Thursday, February 27, 2014
Marching Off to War
The hot and languid summer of 1914 was rudely interrupted by escalating hostilities an ocean and a world away from Canada. Once Britain declared war on Germany, it was only a matter of hours before Canada rallied to support her Mother Country. After all, Canadians were British subjects in those days.
“WAR” screamed the Toronto Star headline on August 5, and people cheered in the streets. With a mixture of excitement and patriotism, over 30,000 naïve young Canadians hurried to enlist in a conflict that everyone thought would be over by Christmas. They couldn’t have imagined the enormous sacrifices they would make.
Privilege and wealth didn’t help. In fact, officers were killed in proportionally larger numbers than their men. Some families lost all their sons. Many felt that the best and brightest were among those who lay in the endless rows of graves.
During the four years of conflict, 600,000 Canadians enlisted, 68,000 died and over 170,000 were wounded, some more than once. Canada's population at that time was less than 8 million. There is, of course, no record of the mental and emotional toll that "the war to end all wars" took on the participants and their families.