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This exhibit celebrates the work of war artists who were active during the World War I era. Learn more about the artists who contributed to the Canadian War Memorials Fund and were exhibited in 1919 at the first major showing of WWI images. Works from the Archives of Ontario’s Canadian War Memorials Fund fonds (C 334) are also represented here.
The steps leading to The Great War or World War 1 began with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne on June 28th, 1914. Following Germany's declaration of war on Russia and France, Britain and France responded by jointly declaring war on Germany on August 4th, 1914. Canada and Australia, as members of the British Empire, declared war on Germany in support of Britain on the same day.
The first contingent of Canadian soldiers numbering 33,000 arrived in Britain for service in France on October 16th, 1914 and were soon in the thick of the fighting.
During the next four years over 628,000 Canadians would serve in the armed forces. Of those, 23,000 would serve in Britain's Royal Flying Corps, 1,600 of whom died in combat. 10 of the RFC's total of 27 aces were Canadian. 3,000 Canadians served in the Royal Navy.
By the time the war ended 66,573 Canadians had been killed and 138,166 wounded. This was a very heavy toll in relation to the country’s relatively small population.
The Dominion of Canada in support of the British Government sent the majority of their troops to France including those in the four Canadian Divisions involved in the taking of Vimy Ridge on the 12th April 1917, one of the most notable achievements by any army during the war.
The Canadian Expeditionary Force was involved in many major battles including Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele, Mons , Amiens and Cambrai.
To be found alongside the allied troops in France were war artists from Britain,
Canada and other countries who endeavoured to portray the scenes that they encountered.
Gordon Road, Kemmel
Cross roads, Kemmel
Other war artists went to munitions factories and other manufacturing plants to document the efforts being undertaken by the civilian population at home in producing the material of war. Over 60 million shells were produced in Canadian munitions factories alone.
The images created by war artists between 1914 and 1918 are poignant reminders of a devastating war that took place almost one hundred years ago.
It may be of interest to note that barely twenty years would pass before war artists were once again in action capturing the exploits of another Canadian army, this time during World War II.