Skip navigation links (access key: Z)Library and Archives Canada - Bibliothèque et Archives Canada Canada
Home > War and Military > From Colony to Country Franšais

Archived Content

This archived Web page remains online for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. This page will not be altered or updated. Web pages that are archived on the Internet are not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards. As per the Communications Policy of the Government of Canada, you can request alternate formats of this page on the Contact Us page.

IntroductionAbout This SiteCommentsImage Gallery
Banner: From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History


Canadian Military History: An Overview
War of 1812
Rebellions of 1837 and 1838
Northwest Campaign
South African War
First World War
Second World War


General References

Government and the Military

Troops and Traditions

Personal Stories

Aboriginal Peoples

Women

Art, Music and Literature

Commemorations

Web Research

First World War
Personal Stories

Military Autobiography, Biography and Memoirs

Military biographies and memoirs are valuable parts of the record of a nation at war. Perhaps because of the horrific nature of trench warfare on the western front, our attention has focussed more on the trials of the fighting man than on his leaders, who for four years failed to find an escape from stalemate and attrition. Among the generals, only Sir Arthur Currie, the first Canadian commander of the Canadian Corps, 1917-1919, has received real attention. The relatively recent biographies of Dancocks and Hyatt do much to update and give depth to Urquhart's earlier work. Robert England's article provides a useful analysis of how the amateur militia officer of 1914 could become, arguably, the most competent corps commander in the field in 1918. Another article, by Craig Brown and Desmond Morton, investigates how Currie's pre-war financial difficulties, and problems with militia funds, might have cost him command of the Corps had it not been for a little help from his friends among the Canadian general officers. Sharpe's The last day, the last hour deals in depth with the libel trial which hastened Currie's death, a trial in which Currie refuted the newspaper charges that he had squandered the lives of his men.

The award-winning biography of Viscount Byng, victor of Vimy Ridge, by Jeffery Williams, discusses Byng's command of the Canadian Corps, but within the larger context of his career as a British Army officer and controversial post-war governor general of Canada.

Another class of biography and memoir is that of First World War regimental and junior staff officers who later achieved high rank. Robert Speaight's Vanier treats the career of the 22nd Battalion major who later became the first French-Canadian governor general. Recently, extracts from Vanier's letters and diary have also been published. In McNaughton, John Swettenham discusses the work of the innovative artillery staff officer who did much to make the Corps artillery so respected. R.H. Roy's For most conspicuous bravery is the biography of a Canadian battalion commander and Victoria Cross winner, Major General George R. Pearkes, later minister of National Defence and a lieutenant governor of British Columbia. General mud is the memoir of Lieutenant General E.L.M. Burns, including his service as a junior officer in the First World War.

Most rewarding, are the diaries and memoirs of junior officers and men who did the actual hard fighting during four years of trench warfare. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are much fewer infantry memoirs than there are memoirs by the men of the artillery and engineers. This is on account of the difficulties of keeping a diary, censorship of letters and, above all, the high rate of casualties of both junior officers and men of the infantry.

Volume 14 of the Dictionary of Canadian biography, which covers the period 1911-1920, contains a large number of useful biographies for this period; the biographies are organized by the date of death of those included.

Autobiographies, memoirs and diaries of Canadian nursing sisters are listed in the Women and the War section; those of Canadian prisoners in German hands are listed in the Prisoners of War and Internment section and those of the aviators are found with The War in the Air section.

Abbey, Edwin Austin. -- An American soldier : letters of Edwin Austin Abbey, 2d. -- Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1918. -- 173 p.

  • 2nd Canadian Pioneer Battalion and 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles.

Adamson, Agar. -- Letters of Agar Adamson, 1914 to 1919 : Lieutenant Colonel, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry. -- Edited by N.M. Christie. -- Nepean, Ont. : CEF Books, 1997. -- 368 p.

  • Letters from a Captain at Ypres, 1915, to Commanding Officer at Vimy, 1917.

