Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Salem Church, Minto Township, ON

Some WW1 monuments have survived the community that sought to remember. You could easily miss a small cemetery on the short stretch of the town line between Minto and Normanby Townships that joins Grey County Road 3 and Wellington County Road 3, between Ayton and Harriston. Continue reading

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This Small Army of Women

Shown into his luxurious office, I asked whether he could hurry my departure. I was terrified when this great fat man, who seemed as old as the hills to me, pulled me down on his knee and began kissing me! As I was struggling to get away his secretary came in and showed no surprise whatever at the scene. Apparently there was nothing unusual in this situation! But this was my first experience with a licentious old man, I was overwhelmed! However, he did promise me this: Not another girl will leave Canada before you! And they didn’t. (This Small Army of Women, p 67)

Latest #metoo revelation of sexual harassment? No, a 1916 account of Canadian VAD Violet Wilson. 1916.

Over the years, sensational allegations rise and fade, rise and fade. But until everyone – men as well as women – recognizes sexual harassment and sexual assault as systemic problems of entitlement and power, the culture of acquiescence continues. It’s about time to say #metoo for change.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Halifax Harbour at Sunset and Convoy in Bedford Basin

This Wednesday, 6 December, marks the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion – the largest artificial explosion in history until the nuclear bomb surpassed it in 1945. Two ships – the Mont Blanc and the Imo – collided in Halifax Harbour, igniting the munitions carried on the former. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – General Sir Arthur Currie, GCMG, KCB, VD, Ottawa

A statue of Arthur Currie stands prominently amongst the Valiants, 14 figures from Canadian military history, near the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The commemorative plaque describes him:

A courageous and innovative officer, he helped plan the great victory at Vimy Ridge. Then, as the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Corps, his brilliant leadership produced the sweeping Canadian victories of the war’s Last Hundred Days. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cambrai Monument to the Missing, Louverval, France

On 20 November 1917, the British Army launched an attack toward Cambrai, an important German supply point, using about 400 tanks to great success … initially. Then the German army regrouped. By the end of the battle on 3 December, they had reclaimed almost all of the territory. The back-and-forth took a high toll, with over 40,000 casualties on each side.   Continue reading


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Memoirs of George Sherston

Having dived into the Regeneration trilogy, it seemed like a good time to read some of Pat Barker’s real-life protagonists. Siegfried Sassoon is first on the list. The Memoirs of George Sherston trilogy is Sassoon’s faintly fictionalized autobiography. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man and Memoirs of an Infantry Officer (the first two in the trilogy) recount his life from childhood into the war, to his arrival at Slateford, his fictional version of Craiglockhart War Hospital where Regeneration begins. (Sherston’s Progress is still on the reading list.) Continue reading


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

The lessons which the people of England have to learn are patience, self-sacrifice, and confidence in our ability to win in the long run. The aim for which the war is being waged is the destruction of German militarism. Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of the manhood of the nation is not too great a price to pay in so great a cause.

Sir Douglas Haig, May 1916

I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth though the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.

George V at Tyne Cot Cemetery, May 1922

In this week of remembrance, may we learn from war as we strive for peace … and freedom and democracy and equality and justice.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – National War Memorial, LEGO version

Canada’s national war memorial in Ottawa depicts the country’s response to WW1: 22 bronze figures –representing infantry, cavalry, artillery, pilots, mechanics, sailors, sappers, foresters, nurses, stretcher-bearers and others – pass through an archway topped with allegorical figures of peace and freedom. Continue reading