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War Pensions (8 May 1915)

In May of 1915, Canadian troops had been in action overseas for roughly two months and casualties were already beginning to filter back to Canada. It was understood that the state should take responsibility for helping those affected by the loss of a family member. However, the amount to be provided and to whom it should be given was a topic of rigorous debate during the war and for many years after. Here the Berlin Daily Telegraph printed an initial draft of the compensation plan for the families of dead and disabled soldiers.

Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 8, 1915.


War Pensions


$10,000 Devoted For Debentures in Stratford (13 May 1915)

The federal government’s plans for the distribution of pensions to soldiers and their dependents were not well developed in the early years of the war. Private insurance companies were also wary about getting involved in this type of venture, as they lacked a clear understanding of the extent of the risk. This left many women at home with uncertainty about how they would get by should their husband be disabled or killed overseas, especially if they were raising children. Some municipalities decided to take such matters into their own hands and make sure that everyone was cared for at a very local level. On May 5, 1915, the town of Stratford in the neighbouring county of Perth voted to create a debenture fund of $10,000 out of the town’s budget in order to aid the families of men who had enlisted, should assistance be needed. The vote was unanimous, and speaks to the strong sense of duty locals felt towards those who were personally sacrificing for the war effort.

Waterloo Chronicle, May 13, 1915.




Shall Berlin Change Its Name? (27 May 1915)

One year into the war, relations between English and German Canadians still remained reasonably civil. As the conflict between Canada and Germany dragged on, however, it became more and more awkward for Ontarians to live and do business in a city named Berlin. In May 1915, the Berlin Daily Telegraph was reporting instances in which buyers were refusing to purchase goods with ‘Berlin’ printed on the label. This situation was gradually hurting local manufacturers, who were a significant component of the local economy. This economic argument in favour of changing the city’s name continued a debate that had been slowly intensifying since the war began. Unlike an article in the Berliner Journal, however, the English papers did not yet make any specific reference to ‘Kitchener’ as a possible replacement for ‘Berlin.’

Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 27, 1915.


Shal Berlin Change its Name


Galt Joins the Ranks of Canadian Cities (1 June 1915)

By January of 1915, town councillors in Galt had already begun the necessary motions towards having their town recognized as a city. At first the plans were progressing smoothly, but in February they hit a snag. As the Berlin Daily Telegraph later reported, the “Scotch instinct” to save money had been the original motivation for Galt’s movement to become a city, and this met with resentment from members of the Waterloo County Council who represented other municipalities.

By becoming a city, Galt would leave the county jurisdiction and no longer pay taxes into it. Fearing this loss of revenue, several Waterloo County reeves objected to Galt’s removal from the county based on the fact that Galt only had a population of 12,000 and city status was usually not granted until a municipality contained 15,000 residents. A compromise was reached at a meeting held on February 3, in which Galt could become a city immediately, but would continue to pay county taxes until it grew to 15,000 residents. With that out of the way, Galt officially gained city status on June 1, 1915, roughly 99 years after its original founding in 1816. After Berlin, this made Galt the second municipality to reach city status in Waterloo County. The war put constraints on the new city’s celebration, but mild festivities were held throughout the day.

Berlin Daily Telegraph June 1, 1915.

Waterloo Chronicle Feb 4, 1915 and January 28, 1915.


Galt Becomes City


Standard of Milk Must Be Improved (1 July 1915)

Although not necessarily related to the war, in the summer of 1915 the people of Waterloo County were noticing a reduction in the quality of the milk sold in their towns. This article from the Waterloo Chronicle on July 1 pointed out this fact and printed a list of test results showing the quality of the milk sold by a number of vendors in town. The problem was not limited to Waterloo, however. On August 12, the Elmira town council passed a motion that would re-regulate the sale of milk within their township in response to similar complaints.

Waterloo Chronicle, July 1, 1915.

Elmira Signet, August 12, 1915.


