World War I

Canada as a German colony

In this fascinating address, Clarance Warner sketched a picture of Canada's future if the British Empire lost the First World War and Canada became a German colony.

The coming of war

Although the war was only a few months old, Canadians already had access to a selection of diplomatic communiques and government papers relating to the declaration of war and Canada's contribution to the imperial war effort.

Laurier and voluntary enlistment

During the bitterly fought 1917 election campaign, the Union Government released this correspondence between Liberal leader Sir Wilfrid Laurier and the Canadian Club in Hamilton, Ontario, to cast doubt on Laurier's commitment to the war effort.

View PDF: PDF icon Two Letters.pdf

The 1917 election

Journalist and Liberal Party organizer W.T.R. Preston was a bitter critic on the Conservative government and its running of the war, best known for writing the editorial that led to Sir Arthur Currie suing a Port Hope, Ontario, newspaper for libel. In this speech, he launched a blistering attack on the government for meddling in the 1917 election.

Reunion dinner of cavalrymen

Among the attendees at this 1947 cavalry reunion was Eric Flowerdew, whose brother Gordon had won the Victoria Cross for leading the charge by a squadron of Lord Strathcona's Horse at Moreuil Wood in March 1918.

View PDF: PDF icon CCBVA Reunion.pdf

Reunion of "The Old Iron Second"

The 2nd Battalion drew its personnel primarily from eastern Ontario, and fought in every major Canadian battle of the First World War. By the end of the war, over 5200 officers and men had served in the unit; 1353 were killed in action or died of wounds.

View PDF: PDF icon 2nd Bn Reunion.pdf

"We will drive the foeman back"

Joseph Lawson was a Toronto insurance broker who was attested into the 204th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, to act as a recruiter. He often appeared at recruiting rallies with John Slatter, bandmaster of the 48th Highlanders.

For old and new veterans

His Majesty's Army and Navy Veterans was established in 1887, and made a concerted effort to draw members from the hundreds of thousands of First World War veterans in Canada. Its primary aim was "the protection, uplifting, comfort and welfare of every man who has taken up arms in defence of his country."

"Are you coming back clean in Body?"

This YMCA pamphlet offered Canadian soldiers a lesson, albeit a belated one, on the dangers of prostitutes and sexually-transmitted diseases, and offered a warning to soldiers who might be returning to Canada "bearing the dishonorable marks of Venereal Disease."

View PDF: PDF icon Coming Back.pdf

A special dinner for signallers

The Toronto-raised 134th Battalion sailed to England in the early spring of 1916, and was eventually broken up to provide reinforcements for other units in the field.

The Nova Scotia Highlanders in reserve

In June 1918, the 85th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, held a gala dinner and musical evening while the unit was out of the front lines. The unit would spend most of the rest of the war in action.

Sailing to war

This booklet, printed on board the ship, would not have been out of place on any peacetime sailing. However, the men and women of the 86th Machine Gun Battalion, the 224th Forestry Battalion, No. 8 Stationary Hospital, and the 4th Division Ammunition Sub-Park were going to war, not on vacation.

View PDF: PDF icon White Star.pdf

The fallen of Ypres

This memorial service was held to honour the men of the 1st Brigade who were killed in Canada's first major battle of the Great War. In the coming years, the number of casualties would make it impossible to hold such formal services after every battle.

View PDF: PDF icon Ypres service.pdf

Entertaining the troops

The most famous of Canada's First World War concert parties, the Dumbells were a favourite with military audiences during the war, and civilian audiences after. Their 1918 show featured a sketch called Vimyology, which looked back on the war from the year 2017. Its patron was Major-General Louis Lipsett, who would be killed in action in October 1918.

View PDF: PDF icon Dumbells 1918.pdf

Easter on the Western Front

Canadian chaplains serving in France distributed these cards to their troops at Easter in 1915 - some of them would spend the next five Easters away from their families.

Christmas dinner at the front

To mark Christmas 1916, the officers of a unit of the Canadian Army Service Corps held a formal dinner near the front. The menu card, which all in attendance signed, imagines the commanding officer rising through the ranks to become a field marshal in 1940, and then returning to civilian life in 1960.

A hospital dance

The Canadian hospital at Granville, which provided orthopedic treatment to the wounded, remained in operation until September 1919, long after most Canadian soldiers had returned home.

A souvenir of the Great War

This souvenir scroll, produced in 1919, featured portraits of the three commanders of the Canadian Corps and a short summary of the important campaigns of the war.

From memorial to playground

Captured German artillery pieces were sent to Canada as war trophies after the First World War. Intended to act as monuments, they often became playthings for children.

Fund-raising tag days

During the First World War, paper tags were sold to raise money for various causes; in wearing them, donors could publicly demonstrate their support of the war effort.

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