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 – Newfoundland and Merchant Navy Books of Remembrance, Peace Tower, Ottawa

But now, though the War has almost passed from living memory, these men and women are still remembered: For their lives meant more than the War in which they died, and their deaths more than can be known. (Merchant Navy Book of Remembrance, English dedication page)

The First World War Book of Remembrance takes centre stage in the Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill. But it is not the only book in the room in which one can find names of those who fell in WW1. 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 – 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 – 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 – 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.


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Alan Brookman Beddoe, Ottawa, ON

Each soldier tells a story.

LCdr Alan Beddoe served with the Canadian Expeditonary Force during WW1. He was captured in 1915 and spent two and a half years as a prisoner of war. After the war, he studied art in Paris and New York and became a commercial and heraldic artist. One of his post-war achievements honours Canadians killed in the war: he was instrumental in creating the first Books of Remembrance housed in the Peace Tower Memorial Chamber.

Beddoe is buried in Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa. You can read more about him in the cemetery’s Historical Portraits (click through from here).