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Manitoba History: “Bracing for Armageddon”: Manitoba Newspaper Articles, Editorials, and Poems on the Outbreak of the First World War, 1914

by David J. Gallant
Department of History, University of Calgary

Number 82, Fall 2016

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Click the icon at left for the Table of Contents of this issue.


1. Manitoba Free Press, 29 July 1914, p. 1 (hereafter, MFP). Note: In 1914, many large and bold headlines, particularly front-page headlines, were placed in an “all-caps” style. This paper has faithfully retained the all-caps format for large and bold headlines in 1914 newspapers, where applicable.

2. Brandon Daily Sun, 30 July 1914, p. 1 (hereafter, BDS).

3. Edmonton Daily Bulletin, 30 July 1914, p. 1 (hereafter, EDB); The Calgary Daily Herald, 30 July 1914, p. 8 (hereafter, CDH).

4. The Morning Leader (Regina), 31 July 1914, p. 4 (hereafter, RML).

5. “ARMAGEDDON,” The Strathmore and Bow Valley Standard, 5 August 1914, p. 4.

6. The Sedgewick Sentinel, 6 August 1914, p. 5.

7. Paul Rutherford, A Victorian Authority: The Daily Press in Late Nineteenth-Century Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982, p. 3-5; Ian Miller, Our Glory and Our Grief: Torontonians and the Great War, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002, p. 9; The Grain Growers’ Guide, 5 August 1914, p. 1.

8. Gordon Winder, “London’s Global Reach?: Reuters News and Network, 1865, 1881, and 1914,” Journal of World History, Volume 21, Number 2, June 2010, p. 276.

9. In 1893, the Associated Press signed a contract with Reuters giving it the exclusive right to treat Canada as a subsidiary territory under the cartel’s system of territorial exclusivity. The New York-based Associated Press received an enormous bundle of international news via telegram from Havas (Paris), Wolff (Berlin), and Reuters (London), which they then sold to Canadian newspapers. By 1909, 48 Canadian dailies paid for the AP service, receiving between 2000 and 12,000 words of U.S. and international news per day. See Gene Allen, Making National News: A History of Canadian Press, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013, pp. 18-26.

10. Simon J. Potter, News and the British World: The Emergence of an Imperial Press System, 1876-1922, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003, pp. 15, 28-29, 33-35, 212.

11. Potter, News and the British World, pp. 27-28.

12. The Claresholm Advertiser, 12 August 1914, p. 1.

13. Ian Miller, Our Glory and Our Grief, p. 9. Historian Catriona Pennell, in her recent examination of public opinion in Great Britain and Ireland from August to December 1914, has argued that newspapers, in an era before popular opinion polls, “provide an excellent foundation for establishing popular reactions to war.” More importantly, they record public behaviour in cities and towns. See Catriona Pennell, A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 6-7.

14. BDS, 29 June 1914, p. 1. For examples of coverage in other Canadian cities, see The Lethbridge Daily Herald, 29 June 1914, p. 1; The Quebec Chronicle, 29 June 1914, p. 1; The Globe [Toronto], 29 June 1914, p. 1; and The Halifax Herald, 29 June 1914, p. 1.

15. EDB, 25 July 1914, p. 1.

16. A notable exception to the trend above is Ian Miller, who has shown that “Torontonians were long accustomed by August 1914 to reading about international affairs.” As avid consumers of news, Torontonians were “remarkably familiar with events in the Balkans.” Miller, Our Glory and Our Grief, pp. 10-11. As Western Canadians were part of the same telegraphic news network, a similar argument can be made for their readership proclivities.

17. Robert Bothwell, Ian Drummond, and John English, Canada 1900-1945, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987, p. 119; Tim Cook, At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1914-1916, Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2007, pp. 22-23.

18. J. L. Granatstein and Desmond Morton, Marching to Armageddon: Canadians and the Great War 1914-1919, Toronto: Lester & Orpen Dennys Limited, 1989, pp. 2-3. More recently, Desmond Morton has argued that by early August 1914 “most people had barely noticed its [the war’s] approach.” See his Fight or Pay: Soldiers’ Families in the Great War, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004, p. 1.

19. J. H. Thompson, The Harvests of War: The Prairie West, 1914-1918, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1978, pp. 12-23. In 1987, Gerald Friesen utilized Thompson’s research to reach similar conclusions: “The outbreak of war was even more of a surprise in the prairie west than it was in Surrey or Lancashire. Western Canadian newspapers had almost ignored the assassination of the Austrian archduke in Sarajevo and had not perceived the implications of the diplomatic manoeuvrings that ensued.” Gerald Friesen, The Canadian Prairies: A History, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987, pp. 348-49.

