Bullets, Boredom, and Baseball

Duke of Connaught talking to baseball team.

The Great War was to be quick, exciting, and mobile. As such, high command saw little need to provide extra-curricular activities for its soldiers. In the early years of the war, these activities were largely organised at the grass-roots level, propelled forward by popular enthusiasm and private initiative. The game that Canadian soldiers overwhelmingly chose […]

A 'White Man's War' No More: Black Volunteers in the CEF

At the outbreak of the Great War, Canadians from Nova Scotia to British Columbia flooded to the recruiting offices as a patriotic fervour swept across the nation. A large number of Black volunteers, however, were turned away from what they were told was a “white man’s war.” [1] As we enter February and make an […]

Beyond the Poet: John McCrae and the Canadian Army Medical Corps

This Sunday, January 28th, will mark the centenary of the death of the well-known Canadian poet- John McCrae. Author of the poem In Flanders Fields, McCrae’s memory is immortalized in the words he wrote during the Second Battle of Ypres. The Canadian soldier, however, was more than just a poet. When the war broke out […]

Bicycles in combat: Cyclists during the First World War

The First World War is often remembered for its static nature and trench warfare. In its opening stages, however, the opposing armies looked towards mobility. Reasonably lightweight, easy to maintain, and relatively quiet, the bicycle earned itself a valuable role during the First World War. 

The Drill Rifle: Training Recruits in the CEF

When the war broke out in August 1914, Canada only held 16,796 rifles on hand. [1] As Canadians rushed to recruiting stations in staggering numbers to enlist, the Department of Militia and Defence was confronted with the overwhelming challenge of training new recruits without a sufficient amount of rifles. In response, CEF units in Canada […]

“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 […]

“Pro patria mori”: The McGill University Companies

I recently attended a lecture by historian Tim Cook on the legacy of Vimy, held at McGill. One thing that Dr. Cook mentioned was how closely entwined McGill’s history is with that the First World War, and how many buildings, plaques, and windows can be found around the campus that make reference to those from […]

Dressing the part: The CEF officer in World War I

Like the Victorian armies in Britain in the 19th century, officers of the British and Imperial armies, including the Canadian Expeditionary Force, were expected to be able to fund their own lifestyle. Until the First World War, most officers came from the upper middle class and were already well connected within the army, usually receiving […]