Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Deseronto, ON

The small Ontario town of Deseronto lies on the Bay of Quinte at the mouth of the Napanee River. Its war memorial is at 332 Main St, on the south side, just west of Centre St. The WW1 plaque on a granite stone was dedicated on Labour Day, 3 September 1923, “In gratefulness for the men who gave their lives for their country during the Great War.” Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Bombardement par avions allemands, Paris, France

Most pedestrians on the busy boulevard Saint-Michel likely pass the grand doorway at No. 81 – on their way to or from the Luxembourg RER station, the Jardin de Luxembourg, or a nearby shop, office or university – not noticing the understated plaque above a window to the left:

30 janvier 1918
Bombardement par avions allemands

Translation: 30 January 1918: Bombardment by German planes. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Royal Bank headquarters, Montreal

In the early 20th century, St James St in Old Montreal was the heart of the city’s financial district. When the Royal Bank of Canada built its new headquarters at 360 St James St W in 1928 (the tallest building in the British Empire at the time), the bank honoured its employees who had died in WW1, their names listed on two tablets in the main banking hall. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Foresters in Windsor Park, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

The Canadian Forestry Corps was formed in 1916 to provide lumber for the war effort. Recruiting posters soon called for “Bushmen and sawmill hands wanted for the Canadian Forestry Units overseas.”

Lumber was needed for diverse uses like trench construction, railway ties, tent poles, buildings, axe handles and fuel. At first, the thought was that trees would be cut in Canada and shipped overseas. But space on ships was limited, so the Corps went to the wood in the UK and France. The Corps produced about 70% of the lumber used on the Western front. They were occupied in all aspects of the trade – from felling trees and dressing lumber to actual construction. They cleared sites for aerodromes. Some of the wood was fashioned into wooden crosses for graves.

Canadian Foresters in Windsor Park was painted by Gerald Moira around 1917. It is part of the Beaverbrook Collection of War Art at the Canadian War Museum. 

This painting depicts the 224th Canadian Forestry Battalion working below the walls of Windsor Castle. The fluttering flag on the roof indicates that King George V is in residence. In 1922, Moira’s biographer described the painting as “a document of Empire, a record of loyal labour, an epic of strength, with all of which it unites the qualities of highest art and powerful decoration.”


Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Pacific Railway Memorial Tablet, Quebec City, QC

’Tis the season of busy travel. Rushed commuters and travellers passing through Gare du Palais, the train and bus terminal in Quebec City, may miss the tribute to 1,116* transportation workers killed in WW1.

The Canadian Pacific Railway – CPR – put its trains, ships, telegraphs, hotels and other resources to use for the Allied forces in WW1. This included its human resources: 11,340 CPR employees enlisted. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Soldiers Memorial, Wiarton, ON

Wiarton’s claims to fame include being the gateway to the Bruce Peninsula and the home of the world’s only albino weather prognosticator (aka groundhog Wiarton Willie). Travelling through town to either attraction, you are likely to pass the Soldiers Memorial, on the east side of Berford St (Hwy 6) between George and William. 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 – Commonwealth Memorial Tablets, France

Starting in 1923 and 1936, the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission erected memorial tablets in several French and Belgian cathedrals, in memory of the British Empire dead of WW1.

The first of these was placed in Amiens Cathedral, bearing the Royal Coat of Arms and dedicated to the 600,000 men of the armies of Great Britain and Ireland. Subsequent tablets incorporated the arms or insignia of Australia, Canada, India, Newfoundland, New Zealand and South Africa. Continue reading

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Armistice Day, 1918 … Remembrance Day, 2018

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns of the Great War at last fell silent, the fury of conflict was replaced by a deafening silence. In that fragile gap between the sounds of dying and the cries of relief, we were faced with all we had done, all we had lost, all we had sacrificed.

In that silence, we met a truth so obvious and so terrifying we swore we would never take up arms again.

“One owes respect to the living,” said Voltaire. “To the dead, one owes only the truth.”

We vowed never to forget.

Governor General David Johnston, 11 November 2014

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension, Abbeville, France

Abbeville, on the Somme River northwest of Amiens, was a strategic Allied communications and hospital centre in WW1. In spring and summer 1918, Abbeville was the target of German air raids. In the early morning of 30 May 1918, Abbeville and Doullens were hit. At Abbeville, a bomb hit a protection trench, killing nine women in Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps (QMAAC). The victims were buried with military honours in Abbeville Communal Cemetery Extension. Continue reading