Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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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 – 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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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


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

Only a peace between equals can last. Only a peace the very principle of which is equality and a common participation in a common benefit.

The world can be at peace only if its life is stable, and there can be no stability where the will is in rebellion, where there is not tranquillity of spirit and a sense of justice, of freedom, and of right.
Woodrow Wilson, January 22, 1917

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 – The Ghosts of Vimy Ridge, Parliament Buildings, Ottawa

April 9 is a national day of remembrance in Canada marking the anniversary of the 1917 Battle of Vimy Ridge. The battle was the first time in WW1 when all four Canadian divisions fought as a united group. The victory is seen by many as a defining moment of Canadian national identity. The ridge is the site of Canada’s largest WW1 monument in France. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Parliament Hill, Ottawa, ON

The Peace Tower and the Centre Block on Parliament Hill in Ottawa have a prominent place on Great War 100 Reads. An iconic symbol of Canada, the seat of government is in fact a war memorial. The dedication is carved on the central pillar supporting the fan vaulting in the rotunda, just inside the main entrance of the Centre Block:

1867 July 1917:  On the fiftieth anniversary of the Confederation of British Colonies in North America as the Dominion of Canada, the Parliament and people dedicate this building in process of reconstruction after damage by fire as a memorial of the deeds of their Forefathers and of the valour of those Canadians who in the Great War fought for the liberties of Canada, of the Empire and of humanity.

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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 – Peace Tower, Parliament Hill, Ottawa

“Without freedom there can be no enduring peace, and without peace no enduring freedom.” George VI, Ottawa, 31 May 1939

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 – Nursing Sisters Memorial, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, ON

The Hall of Honour in the Centre Block on Parliament Hill runs from the Peace Tower to the Library of Parliament, forming a ceremonial dividing line between the House of Commons and the Senate. The Nursing Sisters Memorial, also called the Nurses of Canada Memorial, is the largest of only a few commemorative pieces in the space.

The memorial was unveiled in August 1926, in conjunction with the annual meeting of the Canadian Nurses Association. Margaret Macdonald, Matron-in-Chief of the Canadian Army Nursing Corps, unveiled the monument. The $35,000 cost was funded by nurses and nursing associations across Canada.

Political battles over the monument raged for several years. The powers-that-be first said no to locating a monument to nurses killed in WW1 on Parliament Hill. Then Prime Minister King relented. But the monument had to be “of an historical nature, commemorating the deeds of the pioneer nurses as well as those of the army sisters who sacrificed their lives in the Great War.”

As a result, George William Hill’s monument is centred by an allegorical figure of Humanity stretching her arms from the founding of Hôtel Dieu in Québec City in 1639 to WW1. The caption at the bottom of the monument marks the professional role of nurses, but also conflates the professional with the general caring nature of all women:

Erected by the nurses of Canada in remembrance of their sisters who gave their lives in the Great War, 1914-1918, and to perpetuate a noble tradition in the relations of the Old World and the New.

Led by the spirit of humanity across the seas woman by her tender ministrations to those in need has given to the world the example of an heroic service embracing three centuries of Canadian history.

This Thursday, 22 October, marks the first anniversary of the shooting rampage in Ottawa that killed Cpl Nathan Cirillo at the National War Memorial and continued in the Hall of Honour on Parliament Hill. The red arrow on the photo points to a chunk out of the marble, the gunfire’s collateral damage to the Nurses Memorial. In a way, it could be seen as a fitting mark of the role of nurses in war … seemingly behind the lines and away from the action, but never really out of harm’s way.

Veterans Affairs Canada lists the nursing sisters serving with Canadian units who were killed in WW1. Debbie Marshall brings these brave women alive at Finding the Forty-Seven: Canadian Nurses of the First World War.

It’s election day in Canada. Vote early, vote often! (Kidding only about often … get out there and vote.)


Update: This February 2016 photo shows the damage repaired on the Nursing Sisters Memorial.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Memorial Chamber, Peace Tower, Ottawa

July 1 is Canada Day. The Peace Tower is the backdrop for festivities on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. A real star is inside … the Memorial Chamber above the entrance. (The gothic window above the entrance arch marks the location of the chamber from the outside.) The chamber is only 24 feet square, and soars up 47 feet to a fan vaulted ceiling. The central Altar of Remembrance was featured in an earlier post. Today’s focus is on the elaborate stone carvings in two of the 17 niches around the room … scenes of war, badges and crests of various regiments, medals won by Canadians. So many that they were apparently not documented.

I prefer to visit the Memorial Chamber mid-week on a sunny winter day. Fewer visitors, serenity, more time to examine all the detail of the room. A virtual tour is the next best thing if you can’t visit in person.

July 1 also marks the 99th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Somme. The day is Memorial Day in Newfoundland and Labrador, marking the losses in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Commemorative ceremonies will take place on Wednesday morning at the Newfoundland National Memorial in St. John’s and at 8:30 am at the National War Memorial in Ottawa.