Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Lovelorn Soldier during the First World War

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. More than 600,000 Canadians would serve during the most terrible conflict the world had ever seen — that was almost 10% of our total population back then. Nearly 70,000 of them would die. And Canadians formed just a small percentage of the total deaths: there were more than 9 million people killed around the world. It was, of course, an incredibly important and deeply tragic event for Toronto along with the rest of the planet.

It's likely that over the course of 2014, we'll see a massive effort by the Conservative government to glorify the war, arguing that it's the moment Canada became a real country, much as they did with the War of 1812. I'm planning on writing more about that in the days ahead — I was lucky enough to have attended the National History Forum in 2012, which dealt with the question of how to remember the war — but for now I wanted to post one of my favourite WWI-related images before we descend down that dubiously patriotic rabbit hole.

This photo was taken in 1916. I found it thanks to the Toronto Archives. A note with the photo says, "Tip top lady for soldiers, picture of girl on step."


I've already written a few posts about Toronto and the First World War. You can learn about William Faulkner drunk in the cockpit of a biplane at U of T here. Or A.Y. Jackson and the Group of Seven on the Western Front here. Or the story behind the Torontonian who wrote "In Flanders Fields" here.

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