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Berlin Companies Benefit from Large War Contract (7 January 1915)

While the efforts to supply armies in the field caused local concern over rising prices, the war economy also brought commerce to the Waterloo Region. On January 7th, the Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph reported that Ottawa had awarded a contract to McBrine & Co., a local luggage manufacturer, for the production of saddles for the Russian Army. Leather for the saddles would be provided by another Berlin firm, the Lang Tanning Company. The contract was reported as bringing $100,000 of revenue to the region. In March, McBrine and Co. would receive another major contract to manufacture artillery harnesses for horse-drawn field artillery.

(“Berlin Firm gets big Order for Army Saddles,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 7 January 1915; “Will Make 1,500 Harness Sets for Artillery,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 4 March 1915.)




Waterloo County Manufacturers Organize to Increase Wartime Trade (21 January 1915)

Waterloo Region businesses were alert to the opportunities for trade offered by wartime demand for goods by governments and the markets left underserved by the disruption in European trade. The Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph reported on January 21st that a number of local manufacturers attended a meeting at Waterloo City Hall at the behest of the local Board of Trade. The meeting was called after a positive response by representatives of the Canadian Pacific Railway, who agreed to provide increased distribution of goods from the county in order to help manufacturers “for both ‘patriotic and selfish reasons.’”

The meeting itself was attended by over a hundred representatives of the region’s manufacturers. Of particular interest was the gap left by the end of German and Austrian exports to hostile countries, but also in the continued securing of government contracts. The businessmen agreed that united action was the best course for securing new foreign and government contracts, and appointed two delegates to form a central committee to “secure information from the Dominion Government, the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, and foreign governments on articles most needed, and how Waterloo County manufacturers could supply the needs.”

(“Waterloo County Manufacturers Alert for Increased Export Trade,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 28 January 1915)



German Air Raids on England Begin (21 January 1915)

The Great War was the first major conflict in which airborne vehicles played a significant role. This included the use of airplanes on the battlefield, but also bombing raids by airships. On January 19th, Germans made the first of many air raids against England itself, beginning with a raid on Norfolk County, causing several deaths and damaging homes and buildings. Although the raids were expected, they still caused considerable panic in England itself.

The unsettling nature of this new type of warfare caused concern as far away as Waterloo County, Canada. On January 21st, the Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph reported on the raid with mild sensationalism. The raids were presented as direct attempts on the lives of the royal family, who kept a county residence in one of the targeted areas: “German aircraft made their long-threatened raid on England last night and attempted to blow up with bombs the King’s royal residence in Sandringham, County Norfolk.” In fact, the raids were supposed to take place much farther north, but were diverted due to poor weather conditions.

(“Air Raid at Last,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 21 January 1915; Christopher Cole and E. F. Cheeseman, The Air Defence of Great Britain, 1914-1918 (London: Putnam, 1984); “A Target Such as Our British Airmen Aim at When They Make a Raid Upon a German Zeppelin Shed,” Elmira Signet, 21 January 1915.)



The Department of Agriculture Campaigns for Local Farmers to Increase Production for the War Effort (11 February 1915)

As the war dragged into 1915, the Dominion government encouraged Canadian farmers to increase their rates of production to feed Imperial forces. Advertisements for the government’s “Patriotism and Production” program began to appear in Waterloo Region newspapers in mid-February and continued through March. The goal of the campaign was to persuade Canadian farmers to produce higher volumes of staple foods and to preserve livestock for breeding.

The campaign also included government-sponsored, agricultural conferences, held throughout Canada. These conferences were educational in nature, including lectures from agricultural specialists, but were primarily aimed at reinforcing the campaign’s message to farmers. The Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph reported on one such meeting at the Waterloo Town Hall which included talks by local agriculturalists on dairy production, sustainable livestock practices, and even the state of agriculture in Australia and New Zealand. The impact of these conferences on local practices may have been limited, however. The correspondent noted that both daytime and evening sessions of the conference were poorly attended.

(“Patriotism and Production: The Empire’s Call to Farmers,” Elmira Signet, 11 February 1915; “Waterloo County Farmers Urged to Increase Production,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 11 February 1915.)



Unrestricted Submarine Warfare Begins (19 February 1915)

German submarines had been harassing British and allied vessels in the North Sea and around the United Kingdom for some time. But, on February 18th, Germany announced publicly that their submarines would step up the frequency and intensity of their attacks on vessels around the UK:

“The waters around Great Britain and Ireland, including the whole English Channel, are declared a war zone from and after Feb. 18, 1915. Every enemy merchant ship found in this war zone will be destroyed, even if it is impossible to avert dangers which threaten the crew and her passengers.”