Adamson, Richard H. -- All for nothing. -- Kansas City, Mo. : Privately printed, 1987. -- 267 p.

  • Canadian Corps infantry memoir.

Anderson, P. -- I, that's me : escape from German prison camp and other stories. -- Edmonton : Bradburn Printers, [192-?]. -- 174 p.

Antliff, William Shaw. -- Letters home, World War I, 1916-1919. -- Edited and compiled by Caroline Antliff Froom Dodgson. -- Kamloops, B.C. : Antliff Publishers, 1996. -- 2 vol.

  • Private, 9th Field Ambulance in France and Belgium, 1916-1919, who was awarded the Military Medal.

Bagnall, F.W. -- Not mentioned in despatches, by Ex-Quaker. -- North Vancouver, B.C. : North Shore Press, 1933. -- 116 p.

Beatty, David Pierce. -- Memories of the forgotten war : the World War I diary of Pte. V.E. Goodwin. -- Port Elgin, N.B. -- Baie Verte Editions, 1988. -- 290 p.

Bird, Will R. -- The communication trench. -- Amherst, N.S. : Privately printed, 1933. -- 336 p.

  • Reprinted: Ottawa : CEF Books, 2000.

____. -- Ghosts have warm hands. -- Toronto : Clarke, Irwin, 1968. -- 254 p.

Black, Ernest G. -- I want one volunteer. -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1965. -- 183 p.

  • Artillery memoir.

Boyd, William. -- With a field ambulance at Ypres : being letters written March 7 - August 15, 1915. -- Toronto : Musson, 1916. -- 110 p. -- Also reproduced in microform format: CIHM microfiche series, no. 71790

Bramley-Moore, Alwyn. -- The path of duty : the wartime letters of Alwyn Bramley-Moore. -- Edited with introduction by Ken Tingley. -- Calgary : Alberta Records Publication Board, 1998. -- 140 p.

Brown, Robert Craig ; Morton, Desmond. -- "The embarrassing apotheosis of a 'great Canadian' : Sir Arthur Currie's personal crisis in 1917". -- Canadian historical review. -- Vol. 60, no. 1 (March 1979). -- P. 41-63

Burns, E.L.M. -- General mud : memoirs of two World Wars. -- Toronto : Clarke, Irwin, 1970. -- 254 p.

Buswell, Leslie. -- Ambulance No. 10 : personal letters from the front. -- Toronto : T. Allen, 1916. -- 155 p.

Chassé, Noël. -- Avant la poussée finale. -- Québec : Imprimerie "L'Événement," 1918. -- 98 p. -- Also reproduced in microform format: CIHM microfiche series, no. 81303

Clark, Gregory. -- War stories. -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1964. -- 171 p.

Craig, Grace Morris. -- But this is our war. -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1981. -- 148 p. -- (Social history of Canada, 35)

Dancocks, Daniel J. -- Sir Arthur Currie : a biography. -- Toronto : Methuen, 1985. -- 332 p.

* Dictionary of Canadian biography. -- Volume 14 (1911 to 1920) -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press, 1998. -- 1,247 p. -- Also published in French under the title: Dictionnaire biographique du Canada

  • Because the entries are organized by date of death, this volume contains a wealth of biographies related to the First World War.
  • Members of the armed forces that are included are listed on p. 1132-1133.

A few examples of the biographies are:

