The sym­pa­thy, the pride and the pa­tri­o­tism

Men and women came for­ward in pur­suit of ‘the war to end all wars’


It’s dif­fi­cult to com­pre­hend the im­mense, unimag­in­able im­pact.

As the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the First World War nears, Cana­di­ans are re­minded of the loss of thou­sands of young lives from their home com­mu­ni­ties and provinces.

In New­found­land and Labrador, 12,000 from a pop­u­la­tion of 240,000 joined up.

In New Brunswick, pop­u­la­tion 370,000, about 27,000 sol­diers en­listed and 17,000 went over­seas as part of the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force (CEF).

Prince Ed­ward Is­land sent 3,000 to 4,000 from a pop­u­la­tion of about 100,000.

In Nova Sco­tia, there were about 95,000 men at that time who were of mil­i­tary ser­vice age, ac­cord­ing to his­to­rian and au­thor Pro­fes­sor Brian Dou­glas Ten­nyson, and about 35,000 joined up, in­clud­ing a cou­ple of hun­dred women who served as nurses. “About four and a half thou­sand of them died,” he says.

The col­lec­tive residue of the war for many was, of course, grief.

One can only imag­ine the an­guish of Hu­bert Gagne.

As oth­ers around the world were still cel­e­brat­ing the end of the First World War in Novem­ber 1918, the man from New Mills, N.B., was learn­ing he had lost an­other son — his youngest boy — in the con­flict.

The tele­gram from Ot­tawa ar­rived Nov. 23, 1918.

Pte. John H. Gagne had been killed in ac­tion Nov. 6, just five days be­fore the Nov. 11 Armistice was signed.

His brother, Louis, had been killed in ac­tion the year ear­lier, on July 8, 1916.

In an­nounc­ing the news of John Gagne’s death, the head­line in the lo­cal news­pa­per of the day, The Camp­bell­ton Graphic, read: “Lost two boys in Great War; Fine New Mills Lads Give Their Lives for King and Coun­try.” It mixed the sen­ti­ment of sym­pa­thy with the theme of pride and pa­tri­o­tism, two key el­e­ments that had drawn many young At­lantic Cana­di­ans to en­list in the “war to end all wars.”

Like the Gagne fam­ily, thou­sands of fam­i­lies from At­lantic Canada and in New­found­land and Labrador, re­ceived those dreaded tele­grams from 1914 to 1918.

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