Past Speakers

Fall 2021 Speaker Series

The Ottawa Treaty Today
Lloyd Axworthy and Olivia Fernandes
, 17 November 2021

It has been almost twenty four years since the signing of The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on the Destruction—popularly known as the Ottawa Treaty.

However, significant challenges remain, and there has been back-tracking. The USA, Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Iran and some others continue to decline or reject adding their signatures, and in some cases are believed to have continued to make use of these weapons in conflict; and landmines have continued to maim or kill refugees and internally displaced people seeking to return to their homes.

This event will begin with a short ten-minute documentary on the origins of the Ottawa Treaty and Canada’s instrumental role in its creation. Our speakers will then discuss the achievements of the treaty, the threats that landmines continue to pose to innocent civilian populations, and the practical and policy challenges that remain to be addressed.

“We must see our men”: Canada’s Official First World War Photographers
Carla-Jean Stokes
, 3 November 2021

This talk will explore the history of Canada’s official First World War photography program from its inception in 1916 to its conclusion in 1919. We will meet each of Canada’s war photographers and examine their individual styles through viewing digitized vintage prints from the war. This investigation of original photographs will allow us to learn more about the materiality and complex lives of printed objects.

That Talented Canadian, Mr. Frank Prewett: Trauma and Indigenous Masquerade in the Wake of the First World War
Joy Porter, 8 September 2021

Buried alive by shell-fire in April 1918, Frank Prewett emerged from French soil convinced he could see and commune with the dead. He poured all of this and much else into some of the most moving but under-discussed poetry of the war. His brooding good looks and claims of Iroquois ancestry attracted both sexes. While the two convalesced from shell-shock in the Scottish borders, the British poet and aristocrat Siegfried Sassoon fell deeply in love with him. Sassoon introduced Prewett to the cream of the British literary world and Prewett took up residence in the fabulous Oxfordshire home of the “daughter of a thousand earls”, Lady Ottoline Morrell. Virginia Woolf published Prewett’s poetry, he was painted by Dorothy Brett and befriended by Thomas Hardy, W.B. Yeats, Edmund Blunden, Wilfred Owen and Robert Graves. Amidst the heady vertigo of pandemic-ridden, post-war England, this remarkable Canadian became the toast of elite British literary society—that is, until it all crashed around his ears. In this talk, Joy Porter will recount the remarkable life and times of Frank Prewett.

Maple Leaf Route Webinar Series – Spring & Summer 2021

Juno Beach, 1944–2014: An Overview
Terry Copp, 19 May 2021

Terry Copp first visited the Normandy beaches in 1981 when researching Maple Leaf Route: Caen. Armed with the original 1:25,000 maps and air photos, reproduced in MLR: Caen, he studied the terrain, a key primary source for tactical and operational history. Copp has returned to Normandy many times since then usually leading study tours for The Canadian Battle of Normandy Foundation (today the Canadian Battlefields Foundation), the Laurier Centre for Military Strategic and Disarmament Studies and True Patriot Love. The landscape has changed dramatically over the past 42 years as a result of new construction and efforts at memorialization. Copp will talk briefly about the nature of the “Atlantic Wall” in 1944 and the problem of breaking through it, then describe the changes to the terrain especially in the ways D-Day has come to be commemorated in the Juno sector.

Stopping the Panzers: Canada’s Forgotten Overlord Role
Marc Milner
, 2 June 2021

Historians have traditionally criticized the 3rd Canadian Division for its ‘slow’ progress after 6 June, for its failure to take Caen when it had a chance, and for succumbing to German counter-attacks and digging in on the Oak Line. But recent scholarship indicates that—Montgomery’s aspiration to get ashore and “crack about with tanks” notwithstanding—the Canadian role was to seize the Oak Line, dig in and kill the Panzer counter-attack on Operation Overlord itself.

A Woman’s Touch: Supporting Canadian Servicemen’s Resilience in Europe, 1943–47
Sarah Glassford, 16 June 2021

In this talk, Sarah Glassford will explore the emotional dimensions of the Canadian presence in Europe during the later years of the Second World War. As Canadian servicemen amassed in Britain, then advanced through Italy, Normandy, and the Low Countries, 641 women of the Canadian Red Cross Corps Overseas Detachment followed close behind. Through food parcels, hospital visits, occupational therapy, ambulance-driving, canteen service, and the provision of comforts ranging from hometown newspapers and cigarettes to conversation and a listening ear, their job was to care for Canadian servicemen, shoring up the troops’ psychological resilience with a proverbial “woman’s touch.” Corps members’ letters, diaries, and oral histories provide a fascinating glimpse of how friendship, kinship, and romance helped both servicemen and Red Cross women cope with the physical and emotional traumas of wartime.

