Officially, it lasted from 1914 to 1918. Unofficially, the reverberations from the ‘war to end all wars’ are with us still. Readers, print and digital, reflect
Welcome to Flanders Fields, by Daniel G. Dancocks (1988) has a description of the response by some Canadians on the evening of Aug. 4, 1918, upon receipt of the news that “war has broken out with Germany.”
“The news had an electrifying effect on the people gathered that night on Yonge Street in Toronto, according to The Globe’s account: ‘For a minute the thousands stood silent. Then a cheer broke. It was not for the war, but for the King, Britain, and – please God – victory. … Toronto is British and its reception of the most sensational news in the history of the city was British. … Heads were bowed and the crowd began to sing God Save the King.’ ”
How would The Globe and Mail have written up such a scene on Aug. 4, 2014?
Richard Seymour, Brechin, Ont.
I found Sarah Hampson’s article about the First World War very moving in its passages about the importance of knowing something of generations past. The past, she says, “is like a vast ocean that we skim across, often unaware of its depth. … By dropping a line, we can retrieve the stories, the emotions, the artifacts that connect us to another time, making it real, powerful, instructive” (Back To The Future – Focus, Aug. 2).
My own grandfather, John Robert Bramble, didn’t die in the war, but records show he suffered from shell shock after being wounded twice in France. Several years after he had returned to his wife, my maternal grandmother, and his six young children in rural New Brunswick, he abandoned his family and died alone in poverty in Vancouver in 1954.
I wonder how many other families were devastated like mine was by the loss of the wage earner due to war-related post-traumatic stress disorder. My mother was sent to an orphanage, subsequently adopted, and never had the opportunity to know either her mother or father. These effects indeed reverberate down through the generations.
Beverly Harris, Courtenay, B.C.
Across the years, each November we have celebrated the end of the First World War in 1918 with touching ceremonies featuring an ever-decreasing number of veterans who survived the carnage. What on Earth are we doing celebrating its start (Harper Commemorates 100th Anniversary Of First World War – Aug. 4)?
Anthony Miller, Dartmouth, N.S.
In recounting the considerable achievements of storied regiments like the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, it is important for Canadians to recall the contributions of other less-well-known Canadian units of the Great War which did not stand the test of time (First In The Field For 100 Years – Aug. 4).
These included Canada’s two largely native units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the 107th “Timber Wolf” battalion of infantry pioneers and the 114th Battalion, “Brock’s Rangers.” Raised in Winnipeg, about one half of the 107th’s strength was composed of First Nations and Métis recruits from across the Prairies. Two of the four companies that made up the 114th were recruited from among band members of the Six Nations of the Grand River reserve near Brantford, Ont.
The 114th, raised and named as a centennial tribute to the Six Nations warriors of the War of 1812, bore a unique regimental flag, incorporating important Iroquois iconography and a cap badge distinguished by crossed tomahawks.
Shortly after its arrival in the U.K. and a quick fund-raising tour of the regimental band and colour party through England and Scotland, the 114th was disbanded, with most of its Six Nations troops transferred to the 107th Battalion for service at the front. Among many battle honours, the 107th was engaged in the heavy fighting for Hill 70 near Lens, France, in August, 1917, for which it received a letter of commendation from Canadian Corps commander General Sir Arthur Currie. The unique native character of the 107th was well enough understood and appreciated that regimental parades and other duties were often conducted in the First Nations languages of its Native troops.
John Moses, Delaware band, Six Nations of the Grand River
I, too, have heirlooms, including a diary (returned to the family) of a family member killed in France in May, 1915, and two medals awarded posthumously at the end of the war. On the back of one is inscribed: “The Great War For Civilisation 1914-19.”
Gordon Rogers, Toronto
The irony is that this is the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War – and what have we learned?
Michael Denesyk, Toronto
It strikes me as fortuitous that the pages of The Globe were filled with remembrance of the Great War at the same time as Derek Burney and Fen Osler Hampson were calling on Canada to up the ante by providing military assistance to Ukraine (It’s Time To Implement Sanctions With Bite – Aug. 4). For it provides an occasion to reflect on what Jean-Jacques Rousseau (in the gender-specific language of his day) said about war. In his Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, published in the mid-1700s, he noted that in war the most decent men learn to consider it one of their duties to murder their fellow men. Seven years later, in The Social Contract, he would note that war “is not a relation between men, but between states; in war individuals are enemies wholly by chance, not as men, not even as citizens, but only as soldiers.”
Christopher Adamson, Toronto
It’s time to stop this glorification of history.
Axel Brosi, Mississauga
ON REFLECTION Letters to the editor
Obama’s ‘targeted’ strikes
Re Obama Approves Air Strikes In Iraq To Avert ‘Potential Act Of Genocide’ (Aug. 8): Apparently Barack Obama does not understand the concept of irony. Ordering targeted attacks in Iraq to protect the citizens of a foreign country from rabid terrorists is deemed “the right thing to do,” while Israel’s targeted attacks to protect its own citizens from terrorists who have pledged to destroy them is deemed unacceptable.
I trust that the U.S. President has a surefire strategy to protect innocent civilians from his targeted attacks.
Brigitte Waisberg, Toronto
Records: why either/or?
Re Residential School Testimony Should Be Destroyed, Court Rules (Aug. 8): Why is this issue being framed as a conflict between preservation and confidentiality?
Archive the records and commit to their closure for a period of years acceptable to all parties. Result: historical records available for future generations and confidentiality for the witnesses guaranteed.
It’s all very simple if you understand how archives work.
Scott James, former city archivist, Toronto
A wild guess …
Re Scathing Audit Prompts Uproar In Council (Aug. 7): Susan Fennell, the mayor of Brampton, Ont., “inappropriately charged $172,608 to expense accounts and a city-issued credit card for hotel upgrades, flight passes and even IQ quizzes purchased on her cellphone.”
A wild guess: The IQ quiz scores were not stellar.
Bob McGorman, Ottawa
Proud Canadian moment
I’m fascinated. The brand new, hyped-up F-35 was unable to make it across the Atlantic for the International Air Show at Farnborough, England.
But a Second World War-era Canadian Avro Lancaster bomber just flew from Hamilton, Ont. – stopping in Goose Bay, Greenland and Iceland – and landed safely Friday at Coningsby in England.
Well done, Canada!
And how proud Roy Chadwick, her designer, would be!
Mike Cole-Hamilton, Kingston