Today, we are traveling back home to Canada to look at the war effort in Canada. Primarily I will be focusing on the things regular citizens, with help from the government, did to aid the war effort and help soldiers overseas.
In 1914, as war fever gripped Canada, with tens of thousands of Canadian men signing up to fight in France, Sir Herbert Ames, a Montreal Member of Parliament, re-established the Canadian Patriotic Fund. This sort of fund had first been used during the Boer War to help soldiers’ families, who dealt with financial hardship with the head of the house away. Usually, husbands provided their families with a large portion of their pay, but most were privates and a private only earned $1.10 a day.
The Act to create the Canadian Patriotic Fund was passed by Parliament on Aug. 22, 1914, only two weeks after the country went to war. The Act would state that it was to, quote:
“Provide a fund for the assistance, in case of need, of the wives, children and dependent relatives of officers and men, residents of Canada, who, during the present war, may be on active service with the naval and military forces of the British Empire and Great Britain’s Allies.”
The government provided an additional $20 per month to wives of soldiers, but this was still not enough. With slogans such as “Do Your Bit”, Canadians came through, contributing $6 million in the first three months of the war. To the families, $25 was given per month, with an additional $3 to $7.50 per child depending on their age.
Of course, the program wasn’t perfect. The families who received funds had to state what the money would be spent on. The representatives of the Canadian Patriotic Fund also had the power to cut off anyone they felt undeserving. Wives who spent money on frivolous goods, or committed adultery, could see their payments end.
In 1917 alone, Canada was called upon to raise $13.5 million for the Canadian Patriotic Fund, or $240 million today. Provinces would raise this through the selling of subscriptions, and taxation. Quebec was asked to give more than their share because it was felt they did not contribute as many troops for the war effort. Communities would pledge to put money into the fund as well. One example was Chatham, Ontario, who pledged to provide $2,000 per month for a year towards the fund in 1916. In Bowmanville, Ontario, citizens contributed $18,000 towards the fund in 1915.
Beginning in 1915, the Canadian government was looking for ways to pay for the growing war effort, and from that would come the Victory Loan Program.
The first domestic war loan program began in November of 1915. Prior to this program, no bond issue in Canadian history had raised more than $5 million. The hope was that by the end of the first war loan program, $50 million would be raised. Instead, $100 million was raised. Cities saw huge responses to the war bond programs. Montreal was able to sell $309,000 in just one day on Feb. 23, 1916, while Vancouver decided to buy $56,000 in war bonds in November of 1915. Chilliwack did the same, purchasing $7,300 in bonds in September of 1916, and Saskatoon bought $100,000 worth of bonds in May of that same year.
Buying one $50 Victory Bond would buy one of the following, 1400 rifle cartridges, 100 hand grenades, 104 rifle grenades, 10 gas masks, 50 pairs of socks, 50 pairs of boots, 1000 rolls of adhesive tape, utensils for one company, pay the Canadian war bill for 4.25 seconds, or one day of feed 100 soldiers.
Buying one $500 Victory Bond would buy the following, 63 blankets, steel helmets for an entire company, three cases of surgical instruments, 100 gas masks or 1,000 pounds of TNT.
In the fourth campaign of the loan program, the term Victory Loan was first applied. The first official Victory Loan Program had an issue of $150 million, or $3.5 billion today. This program, offering 5.5 per cent interest on 10- and 20-year gold bonds, quickly became oversubscribed and it collected $398 million, which amounted to $50 from every single resident in Canada. To put that in perspective, that would be like every Canadian today giving $1,194, for a total of $9.5 billion.
Many cities quickly reached their required allotment for the program. In Calgary, the program achieved one-fifth of its allotment, $500,000, in only two days. This was done through all the businesses assisting in work and canvassers swarming the city to help in any way that they could.
The Second Victory Loan Program was floated in 1918, with a third coming in 1919. These two loan programs brought in $1.34 billion, or $19.5 billion today.
