Linda, Queen's Square | August 10, 2014
Sparked by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in June 1914, and following a complicated series of events, Britain and its Empire declared war on Germany in August. Canadians and Newfoundlanders enlisted quickly.
The biggest immediate local effect of the war was the building of the Galt Armoury, on the site of the Dumfries grist mill. The Armoury became a major recruiting site and the base of the newly formed Battalion 111 of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, known also as “Galt’s Own.” Women formed local branches of the Red Cross and the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire and signed up to be nurses and ambulance drivers.
As the war continued and names such as Ypres, Vimy and Passchendaele became familiar, the war continued on the home front in Waterloo County where there was a fight to change the name of Berlin to Kitchener . The death toll on the battlefields and at sea was staggering, but the impact was especially hard in Newfoundland where the population was small, and entire families and communities had enlisted together.
When the war was over, the City of Galt purchased a home on Ainslie Street that became the Galt Soldiers’ Home and Club for returning veterans, now home to a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion.
Three soldiers connected to Galt received the Victoria Cross for valour: Frederick Hobson, Samuel Honey and George Fraser Kerr. Two of the awards were made posthumously: George Fraser Kerr was the sole survivor. Cenotaphs were dedicated in small towns all over Canada, including Galt and Preston, where great crowds attended, but the Vimy war memorial in France that has over 11,000 names inscribed is likely the most heart-breaking of all.
Treat yourself to the following Nonfiction and Fiction books to find out more about this world-changing event:
Find photos from the time on the Cambridge Archives Portal
Photo Credit: Photo of the Galt Armoury by JustSomePics, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.