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Prayers for the Empire (7 January 1915)


Religion played a large role in the lives of citizens during the First World War as this article clearly demonstrates. The Waterloo Methodist Church was one of many Churches that, in accordance with a proclamation made by the Dominion Government, observed the past Sunday (January 3) as an intercession (praying on behalf of) for the Empire and her soldiers and sailors engaged in the war.


prayer for empire

“Prayers for the Empire,” Waterloo Chronicle, January 7, 1915.




Destitution in Belgium (11 February 1915)

Destitution in BelgiumWhen the Germans invaded Belgium, rumours spread of horrid acts being committed and the deplorable living conditions of the Belgian people. The reported atrocities were often used by the media to justify Britain joining the war. Germany had broken international law by invading a neutral country and this in addition to the reported atrocities enabled Britain to claim the war was a noble cause for they were defending the innocent and ensuring justice.

By 1915, the commission for the relief of the Belgian people claimed they were short about 76,000 tons of food, and if this was not remedied promptly, thousands of Belgian citizens would die. There were about 1,400,000 Belgians in need of this aid. However, this aid cost about $2,800,000 per month, which was making it harder and harder to continue this aid on a sustained basis.


“Destitute in Belgium,” Elmira Signet, February 11, 1915.

Leanna Green, “Advertising War: Picturing Belgium in First World War Publicity,” Media, War & Conflict 7, no. 3    (2014): 309-325.


Leaving Part of Pay for Families in Canada (11 February 1915)

Leaving part of pay for FamilyWhile the average pay for Canadian soldiers of all ranks was $1.25 per day, it became apparent that many soldiers in the first contingent were dividing their pay to ensure their families in Canada were provided for, whether it was a wife, children, or parents. While most of the first recruits for the armed forces gave up good paying jobs, some men were forced to enlist for employment after experiencing two years of an economic depression.



“Leaving Part of Pay for Families in Canada,” Waterloo Chronicle, February 11, 1915.

Tim Cook, At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War, 1914-1916 Volume 1 (Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007).


War-Time Cooking and Food Values (11 March 1915)

War-Time Cooking and Food ValuesCooking in times of war can be difficult as, in addition to local needs, food is also shipped to the troops at the front, to war refugees, and to hospitals. The price of food also inflates (rises), making it more expensive and difficult to feed a family. Therefore, the Ontario Board of Health published a pamphlet, entitled “The best foods to buy during the war”, to help educate the people on the home front about the best affordable and nutritional foods to buy. There were four categories of food – fat and energy foods, muscle and flesh-forming foods, bone-building foods, and medical foods. It also examined alternatives, such as only having meat once a day and replacing meat at certain meals with dried beans and peas, which contain the same amount of flesh-forming material as meat, but were much cheaper. The article also re-assured the reader that the government was watching the price of food and would step in if prices went too high.


“War-Time Cooking and Food Values,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, March 11, 1915.


Socks and Handkerchiefs Required (25 March 1915)

Socks Still Required, Also HandkerchiefsThe Canadian home front sent supplies to soldiers to ensure they had some comforts on the front lines and to remind them that the people of Canada supported them. A dispatch from London claimed the current supply of woolen goods from the Canadian home front would supply her soldiers, but coloured handkerchiefs, tobacco, pies, games, and newspapers, and especially socks, were still needed. Socks were always required, and given that trenches were often muddy and full of water, this is not surprising.

Gifts and packages such as these were much appreciated by soldiers. As a Canadian officer writing from the front claimed, the last batch of magazines sent was almost worth their weight in gold.


“Socks Still Required, Also Handkerchiefs,” Elmira Signet, March 25, 1915.



Woman’s Duty to Empire (25 March 1915)

Ayr News-1915-03-25-Woman's Duty to EmpireDuring the First World War, women working outside the home became more acceptable, even encouraged, especially if it freed a man to fight or equipped a man to fight. For the full fighting power of a nation to be realized, everyone with the ability to work on the home front must do so. Unfortunately, there were not always enough men or women available fulfill these economic and national needs. Therefore, the government also requested that women register, whether trained or not, so the government would know they could call upon them if they were needed.


“Woman’s Duty to Empire,” Ayr News, March 25, 1915.



Casualties from April 22 to 30 (5 May 1915)

While this article does not give graphic details of the war, it does give a glimpse into how quickly battles could cost lives. Ottawa released the numbers of dead, wounded, and missing for the Battle of Ypres from April 22 to 30: 705 dead, 2,162 wounded, and 2,530 missing.


“Official Statement Given Out at Ottawa says Canadian Casualties from April 22 to 30 are nearly 6,000,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 5, 1915.