Newspapers attempted to swell up patriotic fervor for the program by reporting stories of people who helped the Victory Loan Program. The Vancouver Sun reported on several such cases in November of 1918, just prior to the end of the war. The first was an old man who had lost his son at the front lines. The man was receiving $50 a month but he had also received $1,000 insurance after his son was killed. He decided to put it all into the Victory Loan program. Another man in Vancouver was confined to his bed dealing with the Spanish Flu. He had his wife call up his friends every day to urge them to buy bonds. An elderly woman gave $50 that she had saved for her funeral and burial to the program, while another man who was sick with the Spanish Flu put $150 into the program. Another story stated 3,000 labourers in Vancouver raised money through their unions, contributing $87,100 to the program.
To advertise this new campaign, the bond program created artwork, held parades and had celebrity endorsements for the program. In 1918, one of the most famous movie stars in the world, Douglas Fairbanks, announced he was going to make a film to assist the Victory Loan Program in Canada. This was likely because of the influence of Mary Pickford, the Canadian actress who had achieved immense fame and had begun an affair with Fairbanks, that would lead to their marriage a few years down the road. Fairbanks had been asked by the Canadian government via telegram to make a film and he agreed almost immediately to the proposal. Pickford would appear in several Victory Loan films that benefited the programs in both Canada and the United States.
When a community bought a lot of bonds, they were given a Victory Loan Honour Flag as a thank you. The flag for the 1919 campaign was designed to include the heraldic arms of the Prince of Wales, future Edward the VIII. The prince would visit Canada in September 1919 and raised the flag at Parliament on Labour Day stating, quote:
“I hope every City and District will win my flag.”
The posters, now an iconic image from the First World War, were printed in huge numbers, with vivid colours and on poor quality paper to keep the cost down. Often, they would use images to ignite the patriotic fervor of Canadians. One such example was the sinking of the Llandovery Castle, an unarmed hospital ship that was torpedoed on June 27, 1918. A total of 234 people lost their lives, including 14 Canadian nurses. Images of a soldier holding a dead nurse in the water with the words “Victory Bonds will help stop this” helped push for more money. The government had established the War Poster Service in 1916, to create the posters which were printed in both English and French.
By the end of the program, $2 billion had been raised, 10 times the amount that had been raised abroad. While Canada had incurred more than $2 billion in debt during the First World War, it owed its money to Canadian citizens, not to foreign leaders.
The Victory Bond Program remains with us today, as the Canada Savings Bonds.
It wasn’t just money that was sent over. Knitting groups sprang up across the country. These groups created socks as evidence for soldiers in France that they were not forgotten. In 1914, a pamphlet was released called Grey Knitting and Other Poems, which emphasized that knitting was an act of devotion to soldiers.
The sending of socks was something that was very important for the war effort, in many ways as important as other items. The reason for this comes down to trench foot, which could result in gangrene if untreated. The only way to prevent this from happening, due to the cold and mud, was to frequently change socks. The knitting of socks at home ensured there were many socks for the soldiers, preventing trench foot.
Reverend E.E. Daley would write, quote:
“The knitting of socks today is a fine task. It has been said that each material thing has its celestial side. The man who said it was a sage and probably he knew…It is well for us to see that socks are not simply socks. Today they there is a sublimity in socks. Socks are soldiers. Socks are saviors. Socks are heroes and every pair helps to hasten the dawn of the hour of the sounding of the death knell of the world destroying militarism of the Huns.”
For groups knitting together, this allowed them to do it faster, while at the same time, keeping the knitter from feeling isolated. For those women who had loved ones overseas, it was a good distraction from the worry of what was happening overseas. Knitters also included notes in the socks to help boost the spirits of soldiers. One example of a note read quote:
“Into this sock I weave a prayer, that God keep you in His love and care.”
The soldiers who received the socks would often write back to say thank you. In May of 1918, Edward Noftall wrote a letter to a Miss Clarke of Twillingate, Newfoundland, which stated, quote:
“Dear Miss Clarke, just a note thanking you for the socks which were very nice, indeed and in such a place as France. I know the people in Twillingate must work hard working for the soldiers of Newfoundland. I don’t know if I know any of your friends out here, but I can tell you that all the boys that are here at present are feeling well.”
Sadly, Noftall would die soon after sending the letter, aged only 19.
