Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – CR Magrath and John L Godwin, allsaints, Ottawa

Each soldier tells a story. Some stories start together, diverge, then come together again.

John and Magrath Godwin were born in Lethbridge, Alberta, sons of Frederick Richard Godwin and Anna Bella Lockhart Godwin. Both attended Lisgar Collegiate when the family moved to Ottawa. Magrath was one of the first to enlist, John enlisted months later, both serving in the Canadian Artillery. They were killed in action three months apart. Both are buried at Reninghelst New Military Cemetery, near Poperinghe, Belgium, where each is remembered on the other’s grave. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Royal 22e Régiment, Québec City, Québec

The 22e Bataillon (canadien-français), now le Royal 22e Régiment was formed in 1914, the only francophone regiment in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In 1921, George V bestowed the Royal designation on the unit in recognition of its military accomplishments in Belgium and France in WW1. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Screen, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON

Each day, hundreds of people walk past the Memorial Screen in an arcade west of the Soldiers’ Tower on the University of Toronto’s downtown campus. Those pausing to look see the names, ranks and units of 628 university alumni, faculty, staff and students killed in WW1 – carved in limestone. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – National War Memorial: The Response, Ottawa

Surmounting the arch, through which the armed forces of the nation are passing forward, are the figures of peace and freedom. To win peace and secure freedom, Canada’s sons and daughters enrolled for service during the Great War. For the cause of peace and freedom 60,000 Canadians gave their lives, and a still larger number suffered impairment of body or mind. This sacrifice the National Memorial holds in remembrance for our own and succeeding generations.

This memorial, however, does more than commemorate a great event in the past. It has a message for all generations and for all countries— the message which called for Canada’s response. Not by chance both the crowning figures of peace and freedom appear side by side. Peace and freedom cannot long be separated. It is well that we have in one of the world’s capitals, a visible reminder of so great a truth. Without freedom there can be no enduring peace, and without peace no enduring freedom.

George VI, dedication of the National War Memorial, 21 May 1939 Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Sun Quarry Cemetery, Chérisy, France

Every soldier tells a story. Some stories end the same way.

Sun Quarry Cemetery is 1.5 km SE of the village of Chérisy (near Arras) on the NE side of D38, the road to Hendecourt-lès-Cagnicourt. Of 191 WW1 burials, eight unidentified, 161 are Canadian. According to Commonwealth War Grave Commission records, the cemetery was made by the fighting units and most of those buried there were killed between 26 Aug and 28 Sep 1918. In other words, they are buried close to where they fell.

Five headstones in Row A mark the graves of five men from the 15th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry who died on 30 Aug 1918.  Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lt Jean Brillant, VC, MC, Villers Bretoneux Military Cemetery, Fouilloy, France

Jean Baptiste Arthur Brillant was born on 15 March 1890 at Assametquaghan, Quebec, the son of Joseph Brillant and Rose-de-Lima Raiche. He died of wounds on 10 August 1918 in France. His tombstone at Villiers Bretoneux Cemetery reads:

Lieutenant Jean Brillant, VC, MC, 22ieme En. Canadien français, 10 aout 1918, age 28 ans.

Fils de Joseph Brillant. Enrole volontairement à Rimouski, Province de Quebec. Tombe glorieusement sur le sol de ses aieux. Bon sang ne peut mentir.

Translation: Son of Joseph Brillant. Enlisted voluntarily at Rimouski, Province of Quebec. Fell gloriously on the soil of his ancestors. Good blood cannot lie. Continue reading


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The Cartographer of No Man’s Land

I read the preface, then paused, then read it again. Such is the beauty and feeling in the picture that P. S. Duffy paints to start The Cartographer of No Man’s Land, engaging all the senses in a two-page vignette.

The Cartographer of No Man’s Land captures two stories, moving back and forth between the Western Front and the fictional Nova Scotia fishing village of Snag Harbour. Angus MacGrath is the bond between the two. He leaves behind his wife Hettie Ellen, his son Simon Peter, his father Duncan – enlisting in the hope of finding his brother-in-law and friend Ebbin Hant, who is missing in action. With skills as a painter and drafter, Angus believes he will be a cartographer in London, able to search from the relative safety of a desk job. But mapmakers are plentiful and cannon fodder is in constant need of replenishment. He finds himself instead in the front lines. 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 – 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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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