Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Harold Heber Owen, Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver

Harold Heber Owen memorial window, Christ Church, Vancouver

Every soldier tells a story. Harold Heber Owen was born in Toronto on 2 July 1893, the only son of Rev Cecil Owen and Alice Grundy Owen. They had four daughters, Winnifred, Margaret, Alice and Beatrice. The Rev Owen moved the family to Vancouver when he became rector of Christ Church. Harold attended Vancouver College and then Wycliffe College at the University of Toronto. He studied medicine and was preparing to be a medical missionary.

At the outset of WW1, father and son enlisted. Rev Owen was chaplain to the British Columbia regiment of the CEF. Harold served in Flanders first with the 7th Battalion, then the 3rd Staff Ambulance, then again with the 7th Battalion as a lieutenant. He survived the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915. A few days later he wrote to his mother: “I have lost nearly every personal friend within the contingent.” He was killed around midnight on 30/31 January 1916 at age 22.

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Cenotaph, Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery, Chelsea QC

The Chelsea Pioneer Cemetery is at 587 Route 105, about 900 metres north of Chemin Old Chelsea in the Municipality of Chelsea. Starting as a family burial ground in the 1830s, it fell into disuse in the 1920s. The Gatineau Valley Historical Society (then the Historical Society of the Gatineau) purchased the land in 1965. The Society dedicated a cenotaph in the cemetery in 1968. In 2010, brass plaques were installed in English and French to commemorate residents who were killed in the South African War, WW1 and WW2. Ownership of the heritage cemetery was transferred to the municipality in 2019. 

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Dancy Cant and Helena MacLaughlin, Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa ON

This October, in honour of Women’s History Month, I am visiting the graves of WW1 nursing sisters buried in the National Captial Region.

Sisters Dancy Florence and Helena Augustine MacLaughlin were born in Ottawa, daughters of Thomas MacLaughlin and Augustine Desrochers MacLaughlin. The sisters are both buried in the military section of Beechwood Cemetery in Ottawa.

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An Interview with Great War 100 Reads

As the centenary of the Armistice approached last November, friend and Great War 100 Reads follower Vicki Schmolka turned the tables on me: “I have really enjoyed your posts, especially learning more about the role of women in the war and the interviews with authors. Made me think that it might be interesting for your loyal readers for you to answer a few questions.”

An excellent idea. To mark the fifth anniversary of Great War 100 Reads, here is our interview. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – War Memorial, Deseronto, ON

The small Ontario town of Deseronto lies on the Bay of Quinte at the mouth of the Napanee River. Its war memorial is at 332 Main St, on the south side, just west of Centre St. The WW1 plaque on a granite stone was dedicated on Labour Day, 3 September 1923, “In gratefulness for the men who gave their lives for their country during the Great War.” Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Conscription Riots, Spring 1918, Quebec City

Québec, Printemps 1918 marks the place of one of the demonstrations in Quebec City protesting the Canadian government’s 1917 decision to conscript men into the army. The creation of sculptor Aline Martineau, it was unveiled on 4 September 1998 at the intersection of Saint-Vallier, Saint-Joseph and Bagot in Quebec City. Continue reading


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 – Cambrai Monument to the Missing, Louverval, France

On 20 November 1917, the British Army launched an attack toward Cambrai, an important German supply point, using about 400 tanks to great success … initially. Then the German army regrouped. By the end of the battle on 3 December, they had reclaimed almost all of the territory. The back-and-forth took a high toll, with over 40,000 casualties on each side.   Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Calgary Soldiers’ Memorial, Calgary, AB

The Calgary Soldiers’ Memorial stands in the park that runs between Memorial Drive and the Bow River, east of Poppy Plaza between 10 St NW and 14 St NW. It forms part of the Landscape of Memory park project along Memorial Drive. Continue reading

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My Little Wet Home in the Trench

Yup, it’s three years into the WW1 centenary and three years since the start of Great War 100 Reads. In 244 posts, I have documented 68 books read, over 150 monuments each Monday, and more interviews and musings.

My focus for much of this year has been eyewitness accounts of the war – a range of voices from the front lines, the home front and points in between. Male and female authors, they wrote about universal aspects of the soldiers’ experience, the readiness to serve where needed, and the price of acceptance and of dissent.

The books analysing the war from the rear view window show how perspectives can change over time. Continue reading