Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Poppies

In Flanders fields the poppies grow …

Inspired by John McCrae’s poem, poppies are a common sign of remembrance. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lt Col George Harold Baker, MP and Morning Glory

While at least 50 members of the Canadian House of Commons enlisted in WW1, few saw active duty at the front. Only one was killed in action.

George Harold Baker – Harry to his friends – was born into a prominent family of United Empire Loyalists. He followed his father into law and then into politics, elected Member of Parliament for the riding of Brome, Quebec in 1911. He was also active in the local militia, so he was quick to volunteer for active service in WW1. He was killed in action on June 2, 1916 at Sanctuary Wood during the Battle of Mount Sorrel. Continue reading


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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 – 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 – 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.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – John McCrae, In Flanders Fields, Ottawa

Yesterday marked 100 years since John McCrae wrote In Flanders Fields. Inspired by the death of his friend Alexis Helmer, the poem and its symbolic poppies have become iconic remembrances of sacrifice in war.

This statue of McCrae was unveiled yesterday in Ottawa. It is on Green Island, where the Rideau River flows into the Ottawa River. Sculptor Ruth Abernethy captures him at the moment of writing the poem. Three members of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery (RCA) inspecting the statue when I took these photos were impressed by the accuracy of details like the buttons and shoe lacing.

An identical sculpture will be unveiled next month in Guelph, ON, McCrae’s birthplace. 

The Guelph Mercury published an interesting feature section about McCrae and the poem last week.