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Prussian Militarism, Not German People Criticized in Waterloo Region Press and in Public Gathering (28 January 1915)

A handful of editorials throughout January criticized German militarism and tyranny. German belligerence was frequently juxtaposed against the democracy and freedom of the British Empire. Yet, while supportive of the war, the articles differentiate between the majority of Germans on one hand and the militarized, German elite on the other. Indeed, the fight against “Prussian Militarism” was presented by the war’s proponents as the primary reason for continuing the fight against Germany.

Similar opinions were being propagated in the Waterloo Region itself. In late January, The Waterloo County Canadian Club hosted a luncheon with guest speaker S. J Robins at Waterloo’s Mason Hall. Members of the Canadian Club were said to have thought well of his opinions on the current war and the state of the German nation, which Robins saw as divided between the majority of Germans and a powerful minority of militarized elites.

(“Great Britain and Her Allies at War to End War Altogether,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 28 January 1915; “It is a War to Free World,” Elmira Signet, 14 January 1915; “It is a War to Free World,” Ayr News, 21 January 1915; “Germany Found Wanting,” Elmira Signet, 7 January 1915.)



Ayr Board of Trade Considers Munitions Production (20 May 1915)

Although Canada’s Imperial Munitions Board was not formed until later in 1915, munitions manufacturing was still a booming business in Canada throughout 1915 as demand for shells and ammunition soared. Throughout late spring and early summer, several communities in the Waterloo Region contemplated the possibility of munitions manufacturing.

One of the earliest to do so was Ayr, whose local board of trade considered the possibility of manufacturing shells. It was proposed that the John Watson Manufacturing Company, a company which had previously made agricultural tools, repurpose its local plant to manufacture high explosive shells.

At the time, munitions contracts were given to any firm which could reliably manufacture munitions to accepted standards. While the initial investment would be steep (at least $12,000), proponents of the idea argued that, with the near guarantee of a contract and the current margins on shell manufacturing, installation costs would be offset by the first order of shells.

(“To Make Shells Here?” Ayr News, 20 May 1915.)



The Return of the Army Worm? (1 June 1915)

As the stakes rose on the Western Front following major battles in France and Belgium, and the Dardanelles campaign raged on in Western Turkey, the Waterloo Region again turned a concerned eye to the threat of the army worm, which had wreaked havoc on local fields the previous summer. By early June, many local farmers would have planted their season’s crops, and the possibility of another army worm outbreak must have weighed heavily on their minds.

Just in time for a possible new outbreak, the federal Department of Agriculture released a bulletin prepared by government entomologist Arthur Gibson. Gibson’s report estimated that the 1914 outbreak caused some $300,000 dollars in damages, the vast majority of which occurred in Ontario. The report also contained extensive methods for preventing or mitigating an outbreak of the pests.

The Berlin Daily Telegraph, which reported on the bulletin’s publication on June 1st, certainly thought the report was of interest to its readers, and emphasized not only the extent to which the document provided practical information for farmers, but also how one could obtain a copy from the Department of Agriculture.

(“The Army Worm,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 1 June 1915)



Tree Caterpillars Damaging Waterloo Region Trees and Causes Tension among Local Farmers (3 June, 12 June 1915)

Although Waterloo Region farmers were likely alert for a resurgence of the army worm in early June, another insect, the tree caterpillar, was busy damaging local trees. The pest was not unknown to the region, but in late May and early June of 1915, the caterpillars were far more numerous than usual and caused a considerable disturbance in the region..

On June 3rd, the Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph reported that the tree caterpillar had become the primary concern of the Freeport area of the region. Local farmers found their shade and fruit trees over run and had even resorted to burning infested trees with torches. The outbreak even caused ill will against farmers who were not active in the fight against the caterpillar. Speaking to the Chronicle Telegraph, one Freeport farmer went as far to say that he had made it known to his neighbors that those who did not fight the insects on their own property would be “made to suffer.”

