Friday, July 24, 2015

First and Second

World War I had a great impact on the world, including Vancouver.

It had been a century, since the wars of Napoleon, since the world had seen a conflict of such magnitude. The American Civil War may have been bitter and destructive but it couldn't compare to this.

War had become a gallant, occasionally fatal game to the British. These clashes were directed by professionals in an atmosphere of pageantry and hero-worship. The threat was never more than the possible collapse of a single nation. The episodes weren't as drastic as the threat of ending an entire civilization and way of life.

For the next five years, 1914-1915, this threat was real to every citizen of the Western World.

This was an immensely personal conflict to the people of Vancouver, even more so than World War II. Canada's casualties in 1914-18 were greater than those in the entire United States forces.

There were streets in Vancouver where every house had a man overseas and every block mourned two or three dead. The First World War was sheer grinding, continuous, merciless slaughter - something the second war never approached.

It wasn't a matter of if a loved one would be killed or maimed but rather when. Battalions were made up of approximately 1,100 officers and men and could be "used up" in two battles.

The 7th Battalion spent 3 years on the front and 9,000 humans went through its ranks. 1400 were killed, 7000 wounded.

The last original officer of the 16th Battalion was killed two years after the battalion arrived in France. In two years, the 47th Battalion lost 22 officers and 639 men killed, 2000 wounded. These were local units made up of local men.

Reading the paper was a horrifying experience after a battle. Casualty lists filled long columns in the papers day after day.

World War I was a war that struck home struck hard. Whereas the Second World War was a war of anxiety and frustration, had been anticipated and was never quite as bad as expected; the First World War was a war of sorrow and hatred, an unparalleled nightmare. People were unprepared for it and it struck a new terror almost daily into the hearts and minds of the people.

 Thank you to the book Vancouver, From Milltown to Metropolis by Alan Morley.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Karen Magill

No comments:

Post a Comment