The same dispatch from the German Admiralty also warned neutral nations that they too were not necessarily safe from its new polices:

“Also, neutral ships in the war zones are in danger, as in consequence of the misuse of neutral flags ordered by the British Government on Jan. 31, and in view of the hazards of naval warfare, it cannot always be avoided that attacks meant for enemy ships endanger neutral ships.”

The policy was almost universally derided at the time, and would become a source of increased anti-German sentiment both internationally and in the Waterloo Region. The Elmira Signet, who reported on the announcement on February 19th, called it a “reckless war on passenger and freight traffic.”

(“Sink all Ships in Channel,” Elmira Signet, 19 February 1915.)SinkAllShips


Hostilities Commence at the Dardanelles (25 February 1915)

Although the Ottoman Empire was unaligned at the outset of the Great War, the Ottomans had begun taking on German military advisors and military equipment as the fall progressed. In October, the Turks closed the Dardanelles and commenced naval raids on Russian fortifications along the Black Sea. On November 2nd, the Russian Empire declared war on the Ottoman Empire and Britain followed suit four days later. French and British plans to open the strait of the Dardanelles had begun that fall, with the hopes of reestablishing supply routes to Russia.

It would be February, however, before French and British ships began their bombardment of the strait. Waterloo Region newspapers reported on the hostilities within days, presenting official reports not only from Britain and her allies, but also from the Ottoman Turks. Nevertheless, the article marvelled at the scale of the operation and the firepower brought to bear by the British and French navies.

Despite early successes, however, the naval actions at the Dardanelles would come to a standstill over the following weeks, eventually leading to a full-scale invasion of Gallipoli by Commonwealth and French forces in April 1915.

(“Shelling Forts in Dardanelles,” Ayr News, 25 February 1915; Hew Strachan, The First World War (London: Penguin Group, 2004).)



Local Farmers Resist the Government’s “Patriotism and Production” Campaign (11 March 1915)

The Canadian Department of Agriculture was keen to persuade local farmers to produce large amounts of staple foods through its Patriotism and Production campaign. However, Waterloo Region farmers were not necessarily receptive to the campaign. In fact, some even opposed it. The Central Dumfries Farmers’ Club, at a “largely attended” meeting held on March 9th, resolved to make a formal protest to the federal and provincial governments. The Club saw the campaign as needless and “an unnecessary waste of public money when retrenchment and economy should be exercised by our Governments.”

(“C. D. Farmers’ Club Disapproves,” Ayr News, 11 March 1915.)



More Dissent from Waterloo Region Farmers over “Patriotism and Production” (7 April 1915)

In March of 1915, the Central Dumfries Farmers’ Club expressed their disapproval of the Canadian government’s Patriotism and Production Campaign as wasteful spending. They were not the only local farmers’ organization to share this sentiment. The Central Waterloo Farmers’ Club expressed similar objections to the campaign and its local meetings. The Berlin Daily Telegraph reported that the club made a formal objection to campaign not only as a misallocation of government funds but as an insult to the patriotism of Canadian farmers:

“We believe that the farmers of this fair Dominion of ours need no urging at this time from any Government to make them loyal and that this campaign will not make any material difference in their loyalty to their country or in their efforts in production.”

(“Famers’ Club is Opposed to Government Plan,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 7 April 1915.)



New War Taxes Go into Effect (14 April 1915)

Beginning on April 14th, the federal government’s new war taxes went into full effect. The new taxes included a one cent tax on new bank notes as well taxes for loan and insurance companies. While these taxes surely would have had an impact, it would have been the variety of direct taxes which affected Waterloo Region residents most keenly. New taxes were applied on cable and telegraph messages, on letters and post cards, on money orders and cheques, and on railway and steamship tickets. Taxes were even applied to items such as wines, patent medicines, and toiletries.

Even before the taxes went into effect, local post offices began selling government-issued war tax stamps. These stamps came in one- or two-cent denominations and were used for paying the new duties on letters, post cards, and money orders, but could also be used to pre-pay for duties on other items like patent medicines, bank cheques, and wines.

(“War Tax Went into Force To-Day,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 14 April 1915; “’War Tax’ Stamps Now on Sale,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 12 April 1915; “War Tax Patent Medicines, Perfumes, Etc.” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 14 April 1915; “War Tax on Tickets,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 13 April 1915.)



Local Businesses React to the War Tax (20 April 1915)

One of the areas targeted by the Borden government’s new war tax was withdrawals from loan and savings companies. Understandably, such companies were concerned over the possible loss of business, because of the added fees brought on by the new tax. Less than a week after the new taxes went into effect on April 14th, the Waterloo County Loan & Savings Company published an advertisement in the Berlin Daily Telegraph, reassuring residents that their interest rates would “more than offset the small tax of two cents on withdrawals.”

(“War Tax,” advertisement, Berlin Daily Telegraph, 20 April 1915.)