All Quiet Below the Western Front

soldiers working in a mine

In the early hours of July 7th, during a relatively quiet period for the Canadian Expeditionary Force in 1915, gunner Richard Walter Rayner moved to reoccupy his section of trench along the Ploegsteert sector of the Western Front. Temporarily assigned to aid a Signal company, Rayner worked to establish and maintain lines of communication with […]

Private Harry W Brown, Canada’s own 1917 Hero

Private Harry W Brown

The war film, 1917, has received rave reviews from critics and audiences for its honest but unique portrayal of World War I. The film centers around two young British soldiers who are tasked with a daunting mission: run across No Man’s Land, dodge heavy fire and evade booby-trapped trenches to hand-deliver a message that will save […]

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 […]