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“The funeral of a child in enemy territory” (17 February 1915)

A letter from an Austrian soldier in Servia told this story: The soldiers didn’t always have the time to bury their dead comrades with the dignity that heroes deserved. A few days ago they found a little child, perhaps one year old, lying dead on the roadway. They wondered what could have happened to the parents. The sergeant commanded the soldiers to shovel a grave while he made a wooden cross on which he wrote a little verse. Everyone spoke a prayer for the little Serbian child and many men cried and thought of their home and beloved family.

BJ-1915-02-17-The funeral of a child in enemy territory

(„Eines Kindes Begräbnis in Feindesland“, Berliner Journal, 17 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).)



Predictions of the War’s Near End (March-April 1915)

Local newspapers published almost weekly predictions that the war would soon be over. Military officers reported important victories, and there were rumours that the Central Powers were running low on resources. Often, this optimism was reported as the banner headline of the Berlin Daily Telegraph.
Predictions of imminent success came from many sources including the British government, Edgar Crammond (a financial writer), Professor F.V. Riethdorf (a local defender of German Canadian loyalty), British Commander John French, French Marshal Joseph Joffre, and Stanley Dancey (a news correspondent from Guelph). The date predicted for the war’s end ranged from July to the end of September, and almost all were confident of a great victory for the Allies.
On March 9, the Telegraph also published one letter from a British lord to the Press Bureau in which he criticized them for “foolish optimism” and predicted, at best, many more months of cruel war.

(“Premier Asquith Confident of Victory,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 1 March 1915.; “Press Bureau Criticized,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 9 March 1915.; “War to End in July,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 17 March 1915.; “Prophecies on the Present Great War,” Elmira Signet, 18 March 1915.; “War Over in Few Months,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 22 March 1915.; “Sir John French Declares There Is No Doubt as to Outcome of the War,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 25 March1915.; “Gen. Joffre Predicts War Will Soon Be Over,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 3 April 1915.; “Predicts War Will Be Over by the End of September,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 30 April 1915.
Visual: “Germans Will Evacuate Antwerp on May 1st,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 23 March 1915.)

Germans Will Evacuate Antwerp on May 1stPredicts War Will Be Over by the End of SeptemberProphecies on the Present Great War



German Canadians in Toronto and Waterloo (1 March 1915)

Reports indicated that by comparison to other parts of Canada, particularly Toronto, German Canadians in Waterloo County were treated well. A German man who had lived in Canada for two thirds of his life was driven out of business in Toronto by a boycott due to his heritage. He contrasted Toronto with Berlin “where the great bulk of people are of German descent, and loyal to Britain and British institutions” and where “race distinctions are practically non-existent.”
Some with anti-German sentiments In Toronto even targeted the infiltration of the German language into English. Trustee Dr. John Noble of the Toronto School Board wished to remove the word “kindergarten” from the Toronto school system.
Although claims that anti-German feeling was “practically non-existent” were exaggerated, Waterloo County was seen as a kind of comparative haven for Germans because of their high representation in the population.

(“Persecution of German Canadians,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 1 March 1915.; “To Wipe out ‘Kindergarten’,” Waterloo Chronicle, 18 March 1915.)image-7 (1)


Teaching German in Schools (10 March 1915)

In March 1915, German classes in Canadian schools were abolished. The Berliner Journal described the reasons the government had to make this decision and partly justified them. Nevertheless, they also printed articles which were clearly in favor of the German lessons. Supporters stated that learning a second language always has advantages and that since there were many people of German origin in the Waterloo region, the diversity of cultures and languages should be preserved instead of being eliminated. When the teaching of German finally was abolished, the newspaper clearly expressed anger and disappointment. Furthermore, they reported on a meeting of the “Deutscher Schulverein” (“German School Association”) where members of the German community protested against the decision.

BJ-1915-03-10-Teaching German in Schools

(“Das Deutsche in der Schule” Berliner Journal, 10 March 1915; “Deutscher Unterricht abgeschafft” Berliner Journal, 24 March 1915; “Der Unterricht im Deutschen” Berliner Journal, 31 March 1915)


The Battle of Neuve Chapelle (10 March 1915)

During the second week of March, the Canadian Press Service reported that British forces near Arras in northern France made “the most considerable advance in France reported in many months.” The British took great pride in the victory. It was believed to be strategically significant in shaking the strength of the German position and setting the Allies up for a large spring offensive. According to reports, the Germans lost 10 000 men and two miles of ground along a line two miles wide. Also, the Germans, with heavy reinforcements, tried to retake the loss, but were successfully repelled by the British.
This was one of several encouraging military advancements for the Entente during the late winter and early spring of 1915. These advancements contributed to the collective belief that the Central Powers were on their last legs and that the war would be over within a few months.

(“British Score Important Victory,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 11 March 1915.; “Allies Making Elaborate Preparations for Active General Advance in Spring,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 12 March 1915.; “Victory Complete,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 15 March 1915.; “British Gain Important,” Elmira Signet, 18 March 1915.)Neuve Chapelle


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.)



Send Offs for the Third Contingent (12-13 March 1915)

On March 12 and March 13, Berlin and Waterloo, respectively, held their official send-offs for a combined total of 99 soldiers for the third contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In both cases, the mayor handed out a $10 gold piece to each recruit. The ceremonies were attended by many of the townsfolk who gave the soldiers their support.
In Berlin, where there were 94 soldiers, the ceremony was held during the intermission of a double feature at the Grand Opera House, and the men were provided a dinner at the local restaurant, Gettas and Gettas. In Waterloo, there were only five volunteers, but a ceremony was still held for them at Waterloo Town Hall. The Waterloo soldiers also received a “package of clothing and comforts” from the ladies of Waterloo. Reflecting the large German population, one speech at the Waterloo ceremony reminded the volunteers that they were fighting Prussian militarism, not the German people.

(“Official Send-Off to Boys of the 3rd Contingent,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 12 March 1915.; “Enthusiastic Send-Off to the Third Contingent Volunteers,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 13 March 1915.; “Volunteers from Waterloo Receive Sendoff To-Night,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 13 March 1915.; “Gifts for the Waterloo Volunteers,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 15 March 1915.; “Volunteers Appreciated Sendoff,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 20 March 1915.

Waterloo Town Hall

Waterloo Town Hall


Elimination of German Language in Public Schools (18 March 1915)

Berlin’s Public School Board voted 5 to 3 to remove the study of German from the public school curriculum beginning the following September. Many spoke in opposition to the movement, including Berlin Mayor J.E. Hett who insisted that bilingualism would be an advantage to the 1400 Berlin students currently learning the language. Prominent business man and president of the German School Association, L.J. Breithaupt stated both in public and in his diary that there was strong support in the community to keep German language classes in the schools. He stated that the fact that over two thirds of pupils studied German in school was proof of its popularity.
Those who defended the removal of German said that the war was not a factor in their decision. They claimed that German was removed in order to accelerate the teaching of more essential or practical subjects, especially since many students left school before completing the highest grade. (The Berliner Journal also reported this story.)

(“Teaching of German Language in Berlin’s Public Schools Will Be Eliminated after Present School Term,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 18 March 1915.; Breithaupt Diary Collection, Rare Books Room at Dana Porter Library, University of Waterloo)image-7 (2)