Every November 11th we pause and remember the sacrifice of those who fought and died in defence of this country. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in-person Remembrance Day ceremonies have been cancelled and our usual routines of purchasing and wearing poppies, and pausing with family and co-workers in remembrance have been disrupted. This year, perhaps more than others, we feel a link to those who lived over a hundred years ago. In 1918, the Spanish Flu, incubated in the trenches of France and Flanders in the last months of the First World War, and then spread across the globe. It would go on to infect 500 million people and throw an already fatigued and war exhausted world into disarray.
Millions of men and women from thirty nations, including 650,000 Canadians, served in the First World War (1914-1918). Every experience was unique, from soldiers and officers in the trenches of France and Flanders, nurses and doctors in the hospitals and clearing stations, ambulance drivers, and war workers on the home front. Everyone was encouraged to "do their bit." Millions would never return, while countless others would come home physically and mentally scarred.
Since the war ended 102 years ago, there is almost no one living with firsthand knowledge of the First World War. This is reason to consider and reflect upon the individual and personal narratives that have survived. The lives of the everyday people who left their homes to answer the call of King and Country, are now preserved in letters, diaries, sketchbooks, photograph albums, scrapbooks and physical artifacts.
To commemorate Remembrance Day, the Fisher Rare Book Library has digitized and presented select items from our collections, which focus on the diverse experiences of the Great War. Many items were only recently acquired in the past ten years.
We welcome you to explore our collections, and to get to know the men and women whose stories the Fisher is honoured to preserve, from the comfort of your home.
This online exhibition was curated by Danielle Van Wagner, Special Collections Librarian at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.