20. Pierre Berton, Marching As to War: Canada’s Turbulent Years 1899-1953, Toronto: Anchor Canada, 2002, pp. 130-31.

21. C. P. Stacey, Canada and the Age of Conflict: A History of Canadian External Policies, Volume I: 1867-1921, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1977, p. 177.

22. Cook, At the Sharp End, pp. 21-33.

23. Several European studies have challenged and seriously questioned the validity of the “war enthusiasm” argument as a means of explaining the public response to events in 1914. For Great Britain, in addition to Catriona Pennell’s A Kingdom United, see Adrian Gregory’s The Last Great War: British Society and the First World War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008. For France, see P. J. Flood, France 1914-18: Public Opinion and the War Effort, London: The Macmillan Press Ltd., 1990; for Germany, Jeffrey Verhey, The Spirit of 1914: Militarism, Myth and Mobilization in Germany, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

24. The term “July Crisis” refers to the rapid and dramatic escalation of diplomatic tensions among the great powers of Europe leading to war in late July and early August 1914. For Canada and other constituents of the British Empire, the July Crisis comprises the period from the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia on July 23 to the August 4 declaration of war by Britain on Germany. For an excellent timeline of the July Crisis, see Geoffrey Megargee’s “Appendix A: Chronology, 1914,” in Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, eds., The Origins of World War I, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 507-519.

25. LDH, 27 July 1914, p. 1.

26. EDB, 29 July 1914, p. 1.

27. EDB, 30 July 1914, p. 4.

28. CDH, 31 July 1914, p. 6.

29. “INTO THE DEPTHS,” RML, 28 July 1914, p. 1.

30. EDB, 30 July 1914, p. 1.

31. EDB, 3 August 1914, pp. 1-2.

32. MFP, 5 August 1914, p. 3.

33. CDH, 5 August 1914, pp. 7-9.

34. For example, see The Globe (Toronto), 5 August 1914, p. 6; and The Quebec Chronicle, 5 August 1914, p. 3.

35. EDB, 3 August 1914, p. 5.

36. CDH, 5 August 1914, pp. 7, 9.

37. CDH, 22 August 1914, p. 9.

38. J. Castell Hopkins, Canada at War: A Record of Heroism and Achievement 1914-1918, Toronto: The Canadian Annual Review Limited, 1919, p. 22. Hopkins’ 1919 work utilized and built upon his 1914-18 publications in the Canadian Annual Review.

39. Catriona Pennell has argued that in Britain, “shock, tension, anxiety, dread, and defiance characterized British popular responses in the days that immediately followed the declaration of war.” See Pennell’s A Kingdom United, pp. 52-56.

40. The Toronto Daily Star, 27 July 1914, p. 4 (hereafter, TDS). Italy’s status as a combatant had yet to be determined in early August 1914, but military estimates included Italian forces with those of Germany and Austria-Hungary. Italy would not fight with Germany and the Central Powers, joining the British/Allied side in 1915.

41. LDH, 30 July 1914, p. 1.

42. “20,000,000 MEN MAY FIGHT 14,000,000 IN THE WORLD’S WAR,” EDB, 3 August 1914, p. 5.

43. Hew Strachan, The First World War-Volume I: To Arms, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 207; EDB, 3 August 1914, p. 5.

44. The Grain Growers’ Guide, 5 August 1914, p. 26 (hereafter, GGG).

45. “Great Wars Cost in Lives and Money,” MFP, 31 July 1914, p. 2.

46. In “FOR WAR ON LAND, SEA AND IN AIR, FORTY MILLION MEN ARE AVAILABLE,” the Free Press argued that “Greater than all the armies ever before assembled will be those called on in case the countries which are parties to the Triple Alliance and the Triple Entente are finally brought into the war between Austria and Servia.” On the same page, in “Relative Strength European Nations,” a war chart appeared listing armies of 8.4 million soldiers for the Triple Alliance and 10.2 million for the Triple Entente. MFP, 31 July 1914, p. 9.

47. Most of the 270 deaths were the result of diseases. Carman Miller, Painting the Map Red: Canada and the South African War, 1899-1902, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993, pp. xi, 429.

48. “What Great Wars Cost In Lives and Money” and “EUROPE ABLAZE,” RML, 3 August 1914, pp. 2, 4.

