of St. John. The mystery led me to St. John Ambulance headquarters in Ottawa, but the preliminary research was limited. I was close to abandoning it until the “eureka” moment, when a box of random records unexpectedly revealed a list of more than 300 Canadian women who had been posted overseas as St. John Ambulance VAD nurses during the war.

It gradually became clear that the VAD program had been a unique undertaking, far different from any other form of Canadian women’s patriotic work. Most intriguing for me was that it was almost invisible within the larger historical record of the war, a history waiting to be written. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Prescott Cenotaph and aviator William FN Sharpe

Fort Wellington looks out over the St Lawrence River in Prescott, Ontario, a reminder of the lines of defence built during the War of 1812. In the park that now surrounds the fort, at the corner of Vankoughnet St and King Street East (Highway 2), a cenotaph stands to those from Prescott killed in WW1 and WW2. The cenotaph was moved here from its original location on Dibble St in 2001.

Another WW1 marker, at the corner of Water St W and Edward St S, honours William FN Sharpe. Sharpe has the distinction of being one of Canada’s first WW1 pilots and its first air casualty of the war. He died in a flying accident on February 4, 1915. Continue reading


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Goodbye to All That

I’m alternating my reading of the Regeneration trilogy with books by some of Pat Barker’s real-life protagonists. Robert Graves shows up in Regeneration, getting Siegfried Sassoon before a medical board and then to Craiglockhart War Hospital after Sassoon published his declaration against the war. Both were officers in the Royal Welch Fusiliers.

Goodbye to All That is Graves’ account of events – his childhood and prep school days, his war experiences, his early career and first marriage in the few years afterwards. Well … one version of his account of events. First published in 1929, Graves made extensive revisions for the 1957 re-publication. And yes, memories can change with circumstances. More about that later. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – John McCrae House, Guelph, ON

Yesterday, 28 January 2018, was the 100th anniversary of John McCrae’s death. Best known for his poem, In Flanders Fields, McCrae was a physician and a soldier.

McCrae was born and raised in a limestone cottage at 108 Water St in Guelph. The home has been restored as the McCrae House museum. A monument in the garden is dedicated to his memory. Ontario Heritage plaques mark McCrae’s birthplace and final resting place. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Knox United Church, Calgary

Several elements in Knox Presbyterian (now United) Church honour congregants who served in WW1. The usual honour roll plaques listing those who died and those who enlisted are there. But it is a colourful stained glass memorial window that dominates the sanctuary. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Park, Belleville, ON

An array of monuments present themselves in Belleville’s Memorial Park, at 130 Station St. (The triangular park is also bounded by Reid St and Cannifton Rd.) Together they honour the soldiers from Belleville and Thurlow in WW1, WW2, the Korean War, the Merchant Navy, Peacekeeping, the Canadian Forces and Afghanistan. Continue reading


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The Eye in the Door

Every day in this hospital one was brutally reminded that the worst tragedies of the war were not marked by little white crosses. (p 150)

Continuing to work my way through Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy of WW1 novels – they’ve been sitting in my reading pile for years, but always with other books on top of them. They are living up to the anticipation.

The Eye in the Door is the second in the series, looking at the work of psychiatrist and anthropologist Dr William Rivers. Where Regeneration viewed the war from the safety of Craiglockhart War Hospital in Edinburgh, The Eye in the Door takes us to London and beyond. Where several characters in Regeneration were actual people, the central character in The Eye in the Door is Billy Prior, whom we met as one of the few fictional folks in Regeneration. Continue reading