  • "Flowerdew, Gordon Muriel", by William Rawling, p. 362-363. Lieutenant Flowerdew won the Victoria Cross and was killed leading "Flowerdew's Charge" of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) at Moreuil Wood in March 1918.
  • "Kaeble, Joseph", by Jacques Castonguay, p. 548-549. Corporal and Victoria Cross winner from the 22nd (French-Canadian) Battalion, died of wounds in June 1918.
  • "Lipsett, Louis James", by Desmond Morton, p. 658-659. General Officer Commanding 3rd Canadian Division, killed in action, October 1918.
  • "McLeod, Alan Arnett", by Carl A. Christie, p. 725-726. A pilot in No. 2 Squadron, R.F.C., who won the Victoria Cross and died in the influenza epidemic, November 1918.
  • "Mercer, Malcolm Smith", by Desmond Morton, p. 756-757. General Officer Commanding 3rd Canadian Division, killed in action, June 1916.
  • "Norwest, Henry", by James Dempsey, p. 786-787. The greatest sniper in the CEF, this Cree from the 50th Battalion won a Military Medal and Bar before being killed in action, August 1918.
  • "Papineau, Talbot Mercer", by Sandra Gwyn, p. 814-816. Major, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, killed in action at Passchendaele, October 1917.
  • "Steele, Sir Samuel Benfield", by Roderick Charles MacLeod, p. 967-972. After a full career as a soldier and Mounted Police officer in Northwest Canada and South Africa, Steele was appointed General Officer Commanding, South-Eastern District in England. He died in the influenza epidemic, January 1919.

Dinesen, Thomas. -- Merry hell! A Dane with the Canadians. -- London : Jarrolds, 1929. -- 254 p.

  • Memoirs of a Victoria Cross recipient from the 42nd Battalion.

England, Robert A. -- Recollections of a nonagenarian of service in The Royal Canadian Regiment, 1916-1919. -- [S.l.] : Privately printed, 1983. -- 1 vol., unpaged

____. -- "A Victoria real estate man : the enigma of Sir Arthur Currie". -- Queen's quarterly. -- Vol. 65, no. 2 (Summer 1958). -- P. 209-221

Evans, James Lloyd. -- My darling girl : wartime letters of James Lloyd Evans, 1914-1918. -- Edited by Susan Evans Shaw. -- Hamilton, Ont. : Privately printed, 1999. -- 120 p.

Ferguson, Frank Byron. -- Gunner Ferguson's diary : the diary of Gunner Frank Byron Ferguson, 1st Canadian Siege Battery, Canadian Expeditionary Force 1915-1918. -- Edited by Peter G. Rogers. -- Hantsport, N.S. : Lancelot Press, 1985. -- 156 p.

Flahaut, Jean. -- Par mon hublot : reflet du temps héroïque, 1914-1918. -- Montréal : Beauchemin, 1931. -- 185 p.

[Fraser, Donald]. -- The journal of Private Fraser, 1914-1918 : Canadian Expeditionary Force. -- Edited and with an introduction by Reginald H. Roy. -- Victoria, B.C. : Sono Nis Press, 1985. -- 334 p.

  • Reprinted: Nepean, Ont. : CEF Books, 1998.

Gallishaw, John. -- Trenching at Gallipoli : the personal narrative of a Newfoundlander with the ill-fated Dardanelles expedition. -- Toronto : S.B. Gundy, 1916. -- 241 p.

Gardam, John. -- Seventy years after, 1914-1984. -- Stittsville, Ont. : Canada's Wings, 1983. -- 99 p.

Graves, Dianne. -- A crown of life : the world of John McCrae. -- St. Catharines, Ont. : Vanwell Pub., 1997. -- 300 p.

Griesbach, W.A. -- I remember. -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1946. -- 353 p.

Horrocks, William. -- In their own words. -- Ottawa : Rideau Veterans Home Residents Council, 1993. -- 247 p.

Hyatt, A.M.J. -- General Sir Arthur Currie : a military biography. -- Toronto : Univ. of Toronto Press in collaboration with Canadian War Museum, 1987. -- 178 p. -- (Canadian War Museum historical publication, no. 22)

Iriam, Glenn R. -- In the trenches, 1914-1918. -- Kenora, Ont.: G.R. Iriam, 2008. -- 277 p.

Jones, William R. -- Fighting the Hun from saddle and trench, by Sgt Major William R. Jones, known among his comrades as "Lucky Bill," no. 59 of the Royal Canadian Dragoons. -- Albany, N.Y. : Aiken Book Co., 1918. -- 281 p.

Keene, Louis. -- "Crumps" : the plain story of a Canadian who went. -- Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1917. -- 156 p.