The Lusitania (7 May 1915)

The first time the Cunard vessel Royal Mail Ship Lusitania, a British passenger ship, made the news in 1915 was on February 11. The shLusitaniaip had crossed the Atlantic flying an American flag rather than the Union Jack. The Captain made the decision to protect his neutral passengers after receiving word that German submarines were active near Ireland. According to the British Foreign Office, this act was not sanctioned by the British government. After this incident the Lusitania flew the Union Jack.

Sadly, the ship made headlines again when it was torpedoed by the Germans on May 7, 1915 off the coast of Ireland. The sinking dominated newspapers during May and into June 1915. At first, it was reported that the ship took about twelve hours to sink and crew and passengers had been rescued. The RMS Mauretania, owned by the same company, was set to sail on May 29 but its voyage was quickly cancelled.

The sinking turned out to be a larger disaster than originally expected as by May 13, it was known the Lusitania was fired upon with no warning, sunk within thirty-five minutes, and over thirteen hundred people had lost their lives.

Interestingly, during this period, travelers had been warned via newspapers that a war was being fought and any ship in the Atlantic Ocean under a British flag was liable to be fired upon and sunk; therefore passengers were traveling at their own risk. But there was also reason to believe the ship would not be in any danger: the Lusitania carried many neutral American citizens, and no soldiers, masked guns, gunners, or special ammunition were being transported other than a few cases of cartridges. (Germany justified the sinking by claiming the ship carried military personnel and.) Finally, the ship held the transatlantic Blue Riband award for speed, leading some to believe that even if the ship was fired upon, it could outrun the torpedoes. As Maritime Law states that in times of war, merchant ships are to be given a warning before being fired upon, it might have theoretically been able to outrun the torpedoes. The Lusitania was given no such warning.

This devastation would be reported on throughout May and into June, and was used to demonize the Germans.  A good example of this was seen on June 2, 1915, when the Berlin Daily Telegraph reprinted a story from the Toronto Globe about how the “baby killers” must have been disappointed that their recent zeppelin bombings in London had only killed one infant. It was also learned by June 4, that the Lusitania had been carrying eighty-two bags of mail, all now lost at sea. At the Roma, a local theatre, the planned program for June 3, included showing pictures of the Lusitania up to her sinking.



“At the Grave of the Lusitania Dead,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, June 2, 1915.

“At the Roma,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, June 3, 1915.

Bruno S. Frey, et al,., “Interactions of Natural Survival Instincts and Internalized Social Norms Exploring the Titanic and Lusitania Disasters,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America 107, no. 11 (2010): 4862-4865.

“Hoisted American Flag,” Ayr News, February 11, 1915.

Image of the Lusitania, Ayr News, May 13, 1915.

“Only One Infant killed,: Berlin Daily Telegraph, June 2, 1915.

“Sailing of the Mauretania is cancelled,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 11, 1915.

“The “Lusitania” Mails,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, June 4, 1915.


Germany Showing Signs of Collapse (8 May 1915)

As it was believed the First World War would not last very long, it is not surprising to see articles claiming the war would soon be over and the Germans were showing signs of defeat. Such an article appeared on May 8, 1915. On May 7, 1915, General Sam Hughes claimed that the radical actions of the Germans – the use of poisonous gas, rushing their newly trained troops to the front, and their submarine warfare on merchant ships, the Lusitania only being the latest casualty – combined with the British and all her armies holding their ground, indicated that the German army was close to collapse. These radical claims were mainly about influencing Italy, which was on the brink of joining the war, but Hughes believed these actions Plowing the Sandsalso meant that Germany was on the brink of collapse. Similar claims re-appeared on May 31, when a short article claimed the Germans had used all their strength during the second battle of Ypres, but failed to win the battle. Therefore, the Germans knew the Entente was stronger. The strength of the Entente would be a recurring theme that could sometimes be summed up by a single image in the newspaper.

“Heroic Stand at Ypres has Shortened the War,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 31, 1915.

“Indicates that the Germans are in the First Stages of Collapse,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 8, 1915.

Image – “Plowing the Sands; or, Hate’s Labour Lost,” Ayr News, May 31, 1915.


German War Bread A Cause of Hatred (8 May 1915)

During war, the diet of civilians and soldiers changed based on the availability of food. This article claimed that for Germans, bread was starting to become a controversial topic. German soldiers were able to eat wheat bread as they were living on the food stuffs of France and Belgium. This was not the case for German civilians, who had to eat “K” bread, or potato bread. “K” bread, “K” meaning kavtoffeln, German for potato, was even being eaten by the Kaiser and the kings of Saxony and Bavaria. This bread’s nutritional value was sub-par compared to wheaten bread as potatoes are pure starch. All this extra starch would create a strain on the stomachs of German citizens. An article printed in the Berlin Daily Telegraph stated the hatred German citizens now had for Britain came from this bread as it caused irritation, depression, moodiness, and despondency.

“German War Bread A Cause of Hatred,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, May 8, 1915.