Thursday, April 16, 2015

# 52 ~ Toronto & The First World War, Part V - Dedication

The ruins of Ypres Market Square.


This is the fifth in a series of nine posts leading up to the centenary of John McCrae's writing of In Flanders Fields, on May 3, 1915.  I've planned for articles to be posted over the next several weeks, and to culminate with actives commemorating the centennial of McCrae's poem.

Images of John McCrae or the poppy, or recitals of the poem, In Flanders Field, are usually just relegated to Remembrance Day.  We have come to associate certain images so much with November 11th, that they seem out of place during the rest of the year.  As I publish these posts, I hope that you will find enough about Toronto's history, to make the articles of interest.

John McCrae wrote his poem during the Second Battle of Ypres, which took place between April 22nd and May 25th of 1915.  The battle saw the first massed use of poison gas by German forces on the Western Front.  It was a important engagement for Canadian troops ~ for the first time, a group of "colonial" soldiers defeated a European power, on European soil.  Military experts often refer to how engagements like the Battle of St. Julien or Kitcheners' Wood helped to usher Canada into national adulthood.  

However, instead of focusing on an analysis of military activity in Europe, my series of posts will mostly follow how the war was "fought" on the Toronto home front.


Part Five of my collection of articles on Toronto in the First World War is on “dedication”, or the types of commitment that those on the Toronto home front were expected to make to helping the war effort. 

During the war, the government took on a much more prominent role in managing the lives of citizens.  The government needed to manage sensitive military information, and the surveillance and editing of the letters that soldiers sent home to their families was just one step.  Official sensors also monitored newspapers and other publications.  Editors were faced with prison time if they failed to comply with censorship laws.
Large scale propaganda became a part of every day life.  Posters urged enlistment, and other forms of war support.  Citizens were urged to contribute to charitable campaigns, to buy Victory Bonds, or to ration scarce materials like food or fuel. 
Those living in Toronto were of course removed from farms, where food was produced.  Food production may not have been something that commonly occurred to a Torontonian during the Great War, but they were still encouraged to preserve and can for the winter, while being warned against “hoarding”.

The imagery in propaganda often relied on patriotic symbols, recognizable icons and historical figures. 

Public parades, rallies and charitable events encouraged voluntary contributions and also helped to shame or embarrass those who weren’t “doing their bit”.  The photograph below shows a military parade along University Avenue, near Queen Street West.  It would have been just one of many rallies held in Toronto during the Great War.

The parade up University Avenue, pictured above, would have passed the South African War Monument at Queen Street.  In addition to providing imagery from another conflict in which those from around Toronto and across Canada volunteered, the monument provided an image of another kind, by way of a billboard.  The billboard shows a reproduction of a famous British propaganda poster, in which a young girl asks her father, "Daddy what did YOU do in the Great War?".

Those who didn’t volunteer for service often risked vilification as “shirkers” or cowards.  However, many fathers and husbands were aware of their responsibilities to their families.  Pay from the army was often not sufficient enough to leave a man without concerns for providing for his wife, children, or elderly parents.  Posters like the one above suggested that men would be held accountable by their children, for the patriotic service that they’d done for their country, instead of for staying home and ensuring the social security of the family unit.  Various countries around the world produced propaganda posters that involved home and family as emotional motivation to fight in the war.
The government needed to greatly increase its income in order to pay for the war.  A new federal tax on businesses was introduced in 1916.  Labour organizations, farmers, churches and other groups pressured the government to make sure that corporations “did their bit” for the war effort.  Charges of war profiteering by corrupt officials made sensational headlines and undermined government propaganda. 
Several pamphlets were issued by the Canadian Liberal Party during the First World War, intended as a means to embarrass the Conservative Government under Robert Borden.  They allege profiteering, kickbacks, fraud, unnecessary supply shortages, production delays and wartime profiteering.

You can read the above pamphlet, "War Scandals of the Borden Government", printed in 1915, here.