Kerr, Wilfred Brenton. -- Arms and the maple leaf : memories of Canada's Corps, 1918. -- Seaforth, Ont. : Huron Expositor, 1943. -- 90 p.

* Lapointe, Arthur J. -- Soldier of Quebec (1916-1919). -- Translated by R.C. Fetherstonhaugh. -- Montreal : Garand, 1931. -- 116 p. -- Also published in French under the title: Souvenirs et impressions de ma vie de soldat (1916-1919)

Letters home. -- Edited by John Macfie. -- Meaford, Ont. : Privately printed, 1990. -- 219 p.

  • Letters written by Roy, John and Arthur Macfie, mostly from the 1st Battalion, CEF.

Letters of a Canadian stretcher bearer, by R.A.L. -- Edited by Anna Chapin Ray. -- Boston : Little Brown, 1918. -- 288 p.

Lind, [Francis Thomas]. -- The letters of Mayo Lind. -- Introduction by J. Alex. Robinson. -- St. John's, Nfld. : Robinson, 1919. -- 175 p.

McClintock, Alexander. -- Best o'luck : how a fighting Canadian won the thanks of Britain's king. -- Toronto : McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1917. -- 171 p. -- Also reproduced in microform format: CIHM microfiche series, no. nbsp;2795

  • A U.S. edition is subtitled: How a fighting Kentuckian won the thanks of Britain's king.

McCulloch, Ian. -- "'Batty Mac' : portrait of a brigade commander of the Great War, 1915-1917". -- Canadian military history. -- Vol. 7, no. 4 (Autumn 1998). -- P. 11-28

____. -- "A study in operational command : Byng and the Canadian Corps". -- The changing face of war : learning from history. -- Edited by Allan D. English. -- Montreal : McGill-Queen's Univ. Press, 1998. -- P. 50-66

Macfarlane, David. -- The danger tree : memory, war, and the search for a family's past. -- Toronto : Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1991. -- [225] p.

  • The First World War and the Goodyear family from Newfoundland

    .
  • New York edition titled: Come from away.

Mackenzie, J.J. -- Number 4 Canadian Hospital : the letters of Professor J.J. Mackenzie from the Salonika Front : with a memoir by his wife Kathleen Cuffe Mackenzie. -- Toronto : Macmillan, 1933. -- 247 p.

Manion, R.J. -- A surgeon in arms. -- New York : D. Appleton, 1918. -- 310 p.

Massey, Raymond. -- When I was young. -- Toronto : McClelland and Stewart, 1976. -- 269 p.

  • Canadian Field Artillery in France and Siberia.

Mathieson, William D. -- My grandfather's war : Canadians remember the First World War, 1914-1918. -- Toronto : Macmillan, 1981. -- 338 p.

Maxwell, George. -- Swan song of a rustic moralist : memoirs. -- Hicksville, N.Y. : Exposition Press, 1975. -- 162 p.

  • 49th Battalion, CEF.

Morton, Desmond. -- "A Canadian soldier in the Great War : the experiences of Frank Maheux". -- Canadian military history. -- Vol. 1, no. 1-2 (Autumn 1992). -- P. 79-89

Murdoch, B.J. -- The red vineyard. -- Cedar Rapids, Iowa : Torch Press, 1923. -- 313 p.

  • Memoirs of a CEF chaplain.

Ogilvie, William C. -- Umpty-iddy-umpty : the story of a Canadian signaller in the First World War. -- Erin, Ont. : Boston Mills Press, 1982. -- 59 p.

Peat, Harold R. -- Private Peat. -- Indianapolis, Ind. : Bobbs-Merrill, 1917. -- 235 p.

  • This infantryman's memoir is, in many ways, one of the best ever written by a First World War soldier.

Pedley, James H. -- Only this : a war retrospect. -- Ottawa : Graphic Publishers, 1927. -- 371 p.

  • Reprinted: Ottawa : CEF Books, 1999.

