World War I

Are you doing your bit?

This song was dedicated to Minister of Militia and Defence Sam Hughes, and suggested that Canadian men ask themselves a pointed question: "Is the bit I'm doing just the biggest bit I can?"

View PDF: PDF icon Do your bit.pdf

Volunteer now - or face conscription

In this plea for volunteers, popular singer Will J. White issued a warning to the young men of Canada: "it's Voluntary Service Keeps Conscription from the door."

From bank clerk to soldier

Not long after writing this song, Toronto bank clerk Gordon Dagger enlisted in the 257th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

Tipperary Tommy

Inspired by the British song "It's a Long Way to Tipperary," this song had little Canadian content - except for the maple leaf on the cover.

March for a hero

This piece of music was composed and dedicated to Lieutenant G.E. Graven of the 22nd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.

View PDF: PDF icon MC March.pdf

Song for an infantry battalion

The 201st Battalion (Toronto Light Infantry) had its own tribute song, but music was not enough to encourage recruitment. The unit was disbanded in September 1916 when it failed to reach its authorized strength.

View PDF: PDF icon I'll Come Back.pdf

A cenotaph Christmas card

Saskatoon's war memorial might seem like a strange image to use on a Christmas card, but it represents the importance of the memory of the First World War to Canada in the 1930s.

Conscripts from Quebec

A conscripted soldier was not necessarily a reluctant soldier. The fact that these French-Canadian men were willing to have portrait photographs taken in uniform suggests that they were not reluctant to celebrate serving under the Maple Leaf.

Recognizing children's contributions

Certificates like these were given to schoolchildren as a way to recognize their contribution to the war effort, and to ensure that they felt included in the struggle.

Saving the situation at Ypres

Part historical account, part recruiting pamphlet, this folder described in glowing terms the Canadian defence of Ypres, to encourage other young men to follow in the footsteps of those who had already joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

View PDF: PDF icon Ypres folder.pdf

Views of Shorncliffe camp

A New Brunswick soldier sent this folder home to his family in 1916, to show them what his temporary home, a tented camp in southern England, looked like.

View PDF: PDF icon Shorncliffe.pdf

Battalion mascots

Winnie the Pooh was only the most famous of the black bears to be adopted by Canadian units as mascots during the First World War.

Boys in uniform

Regulations permitted the Canadian Expeditionary Force to enlist fourteen-year-old boys (and in some cases those even younger) to enlist as bandsmen, buglers, trumpeters, and drummers. They were not allowed to proceed to the front, but doubtless some wangled their way into fighting units.

War brides

During the First World War, as many as 35,000 Canadian soldiers married British women. Given the constraints of wartime, their weddings were often modest affairs.

Military bands

During the First World War, most units had brass or pipe bands, which played for the troops or gave concerts for the townspeople near their encampments. These are the bands of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Canadian Convalescent Depot, 23rd (Reserve) Battalion, 37th Battalion, 43rd Battalion, 83rd Battalion, 85th Battalion, 92nd Battalion, 131st Battalion, 161st Battalion, and other units that cannot be identified.

A family shows its pride

Leonard Brooks enlisted in the 34th Battalion in Galt, Ontario; after he was wounded in the Ypres Salient in June 1916, his family produced this postcard to show their pride.

A bout for the soldiers

A large crowd was on hand to watch two Canadian soldiers contest the boxing championship at Seaford, a military camp in southern England, in April 1919.

Make your own sailor's memorial

Distributed with an illustrated magazine, this memorial scroll could accommodate various sizes of photographs, and had a space where the sailor's name and rank could be recorded.

Tribute to a soldier

After George Yates was killed in action while serving on the Western Front with the 20th Battalion, his grieving family in Toronto produced this booklet as a tribute to his life.

View PDF: PDF icon Yates.pdf

A munitions worker's exemption

This certificate affirmed that New Brunswick munitions worker Alvery Babineau was exempt from conscription, at least until men with a lower medical category were called up.