The View from Point 67: Canada’s Killing Zone in the Second Half of the Battle of Normandy
Lee Windsor, 30 June 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadians flocked to Juno Beach and Overlord historic sites in Normandy related to the famous June 1944 events. Fewer travelled inland in search of the Canadian Army’s experience in July and August when ground force commitments quadrupled and combat intensified. The Canadian Battlefields Foundation (CBF) viewing area and memorial site at Point 67 is the launch pad for Lee Windsor’s reflection on 26 years of visits there with veterans, students, soldiers, and teachers. The location fuels red hot discussions of how the second half of the Battle of Normandy matters in Canada’s history. The ground visible from that commanding lookoff is the epicentre of controversy and a place where both sides practiced savagely sophisticated, technologically-enhanced killing.

The Air Support Rollercoaster: Canadian Soldiers’ Morale in Normandy
Alexander Fitzgerald-Black, 14 July 2021

Soldiers’ morale on the frontline relies on many factors. Casualty rates, time spent in heavy combat, news from home, weather and terrain, food, and general health are all relevant. The role of air forces should also get our consideration. In this talk, Alex Fitzgerald-Black will tackle two questions. First, what did the Canadian soldier think about the air support he received in Normandy? Second, what were the consequences of this support for morale? Canadian war diaries and memoirs of the fighting on the ground – including George G. Blackburn’s classic The Guns of Normandy – contain myriad compliments and criticisms about what the Allied air force was doing during the Battle of Normandy. The compliments (peaks) and criticisms (valleys) present an undulating curve of Canadian soldiers’ morale in Normandy. Fitzgerald-Black’s presentation will examine this “rollercoaster” in a sweeping tour of Canadian army operations from Juno Beach to the Falaise Gap.

“J’irai revoir ma Normandie”: French-Canadian Infantry Units in Normandy
Dr. Caroline D’Amours, 28 July 2021

French Canada’s response to the Second World War is often reduced to questions related to its voluntary enlistment rates and its massive rejection of conscription. As a result, its contributions to Canada’s war effort are often marginalized. Still, like so many Canadian units, the Régiment de la Chaudière, the Régiment de Maisonneuve, and the Fusiliers Mont-Royal fought with determination and courage in Normandy. In this talk, Caroline D’Amours will examine how issues like casualties, reinforcements, morale but also identity and language specifically impacted the experience of French-Canadian infantrymen in Normandy. War diaries, censorship reports, memoirs, and oral histories help understand the way French-Canadian infantrymen cope with the realities of the Normandy battlefield.

Canadian Army Officer Discipline and Martial Justice, 194445
Dr. Matthew Barrett, 11 August 2021

Of all the stories from Normandy during the hard fighting of summer 1944, few were stranger than the experience of Lieutenant Reginald Woods of the Lake Superior Regiment. After his platoon came under German attack on 17 August, Woods vanished. When he suddenly re-emerged two months later claiming amnesia, Canadian military authorities needed to grapple with assumptions about combat leadership, mental responsibility and criminal culpability. Using an illustrated, graphic history approach, Matthew Barrett explores Woods’ medical diagnosis and eventual court martial to highlight the challenges of uncovering what happened and piercing through the fog of war. Using Woods’ fascinating story as a case study, this talk examines the topic of officer discipline more broadly to study the legal, medical, and administrative responses to perceived misconduct and failure on the battlefield.

The Canadians in Normandy: Another Go-Around
Geoff Hayes, 25 August 2021

Despite years of debate, the view persists that “something appeared to be wrong” with First Canadian Army through the summer of 1944. This talk traces the Canadian path through Normandy to re-consider an ‘old’ narrative. It argues that, in the face of heavy casualties and enduring British criticism of the Canadians, the soldiers of First Canadian Army understood that they had earned a remarkable victory in Normandy. Finally, after over four years of war, the Canadians believed that they had won a Canadian victory, one that matched, even surpassed their fathers’ achievements a generation before.

