Monday, November 07, 2016

Sepia Saturday #345: World War 1 Canadian Recruitment posters

The prompt for the month of November is War and Peace. From my father's regimental documents secured from "Library and Archives Canada, I'm attempting to piece together an account of his 2 1/2 years of military service. 

My father enlisted in the Canadian Army on December 26th when he was 17. He told me he thought he was embarking on an adventure somewhat like the boy scouts, on a cruise. After looking through these Canadian military recruitment posters from WW1, I can see where and why he may have gotten that message. Not only would he get to go on a cruise but he was also paid the magnificent sum of $15.00/month. His pay was sent to his mother. 

December 26th is Boxing Day in Canada and a national holiday. I guess the recruitment offices were open anyway and my father must have experienced a swell of patriotism during the Christmas holidays—something moved him to enlist on the holiday. He lied to the recruiter and stated his birthday as 1898 instead of 1899, even though he was cautioned that if he made any false answer to the pertinent questions he would be liable to be punished as provided in the Army Act.

The Oath he swore was:
I, Francis Joseph Killeen do make Oath, that I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to His Majesty King George the Fifth, His Heirs and Successors, and that I will as in duty bound honestly and faithfully defend His Majesty, Heirs and Successors in Person, Crown and Dignity, against all enemies and will observe and obey all orders of His Majesty, His Heirs and Successors, and of all the Generals and Officers set over me. So help me God. 

The term he agreed to was..."I am willing to fulfil the engagements by me now made and I hereby engage and agree to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force and to be attached to any arm of the service therein, for the term of one year, or during the war now existing between Great Britain and Germany should that war last longer than one year and for six months after the termination of that war provided His Majesty should so long require my service or until legally discharged." 

On the physical description, he was listed as 5'6" and his chest girth was 35", expansion 4 1/2". Oddly they didn't weight the recruits, being more interested in the condition of their lungs. The examining medical officer declared on the certificate:

"I have examined the above-named Recruit and find that he does not present any of the causes of rejection specified in the Regulations for Army Medical Services. He can see at the required distance with either eye; his heart and lungs are healthy; he has the free use of his joints and limbs, and he declares that he is not subject to fits of any description. 

After basic training, he was sent from Winnipeg to Halifax from where he sailed (the cruise part) on the H.M.S. Northland from Halifax to Liverpool. They left on April 17th, 1917 and disembarked on April 29th, 1917. So much for the 12-day cruise. Next, on April 30th he was "taken on strength" at Shorncliffe camp.

From Wikipedia: 

The camp was established in 1794 when the British Army bought over 229 acres of land at Shorncliffe; it was then extended in 1796 and 1806.

Shorncliffe was used as a staging post for troops destined for the Western Front during the First World War and in April 1915 a Canadian Training Division was formed there. The Canadian Army Medical Corps  had general hospitals based at Shorncliffe from September 1917 to December 1918.The camp at that time composed five unit lines known as Ross Barracks, Somerset Barracks, Napier Barracks, Moore Barracks and Risborough Barracks. On three occasions there were German air raids which killed soldiers on the camp.

My father, Francis Joseph Killeen, about 1916.

This poster intrigued me. There's a small insert just behind the woman's chair in which the artist, Will Ross Perrigard is credited and states that is "after Whistler." I've put the real Whistler's Mother here below so you can see how Will changed his image. The picture hanging on the wall is different in the recruitment poster and there's no curtain. Of course in Will's version, the woman's face and bonnet are less artful than the Whistler original. 

Whenever and wherever there's an emergency, the first thing people want to do is hoard food. They took the offense seriously in Canada.

Free cigarettes for all the boys over there! The Over-seas club logo looks very much like the Safeway stores logo which came into being much later. 

I wonder about the blank face. Doesn't seem like good marketing to me.  

Only white hearts are patriotic?

I wonder if my father was happy at Shorncliffe? He had escaped from the tedium of working as a "warehouseman" in Winnipeg. 
He must have completed high school and taken the job. I'm guessing he worked at that job for less than a year before enlisting. 


  1. I just finished reading the Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. It's an excellent story about two Native American boys who enlist in the Canadian army during World War I. It was a brutal war and not at all romantic as the posters would have you believe.

  2. it's amazing the photos and war time papers you still have. Your father had such a sweet young face. So glad he made it back alive. Love all the Wartime posters - they're just so politically incorrect. And Whistler's mother - what a copycat!

  3. I like Perrigard's illustration better than Whistlers 's.