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WWI: the soldier's story

Course Code
Mc Kim/ Penfold

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WWI: The Soldier’s Story – February 1
I. The War Begins
Archduke Ferdinand (Austro-Hungarian Empire)
As a result of Archduke’s assassination, Germany invaded Belgium, and Britain
declared war to protect Belgium. Canada automatically at war when Britain
declared war on Germany
Robert Borden: declared that Canada stood shoulder to shoulder with Britain in
this European war – patriotic outbringings.
Wilfrid Laurier: declared support for war:ready aye, ready.” A man who had
been reluctant in British military affairs, but here he signals his strong support for
entering European conflicts
Henri Bourassa
II. Signing Up
Not prepared in 1914
Permanent Force (3,000 in 1914). Initial recruits were mostly British born men
(not native Canadians). Enthusiasm among British born men
Recruitment establishment: institutions that mobilize and recruit people. It had
two interrelated levels: official government (use of propaganda), and local level
(organizing offices and militia units within local communities – in this sense
recruitment was a form of community mobilization)
Militia (60,000 in 1914)
Training consisted of a couple nights in armory, and supplemented in a summer
training camp
By the end of the war over 600,000 would serve in the Canadian expedition
III. Across the Pond
Canadian Corps
Arthur Currie : first Canadian commander in 1917
By 1916 number of voluntary recruitments begins to slow down – reaches limits
Nature of conflict: Not a minor brush fire war, rather a war in Europe where the
threat to Britain seemed clear and direct to Canadians
Reasons for fighting (enthusiasm): Nature of conflict is different, ideological (saw
war as a war for a higher purpose – seen in terms of good vs. evil, democracy vs.
tyranny, freedom vs. kaiserism (leader of German), naïve about the scale of war
(thought it would be over by Christmas – many rushed to sign up for fear that they
would not be able to experience battle), romance of war
Kaiserism: leader of germany. Worst form of dictatorship, brutality, etc. Dark
kind of enemy. Language of fighting kaiserism is an ideological resource for
fighting the war
IV. Mud, Boredom, Terror, Pride
Romance of ear and ideas that drove enthusiastic enlistment meet the reality of
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