Winter 2021 Webinar Series

Constructing US Fragility during the War on Terror: Health, Militarism and Empire
Gwen D’Arcangelis, 13 January 2021

The US war on terror is known for its spectacular reach—across geographies and across institutions. Gwen D’Arcangelis will focus on the war’s turn to bioterrorism and its recruitment of public health. The participation of public health in biodefense had several detrimental effects—it diverted resources from more pressing health problems, reframed disease in security terms, and further exaggerated the threats on which the war was based. In her talk, she will discuss the war’s conflation of health and militarism, and its mobilization of gendered and raced discourse to stoke national fear of germ threats.

Anxious Days and Tearful Nights: How Canadian War Wives Experienced the Great War
Martha Hanna, 10 February 2021

Eighty-thousand Canadian women had their lives upended when their husbands enlisted for overseas service during the First World War, and yet we have known very little about how they experienced the war, coped with the challenges of separation and “single parenthood,” and struggled with the emotional anxiety occasioned by their husbands’ absence. In this talk, Martha Hanna will focus on how the extraordinary circumstances of 1917 – an uncommonly cold winter, even by Canadian standards; the resumption of submarine warfare; and the never-ending conflict in which Canada played an ever more significant role – affected the lives of these heretofore invisible women.

New Directions in the History of the Second World War
Sarah Glassford, Graham Broad, Lucy Noakes, 31 March 2021

Now that we have emerged from the shadow of the First World War centenary, many military historians are beginning to turn their attention towards the study of the Second World War. With Geoffrey Hayes (University of Waterloo) as host, three historians from Canada and Great Britain will discuss the past, present and future of the literature of the Second World War, providing insight into what we know and what might lie ahead for historians of 1939-1945.

Fall 2020 Webinar Series

The Fight for History
Tim Cook, 9 September 2020

Based on his new book, historian and best-selling author Tim Cook will explore how the Second World War has been remembered, forgotten and remade by Canadians over 75 years. While the Great War became a touchstone, the legacy of the Second World War has been a more complicated struggle in Canada’s collective memory, coming to terms with battles won and lost, Canadians’ relationship to veterans, and how the post-war period created profound shifts in the country.

Seven Days in Hell
David O’Keefe, 21 October 2020

More than 300 soldiers from the Black Watch found themselves pinned down, as the result of strategic blunders and the fog of war, and only a handful walked away. Drawing on formerly classified documents and rare first-person testimony, O’Keefe follows the footsteps of the ghosts of Normandy, giving a voice to the men who sacrificed everything in the summer of 1944.

The Surprising History of War Junk
Alex Souchen, 11 November 2020

During the Second World War, Canadian factories produced an astonishing array of munitions and supplies. However, after the war ended, a major disposal crisis emerged when much of this materiel became surplus to requirements. What happened to Canada’s leftover arsenals? This presentation explores how the Canadian government and military disposed of the remnants of war and the ways in which military technologies were diffused into peaceful purposes. Canadians had little choice but to get thrifty and this talk (and the book it’s based on) will explain how they reduced, reused, and recycled war junk to improve their postwar lives.

Winter 2020 Speakers

Duty to Dissent: Henri Bourassa and the First World War
Geoff Keelan, 15 January 2020

Henri Bourassa was at once the loudest and most eloquent voice against the First World War in Canada. From cautious acceptance to outright rejection, Bourassa’s perspective provides valuable insight into the underlying political turmoil of the war and the impact of a world war on Canadians as they began to understand their role on the world stage.

Eagles over Husky, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Alexander Fitzgerald Black, 16 January 2020

In the summer of 1943, the United Nations began Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily. The Eagles over HUSKY – the airmen of the Allied air forces – played a crucial role in the assault. The Luftwaffe and Regia Aeronautica provided a significant part of the Axis force meant to defend the island and throw the Allies back into the sea. The Allied air forces foiled this effort and inflicted losses on a German Air Force badly needed on other fronts. Raids on mainland Italian railway transport crippled Axis resupply efforts. The same strikes brought pressure on the Italian state to denounce Fascism and join the Allied side. Army commanders relied heavily on tactical air power to destroy Axis forces in Sicily. The result was a strategic victory which forced Nazi Germany to stand alone in defence of southern Europe.

The Battle for History: Noble Frankland and the Imperial War Museum, 1960–1982
Peter Farrugia, 12 February 2020

Noble Frankland, Director of the Imperial War Museum between 1960 and 1982, took it from near irrelevance to distinction. He fought to ensure that historical rigour was exercised in the exhibitions central to the museum, and in the process, confronted the complex relationship between history and memory as well as the changing landscape of public history.

