Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lt Col George Harold Baker, MP and Morning Glory

While at least 50 members of the Canadian House of Commons enlisted in WW1, few saw active duty at the front. Only one was killed in action.

George Harold Baker – Harry to his friends – was born into a prominent family of United Empire Loyalists. He followed his father into law and then into politics, elected Member of Parliament for the riding of Brome, Quebec in 1911. He was also active in the local militia, so he was quick to volunteer for active service in WW1. He was killed in action on June 2, 1916 at Sanctuary Wood during the Battle of Mount Sorrel. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Edith Cavell School, Moncton, NB

British nurse Edith Cavell was executed on October 12, 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. Her death became a rallying cry for the Allies. Her name was memorialized in many ways. Continue reading


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Regeneration

You might say that Great War 100 Reads began with Regeneration. Pat Barker’s trilogy of WW1 novels has been sitting on my reading pile for years, but always with other books on top of them. In the months leading to August 2014, I kept hearing about interesting projects for the WW1 centenary and thought about how I, too, could mark the occasion. First thought: I should finally get around to reading the Regeneration trilogy. Second thought: Ha! Reading a mere three books would be a pretty pathetic attempt at commemoration. And so began the idea that ultimately expanded to a reading list for the duration. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Trinity College, University of Toronto, Toronto

Enter the main building of Trinity College (6 Hoskin Ave on the University of Toronto campus) and turn left down the hall to the chapel, a quiet Gothic sanctuary in a busy city. Pass through the narthex, home to several tablets commemorating individual graduates, to the nave. There on the east wall is a carved stone memorial to those college alumni and staff who died in WW1 and WW2. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Income War Tax Act 1917

Happy 100th anniversary this week to the monument to the war that keeps growing and growing … and one that everyone loves to hate.

Canada’s Income War Tax Act came into force on 20 September 1917. Billed at the time as a temporary measure, it is alive and well 100 years later. Continue reading


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The War Diary of Clare Gass

A fine day in spots only. My ward is filled & I am very busy but enjoy my work if it were only possible to forget its cause. (March 2, 1916, p 106)

The dominant memory of WW1 is that of men. Soldiers were, after all, the vast majority on the front lines. But as Susan Mann points out in her introduction to The War Diary of Clare Gass, 1915-1918, wounded soldiers were accompanied and cared for by nurses at every stage of their journey through the military medical system except at the very first points closest to the front lines. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Japanese Canadian War Memorial, Vancouver

The Japanese Canadian War Memorial stands in a quiet grove in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, “in lasting memory of the 190* who answered the call of duty for Canada and to the 54 who laid down their lives in defence of freedom in the Great War.” Visit in the spring, if you can, when the surrounding cherry trees are in bloom. Continue reading


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An Interview with Andrea McKenzie, editor of War-Torn Exchanges

Andrea McKenzie brings two WW1 nurses and friends back together in War-Torn Exchanges: The Lives and Letters of Nursing Sisters Laura Holland and Mildred Forbes. Her deft editing and annotations make the book an insightful contribution to understanding the role of nurses in the war. I am so pleased that Andrea has joined me today, to share some thoughts about her work.

What first interested you in Mildred Forbes and Laura Holland?

Andrea McKenzie: I’d been working on Canadian nurses’ First World War diaries and letters for some years, but I’d never come across the letters of two best friends who’d sailed for the war on the same, stayed together throughout four long war years, then sailed home together. Separately, Laura’s and Mildred’s vivid accounts of their individual wars are compelling, but read together, they create a richly textured narrative told by two strong, mature women’s voices. What one omits, the other includes, so we gain a complete story of their time throughout the First World War. They served on almost all the war fronts, too, so their story, told in their own words, runs from the privations of Gallipoli to a casualty clearing station on the Western front during Passchendaele and the German advance of 1918. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – A Moulder and Girls with a Rail, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US … a day to celebrate workers. In honour of Labour Day, here are two more of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle’s sculptures of war workers on the home front.

Wyle and Loring were commissioned by the War Memorial Funds Committee to do a series of sculptures of “girl war workers” as part of the project to document Canada’s participation in the war. After touring munitions plants, Wyle decided to include some male workers, too. Continue reading