Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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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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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 – HMHS Llandovery Castle and Halifax Memorial

The Llandovery Castle served as a hospital ship during WW1, ferrying wounded soldiers from England back to Canada. On 27 June 1918, nearing the end of its voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Liverpool, England, the ship was torpedoed by a German submarine off the Irish coast. The passengers rushed to lifeboats, but the submarine surfaced and destroyed most of the lifeboats. Only 24 survivors lived to tell the tale.

Amongst the 234 dead in Canada’s worst naval disaster of WW1: all 14 of the Canadian nursing sisters on board. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Beckwith Township, ON

Beckwith Township, population about 7600, forms the easterly part of Lanark County, just west of Ottawa. The war memorial erected by the township remembers 12 names, nine from WW1. The monument has moved over the years. It now stands in Beckwith Park, on the 9th Line about 2 km east of Hwy 15 and Black’s Corners, surrounded by a vast stretch of baseball diamonds and playing fields. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Nurses Monument, Reims, France

A monument dedicated to all nurses from the allied countries can be found in the centre of Place Aristide Briand, Reims, essentially a traffic circle at the intersection of boul. Lundy, rue Cérès and av. Jean Jaurès. With no pedestrian access, you take your life in your hands and dodge traffic for a close look.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, France

Étaples, a port town south of Boulogne, served as an Allied training base, supply depot, prisoner detention centre, and “Hospital City” during WW1. The next step for wounded soldiers who survived the casualty clearing stations and the stationary hospitals closer to the front could be one of the 16 hospitals or the convalescent depot at Étaples.

In the spring and summer of 1918, several German bombing raids on the Étaples area made their mark. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – No 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Doullens, France

In May 1918, No 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital was operating in an old citadel near Doullens, France. On the night of 29-30 May, the hospital was bombed by a German plane, hitting the main building over the operating theatre and one of the wards.

Two surgeons, three nursing sisters, 16 other ranks (including orderlies) and 11 patients were killed. Several others were injured. The operating staff and patients were buried in the ruins of the building. Other staff worked to save the other patients. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Wimereux Communal Cemetery, Wimereux, France

Each nurse, VAD and canteen worker tells a story.

Few women who served in WW1 are buried near the Western Front. Those who are can mostly be found in cemeteries near the coast, close to large hospitals or staging centres. They died mostly of disease, although some were certainly caught in the crossfire of war.

On 21 April 1918, Nursing Sister Anna Elizabeth Whitely died at Boulogne of a stomach tumour. She was buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery, the first Canadian woman in WW1 whose final resting place was in France. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Holstein, ON

It would be easy to miss Holstein, let alone its war memorial. The village stretches for about 500 m on Grey County Rd 109 north of Southgate Rd 12. But the war memorial lists 114 names – those from the village and surrounding township who served overseas, 18 of whom died. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Edith Cavell School, Moncton, NB

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. Her name was memorialized in many ways. Continue reading