T. Earle. Captain H E White, ca 1930, from a time when people still painted portraits.. WWI officers seemed to keep their ranks as a kind of honorific, although they were no longer in the army.

The Great War 1914-1918  67,000 enlisted Canadians killed, 173,000 wounded.
The Second World War 1939-1945  44,093 enlisted Canadians killed.  

The elision of these two wars, the poppies, the cenotaphs, the minute of silence, with contemporary veterans of ISAF in Afghanistan overlooks the fact that in the two world wars, everyone was a volunteer, rather than a professional soldier.  Today, the Canadian Forces Reserve of 27,000 members, volunteer part-time while they maintain their separate careers in the public sector.  CF: 68,000 total.  This is equal to the number of Canadians killed in WWI.  We were in Afghanistan for 10 years and lost 158 soldiers, we were in WWI for four years and lost 68,000, and in WWII for five years and lost 44,000.  The numbers are shocking.  

Below are the Attestation papers for H E White who in 1914 was 39, had four children and was happy as a clam surveying new railway routes in the Clearwater, the Rockies west of Red Deer.  His survey team consisted of him, his brother and an aboriginal crew, from whom he learned all sorts of interesting medical survival treatments using leaves and twigs.  A trapper came across their camp and told them that England was at war; they packed up, walked out and enlisted.  Harry took the whole family to England and spent the war in the Orkneys in a huge camp at Scapa Flow, the gateway to the North Sea.  He lived.  Charlie, his younger brother, was killed in the trenches almost immediately.  

The point is that they volunteered to enlist.  They weren't drafted, they weren't forced to go, they weren't soldiers.  
Of the 44,000 killed in WWII, they had ambitions of ordinary lives as teachers, librarians, artists, salesmen, farmers.  They didn't necessarily have a great desire to be a career soldier driving them to enlist.  They just did and damn it, they were killed.


Stephanie Whitewar