Selective Service and the May Court Club

Ottawa's May Court Club is the oldest women's volunteer organization in Canada, established in 1898. During the Second World War, one of the club's meeting was devoted to a talk on the efficient utilization of human resources, through Selective Service.

German atrocities in France and Belgium

The First World War was barely six months old when a French doctor embarked on a speaking tour in Canada to describe crimes committed against civilians by German soldiers advancing through France and Belgium.

"Gladden the hearts of our heroes"

Soldiers overseas treasured mail from home, a fact that this Toronto company hoped would help sell its products during the First World War.

Sports on the Western Front

The Canadian Corps sports day, held in France on 1 July 1918, was one of the most memorable events of the First World War, drawing dignitaries and journalists from across the Western Front. It combined the usual events, such as baseball and athletics, with novelties like the pole pillow fight and a clown competition.

Boxing in wartime Britain

Canada's entrants in the competition, three men from the Royal Canadian Artillery, did not have great success at the 1940 meet in Aldershot, but the event likely provided a welcome diversion from the rigours of training.

A Canadian March Song

This very early patriotic song began with a stirring reference to bugle calls "from Niagara Falls to the coast of Halifax."

View PDF: PDF icon Soldier Lad.pdf

Rallying around the flag

This song was dedicated to the Canadian overseas contingents, and was published at a time when no one knew exactly how many contingents Canada would eventually send to battle.

View PDF: PDF icon Best Old Flag.pdf

"Side by side with Britain we will go"

Another in a long line of patriotic songs that featured maternalism as a theme, Miller's piece was sung by some of the most popular vocalists of the First World War era.

"They come from the far dominions"

Imperial unity was the theme of this patriotic song, published near the beginning of the First World War. It also borrowed a line from the much more famous patriotic song "Rule Britannia."

"Our Canada the best of all"

Dedicated to the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, this song included a popular trick: the first letters of each line of the verses combined to spell "Briton" and "Canada."

View PDF: PDF icon Hats Off.pdf

Soldier songs

This sheet, probably distributed to soldiers through YMCA recreation huts in Britain and France, contained a mix of old favourites, parody songs, and wartime hits.

Sport and war

No. 5 Canadian General Hospital, organized in Victoria, British Columbia, in June 1915, spent over a year in Greece, providing medical services in support of the Salonika campaign. In May 1916, officers organized a sports day to give doctors, nursing sisters, and staff a respite from their duties.

Army, Navy and Air Force

This lettercard, published early in the Second World War, gave users a thumbnail sketch of the three services and described Canada's Battle Flag, shown in the background.

Birthday in the clink

Second World War cartoons poked fun at serious subjects, such as military discipline, equipment problems, and the rules and regulations that governed military life.

Sing along with ex-soldiers

When veterans of the First World War got together, they almost always returned to the songs they had sung while in uniform: "We are Fred Karno's Army," "Far, far from Ypres," "There's a Little Wet Home in the Trench," "Madame, Your Beer's No Bon," and probably others whose lyrics could not be repeated in polite company.

Honouring veterans in Toronto

This concert, which featured something called a Biscuit Tin Solo by Sergeant A.E. Blake, was one of the first events organized in Toronto by the Great War Veterans' Association.

"We are jolly glad to go"

Lorne Mulloy lost his sight in the Boer War, and became famous in Canada as The Blind Trooper. During the First World War, his wife Jean achieved a level of celebrity as a composer of patriotic songs.

View PDF: PDF icon Johnnie Canuck.pdf

Mother Britain and her children

This song offered a version of the Mother Britain theme, envisioning Great Britain as an elderly dowager with "many sons and daughters / Scattered far across the waters" who would come to her aid in time of war.

View PDF: PDF icon Dear Old Lady.pdf

"The Canuck maid who is ne'er afraid"

This privately-published song envisioned the women of Canada in the firing line with their men, because they can "carry a gun good as any mother's son."

Anthems of the Allies

Very early in the First World War, a Canadian publisher released this collection of national anthems of the Allied nations, Great Britain and the Dominions, Belgium, France, Japan, Russia, and Serbia. It included both "O Canada" and "The Maple Leaf Forever."

View PDF: PDF icon National Songs.pdf