Another soldier, Private W. Girey, would write, quote:
“A clean pair of socks is the best friend a fellow can have when he is in the trenches, standing in the wet.”
Captain Horace Pym would receive socks from a young girl in Transcona, Manitoba and he would write her back, stating quote:
“I shall wear your socks on the next march and send you another letter telling you how comfortable they were.”
Sometimes the soldiers would keep the notes and the address of the sender. Upon their return home, they would visit to say thank you in person. In some cases, romantic relationships would develop, and marriage would follow.
It is estimated that between 1914 and 1916 alone in Newfoundland, 62,685 pairs of socks, 8,984 mittens with a trigger finger and 22,422 mufflers were knitted.
To help motivate themselves, knitters would often create challenges. Margaret Deering of the Crowsnest Pass spent the war making socks for soldiers and set herself the goal of knitting one pair of socks in a day, which she achieved.
For any person who had a knitting machine, their home would be the centre of knitting circles, and they could often knit more than anyone else. Sue Fraser in the Kelliher Jasmin District was one such person, and she would also form the first chapter of the Red Cross in her area, more on the Red Cross later.
Entire communities would have sock drives, in an effort to get socks to soldier overseas. The Edmonton Journal would report on March 17, 1917, quote:
“Socks by the hundred and socks by the thousand are being called for. Six thousand pairs at least are urgently required. And then you could begin all over again. The need is unending.”
One of the best looks at how communities came together to help the war effort comes from Carstairs in Alberta. I’m going to go through what the community did as it mirrors what many other communities did to help fight the war from home.
The Canadian Patriotic Fund had a chapter set up in the community and store owners in the community pledged to donate five per cent from all grocery sales and 10 per cent from all other sales to the fund. The community would also host various social gatherings to aid the fund. One box social raised $208, or $4,500 today, while an auction of boxed lunches prepared by a Mrs. U. Brown raised $70 for the fund. The United Farmers Association held a concert and raised $215, and a group of girls created a Valentine’s Day dinner, raising $170 in the process. All of this allowed for the raising of $2,156 in 1917, amounting to $38,500 today.
A Mrs. Lucas would form a chapter of the Ladies Patriotic Society in Carstairs. The first fundraiser for the organization included an auction for a $30 rug with tickets costing 25 cents. This fundraiser allowed the group to order $100 worth of material to be sewn from the Red Cross. The group also sent $25 to the Belgium Relief Fund. A Mrs. King, a local teacher, collected $1.60 from her students to give to the organization to buy Christmas presents for the soldiers. In its first year, the chapter of the organization was able to purchase 84 packages of tobacco, six boxes of chocolates, five boxes of gum and one box of pipes to send to the soldiers.
A chapter of the Soldiers Aid Society in the community was able to sew 635 articles, 36 bottle covers, 40 nurse aprons, 22 personal property bags, 178 handkerchiefs, 72 towels, 32 many tailed bandages, six-day sheets, four pairs of pajamas, four bed jackets, 12 surgical caps, 32 surgical stockings and 168 triangle bandages in 1917 alone. They were also able to send 20 boxes containing food, coffee, tea and sweets for soldiers in France and England.
Stores would sell packages specifically for sending overseas to soldiers. MacFarlane’s in Calgary, for example, sold items such as soldier chocolate, soldier special soap, soldier tobacco and soldier lunch tablets, all for 25 cents each.
Often, packages were greatly appreciated, and soldiers would ask for specific items. One private would write, quote:
“We three also wish to convey our thanks to you for your kindness in remembering us…There is a scarcity of hospital slippers here. Some of our men here have leg wounds, consequently these slippers are much needed. The matron informs me that she has written the military authorities on the matter without reply. If you can use your influence in regard to supplying us with these slippers, we will appreciate it very much. Also, any Canadian newspapers will be found very useful.”
Of course, sometimes the sheer volume of gifts caused problems.
