Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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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


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Prince Edward Old Boys Memorial Entrance, Fairgrounds, Picton, ON

It’s the season of agricultural fairs in my area. The Picton Fair in Prince Edward County is one of the oldest in Ontario, dating from 1836. Early in the 20th century, the Old Boys, prominent Toronto-area businessmen whose origins were in Prince Edward County, would return home for an annual reunion. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Hill 70 Monument, Loos-en-Gohelle, France

Between 15 and 25 August 1917, the divisions of the Canadian corps captured and held Hill 70, a defensive position near Lens that had been held by the German Army since October 1914. While the April 1917 offensive at Vimy Ridge was the first time the Canadians fought together, Hill 70 was the first time they did so under Canadian command. Lt-Gen Arthur Currie has just assumed command. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lennox and Addington County Cenotaph, Napanee, ON

A cenotaph “erected to perpetuate the memory of those from the County of Lennox and Addington who fell in the Great War” stands in front of the courthouse portico at 97 Thomas St E at Adelphi. It was unveiled on 1 Jul 1920. Continue reading


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War-Torn Exchanges and Your Daughter Fanny

Continuing my explorations of women in the medical services, in War-Torn Exchanges: The Lives and Letters of Nursing Sisters Laura Holland and Mildred Forbes, and Your Daughter Fanny: The War Letters of Frances Cluett, VAD. Both books bring to life women’s war service close to the front. Continue reading