Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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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


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Houghton brothers, St. Mark’s Anglican Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON

For a church established in 1792 in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the War of 1812 looms larger in its history than WW1. Yet St Mark’s Church, at 41 Byron St, has several WW1 markers to honour its parishioners who served. The name Houghton figures again and again – all sons of Emma Hadley and Joseph Houghton. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Conscription Riots, Spring 1918, Quebec City

Québec, Printemps 1918 marks the place of one of the demonstrations in Quebec City protesting the Canadian government’s 1917 decision to conscript men into the army. The creation of sculptor Aline Martineau, it was unveiled on 4 September 1998 at the intersection of Saint-Vallier, Saint-Joseph and Bagot in Quebec City. Continue reading


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Fields of Glory – Les champs d’honneur

Every younger generation views their elders as comic, mundane, absurd. Every older generation strives to impart the lessons of history on those who follow.

In Les champs d’honneurFields of Glory in English translation – Jean Rouaud revisits childhood in Loire-Atlantique in the 1960’s. The eccentricities of grandparents and countless other relatives who surround the family are seen through the eyes of a young narrator and two siblings. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lisgar Collegiate Institute, Ottawa

Lisgar Collegiate Institute has a history in Ottawa longer than Canada itself: founded in 1843, it just celebrated its 175th anniversary. Students entering the main doors of the school at 29 Lisgar St cannot help but turn their minds to WW1. In Memorial Hall they are surrounded by reminders of alumni and alumnae who served in the war. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Bell Telephone, Montreal

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US … a day to celebrate workers.

The entrance to the Bell Canada Building at 1050, Côte du Beaver-Hall, Montréal (between rue Belmont and rue de la Gauchetière O) is flanked by the bell logo of the Bell Telephone Company of Canada. Completed in 1929, it was once the company headquarters. Enter the brass doors into the entry staircase, flanked by bronze plaques to Bell’s Montreal employees who served and died in two world wars.   Continue reading


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In Falling Snow

We’re women. We do things. (p 78)

The Scottish Women’s Hospitals were founded during WW1 to help the war effort by offering medical assistance. The founders were committed to promoting women’s rights and believed that contributing to the war effort would help women win those rights.

The British Army refused their help. The women were not daunted, offering hospitals instead to other allied countries. The French were the first to accept. The second Scottish Women’s Hospital was established in the Abbaye de Royaumont, a 13C Cistercian abbey north of Paris, with Dr Frances Ivens as the chief medical officer. The hospital team cared for more than 10,000 wounded soldiers from 1915 to 1919.

Jump forward 70 years. Mary-Rose MacColl found herself in the wrong aisle at the library, having transposed two digits in a call number. She noticed a title, Women of Royaumont: A Scottish Women’s Hospital on the Western Front. Eileen Crofton’s book was the spark of inspiration for MacColl’s novel, In Falling Snow, which pays tribute to the women who served at Royaumont throughout the war. It also explores how the challenges for women in medical service have evolved (or not) from WW1 to the 1970s. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Nellie Spindler, Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Belgium

A noble type of good heroic womanhood.

Age 26.

Tomorrow marks the 101st anniversary of the death of Staff Nurse Nellie Spindler of Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. She was killed in action in No. 44 Casualty Clearing Station, Brandhoek, Belgium, in the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele). Continue reading