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Canadian Command during the Great War

The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), of some 630,000 men during the Great War of 1914–18, consisted almost entirely of civilian soldiers. Pre-war farmers, clerks, students, and workers voluntarily enlisted to serve King and Country, although close to 100,000 were conscripted for service in the last year of the war. Most of the Canadian senior officers were drawn from the middle class — lawyers, engineers, professional soldiers, businessmen, farmers, and even a dentist.

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Emilien Dufresne (Primary Source)

Emilien Dufresne was a solider with the Royal 22e Régiment during the Second World War. He was one of 14,000 Canadian soldiers who stormed Juno Beach on 6 June 1944. Learn Dufresne’s story of being taken prisoner by the Germans, forcefully put to work in a sugar factory, and how he was liberated.

Please be advised that Memory Project primary sources may deal with personal testimony that reflect the speaker’s recollections and interpretations of events. Individual testimony does not necessarily reflect the views of the Memory Project and Historica Canada.

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George Cockburn

George Cockburn, Royal Navy officer, military figure in the WAR OF 1812 (b at London, England, 22 Apr 1772; d at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England, 19 Aug 1853).

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War Brides

The term “war brides” refers to women who married Canadian servicemen overseas and then immigrated to Canada after the world wars to join their husbands. The term became popular during the Second World War but is now also used to describe women who had similar experiences in the First World War. There are no official figures for war brides and their children during the First World War. In the Second World War, approximately 48,000 women married Canadian servicemen overseas. By 31 March 1948, the Canadian government had transported about 43,500 war brides and 21,000 children to Canada.

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Joseph Whiteside Boyle

Joseph Whiteside Boyle (born 6 November 1867 in Toronto, ON; died 14 April 1923 in Hampton Hill, Middlesex, United Kingdom). Nicknamed Klondike Joe, Boyle founded a gold mining company and became a millionaire in the aftermath of the Klondike gold rush. During the First World War, he equipped a machine gun unit and was a spy with the British secret service in Russia and Romania. He also reorganized the Russian military supply network, rescued Romanian prisoners of war and became the confidant and possibly lover of Queen Marie of Romania.

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John Edwards Leckie

John Edwards Leckie, "Jack," soldier, mining engineer, explorer (b at Acton-Vale, Qué 19 Feb 1872; d at Port Hope, Ont 7 Aug 1950). He was best known for engineering and research work around Hudson Bay. Leckie was educated at Bishop's, Royal Military College, and King's College.

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Molly Lamb Bobak

Molly Joan Bobak, née Lamb, CM, ONB, RCA, artist, teacher (born 25 February 1920 in Vancouver, BC; died 1 March 2014 in Fredericton, NB). Molly Lamb Bobak joined the Canadian Women’s Army Corps in 1942. In 1945, she became the first woman to be named an official Canadian war artist. She led workshops across Canada, gave live art lessons on television and served on many boards and arts councils. She was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and received honorary degrees from the University of New Brunswick, Mount Allison University and St. Thomas University. She was appointed to the  Order of Canada in 1995 and to the Order of New Brunswick in 2002.  

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Charles Cecil Merritt, VC

Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, VC, barrister, soldier, Member of Parliament (born 10 November 1908 in Vancouver, BC; died 12 July 2000 in Vancouver). During the Second World War, Lieutenant-Colonel Cec Merritt was the first Canadian to earn the Victoria Cross (VC) in the European theatre, the highest award for bravery among troops of the British Empire.

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EAH Alderson

​Edwin Alfred Hervey Alderson, KCB, first commanding officer of the 1st Canadian Division (October 1914–September 1915) and of the Canadian Corps (September 1915–May 1916), army officer, author (born 8 April 1859 in Capel St Mary, England; died 14 December 1927 in Lowestoft, England).

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Owen William Steele

Owen William Steele, salesman, soldier and officer (born 28 April 1887 in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador; died 8 July 1916 near Englebelmer, France). Owen Steele was an officer in the Newfoundland Regiment who served during the First World War. The regiment suffered horrendous losses in July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme (see The Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont-Hamel). Steele is best known for the detailed journal he kept from his enlistment to his death in France in July 1916. His journal and letters from the front provide insight into the experiences and impressions of Newfoundland soldiers during the war.