Browse Case Studies

Case Study: The Vimy Pilgrimage

Pilgrimages to the sites of First World War battles by veterans and the bereaved began immediately after the war’s conclusion and continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s. McMaster’s small collection, consisting of a telegram, programmes, menus, newspapers, post cards, and a commemorative medal, relates to the inaugural pilgrimage to the Vimy Ridge Memorial in 1936.


“When you get back to England, say hello to the Queen for me. I used to work for her father.” This was William Frank Kenwood’s standard salutation in his later years whenever he would encounter anyone from the British Isles. It was one of the few references he would make about his time as an R.A.F. airman or to the two and half years he spent as a German prisoner of war.


One of McMaster’s few holdings of German archival material, the letters of Otto and Ada Hartmann extend over a period of less than a year, between the spring and fall of 1915. Despite the relatively small size of the collection, amounting to some two dozen letters, it nevertheless provides valuable insight into military operations and attitudes in the German rearguard and into the daily life of a German soldier’s wife during this important first full year of international warfare.


Professional soldier and Military Assistant Secretary in Britain’s Committee of Imperial Defence in the years before the outbreak of the First World War, Grant Duff contributed to the creation of the War Book, a systematic listing of war-related procedures and practices.


A memorial plaque was unveiled in 1975 at Dachau concentration camp to four women who had been shot there by the Nazis thirty years earlier. The story of the heroism of Yolande Beekman, Madeleine Damerment, Noor Inayat Khan, and Eliane Plewman is preserved in journalist E.H. Cookridge’s account of the ceremony.


Canada’s foremost peace activist during the Vietnam War was an unlikely figure: a 50-year old hospital records librarian and grandmother whose first-hand experiences in Vietnam propelled her into an eight-year public battle with the Canadian government.


Child survivor of the Holocaust, Alex Aronson dedicated his life to bringing aid to those caught up in war, especially children. McMaster’s Alex Aronson collection provides insights into a remarkable man through letters written from October 1962 until his untimely death at the hands of Saddam Hussein in December 1975.


Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Englishman Norman Angell dedicated his life to the cause of peace, a life which saw Europe embroiled in two World Wars. McMaster’s Angell collection provides insights into his activities leading up to and during World War I.


Necessity is said to be the mother of invention. In the twentieth century, necessity all too often arrived in the guise of war. Aerial photography was among the transformative technical innovations developed during the First World War.


The First World War had a profound and transformative effect on the Middle East. Four years of intense Allied combat—waged primarily by British, Australian, and Indian troops—resulted in the decisive defeat of Ottoman and German forces, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, and the imposition of a postwar political settlement that permanently affected the region.


The protest movement which developed in opposition to the Vietnam War was unprecedented in its size and influence. Particularly vocal in the United States, where young men were forcibly conscripted for service, its influence was felt in Canada, Britain and around the world. Nor was it solely a peace crusade of the young; Bertrand Russell, by then in his nineties, worked against the war for as long as he lived.


Although the technology to enable the relatively inexpensive mass production of high quality images had been in existence for over a century, the First World War saw the first extensive use of posters for propaganda purposes.


From a family New Year’s party in a peaceful English seaside town to a German prison camp, 1914 was to prove a fateful year for a seventeen year old British teenager.


Through diaries and an “in house” farm newsletter, as well as extensive related correspondence, this archive provides an intimate and fascinating perspective on the Canadian “home front” for the entire period of the First World War.