Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Frederick W Campbell VC and S Lewis Honey VC DCM MM, Mount Forest, ON

Two historical plaques stand guard in front of the Mount Forest Legion , 140 King St W. They honour two Victoria Cross recipients from the area.

Lt Stanley Lewis Honey

Extract from the London Gazette, No. 31108, 3 Jan 1919: For most conspicuous bravery during the Bourlon Wood operations, 27th September to 2nd October, 1918. On 27th September, when his company commander and all other officers of his company had become casualties, Lt Honey took command and skilfully reorganised under very severe fire. He continued the advance with great dash and gained the objective. Then finding that his company was suffering casualties from enfilade machine-gun fire he located the machine-gun nest and rushed it single-handed, capturing the guns and ten prisoners. Subsequently he repelled four enemy counter-attacks and after dark again went out alone, and having located an enemy post, led a party which captured the post and three guns. On the 29th September he led his company against a strong enemy position with great skill and daring and continued in the succeeding days of the battle to display the same high example of valour and self-sacrifice. He died of wounds received during the last day of the attack by his battalion.

Capt Frederick William Campbell

Extract from the London Gazette, No. 29272, 20 Aug 1915: For most conspicuous bravery on 15th June, 1915, during the action at Givenchy. Lt. Campbell took two machine-guns over the parapet, arrived at the German first line with one gun, and maintained his position there, under very heavy rifle, machine-gun and bomb fire, notwithstanding the fact that almost the whole of his detachment had then been killed or wounded. When our supply of bombs had become exhausted, this Officer advanced his gun still further to an exposed position, and, by firing about 1,000 rounds, succeeded in holding back the enemy’s counter-attack. This very gallant Officer was subsequently wounded, and has since died.

Eleven more Ontario historical plaques mark Victoria Crosses from WW1:

  • William Avery Bishop, VC 1894-1956, Owen Sound
  • Lionel Beaumaurice (Leo) Clarke, VC 1892-1916, Waterdown
  • Lance-Corp Fred Fisher, VC 1894-1915, St Catharines
  • Sgt Frederick Hobson, VC 1873-1917, Cambridge
  • Thomas William Holmes, VC 1898-1950, Owen Sound
  • Capt George Fraser Kerr, VC MC MM 1895-1929, Deseronto
  • Col Graham Thomson Lyall, VC 1892-1941, St Catharines
  • Lt-Col Thain Wendell MacDowell, VC DSO 1890-1960, Maitland
  • Corp Harry G.B. Miner, VC 1891-1918, Cedar Springs
  • Claude J.P. Nunney, VC 1892-1918, Lancaster
  • Ellis Wellwood Sifton, VC 1891-1917, Tyrconnell

A long-departed British monarch still lends her birthday for a holiday that marks the unofficial start of summer, and her name to the highest military honour awarded for valour in the face of the enemy. Victoria Day weekend – a good time to remember Campbell, Lewis and other VCs.


Gold-Wing Ranch, on the site of Camp Rathbun, the WW1 Royal Flying Corps training station near Deseronto, Ontario is hosting a centenary celebration on 10 June 2017. Details here and here.


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The Mystery of Isabella and the String of Beads

Scalpels. Forceps. Stethoscope. Other miscellaneous surgical instruments. And an intricately woven string of beads. These were the legacy that Isabella Stenhouse gave to her granddaughter, Katrina Kirkwood. But not the stories to go with them – of serving as a doctor in France, Malta and Egypt in WW1.

There came a point when Kirkwood realized that her grandmother’s war exploits were extraordinary for a woman of the time. In The Mystery of Isabella and the String of Beads, she sets out to learn about her grandmother’s early life. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Soldiers’ Monument, Paisley, ON

The soldiers’ monument in Paisley, Ontario stands in a square bound by Queen, Goldie and Water Streets, close to the confluence of the Saugeen and Teeswater Rivers. The monument, made of grey Stanstead granite, is a 15 ft pedestal on which stands a 7 ft soldier. The same figure from the McIntosh Granite Co is on the cenotaph in Picton, Ontario.

The monument was dedicated in May 1922, “in honored memory of the men of Paisley and adjoining Townships of Bruce, Elderslie, Greenock and Saugeen who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914 – 1919.” The 27 May edition of the Globe reported about 2000 people in attendance: Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Widow and Recording Angel, Peace Tower, Ottawa

Enter the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower in Ottawa, turn around and look up to see two sculptures by Frances Loring. In the gable tympanum is the Recording Angel, inscribing the names of the fallen in the Book of Remembrance. On the finial above is the War Widow and Children, also called Motherhood. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Bank of Commerce, Toronto

The 34-storey headquarters of the Canadian Bank of Commerce (now known as Commerce Court North) was the tallest building in the Commonwealth from 1931 to 1962. Built at a time when banks were temples, this art deco temple incorporates a memorial to bank staff killed in WW1. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – 10th Battalion, Old City Hall, Calgary

The 10th Battalion, created in 1914 as an infantry battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, was amongst the first Canadian contingents to sail for the UK in 1914. Recruits were largely from Calgary and other parts of Alberta. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Unveiling Vimy Ridge Monument, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

April 9-12 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, part of the Battle of Arras. On a snowy Easter Monday in 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first (and only) time. Training and tactics won the ridge, but at the cost of about 3,600 Canadian lives.

Vimy Ridge is an important site of Canadian remembrance: a 250-acre park on the former battleground is the site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. The monument commemorates Canadian WW1 soldiers killed or presumed dead in France who have no known grave. Continue reading


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Vimy

With the centenary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge fast approaching, it seemed to be a good time to delve into Vimy, Pierre Berton’s popular account of the Canadian exploits to capture a strategic spot on the Western Front.

Berton set out “to tell not just what happened but also what it was like.” (Author’s note, p 313) He interviewed survivors and combed through old diaries, memoirs, letters, newspaper accounts and oral histories. The result is a lively account of Easter Monday, 9 April 1917 – when the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first (and only) time – the events leading to it and the mopping up afterwards. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Soldier Honouring the Fallen, Soldiers’ Tower, Toronto

April 9-12 marks the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, part of the Battle of Arras. On a snowy Easter Monday in 1917, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together for the first (and only) time. Training and tactics won the ridge, but at the cost of about 3,600 Canadian lives. Continue reading


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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