Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Currie Gymnasium, Memorial Hall & 10th Canadian Siege Battery Flagpole, Montreal

Happy 2018! Have you resolved to get into better shape this year? Here’s a war memorial for you.

The Sir Arthur Currie Memorial Gymnasium is at 475, ave des Pins ouest, in Montreal. McGill University students were making good use of the facilities on the day I visited. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Edric Hurdman Read memorial window, allsaints, Ottawa

Each soldier tells a story.

All Saints Anglican Church, on Chapel St at the corner of Laurier Ave E, was once the place of worship for many of Ottawa’s elite. Prime Minister Borden was a parishioner – his state funeral was there in 1937. The church was recently deconsecrated and converted into a unique event venue. The stained glass windows and other WW1 memorials remain in the former sanctuary.

One window is dedicated “in ever loving memory of our son, Flight Lieut Edric H Read, 16th Squadron RFC, killed in action December 26, 1917, aged 20 years.” Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Great War Veterans Association monument, Acton, ON

A monument “in loving memory of our fallen comrades” in Acton’s Fairview Cemetery has seen better days.

According to the Acton Legion history, monument dealer John Nicol donated the original Soldiers’ Memorial in May 1920. It was placed by the Great War Veterans Association in front of the Acton Soldiers Memorial Home at 55 Mill St E (now the MacKinnon Family Funeral Home). Six months later, the community cenotaph was dedicated across the street. In 1923, the GWVA monument was moved to the GWVA plot in Section R of Fairview Cemetery. Continue reading


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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