“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 […]

“The Dead Marshes”: The Post-War Landscape of France and Flanders

In the second book of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, “The Two Towers”, Frodo and Gollum pass through the Dead Marshes where, “The only green was the scum of livid weed on the dark greasy milky surfaces of the sullen waters. Dead grasses and rotting reeds loomed up in the mists like ragged shadows […]

The Raid: Fighting around Vimy Ridge, March 1917

We’re headed to Vimy in France this week for the centennial of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Before the centenary, I wanted to take an opportunity to write about an often-forgotten story of the fighting around Vimy before the Canadian Corps attack on 9 April – Major-General David Watson’s raid on 1 March, 1917. 

1918: Moreuil Wood

We’ve got something special today on the blog. The Corps Historian of the Canadian Armoured Corps, Michael McNorgan, has written an article shedding light on a battle that not enough Canadians know about – The Battle of Moreuil Wood, fought 99 years ago on 30 March 1918.  

"Through mud and blood": The Development of Tank Corps in WW I

The tank was one of the many modern weapons to come out of the First World War. “Landships”, as they were originally known, had existed in British speculative fiction for some time in the later portion of the 19th century; indeed, H.G. Wells had written about an armoured fighting vehicle shortly before the war. 

A Propaganda Victory: The Lusitania Medallion

The market for commemorative collectables was a large one during World War One, with many manufacturers and artists producing patriotic items for mass market sale. Among these were commemorative medallions for events during the war. The French produced a wide range of souvenirs marking their victory at Verdun, and post-war, most of the Allies manufactured medallions […]

Shooting in France: WW I and the Military Sniper

From our library today, a plate from a small photographic history of the 67th  “Western Scots” Battalion, 4th Divisional Pioneers. In sharp contrast to their compatriots, the members of the Scout and Sniper Section are not wearing their military best. In fact, most of them are dressed to “match-in”, including the individual in the back […]

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 […]

The Lost: Canadian Soldiers Missing in the First World War

There were few official telegram messages worse than “Killed in Action” during the First World War; however, one of those had to be “Missing in Action”. Roughly 5 000 soldiers of Canada’s total fatal casualties are listed as “presumed to have died”; many more were initially listed as KIA and even possibly buried, but their […]

Old becomes new again: Trench armour and weapons in WWI

The Great War is known as one of the first mass industrial conflicts, and set the tone for warfare in the twentieth century.  Traditional cavalry unites became obsolete and as the conflict settled into a static front in the west it became a war of matériel; one that focused on causing so much loss of […]