Great War 100 Reads

Commemorating the centenary of the First World War in books


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Income War Tax Act 1917

Happy 100th anniversary this week to the monument to the war that keeps growing and growing … and one that everyone loves to hate.

Canada’s Income War Tax Act came into force on 20 September 1917. Billed at the time as a temporary measure, it is alive and well 100 years later. Continue reading

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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Japanese Canadian War Memorial, Vancouver

The Japanese Canadian War Memorial stands in a quiet grove in Vancouver’s Stanley Park, “in lasting memory of the 190* who answered the call of duty for Canada and to the 54 who laid down their lives in defence of freedom in the Great War.” Visit in the spring, if you can, when the surrounding cherry trees are in bloom. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – A Moulder and Girls with a Rail, Canadian War Museum, Ottawa

It’s Labour Day in Canada and the US … a day to celebrate workers. In honour of Labour Day, here are two more of Frances Loring and Florence Wyle’s sculptures of war workers on the home front.

Wyle and Loring were commissioned by the War Memorial Funds Committee to do a series of sculptures of “girl war workers” as part of the project to document Canada’s participation in the war. After touring munitions plants, Wyle decided to include some male workers, too. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Prince Edward Old Boys Memorial Entrance, Fairgrounds, Picton, ON

It’s the season of agricultural fairs in my area. The Picton Fair in Prince Edward County is one of the oldest in Ontario, dating from 1836. Early in the 20th century, the Old Boys, prominent Toronto-area businessmen whose origins were in Prince Edward County, would return home for an annual reunion. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Hill 70 Monument, Loos-en-Gohelle, France

Between 15 and 25 August 1917, the divisions of the Canadian corps captured and held Hill 70, a defensive position near Lens that had been held by the German Army since October 1914. While the April 1917 offensive at Vimy Ridge was the first time the Canadians fought together, Hill 70 was the first time they did so under Canadian command. Lt-Gen Arthur Currie has just assumed command. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Lennox and Addington County Cenotaph, Napanee, ON

A cenotaph “erected to perpetuate the memory of those from the County of Lennox and Addington who fell in the Great War” stands in front of the courthouse portico at 97 Thomas St E at Adelphi. It was unveiled on 1 Jul 1920. Continue reading


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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Honour Roll of Veterans, Portland, Rideau Lakes Township, ON

A war memorial in Portland-on-the-Rideau overlooks Hwy 15 at Colborne Street, in front of Emmanuel Anglican Church. The Honour Roll lists WW1 and WW2 veterans from the community. A cross marks those killed in action – 7 of 53 men in WW1. Continue reading


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An Interview with Eric McGeer, author of Canada’s Dream Will Be of Them

Eric McGeer has studied epitaphs from WW1 graves in Canada’s Dream Will Be of Them,* and from WW2 in Words of Valediction and Remembrance. Eric joins me on Great War 100 Reads today to discuss his work.

What first interested you in the epitaphs on Commonwealth war graves?

Eric McGeer: About twenty years ago I made a long desired trip to the Canadian battlefields of both world wars in France and Flanders. It was one of the most profound and moving experiences of my life, and it stirred the wish to write something about what I had seen and learned. It was about this time that I read Jonathan Vance’s Death So Noble, a study of the myth and memory of the Great War that took shape in Canada during the 1920s and 1930s, which triggered my interest in the epitaphs as an overlooked source for the effect of both wars on the Canadian population. The value of an epitaphs book really hit me while I was walking through the Canadian war cemetery at Beny-sur-Mer (near the D-Day landing zones). There was one in ancient Greek, a quotation from the Iliad, which I recognized from my background in classics. It made me wonder who else would understand it, not just the words but the context of the quotation and the ennobling farewell it conveyed from a father who had served in the First World War to a son who was killed in the Second. The more I examined the epitaphs, the more I came to see how they were the most powerful and authentic responses to the tragedy of the wars from the people, mothers, wives, children, who used these farewells to express so many things — sorrow, consolation, gratitude, love and loss. What occurred to me was that the cemeteries and memorials attest to the courage of the battlefield, whereas the epitaphs record a different kind of courage, the kind it takes to accept and endure such devastating loss and to leave a lasting record of the moral fortitude with which two generations of Canadians faced the ordeal of the wars. 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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Monday Monuments and Memorials – Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital, Orillia, ON

Orillia, Ontario was one of the towns that chose a practical tribute for WW1. Concerned with the number of soldiers returning from the war with severe health problems, the publisher of the local newspaper suggested building a hospital. Doctors in town agreed to provide free medical care to war veterans. About one-third of the $100,000 cost was borne by the town and surrounding township, with the rest raised by the citizens. The Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital opened in 1922 (and the original hospital became a maternity wing). It still serves the community today. Continue reading