Bison Brigades and Battle Tactics during the Northwest Resistance, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Jesse Thistle, 20 February 2020

Métis life on the plains was extremely perilous. From century-long fights with the Sioux, to the massive and dangerous logistics of the bison hunt, Métis hunting tactics took on a battle-like precision run by a general known as the Captain of the Hunt. The Métis took their bison-hardened skills into battle during the Northwest Resistance, winning two battles against Canadian troops at Duck Lake and Fish Creek, and holding off columns of much bigger forces for days at the final battle of Batoche. Jesse will sketch out some of these tactics and show how the Métis were a people who had unique and organized guerrilla war tactics far ahead of their time.

Rush to Danger: Medics in the Line of Danger
Ted Barris, 4 March 2020

Tracing the footsteps of his father, Ted Barris recounts the stories of military medics, surgeons, nursing sisters, stretcher-bearers, orderlies and ambulance drivers who disregarded their own well-being to save the lives of others on the battlefield. From the US Civil War to the Iraq War, Barris will speak about medical personnel in the line of fire in his new book, Rush to Danger.

The Delisle Affair, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Wesley Wark, 12 March 2020

The arrest of Lieutenant Jeffrey Delisle in January 2012 exposed the serious damage that espionage can cause to Canada’s interests and revealed the challenges involved in uncovering and prosecuting spies. Delisle’s case forced the first use of Canada’s new official secrets act since 9/11. The Delisle case is also a tale about the psychology of spying and about how those who commit treason may not match the standard profile. Delisle could not be easily fitted into the spy hunter’s MICE categories – people driven by some combination of money, ideology, corruption, ego. His was a sadder and stranger story.

Tim Cook,
21 April 2020

Tim Cook visits Waterloo to discuss how Canadians framed and reframed the Second World War experience over time. Just as the importance of Vimy rose, fell, and rose again over a century, the meaning of Canada’s Second World War followed a similar pattern. By the end of the 20th century, Canada’s experience in the war was largely presented as a series of disasters. No other victorious nation underwent this reframing of the war, remaking victories into defeats. Cook will follow the story of how Canada has talked about the war in the past, how we tried to bury it, and how it was restored.

Fall 2019 Speakers

Deadly Skies & Cavalry of the Air, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Ross C. Morton, 19 September 2019

During the Second World War, the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command kept detailed accounts of their achievements and failures in a central registry and used this information when planning future military action whereas the accidents experienced at the training units remained a local airfield record. In a demanding research project author W.R. Chorley lists the training losses at the Operational Training Units, (OTU) and the Heavy Conversion Units (HCU) in two volumes and these stories provide the statistics for this presentation.

The Sun King at War: Louis XIV, the Flanders Campaign of 1709, and the Battle of Malplaquet
Darryl Dee, 25 September 2019

From 1701 to 1714, King Louis XIV of France (r. 1643-1715) fought the last and greatest of his many wars: the War of the Spanish Succession. A titanic conflict that pitted France against the rest of Europe, the war quickly turned against the Sun King.

The Aftermath of the 1918 Influenza, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Kandace Bogaert, 17 October 2019

Used, Abused, and Thoroughly Confused: Mackenzie King’s Ill-Starred Peace Mission to Nazi Germany
Robert Teigrob, 23 October 2019

Taken from his latest book Four Days in Hitler’s Germany (University of Toronto Press, 2019), Robert Teigrob will outline some of the sources and outcomes of Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s staggering misperceptions and blunders during his diplomatic mission to Nazi Germany in 1937.

Putting ‘Rubber on the Ramp’: Building and Buying Fighters for Canada—Then and Now
Randall Wakelam, 13 November 2019

Assessing the changing skies of RCAF fighter procurement from the post-1945 period to more recent attempts to acquire fighter jets, Randy Wakelam will investigate the Air Force’s decisions over aircraft acquisition and the resulting ability to defend Canadian and Allied skies.

Crerar’s Lieutenants, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Geoffrey Hayes, 21 November 2019

At the height of the war in 1943, the future head of the First Canadian Army, General Harry Crerar, penned a long memorandum in which he noted that there was still much confusion as to “what constitutes an ‘Officer.’” His words reflected the army’s preoccupation with creating an ideal officer who would not only satisfy the immediate demands of war but also conform to pervasive, little-discussed notions of social class and masculinity. Geoff Hayes’ talk will explore the making of the wartime army’s officer corps.

