Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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The War Diary of Clare Gass

A fine day in spots only. My ward is filled & I am very busy but enjoy my work if it were only possible to forget its cause. (March 2, 1916, p 106)

The dominant memory of WW1 is that of men. Soldiers were, after all, the vast majority on the front lines. But as Susan Mann points out in her introduction to The War Diary of Clare Gass, 1915-1918, wounded soldiers were accompanied and cared for by nurses at every stage of their journey through the military medical system except at the very first points closest to the front lines. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Calgary Soldiers’ Memorial, Calgary, AB

The Calgary Soldiers’ Memorial stands in the park that runs between Memorial Drive and the Bow River, east of Poppy Plaza between 10 St NW and 14 St NW. It forms part of the Landscape of Memory park project along Memorial Drive. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial and Memorial Wall, Guelph, ON

Symbolism and remembrance stand side by side in a park at Trafalgar Square, where Woolwich St meets Wyndham St N and Eramosa Rd in Guelph. The former in a monument designed by sculptor Alfred Howell. The latter on a wall of plaques naming those who died.

The program for the dedication of the monument on Sunday 3 July 1927 describes “a magnificent and dignified tribute in honored memory of her sons and daughters who paid the supreme sacrifice in the Great War for Civilization.” Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cenotaph and Veterans Memorial, Orangeville, ON

Two stone war memorials stand in Orangeville’s Alexandra Park, 11 Second St at First Ave, behind the town hall.

The cenotaph honours Dufferin County residents who died in WW1. (WW2, Korea and Afghanistan have since been added.) It was unveiled in November 1923, “in proud and grateful memory of those who gave their lives for freedom, truth and righteousness.” Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.

The world can be at peace only if its life is stable, and there can be no stability where the will is in rebellion, where there is not tranquillity of spirit and a sense of justice, of freedom, and of right.
Woodrow Wilson, January 22, 1917

In this week of remembrance, may we learn from war as we strive for peace … and freedom and democracy and equality and justice.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Westinghouse Company employees, Hamilton Cemetery, Hamilton, ON

Today is Labour Day in Canada and the US – a day to celebrate workers. Like other groups in society, many companies saw fit to memorialize their employees who had served in the war.

For much of the 20th century, Westinghouse was one of the largest employers in Hamilton. Its plaque “to the memory of the employees of the Canadian Westinghouse Company Limited, who gave their lives in the war against Germany and her allies” is in a shady corner of Hamilton Cemetery. Sixty-five names are listed. The tablet “further commemorates the services of 712 other employees of the company, their comrades-in-arms, who fought for King and country.” Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Clinton War Memorial, DeWitt Clinton Park, New York

At the southeast corner of De Witt Clinton Park, at 11th Ave and 52nd St in New York City, stands a bronze doughboy holding poppies in his right hand and a rifle slung over his shoulder. The front of the granite pedestal is inscribed with the closing verse from John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Field.

The statue is dedicated “by comrades and friends under the auspices of Clinton District Monument Association as a memorial to the young folk of this neighborhood who gave their all in the world war.” According to the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, this is one of nine doughboy statues erected in NYC city parks. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Niagara Township Memorial, Queenston, ON

The Niagara Township war memorial – also known as the Queenston cenotaph – is at the intersection of the Niagara Parkway and Queenston St, now part of the town of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The monument was dedicated on 11 November 1926 by Ontario Lieutenant Governor Henry Cockshutt. It was “erected to the memory of the men of Niagara Township who gave their lives for freedom in the Great War … whose names are here recorded, and in honour of those who served.” A bronze statue of an infantry soldier tops a granite base. A laurel wreath encircles “lest we forget” on each side. WW1 names are on the right side, WW2 on the left. Seventeen WW1 battles are listed on the back. “To you from falling hands we throw the torch, be yours to lift it high” – a line from In Flanders Fields – graces the front.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – In Flanders Fields

Tomorrow marks 100 years since John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields was first published – anonymously – in Punch magazine. Since then, the poem and its symbolic poppies have been linked to the remembrance of loss and sacrifice in war.

In today’s gallery:

  • The last lines of poem are on the base of the cenotaph in Orangeville, Ontario.
  • Copies of The Grieving Soldier by Emanuel Hahn grace many Canadian communities. This one is in Hanover, Ontario.
  • John McCrae statue by Ruth Abernethy, Green Island, Ottawa. Another cast of the statue is in Guelph, his birthplace.
  • National Military Cemetery, in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa
  • Memorial Room, Students’ Memorial Union, Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario
  • Memorial Chamber, Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa
  • University College Memorial Plaque, Memorial Room, Soldiers Tower, University of Toronto
  • End wall of WW1 Memorial Screen, University of Toronto


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Plaques, Dominion-Chalmers Church, Ottawa, ON

Three WW1-related plaques are found in Dominion-Chalmers United Church, at the corner of O’Connor and Cooper Streets in downtown Ottawa.

Plaques from the Chalmers Presbyterian Church and the Dominion Methodist Church are a clue that two congregations came together after 1919 to form the current one. Each of the original churches honoured all the members of their congregations who served as well as those who died. Women are listed on both plaques—all together in the first column of the Chalmers plaque, mixed alphabetically with the men on the Dominion plaque. Of the women, only Gamble and West from Dominion, and Eagleson, Kingston and Scott from Chalmers are listed (as nursing sisters) in the CEF service files. Were the others VADs or Red Cross volunteers? Did they serve with another country?

The third plaque honours Dominion congregation member Alexis Helmer. Helmer’s death inspired John McCrae’s poem, In Flanders Fields. The text on the plaque is the same as that on the family gravestone in nearby Beechwood Cemetery. From the look of this older photo (click through, then scroll down), the plaque has been repaired and remounted. Helmer’s name is also on the Menin Gate in Belgium.

Dominion-Chalmers is built in a Neo-Byzantine style, unusual for Canadian churches. The building is square, but the pillars, dome and shape of the balcony give the impression inside that it is an octagon. The acoustics make the church a popular concert hall. At this time of year, it is one of the venues for the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival.


I’ve been housecleaning at Great War 100 Reads … broken links fixed, more cross-references, an easier-to-read serif font, and the like. All to add to your reading pleasure.