Jack Ford was a Canadian photographer during the Second World War for RCAF Squadron 414. While advancing across Western Europe, he took thousands of photographs, including Winston Churchill (with his proverbial cigar), King George VI, Nazi planes, and prisoners of war. He also captured glimmers of humanity: in one photo, a Canadian soldier dressed as Santa Claus helps a child drink from a teacup.
Mrs. Jones, of Littletown, Canada, thought her heart would stop when she answered the door and saw the telegram delivery boy. It was 1943 and Mrs. Jones’s son, Robert, was stationed overseas somewhere. She took the yellow envelope with a shaking hand. Fearing the worst, she blinked back tears and read: “Getting married. Need 60 pounds. Letter follows.” Mrs. Jones sank into a heap on the floor.
Music was an important feature on the battlefields and the home front during the First World War. Governments, composers and publishers embraced the war as a musical motif to inspire fervor, pride, and patriotism in the hearts of soldiers and citizens. Music was also used to comfort, thank, and express a range of complex emotions unrelated to propaganda. As a result, we’re left with a library of songs from which to understand the war. Many are optimistic rallying cries; some are full of longing for a sweetheart; others like “Don’t Take My Darling Boy Away” quietly protest the injustice of war. Here, we present a sample of songs from the First World War.
The Great War was the infantryman’s war, and rarely has so much been asked of such men and been done so well. They earned the battle cry “Vimy Ridge!”
When he volunteered at age 41 for service in the First World War, John McCrae wrote to a friend that “I am really rather afraid, but more afraid to stay at home with my conscience.” In April 1915, McCrae and a young friend, Alexis Helmer, joined the 18 000 soldiers of the First Canadian Division in their positions near Ypres, Belgium. The Battle of Ypres commenced on 22 April and lasted for six hellish weeks. It was during this battle that the Germans launched the first gas attacks of the war.