You can read the above pamphlet, "Shell and Fuse Scandals", here.

Of course, individuals faced new taxes, too.  In 1917, a supposed temporary wartime measure – personal income tax – was introduced.  Unlike Britain and the United States, the Canadian government had avoided charging income tax before the war, but this all changed almost 100 years ago.  The temporary measure has never been repealed, and today, personal income tax supplies the Canadian government with nearly four times as much revenue as corporate tax does.

An editorial cartoon from the time that income tax was introduced in Canada.  It shows a smiling figure, representing "The People", carrying the hefty figure of "War Tax" up the stairs of "Hard Times", with a caption that reads, "Grin and Bear It".

Canadian Income Tax form from 1919.

The Income War Tax Act was published by a Canadian accountant in 1917.  It goes through the tax act, clause by clause, to explain its impact on Canadians.  You can read the full booklet here.
Another way that the government raised war time revenue was to sell War Bonds.  The response to war bonds by Canadians during the First World War exceeded all expectations.  No bond in Canadian history had raised more than $5 million, but the first “Victory Bond” drive of the war brought in $100 million.  Publicity campaigns, including tens of thousands of posters, connected buying War Bonds to the suffering of soldiers who were overseas. 

Victory Bond posters often relied on well known poems and potent emotional imagery.  This poster plays upon the poem “In Flanders Fields”, which was written by Canada’s own John McCrae, in 1915.  It would become one of the best known pieces of literature to emerge from the Great War.

This poster contains the image of a soldier in a field of poppies, and the motto, "If ye break faith ~ we shall not sleep", which is an excerpt from In Flanders Fields.

This poster, too, used imagery from In Flanders Fields, and includes the simple expression "Be yours to hold it high", another quotation from the poem.

For the more practically minded investor, long term interest rates of 5.5% for terms of up to 20 years were also a powerful incentive. 

Possible condemnation by one’s neighbours could even be used to sell Victory Bonds.  Those who contributed were issued pins like the ones shown below, so that everyone would know that they had “done their bit” and contributed to the war effort, financially.

In this photograph, two Canadian soldiers read a British War Bond poster found in a ruined village behind the lines.  The War Bond campaign targeted soldiers in the field, as well as those civilians on the home front. 

The success of the Victory Bond campaign would be repeated in the Second World War, and today’s Canada Savings Bonds are direct descendants of those bonds issued during the First World War.
While local men fought on overseas battlefields, they were no doubt concerned about who was taking care of their wives and children back on the home front.  The Canadian Patriotic Fund was established as a private organization in August of 1914, with the Governor General as its patron.  This organization would eventually raise nearly $50-million for the families of soldiers.  The fund encouraged Canadians to “fight or pay”, and helped reassure men fighting in the trenches that their families would be cared for back at home. 

Shame was once again used as a motivating factor to get Canadians to donate, in posters that were drawn up for the Patriotic Fund.  This poster encourages those on the home front to "Fight or Pay".

Posters for the Patriotic Fund, and for war efforts in general, also used imagery that would today be considered racist.

Here we see a mobile campaigning unit for the Canadian Patriotic Fund, collecting donations on Bay Street in 1915. 

Those who contributed to the Patriotic Fund were also given pins, to aid in identifying their patriotism, and to help them avoid any negative judgement from their neighbours. 

Hundreds of women worked as volunteer social workers, and visited families to determine if they qualified to receive aid from the Canadian Patriotic Fund.  Recipients who were later deemed unworthy of aid could be dropped without appeal.  These volunteers also gave advice on budgeting, childcare and nutrition.  The Canadian Patriotic Fund played an important role in establishing government run social assistance and public welfare in Canada. 
Shown here is a group of women holding a bazaar to raise funds for charitable efforts in Toronto.


Coming up : My next instalment of the "Toronto & The First World War" series is entitled "Discrimination".  It documents the bigoted attitudes that were expressed against "enemy aliens" - those people of Austrian, Hungarian, Turkish and particularly, German, descent in Toronto.

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