Love and War
On June 28, 1914, a university student assassinated the heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, setting off a chain of events that culminated in the outbreak of the First World War five weeks later. Britain was among the leading belligerents and Canada, as one of her colonies, was automatically at war as well. But she was not a reluctant partner. Driven above all by a burning Anglo-British patriotism, Canada responded willingly and enthusiastically to Britain’s call for help. Between 1914 and 1918, over 600,000 Canadians served overseas with the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Many more did their duty at home, replacing enlisted men in the work force, producing war materiel, buying war bonds, conserving scarce materials, and raising money and supplies for the troops. It was a total war effort and, for a nation of only eight million, an impressive one.
More important, Canada’s participation had serious repercussions. This was especially true for the thousands of Canadians killed and maimed, but it was no less true for Canada itself. Among other things, the war exacerbated the country’s already wide ethnic, class, and regional divisions, extended the reach of government, abrogated civil liberties, produced new rights for Canadian women, solidified Canada’s sense of nationhood, and advanced its status as an independent country. These were significant changes, and historians have documented them well. Less apparent, however, are the war’s romantic effects.1