49. The idea of Armageddon, the site of the final battle between the forces of God and Satan, is from a vision of St. John in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Christian New Testament. Historian Eric Reisenauer, in his study of Britain in the Great War, has argued that Armageddon was a ubiquitous term in the war years, and that the “war was often presented as an expression of the will of God, a judgment upon the nation, a new crusade, a call for redemption of both self and nation, and even a war between Christ and the devil.” See “A World in Crisis and Transition: The Millennial and the Modern in Britain, 1914–1918,” First World War Studies 2, no. 2 (2011): pp. 218–19.

50. Of a total Canadian population of 7,206,643 in 1911, Roman Catholics comprised 39.31% of the population. The five major Protestant denominations accounted for 53.43% of the Canadian population (Presbyterians 15.48%, Methodists 14.98%, Anglicans 14.47%, Baptists 5.31%, and Lutherans 3.19%). Fifth Census of Canada 1911: Religions, Origins, Birthplace, Citizenship, Literacy and Infirmities, By Province, Districts and Sub-Districts, Volume II (Ottawa: Printed by C. H. Parmelee, Printer to the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, 1913), pp. iv, vii. In a recent work on Canadian churches in the Great War, historian Gordon Heath argues that “Canadian churches had an influence on society unlike any other institution at the beginning of the twentieth century, and Protestant and Catholic leaders were committed to shaping national identity in the decades following Confederation.” Gordon L. Heath, ed., Canadian Churches and the First World War, Hamilton: McMaster Divinity College Press, 2014, p. 1.

51. Winter argues that Great War painting and sculpture reveal a similar reliance on older modes of representation, including biblical underpinnings: “Eschatology, the science of the last things, flourished during and after the Great War. Among its most powerful and lasting forms were painting and sculpture, produced by both soldiers and civilians. Through an examination of the work of a number of artists, we can appreciate the richness and diversity of the search for older forms and images by means of which enduring visions of the Great War were fashioned.” Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 144-45, 178-79.

52. CDH, 5 August 1914, p. 1.

53. CDH, 5 August 1914, p. 6.

54. CDH, 15 August 1914, p. 7. This telegraphic news article out of Brussels, courtesy of Dr. E. J. Dillon, “Special War Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph,” also appeared in The Edmonton Daily Bulletin, 15 August, 1914, p. 1.

55. The Battle of Mons (23 August) was one of the principal battles within the greater Battle of the Frontiers. The French simultaneously fought the Battle of Charleroi, also known as the Battle of the Sambre. British military historian John Keegan has written that the BEF suffered 1600 casualties (killed, wounded, and missing) on 23 August, with a further 8000 casualties in the “Great Retreat” in the days following Mons. John Keegan, The First World War, New York: Vintage Books, 2000, pp. 89-102.

56. “OPENING CRASHES IN ARMAGEDDON,” RML, 24 August 1914, p. 1.

57. For example, see LDH, 25 August 1914, p. 1; and RML, 26 August 1914, p. 1. On 10 September, The Camrose Canadian provided an updated casualty report from London: “The British war information bureau has issued a long statement of the operations of the British Army during the past week and in addition a list of British casualties which shows a total of more than 18,000 men up to Sept. 1.” “LATE WAR NEWS IN BRIEF,” Camrose Canadian, 10 September 1914, p. 1.

58. Alberni Advocate (British Columbia), 7 August 1914, p. 2.

59. Winter examined works of art by renowned painters such as Paul Klee, but also included analysis of the works of lesser artists. As Winter demonstrates, both “high-brow” and “low-brow” artistic or literary representations are of great value in ascertaining the spirit of an age. Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning, pp. 177, 226-27.

60. Canada’s First Contingent, 30,617-strong, sailed from Quebec for England aboard thirty ships in October 1914. Tim Cook, At the Sharp End, p. 54.

61. “The Modern Samson,” Edmonton Capital, 7 August 1914, p. 1. “Count Okuma” referred to Count (Marquess) Okuma Shigenobo, Prime Minister of Japan in 1898 and 1914-16.

62. “The Grim Reaper Is At Work In Europe,” BDS, 8 August 1914, p. 1.

63. “The Angel of Death Is Abroad In Europe,” GGG, 12 August 1914, p. 4.

64. “Into the Valley of Death,” MFP, 8 August 1914, Special [Saturday] Section, page 1. Above the illustration, in “A Prayer in Time of Danger of World-Wide War,” the Free Press prayed for a swift end to the conflict: “O Lord God Almighty, let Thy spirit come in all fullness in the hearts of Thy children; that wars and rumours of wars shall cease to be: since war is abhorrent to man’s highest ideals and peace in accordance with his best thought…Hear us O God Our Father, in the name of the Prince of Peace. Amen.”

Page revised: 10 October 2016

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