World War I

Ode to the Grilse

Originally a civilian yacht, HMCS Grilse was purchased by the Royal Canadian Navy and commissioned as a torpedo boat during the First World War. She was easily the fastest ship in the navy.

Don't be neutral!

Did Canadians really enlist in the First World War to help Belgium? The Hamilton Recruiting League obviously thought so, and used Belgium as the subject of one of its recruiting cards.

Safe at home

This adaption of the popular song "Home, Sweet Home" was probably performed for soldiers returning to Canada in 1918 and 1919 through Quebec City.

The YMCA and ex-soldiers

This card, giving to a Canadian soldier returning home after the First World War, gave him a six-month membership at any YMCA in Canada.

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.

Patriotic notebooks

Schoolboy Clarence Geddes used these notebooks for History and Geometry classes. They probably date from early in the First World War.

A school play from 1917

Drill was very popular in Canadian schools before the First World War and became even more popular after 1914, when it was used as a vehicle for patriotic instruction.

View PDF: Rule Britannia.pdf

One last Victory Loan

The First World War was over, but this 1919 window decal offered a reminder that there were still bills to be paid - and a Victory Loan to support.

"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.

"Yours in Christian service"

Religion was extremely important in First World War Canada, and most families would have been delighted to receive a letter like this, indicating that Gunner Percy D. Wilson of Toronto had attended a church service convened by the YMCA and wanted "to become a more loyal follower of Christ."

Reduce, reuse, recycle

The Red Cross Conservation Department was responsible for saving waste material - everything from fat and bones to scrap metal - to be turned into weapons. Collecting such things was a popular activity for schoolchildren.

"Assigned Pay will be discontinued"

One of the few drawbacks of returning to Canada after the First World War was the end of the separation allowance and assigned pay that had been remitted to one's next of kin.

Funds for Belgian relief

Typical of fund-raising concerts held during the First World War, this one promised "patriotic songs and instrumental music" by local performers.

Collecting cards from cocoa

Children who collected these cards could trade them, or use them to learn semaphore or as a bookmark.

Veterans of the 18th Battalion

On the back of this card were listed to most important events in the battalion's history - including the first issue of rum to the soldiers.

Poppy seeds for remembrance

John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" was among the most widely reproduced Canadian poems of the twentieth century. A lack of copyright protection meant that it could be freely used for almost any purpose, as in this sheet that accompanied a packet of poppy seeds.

Raising funds for Sunday School

The Sunday School Fund of the Methodist Church in Canada relied on the annual Rally Day service as its only source of funds. The program for 1916 referred to the difficulty of raising money for traditional causes when there was so much pressure to donate to the war effort.

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.

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: 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: Best Old Flag.pdf

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