Going Overseas

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Enlist! New Names in Canadian History, circa 1915. Library and Archives Canada, War Records Survey Posters (R1185-67-0-E).

During World War I, more than 600,000 Canadian men fought overseas, and over 60,000 of them lost their lives. Most went bravely, even eagerly, in search of adventure and out of loyalty to Canada and to the British Empire. They left behind mothers, wives and girlfriends who were usually proud to see them go, but feared for their lives and their comfort in the trenches of Europe. In Rilla of Ingleside, all three of Anne’s sons enlist: Jem, the eldest, enlists the day after the war begins; Walter joins up after wrestling with his conscience and recovering from an illness, and her youngest, Shirley, enlists as soon he turns eighteen.

This recruiting poster helps explain why so many young men were eager to fight. The poster promised men that they too could be heroes for Canada and the empire. It includes the names of some of the first battles that Canadians fought in. A vigorous looking soldier points to the Red Ensign, which was used as Canada’s flag until 1967. The emblem to the right includes the provincial flags. It was produced by a private company, which printed it as part of its contribution to the war.

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