Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Royal Flying Corps and Royal Air Force Memorial, Deseronto ON

Flying aces are romantic heroes of the war that first used air battle and reconnaissance to advantage. Canadian flying ace Billy Bishop quickly realized “it’s clean up there! I’ll bet you don’t get any mud or horse shit on you up there. If you die, at least it would be a clean death.”* 

In the week marking the centenary of Bishop’s first hit, it seems fitting to remember how dangerous the job was.

Two Royal Flying Corps training camps – Camp Mohawk and Camp Rathbun – were established near Deseronto, Ontario in 1917. British, Canadian and American aviators trained there. Continue reading


Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Park, Shelburne ON

The war memorial in Shelburne, Ontario stands in front of the town hall, on Victoria St at the corner of Main (Hwy 89). Lots of stuff packed into a small space here:

  • A bronze statue of a soldier on a granite base, erected on 4 June 1923
  • Plaques on the granite base naming those who died, the condition of which suggests recent replacement
  • A small plaque for the opening of the Shelburne and Community Memorial Park on 4 June 1923
  • German guns, the booty of war Guns from WW1 and WW2
  • A newer black granite monument “to those men and women who offered their lives so that we can be free. We thank them.”

Together, these elements offer glimpses of the changing ways of remembrance. Continue reading


Tapestry of War

Sandra Gwyn’s Tapestry of War: A Private View of Canadians in the Great War is a gossipy, luscious social history, seen through the eyes of several Canadians who had ringside seats or a view further back from the action.

Our guides were chosen from a variety of vantage points on the basis of their diaries and letters, not necessarily because their importance in the war effort. Gwyn jumps from one person to another, from Ottawa to London to the Western Front, intricately weaving the tales. Some are more interesting than others, but all have a purpose. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Father Duffy, New York, NY

Times Square is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world – between 300,000 and 500,000 people are estimated to pass through each day, most of them on foot. How many stop to admire the statue of Father Duffy (for whom the northern triangle of the square is named) on their way to the nearby TKTS booth … or realize his Canadian connection? Continue reading


An Interview with Alan Livingstone MacLeod, author of Remembered in Bronze and Stone

Alan Livingstone MacLeod has photographed countless WW1 monuments across Canada. Now his favourites are featured in Remembered in Bronze and Stone – Canada’s Great War Memorial Statuary. Alan has kindly agreed to share some thoughts about his work. I am pleased to welcome him to Great War 100 Reads today.

What first interested you in war memorials?

Alan Livingstone MacLeod: From my earliest years – spurred by soldier portraits on old relatives’ living-room walls, from memories of young men loved and lost, from relics of the trenches – I was aware of a shadow cast over my extended Nova Scotia family by the Great War. I had seven Cape Breton relatives killed between 1916 and 1918 in Flanders and France. One of the most influential people of my life was a great-uncle who survived the war but could never free himself from its emotional consequences. The accounts of the war experiences he shared with me were mesmerizing and unforgettable. I was exposed to war memorials from early childhood and have had a life-long interest in them. That interest took a leap forward in 2010 when I chanced upon the community war memorial at Westville, Nova Scotia, featuring the bronze figure of a soldier. I considered it far and away the finest, most evocative war memorial I had ever seen. This figure provoked a desire to see more of the artist’s work and a decision to travel the country to find that work and to see as many as possible of the whole: Canada’s two hundred soldier-figure monuments. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Ontario Military Hospital Nursing Sisters, Queen’s Park, Toronto

Mary A McKenzie, Sarah Ellen Garbutt, Margaret Lowe, Dorothy Mary Baldwin, Matilda Green. These five women are remembered on a brass tablet in the Ontario Legislative Building (Queen’s Park), on the second floor of the west wing, near the landing outside the Legislative Chamber. They were nursing sisters who had served in the Ontario Military Hospital at Orpington, England, and who died during the war. Continue reading

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Remembered in Bronze and Stone – Canada’s Great War Memorial Statuary

Early in my days of researching monuments for Great War 100 Reads, I discovered Alan Livingstone MacLeod’s albums on Flickr. Beautiful photos documenting WW1 monuments across Canada, and a good source in trying to sort out Emanuel Hahn’s work from the imitations. So I am delighted to find that he has written a book featuring his photos, Remembered in Bronze and Stone, published in November 2016. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial and Memorial Wall, Guelph, ON

Symbolism and remembrance stand side by side in a park at Trafalgar Square, where Woolwich St meets Wyndham St N and Eramosa Rd in Guelph. The former in a monument designed by sculptor Alfred Howell. The latter on a wall of plaques naming those who died.

The program for the dedication of the monument on Sunday 3 July 1927 describes “a magnificent and dignified tribute in honored memory of her sons and daughters who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War for Civilization.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Harry Heffer, Cherry Valley Cemetery, Prince Edward County, ON

Each soldier tells a story. Some stories are more elusive than others.

Harry Heffer is buried in Cherry Valley Cemetery – with his paternal grandparents, parents and sister – not far from his birthplace. He was born on 2 Apr 1890 in Athol Township or in Picton (both in Prince Edward County), the oldest son of James Heffer and Emma Wager. By 1911, he had moved to Toronto, where he worked as a printer at Ontario Press Ltd. He married Gertrude Morris in 1913. Continue reading

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A Farewell to Arms

I last read a Hemingway novel in high school. The Old Man and the Sea did not inspire me to pick up another one. As I recall, my adolescent self yawned in boredom.

But that was in another century.

And A Farewell to Arms presents itself as the ultimate American WW1 novel.

So in I dive.

The plot, in 60 words: Frederic Henry meets Catherine Barkley. He, an American serving as an ambulance driver in the Italian army. She, a British nurse serving in a hospital behind the Italian lines. The war draws them together and tears them apart … together, apart … repeat a few times. We are to believe it is love. And then Catherine meets a tragic end. Continue reading