Canada and World War 1: Visual and Diverse Recommendations

November 8, 2021 | Bill V.

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In honour of Remembrance Day, I am sharing a diverse mix of more visual Canadian material on World War One (WW1).

Soldier in poppy field with caption: "If ye break faith we shall not sleep. Buy victory bonds."
Canadian WW1 poster. View on Digital Archive Ontario.


Visual Books

They Fought in Colour / La Guerre en couleur: A New Look at Canada's First World War Effort / Nouveau regard sur le Canada dans la Première Guerre mondiale

They Fought in Colour / La Guerre en couleur: A New Look at Canada's First World War Effort / Nouveau regard sur le Canada dans la Première Guerre mondiale

"Picture the First World War as if you were there: in living colour and immersive detail. Even for such a richly documented time, the era is usually obscured behind grainy black-and-white photography. They Fought in Colour is a photographic exploration of Canada's First World War experience, presented for the first time in full, vibrant colour, with essays by some of our country's leading public figures. Explore life on the front lines, the huge support network needed to maintain the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and events on the home front in Canada."

While not Canadian, you may also be interested in Peter Jackson's colorized film documentary about WW1,  They Shall Not Grow Old and also a five-volume book series by year The Great War Illustrated

An Illustrated History of Canada's Great War (1914-1918)

An Illustrated History of Canada's Great War (1914-1918)

"In Hell's Corner, one of Canada's master historians tells the story of how Canada became involved in World War I, how it fought the war and how it emerged from that conflict a stronger and more unified nation.   Using a wealth of first-person accounts and thoughtfully chosen illustrations, Hell's Corner depicts the struggles of Canadians on both the home front and the battlefield.  This account of Canada in the Great War is enhanced by much fresh material, in the form of 100 black-and-white and 35 colour photographs, gathered from the collections of the Canadian War Museum, many of which have never been published before."

Canada's Great War Album Our Memories of the First World War

Canada's Great War Album: Our Memories of the First World War

"Published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, Canada's Great War Album is an unprecedented and remarkable collection of Canadian photographs, memorabilia, and stories of the war. Two years ago, Canada's History Society invited Canadians to tell their family stories from the First World War. The response was overwhelming and assembled for the first time are their personal stories and photographs that together form a compelling and moving account of the war."

Flanders' Fields Canadian Voices from WW I

Flanders' Fields: Canadian Voices from WW I (Audiobook on CD)

"Flanders' Fields was originally broadcast as a 17-part radio series on CBC radio in December 1964. First hand accounts of the Canadian experience in World War I battles"



World War Women Canadian Women and Total War

World War Women: Canadian Women and Total War

"Experience the incredible determination, resilience and sacrifice of Canadian women during the First and Second World Wars. War brought enormous changes to Canadian women's lives. They adapted to the conditions of total war in practical terms, working, volunteering and serving in uniform."

See also:

Sister Soldiers of the Great War The Nurses of the Canadian Army Medical Corps

Sister Soldiers of the Great War: The Nurses of the Canadian Army Medical Corps

"Canada's first women soldiers--nursing sisters who enlisted as officers with the Canadian Army Medical Corps. The nursing sisters' had a mandate to salvage as many sick and wounded men as possible for return to the frontlines. Nothing prepared them for poor living conditions, the scale of casualties, or the type of wounds they encountered, but their letters and diaries reveal that they were determined to soldier on under all circumstances while still "living as well as possible."  See also, This Small Army of Women: Canadian Volunteer Nurses and the First World War



For King and Kanata Canadian Indians and the First World War

For King and Kanata: Canadian Indians and the First World War

"The first comprehensive history of the Aboriginal First World War experience on the battlefield and the home front. ... more than 4,000 status Indians who voluntarily served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force between 1914 and 1919--a per capita percentage equal to that of Euro-Canadians--and how subsequent administrative policies profoundly affected their experiences at home, on the battlefield, and as returning veterans."   

See also:

Sounding Thunder The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow

Sounding Thunder: The Stories of Francis Pegahmagabow

"Francis Pegahmagabow (1889-1952), an Ojibwe of the Caribou clan, was born in Shawanaga First Nation, Ontario. Enlisting at the onset of the First World War, he served overseas as a scout and sniper and became Canada's most decorated Indigenous soldier. After the war, Pegahmagabow settled in Wasauksing First Nation, Ontario, where he married and raised six children. He served his community as both Chief and Councillor." 