Milk (Test Results)


The Wave of Prohibition (10 July 1915)

During the war, temperance movements acquired strong momentum across Canada as social reformers felt they should improve people’s lifestyles in order to provide men returning from the war with a more wholesome society than the one they had left to defend. Within these movements, alcohol was considered one of the most detrimental aspects of Canadian society, which was reflected in the widespread call for prohibition. Throughout July 1915, local newspapers were printing sympathetic reports about the progress made by prohibition campaigns in Ontario and on the prairies.

The latest news from Ontario regarding prohibition was the ratification of the Canada Temperance Act by the neighbouring county of Perth. All but three townships within the county had voted in favour of prohibition,a trend that was beginning the catch the eye of the Provincial Government. Meanwhile, a province-wide referendum in Alberta on July 22, 1915 overwhelmingly decided in favour of regulating the sale of alcohol, making it the last of the three prairie provinces to do so. The complete abolition of alcohol in Canada seemed to be just over the horizon.

Berlin Daily Telegraph July 10, 24 1915.

Waterloo Chronicle, July 1, 22 1915.


Prohibition (Wave of Prohibition)


The War (13 July 1915)

At the outbreak of war, most believed that it would be over quite quickly. After almost a year of fighting, however, people were beginning to understand the impressive strength of the German army. Even though it was fighting a war in the east and the west at the same time, Germany did not seem to be wavering in terms of its manpower or resolve. In the summer of 1915, articles like this one  which grudgingly admitted that the Germans had been underestimated began appearing. Others reported rumours that, despite the British naval blockade, Germany was manufacturing 250,000 artillery shells every day! The authors concluded that even though the Entente benefited from a significant advantage in manpower, it needed to begin producing more weapons and using its resources more efficiently. With the modern weapons used in this war, manpower was simply not enough to guarantee victory.

Berlin Daily Telegraph, July 13, 1915.

Elmira Signet, July 22, 29, 1915.


German Resilience (Big Daily Output)German Resilience (The War)


Drunk Wanted to Fight Germans, Gets 6 Months (16 July 1915)

Throughout the summer of 1915, anti-German sentiments continued to rise among some of the locals. On the night of July 15, a man stumbled drunkenly through the streets of Berlin crying out that he wanted to fight every German in the whole town. Referring to certain rumours about German atrocities in the war, he felt he should deal with the Germans a little closer to home. The local authorities, however, were still very much adhering to their responsibility to public safety, so the man was arrested and sentenced to six months in jail. Nobody was hurt, but the incident provides another example of the types of harassment local Germans were experiencing during the period.

Berlin Daily Telegraph, July 16, 1915.


Drunk Fights Germans


Gas Murder is Cheap (19 July 1915)

German atrocities during the war were generally used as fodder by local newspapers to demonize the enemy and reinforce people’s support for Canada’s cause. However, at a certain point, it seems, locals were willing to resort to the same dastardly measures as their enemy if it meant increasing the chance of an Entente victory. Germany had released the first gas attack on the western front on Canadian soldiers at the Second Battle of Ypres on April 22, 1915. This article, printed in the Berlin Daily Telegraph on July 19, 1915 suggested that Britain begin using gas as a weapon against the Germans. England was, after all, the original and most established manufacturer of chlorine gas from before the war, and should use this to its advantage.

Berlin Daily Telegraph, July 19, 1915.


Gas Murder is Cheap


Lays Down His Pen (22 July 1915)

On July 22, 1915 the Waterloo Chronicle paid tribute to the passing of a respected man of their profession. Earlier in the week, one of the two editors of the local German-language Berliner Journal passed away. John Rittinger was a respected voice among both German and English speaking residents, and seemed to act as  a bridge between the two communities whose relationship was being tested by events overseas. This article spoke highly of Rittinger’s character and ability as a journalist, as well as his loyalty to Canada and its values, despite his German heritage. Staff at the Berliner Journal, however, must have taken this news the worst. Already struggling in an awkward situation, the loss of such a charismatic leader could only make things more difficult.

Waterloo Chronicle, July 22, 1915.


Death of Rittinger