The packages that people sent overseas would land at the Salisbury Plain in England. By December 1914, the government was warning that there was often insufficient postage, and packages were overweight, causing delays in delivery. Packages could not exceed 11 pounds but so many were coming in, and so many were beyond that weight, that it was causing severe delays in getting the packages to the soldiers they were meant for. Of course, packages were appreciated but the level of packages being sent was often too much for the soldiers. Gifts were clogging shipping, with hundreds of thousands of tons being sent over during the war, filling ships and often sitting waiting for soldiers to receive them at depots. One officer in the army was quoted as saying quote:
“Tell the folks at home to stop burdening our tonnage with unnecessary articles, many of them foolish. Oftentimes they do not help the man receiving them, only add to his burdens, while they always make it more difficult to get article which are really needed.”
An example of this were thousands of cases of apples that were being sent over. That same officer would state quote:
“At this base there were more apples than we could eat and most of them spoiled. What is more important is that just as good apples, grown in France, could be bought here and our tonnage released for something more valuable.”
Even useful items, such as sweaters, could cause issues. The Saskatoon Daily Star reported that the indiscriminate reading of packages can result in one soldier getting a dozen sweaters while his neighbour has none. One soldier reported, quote:
“One man whom I know was given 75 sweaters to distribute. He implored everybody he met to take one.”
Children across the country also raised money or whatever else they could for the war effort. Youth would salvage coal or metal that could be recycled for the war effort. The government also put-up posters in towns and cities urging children to pool their pennies and buy war stamps that could be collected, and then later handed in for bonds that could be redeemed for money.
The Red Cross would also benefit heavily during the war. The Red Cross had been around in Canada for decades. During the 1885 North West Resistance, several individuals familiar with the Red Cross movement in Europe flew a flag that featured a homemade Red Cross, claiming neutrality so they could help treat people on the battlefield. A Red Cross Corps was raised by donations in Toronto and headed west. The Red Cross disappeared after 1885 but would reappear in 1896 when Dr. George Ryerson, one of the men to carry the flag in 1885, started a branch, the first, in Canada. The Red Cross would slowly grow at that point but upon the outbreak of the First World War, it would see its growth explode. The number of Red Cross branches with official charters, as well as the auxiliaries such as church groups and clubs, exploded. Financial donations quickly began to flood in as well, but it wasn’t just money arriving. At the Red Cross national headquarters in Toronto, they were soon overcome with everything from baseball uniforms to raincoats, from broken furniture to worn out phonograph records. This wasn’t Canadians just unloading junk because they could, they wanted the items to be used in the aid of the sick and wounded, in whatever way they could.
The initiative was mostly led by women who produced jam and other canned goods, which were sent to injured men overseas. Large sums of money were also donated for relief work by the Red Cross in Europe. Volunteers also packed food parcels for Prisoners of War, along with socks, scarves and sweaters. The Red Cross would provide standardized patterns to create socks, based on the size. A white stripe for small, a blue stripe for medium and a red stripe for large.
Just like the government, the Red Cross used posters to get their point across and bring in donations. Giving a Life was the slogan used on the posters as it was easy to understand and helped play off the huge battles in the war that were taking lives. The language used was less partisan than found on recruiting posters or war bond drive posters and it spoke to the humanity of the viewer on an emotional level. Some posters would feature an angelic, life-saving nurse in the foreground, imploring assistance for the fighting soldiers, with wounded soldiers often shown in the background.
There was worry among Canadians about how much of what they donated or made was going to the soldiers in Europe. Due to the fact that little was known of the Red Cross’ work overseas, there were rumours that the socks donated by Canadians were being sold by the Red Cross to soldiers. Another rumour said that the socks and other items just sat in a warehouse unused while the soldiers went without. Another rumour claimed that provincial and national Red Cross officials were being paid large salaries from the aid that was supposed to go to soldiers. In reality, the Canadian Red Cross did not sell socks, all hospitals had to do was ask for them and they would be sent. The officers of the society also paid their own expenses and provided services free of charge.
The Vancouver Daily World would report on Jan. 21, 1918, quote:
“Ever since the war broke out the Red Cross Society has been hampered in its work by whispered tales of money badly spent, of workers receiving salaries and of supplies misdirected or sold to soldiers at the front. Of course, the majority of people know that there is absolutely no truth to these foolish rumours.”
