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Being German-Canadian (3 September 1914)

Several Waterloo Region newspapers raised questions regarding the region’s German heritage and the implications that heritage would have on the war effort. As the war proceeded, local newspapers addressed the loyalty questions that surrounded German-Canadians which suggests that this was a genuine attempt to recognize these individuals as citizens and not a form of propaganda. This article outlines the magnificence of modern Germany and the rich heritage German-Canadians had. It returns to the issue of loyalty by stating that British democracy and Canadian values have made a more wholesome society than Germany, stating, “is there a freer country under the sun than Canada?” This article concludes by urging those of German background to become immersed in Canadian society and support the cause of the allied nations, as they should as Canadian citizens.

(“German-Canadians“ Elmira Signet, 3 September 1914)



Hespeler Women’s Patriotic League (3 September 1914)

This was the second meeting of the Hespeler Women’s Patriotic League. After much discussion it was decided that the women of Hespeler would knit sweaters, cuffs and belts for the recently departed volunteers. Since the war was declared eighteen residents of Hespeler had gone to Valcatier for training. During this meeting it was announced that Hespeler was to contribute men to the Canadian Second Contingent. This announcement strengthened the Local Mother’s League’s resolve to continue to supply clothing for volunteers. Roughly $4.25 was donated to the league, along with materials for textile production, to aid their efforts.

(“Hespeler Women’s Patriotic League“ Hespeler Herald, 3 September 1914)

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Squint Column (3 September 1914)

The Hespeler Herald provided a column in their weekly issue that contained short satirical snippets about the news, along with brief propaganda promotions. Their 3 September issue included quips from the frontlines such as “the Belgians are certainly a bunch of busy little b’s” and “the Germans have occupied Huy, but they had a Huy of a time doing so.” This column also promoted the purchase of British and Canadian goods, to help stimulate the local economy. The Hespeler Herald provided a satirical outlet in an attempt to offset the overall serious tone of the newspaper’s articles that covered the war but was the only newspaper in the region which offered such a column.

(“Squint“ Hespeler Herald, 3 September 1914)



An Incident on the C.N. Railway (3 September 1914)

On this day, the first Canadian contingent left bound for Valcartier, Quebec, for further training. The group which departed from Guelph included several members of the town Hespeler. The Hespeler Herald reports eight different individuals from the area were onboard; Chas Beckman, Lloyd Beckman, John Hotson, C. Richard Winn, Thomas. Wilson, Thomas Woolley, George Bell and Dick McKen. Of those who enlisted, Dick was the only individual without prior military training. This is an example of the strict requirements needed to enlist in the early stages of the war. As the war progressed these rigid structures would dissolve due to the increased demand of manpower during a prolonged engagement.

A second contingent, formed shortly after the first group, faced a close call en route to Valcatier during a sabotage attempt. An iron bar was placed across the tracks in front of the eastbound troop train carrying men from the Waterloo Region to the camp. Luckily for the new recruits, the skirt on the engine of the train knocked the bar aside as the locomotive continued to steam at 40 mph. The perpetrator was never caught and no injuries were reported.

(“A Trip to Valcartier, Quebec,” Elmira Signet, 3 September 1914; “A Trip to Valcartier, Quebec,” Hespeler Herald3 September 1914)



Salvation Army (3 September 1914)

Hespeler contributed to multiple charitable causes during the first months of the war. These included groups such as; the Mothers League, the Patriotic Fund, the Belgian Relief Fund and the Salvation Army. The Salvation Army operated with the same goals as it does today of which is to reach out to the less fortunate and poor. The annual Harvest Festival Thanksgiving Fund was to be used to raise a total of $75.00 for the association. Sustenance was also recommended as a means of contribution. While this does showcase the wide array of foundations upheld by the people of Hespeler, the Patriotic Fund eventually took the forefront in this community as it had in the rest of the Waterloo Region.

(“Want to Raise $75,” Hespeler Herald, 3 September 1914)



A Fight Not Against the German People, but German Militarism (10 September 1914)

The Elmira Signet published an intriguing piece in the second week of September, which claimed that it was not the German people who had started the war but that the war was started due to the German military culture. The article firmly stated that ‘it was not the German people but Prussian militarism which [had] driven Germany and Europe into war.’This article is characteristic of many other articles published in the region that justified Great Britain’s and subsequently, Canada’s involvement in the war.

(“War Against Militarism and Not German People“ Hespeler Herald, 10 September 1914)


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Insuring the Volunteers (10 September 1914)

As with the other communities, Hespeler became concerned about how to display its appreciation for volunteerism. On September 14th, the city council deliberated over the town’s budget. As a conclusion to the meeting the group discussed the viability of funding these troops. The Hespeler Herald reported that the town was “very favourable to the idea of insuring its troops.” This resulted in the consideration as to whether or not they could afford this act. It would not be until September 24th that the town council unanimously agreed to financially back their volunteers for the remainder of the war. In the picture is Ralph Keffer a Hespeler native who volunteered Jan 7th 1915 and died during the Battle of the Somme in 1916.

(“Insuring Volunteers,” Hespeler Herald, 10 September 1914; Picture courtesy of the Kitchener Public Library Soldier Cards Project)



Expansion of Trade (14 September 1914)

On 14 September, Ottawa reached out to Hespeler’s industrial core. With the increasing demand for supplies both nationally and internationally, parliament was worried about the lack of industrial factories open for business. This open letter to the Hespeler Herald was a propaganda push for Waterloo Region factories that had closed, as a result of the weak economy, to reopen for business. The letter urges the region’s companies to jump aboard the wartime boom and expand their industry. As a result of trade being cut off from Germany, the region was forced to become relatively self-sufficient. It was hoped that the region would see a reopening of old businesses, to further increase the region’s wartime production.

(“Expansion of Trade” Hespeler Herald, September 14 1914)



War Maps (16 September 1914)

Glorification and interest in the war was evident in several of Waterloo Region’s newspapers. Here the Berlin Daily Telegraph displays an advertisement for colourized maps of the frontlines, which would provide a visual aid to the average Canadian reader. While the maps do require an additional fee plus the daily subscription, they would provide readers with a way to track the campaign. The Elmira Signet was the only paper to offer free war maps with a subscription.

(“War Maps“ Berlin Daily Telegraph, September 16 1914)

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All Should Help (17 September 1914)

The Elmira Signet released an article urging members of the Waterloo Region to join the war cause that was occurring nation wide. This editorial points towards the universal aspects of the war effort by saying “even the farmers, who generally escape the many calls for charity which come to the merchant and business men, have taken action.” Without the demand from the city centers the agricultural industry of the area would be feeble. This, the Signet claims, means the farmers must show their loyalty to the nations multiple causes in order to maintain favour with the local communities they supply. The article urges local farmers of the region to contribute their surplus food to the war effort as the battle rages on in Europe.

(“All Should Help,” Elmira Signet, 17 September 1914)