46. 1914 – 1918 World War 1

The atrocity that was World War I lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Some 619,636 Canadian men and women, most of them volunteers, enlisted and 59,544 members died.

Most Canadian soldiers were between the ages of 18 and 45, as per regulations, but thousands who served lied about their birth date to enlist. The oldest recorded member of the CEF was 80, while the youngest was ten.

“Patriotic romanticism reinforced by official propaganda forged a reputation that the Canadians were an army of fearsome lumberjacks, voyageurs, or cowboys, but most had been pre-war labourers, white-collar workers, or farmers. The Canadians resented being mistaken for other imperials. They responded to “Canada,” “Canuck,” or just “Tommy” when addressed as such by Allied troops or civilians, and took overseas many of the songs, idioms, and attitudes that had marked their lives in Canada. While the Canadians wore similar uniforms and carried similar weapons as British troops, they sported unique unit cap badges and shoulder bars that read “CANADA.” *

An unidentified soldier leans against a tree, composing a letter. Many First World War letters from soldiers overseas were saved by friends and family at home.

George Metcalf Archival Collection
CWM 19920044-393

Nursing Sister Gertrude Ellinor Halpenny poses in her summer uniform in front of a medical tent. Halpenny enlisted with the Canadian Army Medical Corps on 22 September 1914, and served in Canada, England, France, and Salonkia with several hospitals. She was demobilized on 1 November 1919.

George Metcalf Archival Collection
CWM 19620016-005

A Canadian soldier tends to the informal grave of a comrade killed in action near Vimy Ridge, April 1917

George Metcalf Archival Collection
CWM 19920085-400

*information and photos from