See also:


Black Canadians

The Black Battalion 1916-1920 Canada's Best Kept Military Secret

The Black Battalion 1916-1920: Canada's Best Kept Military Secret

"Black military heritage in Canada is still generally unknown and unwritten. Most Canadians have no idea that Blacks served, fought, and died on European battlefields, all in the name of freedom. The story of the overt racist treatment of Black volunteers is a shameful chapter in Canadian history... In this thirtieth-anniversary edition of Ruck's celebrated history of Nova Scotia's No. 2 Construction Battalion, known as the Black Battalion, the original text and over 60 photos."

See also:

John McCrae and In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields 100 Years Writing on War  Loss and Remembrance
In Flanders Fields: 100 Years: Writing on War, Loss and Remembrance

"In early 1915, the death of a young friend on the battlefields of Ypres inspired Canadian soldier, field surgeon and poet John McCrae to write In Flanders Fields.' Within months of the poem's December 1915 publication in the British magazine Punch, it became part of the collective consciousness in North America and Europe...In this anthology, Canada's finest historians, novelists and poets contemplate the evolving meaning of the poem." 

See also:


Children's Books

Learn what we remember on Remembrance Day and why, with these books for kids from preschool through middle school, recommended by our children's librarians.

Desperate Glory The Story of WWI

Desperate Glory: The Story of WWI

"This book presents the story and issues of the First World War in a clear, concise and objective manner, accompanied on every page by photographs, original sketches or maps. Focusing on social as well as political issues with a Canadian perspective, Wilson presents the issues of the war with depth and compassion. This book will be a very useful tool for educators in explaining the hows and whys of this most important period."

The Great War by Robert Livesey (children's book)

The Great War 

"The Great War (1914-1918) inspired courageous heroes and established a proud Canadian nationalism, but it was a devastating, horrific bloodbath that killed or maimed almost half of Canada's brave soldiers in deadly battles such as Ypres, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, and the final 100 days.... (young readers) will learn about life in the trenches, the first tanks, U-boats and convoys, aces and dog fights, machine guns and cavalry charges, gas warfare, as well as the drastic changes in women's roles. Hands on activities include creating a multicultural force, writing a coded message, targeting and observation, and much more."

From Vimy to Victory Canada's Fight to the Finish in World War I

From Vimy to Victory: Canada's Fight to the Finish in World War I

"From Vimy to Victory is presented in an engaging and accessible scrapbook style, with facts and details accompanied by first-person accounts, letters describing life at the Front, wartime diaries, and numerous images, maps, and diagrams that bring World War I to vivid life... Soldiers faced mud, trench foot, bombardments, barbed wire, snipers, and poison gas...The war cost Canada 60,661 of its finest citizens and thousands more who were wounded in body and mind." See also, Vimy Oaks A Journey to Peace.

Indigenous Peoples in the World Wars

Indigenous Peoples in the World Wars

"Discusses the role of Indigenous soldiers during World War I and World War II as well as how they were treated when they arrived back home to Canada."

A Poppy is to Remember

A Poppy is to Remember

"The text is simple and is combined with stunning paintings by award winning illustrator Ron Lightburn. The familiar poem, "In Flanders Fields," is included, along with information about the symbolism and history of the poppy and Remembrance Day - all geared towards helping parents and teachers explain the significance of past and present wars and Canada's peacekeeping missions."  See also In Flanders Fields: The Story of the Poem by John McCrae and Remembrance Day and the Poppy. 

Hold the Oxo A Teenage Soldier Writes Home

Hold the Oxo! A Teenage Soldier Writes Home

"They were the letters of a lad who left a small farming community for the city on July 15, 1915, a boy who volunteered to serve with the 79th Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders. Jim's letters home gloss over the horrors of war...(no) mention the mud and rats, the lice and stench of the trenches, or the night duty of cutting barbed wire in no man's land. For 95 years his letters remained in a shoebox decorated by his mother.  Jim was just 18 when he was wounded and died during the Battle of the Somme."


Related Blog Posts

You may also be interested in some other Toronto Public Library posts on WW1.

WW1 Silk postcard flowers with pocket and insert card
WW1 Silk embroidered postcard and insert card: "Dearest B, Love from far away. Bombardment now on which makes a terrible noise. Love Vernon X." Available at Toronto Reference Library's postcard collection.