<strong>Editorial: “A war to end all wars” began 100 years ago</strong>

Greg Bennett gbennett@thecoastguard.ca
Published on July 28, 2014

The guns are long silent.

They sit quietly at the Shelburne Cenotaph like many other memorials across Canada as stout remembrances of a conflict that engulfed the world 100 years ago.

On July 28, 1914 the First World War officially began.

As a dominion, Canada was automatically involved in the conflict when the Britain declared war seven days later.

Most believed it would be over in months and would be a noble and glorious battle. Many eagerly marched to the recruiting stations.

It would turn out to be one of the bloodiest wars in human experience and would introduce the horrors of trench warfare and poison gas attacks on a large scale.

By the time it was over more than four years later, 10 million soldiers and 7 million civilians would die. It would be called the Great War until the beginning of the next horrible world war a little more than 20 years later.

While the living memory of the conflict is fast fading, (the last First World War Canadian soldier died in 2010) the reasons for remembering the sacrifices made are as strong as they ever were.

Canada sent an expeditionary force that numbered more than 600,000. Over the course of the war almost 40 percent of those sent would be killed or wounded.

The war, many thousand miles away, affected every town and community and many of those who were lucky enough to make it home physically unscathed were changed forever by their experiences.

So as we approach the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the conflict we do so without grand ceremony. It is a quiet remembrance that we offer.

But to forget the sacrifices made on the battlefields, at home and on the sea from that terrible war would be foolhardy and wrong.

We believe it is fitting that a Canadian doctor composed the poem still read at many Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Written in the back of an ambulance after the Second Battle of Ypres in 1915, Lt. Col. John MaCrae captured a tragic scene.

We repeat it here as a reminder of the sacrifices made.


In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead:

Short days ago,

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved:

and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.