Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Armistice Day, 1918 … Remembrance Day, 2018

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month, when the guns of the Great War at last fell silent, the fury of conflict was replaced by a deafening silence. In that fragile gap between the sounds of dying and the cries of relief, we were faced with all we had done, all we had lost, all we had sacrificed.

In that silence, we met a truth so obvious and so terrifying we swore we would never take up arms again.

“One owes respect to the living,” said Voltaire. “To the dead, one owes only the truth.”

We vowed never to forget.

Governor General David Johnston, 11 November 2014

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – National War Memorial: The Response, Ottawa

Surmounting the arch, through which the armed forces of the nation are passing forward, are the figures of peace and freedom. To win peace and secure freedom, Canada’s sons and daughters enrolled for service during the Great War. For the cause of peace and freedom 60,000 Canadians gave their lives, and a still larger number suffered impairment of body or mind. This sacrifice the National Memorial holds in remembrance for our own and succeeding generations.

This memorial, however, does more than commemorate a great event in the past. It has a message for all generations and for all countries— the message which called for Canada’s response. Not by chance both the crowning figures of peace and freedom appear side by side. Peace and freedom cannot long be separated. It is well that we have in one of the world’s capitals, a visible reminder of so great a truth. Without freedom there can be no enduring peace, and without peace no enduring freedom.

George VI, dedication of the National War Memorial, 21 May 1939 Continue reading


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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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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Canadian Bank of Commerce plaques, Ottawa and Montreal

In addition to the monument at its head office in Toronto, the Canadian Bank of Commerce honoured employees from each branch who served in WW1. I’ve come across some of the branch plaques in Ottawa and Montreal, in what is now the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Window, St Bartholomew’s Church, Ottawa

St. Bartholomew’s Anglican Church, on MacKay St overlooking the grounds of Rideau Hall, has long enjoyed an association with its Rideau Hall neighbour, Canada’s Governor General. The most splendid manifestation of vice-regal patronage is the east window, donated by HRH Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught (the third son of Queen Victoria and then Governor General of Canada) in memory of members of his personal staff killed in WW1.

The window was designed and executed by Irish artist, Wilhelmina Geddes – her only work in North America and now widely considered to be her masterpiece. It was unveiled by Edward, Prince of Wales on 9 November 1919. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Edric Hurdman Read memorial window, allsaints, Ottawa

Each soldier tells a story.

All Saints Anglican Church, on Chapel St at the corner of Laurier Ave E, was once the place of worship for many of Ottawa’s elite. Prime Minister Borden was a parishioner – his state funeral was there in 1937. The church was recently deconsecrated and converted into a unique event venue. The stained glass windows and other WW1 memorials remain in the former sanctuary.

One window is dedicated “in ever loving memory of our son, Flight Lieut Edric H Read, 16th Squadron RFC, killed in action December 26, 1917, aged 20 years.” Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – General Sir Arthur Currie, GCMG, KCB, VD, Ottawa

A statue of Arthur Currie stands prominently amongst the Valiants, 14 figures from Canadian military history, near the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The commemorative plaque describes him:

A courageous and innovative officer, he helped plan the great victory at Vimy Ridge. Then, as the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Corps, his brilliant leadership produced the sweeping Canadian victories of the war’s Last Hundred Days. Continue reading


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

The lessons which the people of England have to learn are patience, self-sacrifice, and confidence in our ability to win in the long run. The aim for which the war is being waged is the destruction of German militarism. Three years of war and the loss of one-tenth of the manhood of the nation is not too great a price to pay in so great a cause.

Sir Douglas Haig, May 1916

I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth though the years to come than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.

George V at Tyne Cot Cemetery, May 1922

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 – National War Memorial, LEGO version

Canada’s national war memorial in Ottawa depicts the country’s response to WW1: 22 bronze figures –representing infantry, cavalry, artillery, pilots, mechanics, sailors, sappers, foresters, nurses, stretcher-bearers and others – pass through an archway topped with allegorical figures of peace and freedom. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Widow and Recording Angel, Peace Tower, Ottawa

Enter the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower in Ottawa, turn around and look up to see two sculptures by Frances Loring. In the gable tympanum is the Recording Angel, inscribing the names of the fallen in the Book of Remembrance. On the finial above is the War Widow and Children, also called Motherhood. Continue reading