Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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

We were preparing not Peace only, but Eternal Peace. There was about us the halo of some divine mission. We must be alert, stern, righteous and ascetic. We were bent on doing great, permanent noble things.

Harold Nicolson, British delegate to 1919 Paris peace conference

This is not a peace treaty, it is an armistice for 20 years.

Marshal Ferdinand Foch, at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, 1919
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The Alice Network

To tell the truth, much of this special work we do is quite boring. I think that’s why women are good at it. Our lives are already boring. (p 83)

Intelligence: knowing where the enemy is, what they are doing, what they are planning, what they are capable of. Information that gives a tactical advantage in war. One source of intelligence: unobtrusive eyes and ears. Add language skills to understand and code messages. Fine motor skills to write those messages in tiny letters or to pick locks. The people you would least expect. Women.

The true story of WW1 spy Louise de Bettignies is the launching pad for Kate Quinn’s novel, The Alice Network. Codenamed Alice Dubois (and nicknamed Lili in the novel), the “queen of spies” and her covert network worked behind German lines in northern France and Belgium. The information they passed to the British is credited with saving over 1000 lives. A message about the possibility of a German attack at Verdun planned for early 1916 was unfortunately not believed by the French military authorities. de Bettignies was arrested in October 1915 and died in prison in September 1918.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Nursing Sisters window, Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver

A window on the west wall of Christ Church Cathedral, at the corner of Burrard and Georgia Streets in Vancouver, is dedicated “to the Nursing Sisters of Vancouver in both war and peace.” The window was made by Abbot & Co Ltd, Lancaster, England. It was dedicated at a special service held in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Canadian Nurses Association on Sunday 25 June 1950.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Plaque, Mount Royal Club, Montreal

The Mount Royal Club is a private club at 1175 Sherbrooke St W in Montreal. In the staircase, a bronze plaque memorializes 15 men who died in WW1 – one assumes Club members or their sons.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – London redux

Today, many people around the world turn to London and pause to remember Queen Elizabeth II as she is laid to rest. Great War 100 Reads revisits three WW1 monuments in London that have been featured here over the years. Click on each heading to read more.

Royal Artillery Memorial

Imperial Camel Corps Memorial

Edith Cavell Memorial


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Pacific Railway Memorial Tablet, Toronto

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US … a day to celebrate workers. Like other groups in society, many companies saw fit to memorialize their employees who had served in the war.

Toronto’s Union Station, at 65 Front St W between Bay and York, is the busiest passenger transportation facility in Canada. How many of the 200,000-300,000 daily travellers passing through stop to take in the memorial to Canadian Pacific Railway workers killed in WW1?

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – John Hewitt Laird, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Quebec City

Every soldier tells a story.

John Hewitt Laird was the son of John and Julia Grace Irvine Laird, born in Quebec City. He attended Appleby College in Oakville, Ontario. When he attested in August 1916, he listed his profession as bank clerk. He was killed at Hill 70 on 15 August 1917, weeks before his 20th birthday.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Tablets, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Quebec City

Two bronze tablets in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Quebec City honour those who served and died in WW1. Palm leaves flank the names on both tablets, with the years 1914-1918 at the bottom.

“Ave atque vale” (hail and farewell) tops the tablet and “God gave them victory and glorious death” follows names of the 21 parishioners who died:

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Monument aux morts, Soissons, France

In 1914, the City of Soissons started work on a monument to pay tribute to its rich history. When the monument was completed in 1926, it had a dual role, paying tribute as well to the citizens of Soissons who died in the Great War.

The limestone monument, created by sculptor Albert Bartholomé, is on Place Fernand Marquigny, behind the cathedral.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Brockville, ON

The Brockville war memorial stands at the centre of town, at the foot of Court House Ave where it meets King St W. It was unveiled on 23 May 1924 at a ceremony attended by thousands of veterans, citizens and dignitaries.

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