Pope, Maurice A. -- Letters from the front, 1914-1919. -- Edited by Joseph Pope. -- Toronto : Pope, 1996. -- 154 p.

Prescott, John F. -- In Flanders Fields : the story of John McCrae. -- Erin, Ont. : Boston Mills Press, 1985. -- 144 p.

Reid, Gordon. -- Poor bloody murder : personal memoirs of the First World War. -- Oakville, Ont. : Mosaic Press, 1980. -- 260 p.

Rhude, S. Burton. -- Gunner : a few reminiscences of times with the Canadian Field Artillery 1916-1919. -- [Sydney, N.S. : s.n., 1981]. -- 130 p.

Rodney, William. -- Joe Boyle : king of the Klondike. -- Toronto : McGraw Hill Ryerson, 1974. -- 368 p.

Roy, R.H. -- For most conspicuous bravery : a biography of Major-General George R. Pearkes, V.C., through two World Wars. -- Vancouver : Univ. of British Columbia Press, 1977. -- 388 p.

Sharpe, Robert J. -- The last day, the last hour : the Currie libel trial. -- Agincourt, Ont. : Published for the Osgoode Society by the Carswell Co., 1988. -- 270 p.

Simmons, [Mervin C.]. -- Three times out. -- Told by Private Simmons, written by Nellie L. McClung. -- Toronto : T. Allen, 1918. -- 247 p.

Sorobey, Ron. -- "Filip Konowal, VC : the rebirth of a Canadian hero". -- Canadian military history. -- Vol. 5, no. 2 (Autumn 1996). -- P. 44-56

* Speaight, Robert. -- Vanier : soldier, diplomat and governor general. -- Toronto : Collins, 1970. -- 488 p. -- Also published in French under the title: Georges P. Vanier : soldat, diplomate et gouverneur general

Swettenham, John. -- McNaughton. -- Vol. 1 (1887-1939). -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1968. -- 370 p.

Tompkins, Stuart Ramsay. -- A Canadian's road to Russia : letters from the Great War decade. -- Edited by Doris H. Pieroth. -- Edmonton : Univ. of Alberta Press, 1989. -- 466 p.

  • Service with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Europe, 1916-1918, and in Siberia, 1919.

Urquhart, Hugh M. -- Arthur Currie : the biography of a great Canadian. -- Toronto : Dent, 1950. -- 363 p.

Vanier, Georges P. -- Georges Vanier : soldier : the wartime letters and diaries, 1915-1919. -- Edited by Deborah Cowley. -- Toronto : Dundurn Press, 2000. -- 333 p.

Gaudet. -- Charlottetown, P.E.I. : Institute of Island Studies, 2000. -- 142 p.

  • A stretcher-bearer with 1st Canadian Division, who arrived in France in the spring of 1915 and served until the battle of Passchendaele in November 1917.

Warrior chiefs : perspectives on senior Canadian military leaders. -- Edited by Bernd Horn and Stephen Harris. -- Toronto : Dundurn Press, 2001. -- 365 p.

  • Chapters analysing the generalship of individual twentieth-century commanders.

Wells, Clifford Almon. -- From Montreal to Vimy Ridge and beyond : the correspondence of Lieut. Clifford Almon Wells, B.A., of 8th Battalion Canadians, B.E.F., November, 1915 - April, 1917. -- Edited by O.C.S. Wallace. -- Toronto : McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1917. -- 321 p.

Williams, Jeffery. -- Byng of Vimy : general and governor general. -- London : L. Cooper and Secker & Warburg, 1983. -- 398 p.

____. -- First in the field : Gault of the Patricias. -- St. Catharines, Ont. : Vanwell Pub., 1995. -- 278 p.

World War One reminiscences of a New Brunswick veteran. -- Edited by Gene Dow. -- Hartland, N.B. : Printed by Centennial Print., 1990. -- 56 p.

  • Memoirs of Stephen Pike, 140th Battalion.

Table of Contents


  Previous Next