Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


Leave a comment

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

Advertisements


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm, Ieper, Belgium

Elsie Knocker and Mairi Chisholm shared a love for the thrill of motorbikes. When war was declared in 1914, the friends zoomed off to London together to do their bit. ‘Their bit’ was to establish a first-aid nursing post close to the front, give the first line of care to wounded soldiers, and transport them by ambulance to field hospitals. Elsie and Mairi, nicknamed the Angels of Pervyse, were decorated for bravery and sacrifice, and were amongst the most famous women of WW1. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Badjeros & Ravenna War Memorials, Grey Country, ON

“Shop local” was the touchstone for some small communities in Grey County, when it came time to honour their neighbours who had served in WW1. Three similar monuments were erected in three hamlets, all likely from the same company in nearby Collingwood.

Compare the monument at Eugenia Falls to those at Badjeros and Ravenna. Continue reading


Leave a comment

The Deep

It began to seem, after a time, that everyone had something. Had one thing that they’d seen or heard, that they couldn’t shake off, that they carried, would carry forever, like a hard, dull stone in the heart. … We thought if we could gather those things together we would call it ‘The War Book’. And that would be the only way to communicate it, to give someone an idea of how it was. (The Deep, p 40*)

From time to time, I have described my small efforts to put some order into my reading, grouping a few books together by place (the Western front or home front, for example), by person (nurses, perhaps, or civilians in the war zone), by author (a trilogy by one author, or a series of Irish authors let’s say), or by time (eyewitness accounts or modern ones).

Occasionally I come upon a common thread unawares. Like now, I find myself having read a series of the most exquisitely written books, all by authors new to me. In each work, the authors evoke time, place and mood in lovely turns of phrase. The horror of war is conveyed by the beauty of words.   Continue reading


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Bank of Commerce plaques, Ottawa and Montreal

In addition to the monument at its head office in Toronto, the Canadian Bank of Commerce honoured employees from each branch who served in WW1. I’ve come across some of the branch plaques in Ottawa and Montreal, in what is now the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

Continue reading


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Poppies Redux

Mass-produced poppies are major fundraisers for the British and Canadian Legions, who fervently guard registered trademarks. I much prefer hand-made commemorative poppies – knitted, crocheted, beaded or felted. These seem to be more popular in Australia and New Zealand, where online patterns abound. Look, for example, at the 5000 Poppies campaign in Australia. Amazing! Continue reading


2 Comments

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Wimereux, France

Each nurse, VAD and canteen worker tells a story.

Few women who served in WW1 are buried near the Western Front. Those who are can mostly be found in cemeteries near the coast, close to large hospitals or staging centres. They died mostly of disease, although some were certainly caught in the crossfire of war.

On 21 April 1918, Nursing Sister Anna Elizabeth Whitely died at Boulogne of a stomach tumour. She was buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, the first Canadian woman in WW1 whose final resting place was in France. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Vimy France

April 9 marks the 101th anniversary of the start 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.

While opinions differ on the importance of the battle itself, most would agree that Vimy Ridge is an important site of Canadian remembrance: a 250-acre memorial park on the former battleground is the site of the Canadian National Vimy Memorial. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – The Brooding Soldier, St Julien, Belgium

The Canadian Memorial at St Julien, commonly known as The Brooding Soldier, stands at Vancouver Corner, 7 km NE of Ieper/Ypres. It marks the battlefield where 18,000 Canadians stood (and 2000 died) against the first German gas attacks, in the second battle of Ypres in April 1915. Continue reading


Leave a comment

Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Window, St Bartholomew’s Church, Ottawa

St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, on MacKay St overlooking the grounds of Rideau Hall, has long enjoyed an association with its Rideau Hall neighbour, Canada’s Governor General. The most splendid manifestation of vice-regal patronage is the east window, donated by HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (the third son of Queen Victoria and then Governor General of Canada) in memory of members of his personal staff killed in WW1.

The window was designed and executed by Irish artist, Wilhelmina Geddes – her only work in North America and now widely considered to be her masterpiece. It was unveiled by Edward, Prince of Wales on 9 November 1919. Continue reading