Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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War-Torn Exchanges and Your Daughter Fanny

Continuing my explorations of women in the medical services, in War-Torn Exchanges: The Lives and Letters of Nursing Sisters Laura Holland and Mildred Forbes, and Your Daughter Fanny: The War Letters of Frances Cluett, VAD. Both books bring to life women’s war service close to the front. Continue reading


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My Little Wet Home in the Trench

Yup, it’s three years into the WW1 centenary and three years since the start of Great War 100 Years. In 244 posts, I have documented 68 books read, over 150 monuments each Monday, and more interviews and musings.

My focus for much of this year has been eyewitness accounts of the war – a range of voices from the front lines, the home front and points in between. Male and female authors, they wrote about universal aspects of the soldiers’ experience, the readiness to serve where needed, and the price of acceptance and of dissent.

The books analysing the war from the rear view window show how perspectives can change over time. Continue reading


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Lights Out!

Firsthand accounts of WW1 from the medical women who served are hard to come by, and in reverse proportion to their position in the hospital hierarchy: practically none from doctors; a few more from nurses; most from VADs.

Lights Out! The Memoir of Nursing Sister Kate Wilson, Canadian Army Medical Corps, 1915-1917, based on Kate’s diaries, started as a souvenir for her family written shortly after the war. Later in life, a frustration with mostly male accounts of the war that “tended to romanticize events” led to “a tremendous desire to tell my story, in my own way.” After all, “I have been there too.” (Foreword) Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials –Edwardsburg Township War Memorial, Spencerville, ON

The war memorial erected by the citizens of the Township of Edwardsburg stands in front of the municipal offices (now the Township of Edwardsburgh/Cardinal) on Centre St in Spencerville. It is dedicated “in loving memory of our heroes who fell in the Great War, 1914—1918. Their names shall never perish. Lest we forget.” A young soldier stands over the 27 names for WW1, listed in mostly chronological order of their death.

Let’s look at the first and last WW1 names. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Victoria College Memorial Tablet, University of Toronto, Toronto

A bronze tablet on the right side of the main entrance to the Old Vic building on the U of T campus is dedicated to the memory of 75 Victoria College students and graduates who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918. An angel mourns on either side of the college crest, under the assurance that “they were valiant in life, triumphant in death.” The tablet, designed by sculptor Alfred Howell, was presented by the Alumni and Alumnae Associations and dedicated on 12 October 1923. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – The Last Post, Collingwood, ON

The Last Post is the name of the statue that tops the WW1 war memorial in Collingwood, Ontario. It stands in front of the old train station (now the Collingwood Museum), at 45 St Paul St. The driveway behind it is Veterans Cres. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Ontario Military Hospital Nursing Sisters, Queen’s Park, Toronto

Mary A McKenzie, Sarah Ellen Garbutt, Margaret Lowe, Dorothy Mary Baldwin, Matilda Green. These five women are remembered on a brass tablet in the Ontario Legislative Building (Queen’s Park), on the second floor of the west wing, near the landing outside the Legislative Chamber. They were nursing sisters who had served in the Ontario Military Hospital at Orpington, England, and who died during the war. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Memorial Church, Vancouver … Part 2

The Canadian Memorial United Church and Centre for Peace, at the corner of W 15th Ave and Burrard St in Vancouver, was built as a memorial to Canadians who fought and died in WW1 … and as a ministry for peace and an end to war. This is the second post about the memorial elements in the church, looking this week at the narthex windows. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Nursing Sister Edith May Allison, Deseronto, ON

Each nurse tells a story.

Edith May Allison was born in Marysville, Ontario on May 14, 1881, the daughter of Sarah Edith Prentice Allison (spelled Prentiss in some records) and Jonathan Greeley Allison. She had four sisters, Olive, Pearl, Helena (Lena) and Florence (Flossie). 

Edith and Florence both became nurses. Around 1912, the family moved to Calgary. Olive may not have moved with them. In city directories (not always an up-to-date source) Pearl is listed as a teacher, Lena as a stenographer; both seem to have moved from the family home before the war. Their father died in 1915, their mother in 1937. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Edith Cavell and Canadian Nurses, Toronto, ON

British nurse Edith Cavell was executed on October 12, 1915 for helping Allied soldiers escape occupied Belgium. Her death became a rallying cry for the Allies.

The Edith Cavell Memorial Society in Toronto raised money for a memorial to Cavell and Canadian nurses, and sought permission from the Toronto General Hospital to place it on the hospital grounds at the SE corner of College and University Avenues. Florence Wyle was chosen to design the sculpture. Continue reading