By mid-June, the local outbreak of tree caterpillars was still well underway. Many local trees had been stripped of their leaves and blossoms. In the case of fruit trees, this was a considerable concern for local farmers and the economy in general. On June 12th, the Berlin Daily Telegraph reported on the outbreak, noting accusations of apathy by famers in their efforts to kill the insects. The Department of Agriculture was still investigating the outbreak, but a representative for the agency recommended to the Telegraph that its readers spray their trees with a solution of arsenate of lead, a common insecticide of the period.

(“Ravages of the Tree Caterpillars,” Ayr News, 3 June 1915; “Fighting the Caterpillar,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 12 June 1915.)
Ayr News, 3 June 1915; “Fighting the Caterpillar,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 12 June 1915.)



Shell Manufacturing Proposed in Guelph (19 June 1915)

While the Ayr Board of Trade considered instituting local munitions manufacturing, several proposals were made in Guelph. The Berlin Daily Telegraph reported that a number of men who had secured large shell orders from the Canadian government had sought to produce munitions at locations in Guelph. Although nothing had yet come of such efforts, negotiations were reportedly ongoing to convert one of Guelph’s largest machine shop into a shell factory.

(“Guelph May Secure Shell-Making Plant,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 19 June 1915.)



Shell Orders for Canadian Factories put on Hold (9 July 1915)

While some Waterloo Region communities considered expanding into wartime munitions production, they were certainly not alone in attempting to take advantage of wartime demand. Munitions factories across the country were busy producing shells for the British war effort. Levels of production were so high that, by early July, the Canadian Militia Department was faced with a surplus of some one million shells. Most factories had been producing incomplete shells which lacked vital components such as cordite, primers, and fuses. These components were manufactured much more slowly than the shells themselves, leading to the massive surplus..

As a result, the Department of Militia announced an immediate but temporary halt on all government shell orders, until production of other component parts, or complete “fixed” ammunition caught up. Such a halt in orders may have affected on-going attempts to bring munitions factories to Waterloo Region communities such as Ayr and Guelph as well as existing munitions productions elsewhere in the region.

(“No Shell Orders for Canadian Factories for the Present,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 12 July 1915.)




Labour Shortages Expected to Impact Harvests (31 July 1915)

Tens of thousands Canadian soldiers had left for overseas service by mid 1915 and more were being recruited all the time. With so many young, able-bodied men leaving the domestic labour market, many were concerned about the war’s pressure on the Canadian workforce. In the summer of 1915, one particular concern was a possible shortfall in unskilled labour to harvest Canadian crops. The anxiety was such that many municipalities were cancelling public works projects in order to make more unskilled laborers available to bring in the harvest.

While much of the anxiety was targeted toward the prairie provinces, even Waterloo Region was not immune to this. On July 31st, both the Ayr News and the Elmira Signet, published the statements of Canadian Pacific Railway representatives who warned of the coming shortfall and the looming demand for temporary, migrant labourers in the western provinces, particularly those from central Canada. They stated: “It will be impossible to get men from the east, where men are scarce, and in any case the west does not want men who, after the harvest, would be a burden on the people.”

(“Harvesting the Crop,” Ayr News, 31 July 1915; “Harvesting the Crop,” Elmira Signet, 31 July 1915.)



Ontarians called to the West for the Harvest (19-21 August 1915)

As labour demands mounted in the west ahead of harvest season, Canadian railways began to offer direct transit from central Canada to the west. While similar direct routes had been common before the war, it’s clear that the demand for Ontarian labour in the west was particularly strong in August of 1915 and that this year’s efforts were coloured by the ongoing war.

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company advertised in the August 19th edition of the Ayr News, presenting the trip west as akin to a vital military action:

“Thousands of men will be required from Ontario to help in the great work of harvesting the Western crop, and practically the entire task of transporting this great army of the harvesters to the West will fall to the lot of the Canadian Pacific Railway.”

The CPR trains ran from Quebec to Winnipeg from August 19th until the 26th, and would pass near the Waterloo Region shortly after leaving Toronto on August 24th. Tickets for the trip west were discounted to $12, while return tickets from Winnipeg would be $18.

(“Many Thousand Men Required for the Harvest in Western Canada,” Ayr News, 19 August 1915; “Farm’s Call for Men is Still Heard in Ontario,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 20 August 1915; “Harvest Help Excursions,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 21 August 1915.)