Wholesome entertainments: The YMCA in the First World War

The First World War period in Canada, an across the British Empire, saw an unprecedented amount of activity by charitable organisations towards the war effort. Groups like the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), and the Red Cross raised millions of dollars for medical supplies and for the care of prisoners of […]

Fighting Words: Canadian War Poets

The First World War produced many war poets, particularly those writing in English; Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, and Edmund Blunden all come to mind. In the Canadian context, there is a clear favourite for most well known – John McCrae, the author of “In Flanders Fields”. However, there were other less well known or less […]

Hill 70: Our Forgotten Battle

August 15th marked the centenary of the Battle of Hill 70, the Canadian Corps’ next large engagement after their success at Vimy Ridge in April 1917, and their second victory of the year. It is also distinct in that it was the first Canadian battle planned exclusively by Arthur Currie, now the commander of the […]

“On Roads Muddy and Gray”: The Passchendaele Centenary

The quote in the title comes from a poem written by Alexander Sinclair, a Driver with the Canadian Field Artillery. Sinclair fought at Passchendaele with the Canadian Corps in November 1917, when the battle was winding down. But Passchendaele, a gigantic battle with hundreds of thousands of casualties, began much earlier than the official Canadian […]

“You are needed”: Americans in the Canadian Expeditionary Force

The summer of 2017 marks 100 years since the arrival of the first American troops in France. The American Expeditionary Force landed on 26 June 1917, with 14 000 soldiers, a force which eventually grew to about 2 million. However, before the United States joined the war, there were still thousands of Americans fighting in […]

Forgotten Casualties: Canada’s Spanish Influenza Epidemic

In the spring of 1918 Canada had been at war in Europe for almost four years, and the news from the front was not good. The German Army had broken through the British lines around Saint-Quentin and the British Army was in full retreat. There was little attention paid to the increased activity of a […]

“Fake News’’: A World War I Phenomenon

After the American election last fall, we all came into contact with a seemingly new trend; fake news. It felt like it was everywhere, the internet was full of contradictory headlines and newspapers struggled to keep up. An article presented as fact one hour was debunked the next, and we suddenly had to come to […]

But who are you? A quick course in Canadian patches from the First World War

One of the challenges of mobilising thousands of soldiers is telling them apart. Unlike the eye-catching uniforms of the 19th century, most armies during the First World War employed a uniform that matched more easily into the surrounding landscape. By the end of the war even the highland units were using a form khaki battledress […]