Investigations into fraud found there was no truth to any of the rumours. Col. R.H. Simpson of the Canadian General Hospital in France, would write to the Red Cross Commissioner, Col. Blaylock, and state quote:
“I am indeed surprised to hear that a report of this nature has been circulated, for I can say that it is absolutely unfounded as far as my experience goes. Perhaps some misunderstanding may have arisen from the fact that there are two or three societies that sell their goods…It is probably the boys, not knowing the constitution of these different societies, have wrongfully concluded that because they have to buy goods from these places, that the Canadian Red Cross Society was the same.”
Col. A.E. Ross of the Canadian Corps would reiterate this, stating quote:
“Nothing for sale, nothing can be bought by anybody.”
The Red Cross provided sock knitting machines and all wool was controlled by the Red Cross and rationed. Many of course knitted by hand but the Red Cross provided only 21 days for a hand knitter to complete the socks. If the knitter failed to complete the socks in that time, the yarn was sent back and given to another knitter.
All of the bond drives, sewing and quilting bees and Red Cross fundraisers could take a toll on the Canadians back home as well. H.B. Dawley of Courtney, British Columbia would say, quote:
“A person is called on two or three times every week to give some money to one of these funds and then they have all kinds of Red Cross entertainments or something of the kind.”
Eventually, the government started to send soldiers who had fought overseas to raise money directly from those who had refused previously. In Vancouver, Lt. A. G. Spencer led a team of Victory Loan canvassers who went door-to-door to sell the bonds. One man had turned down a canvasser on Nov. 2, 1918, so they came to him on Nov. 9. He then stated that he did not want bonds and he did not want to be annoyed by canvassers. The newspaper then reported that a merchant, who it made a point of stating had a foreign name, was approached by the soldiers and he stated he did not want to buy bonds today. When told money was needed for the war effort and without that effort, the Germans may take over Canada, he responded, quote:
“Let them come!”
The newspaper then stated the man would once again be visited, as would a conscientious objector who had objected to helping the war effort.
Lt. Col. Lennox Irving
Born in Pembroke, Ontario, Lennox Irving’s father was the local registrar for the County of Renfrew. Receiving his education at Queen’s University, he was noted for being an excellent athlete during his time at the university.
Irving captained the Queen’s University Football Club, and also served as a member of one of the first hockey teams in Ontario. He would score the first and only goal in the first hockey game between Queen’s University and the Royal Military College.
As a young man, he would give an address to honour Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who was visiting Pembroke.
In 1883, he served as a lieutenant with the 42nd Regiment and by 1901 had reached the rank of Lt. Col. One year previous, he had been called to the Ontario Bar. In 1908, he retired from the military and would receive a long service medal. He would also speak directly with the Minister of the Militia in 1898 and get the Lee- Enfield Rifle for the Pembroke Rifle Club to use and practice with.
That same year, Lennox sued a doctor for $10,000 after he broke his leg three years previous in a football game. The doctor attended his injuries, but Irving stated he never gained the full use of his limb, which he stated was now an inch shorter. The doctor refused to pay the bill to have it fixed, resulting in the lawsuit.
When the First World War broke out, he once again enlisted in the military. In 1916, he was appointed the provost marshal at Petawawa Camp. In 1917 was the second-in-command of the 240th Battalion in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He would also serve with the 38th Battalion of the Royal Ottawas in France.
During his time in the trenches, he would state, quote:
“Canadians have made an enviable name for themselves in their brilliant achievements many times in France and at Vimy Ridge, which battle is now famous in history and will be handed down in the annals of the Empire’s best.”
He would return home from the war, and lived in Victoria, British Columbia for the rest of his life. An independent Liberal throughout his life, he was always interested in politics.
He would pass away on Nov. 10, 1938.
Information from Canadian Encyclopedia, Canadian War Museum, Wikipedia, Coquitlam Heritage, The Canadian Red Cross, History Matters, Archival Moments, Joybilee Farm, Queen’s University, Crowsnest and its People, Reflections, Beyond Our Prairie Trails, Saskatoon Star Phoenix, Edmonton Journal, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald,