Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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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


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


Monday Monuments and Memorials – Nursing Sisters, Cathedral Place, Vancouver

Built in 1927-29 on the NW corner of W Georgia and Hornby Streets, the Georgia Medical-Dental Building was the first art deco skyscraper built in Vancouver. Amongst the rich ornamentation on the outside of the building were three 11-foot-high terracotta statues of WW1 nursing sisters, gracing the three visible corners from the 10th floor. Architects McCarter and Nairne had served in WW1. McCarter had been wounded and credited the nurses with saving his life. The sculptures, designed by Joseph Francis Watson, were a way to honour them. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Old War Memorial, Markdale, ON

Some war memorials get around. Some get caught up in the changing machinations of remembrance.

This memorial stands in front of the Markdale Hospital of the Grey-Bruce Health Services, at the corner of Main St W and Argyle St. A centre plaque lists those from the Markdale community who gave their lives in the Great War. It is flanked by plaques commemorating those who served. Two nursing sisters are named on the left plaque: Laura Adams and May Devitt. Continue reading


The Forbidden Zone

Mary Borden’s The Forbidden Zone is a thin volume of vignettes from her experiences in French Army field hospitals during WW1. I’ve dipped into it many times, reading and rereading several stories. But I took over a year to read it from cover to cover. I just didn’t want it to end. And it’s taken a while to write this review since I finished reading it, as I searched for words to do it justice.

Borden was a Chicago heiress born in 1886. She graduated from Vassar College, married and settled in London. In WW1, she volunteered for the French Red Cross, then offered to fund and manage a field hospital for the French Army. For her efforts, she was awarded the Croix de guerre and named Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur. Continue reading