Managing Wound Trauma and Studying Disease: The Rise of American Medical Science during the Civil War
Shauna Devine, 4 December 2019

Two-thirds of the 750,000 war-related deaths during the American Civil War were due to diseases like gangrene, tetanus, diarrhea, and dysentery, some of which followed from wounds suffered in the war and others from unsanitary conditions. The war was overwhelming in its scope, and physicians were forced to deal with diseases and injuries that differed from their usual practice patterns in civilian life. Yet In the process, American physicians coalesced around a new understanding of medical science. Through a series of never before published medical photographs from the Civil War hospitals and laboratories, Devine will highlight the ways and methods in which American medical practice was transformed during the war.

Spring 2019 (in partnership with the Kitchener Public Library)

Preparing for D-Day
Terry Copp, 15 May 2019

Planning the Normandy Invasion—Operation Overlord—began in 1943, but the elements of the plan
changed and evolved over time. As late as May 1944, important details remained in play as intelligence from
Britain’s cryptanalysis program, code named “Ultra”, revealed that the German Army was actively making
changes in Normandy. In his talk, Terry Copp will discuss the many elements influencing the planning of
Overlord and its predecessors, including strategic feasibility and inter-Allied relations, and demonstrate how
these high command decisions affected the men that stormed the beaches of Normandy on that fateful
day—June 6th 1944.

Crerar’s Lieutenants: Or, How Harry Crerar Created an Army Officer Corps, 1939–45
Geoff Hayes, 19 June 2019

At the height of the war in 1943, the future head of the First Canadian Army,
General Harry Crerar, penned a long memorandum in which he noted that
there was still much confusion as to “what constitutes an ‘Officer.’” His words
reflected the army’s preoccupation with creating an ideal officer who would
not only satisfy the immediate demands of war but also conform to pervasive,
little-discussed notions of social class and masculinity. Geoff Hayes’ talk will
explore the making of the wartime army’s officer corps, with special focus on
some of those drawn from Waterloo County.

War, Trauma and Madness: Veterans of the British Raj
Amy Milne-Smith, 24 July 2019

Col. Alfred Kirke French served with distinction through the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and was involved
in some of its most brutal and harrowing battles. After being transferred to Bermuda, he had a mental
breakdown and spent the rest of his life in an asylum. Today we might wonder if he was suffering from
some form of PTSD; but at the time, the idea of mental trauma was far from the minds of medical
practitioners. French never spoke about his military experiences, and his doctors never asked. Doctors
working at his asylum were far more interested in the attack of sunstroke he suffered in India than
any emotional suffering he might have experienced. In this talk, Dr. Milne-Smith will investigate what
happened to veterans serving in British India when their minds broke down. More specifically, she will
interrogate how Victorian military officials and doctors understood the idea of trauma to soldiers’
bodies and minds.

Winter 2019 Speakers

Stalin’s Gulag at War
Wilson Bell, 9 February 2019

What was the Gulag’s role in Soviet victory in the Second World War? In his talk, Wilson Bell will trace the history of Stalin’s notorious prison camps during a time when the system was stretched to its limits, and prisoners died at extraordinarily high rates. He will discuss the myriad responses of both prisoners and personnel to the war, the ways in which the state mobilized labour, and the illicit and condoned interactions between prisoners and non-prisoners. Ultimately, Bell will show that prisoners played a tangible role in Soviet mobilization, but at an incredibly high cost—a cost that highlights the tragedy of the Stalinist system at the moment of its greatest triumph.

Nursing For Victory?: Canada’s Volunteer Nurses in the First World War [CANCELLED]
Linda Quiney, 6 February 2019

Some 2000 Canadian and Newfoundland women enlisted as Voluntary Aid Detachment, or VAD, nurses during the First World War, serving as auxiliary nurses in homefront and British military hospitals overseas. Undertaking the only ‘active service’ work open to women without nursing qualifications, the VADs often saw themselves more as soldiers on the wards than real nurses, but at times felt acutely aware of their amateur status. “Nursing for Victory?” examines the history, work, and experience of this shadow army of women who helped to fill a critical gap in the often overwhelmed wartime military medical services.

Dam Busters: Canadian Airmen and the Secret Raid on Nazi Germany
Ted Barris, 13 March 2019

On May 16, 1943, one hundred and thirty-three airmen took off in nineteen Lancaster bombers on a night sortie, code-named “Operation Chastise.” Their targets – the Ruhr River dams – whose massive water reservoirs powered Nazi Germany’s military industrial complex. Of the nineteen bombers outbound, eight did not return. Operation Chastise cost the lives of fifty-three airmen, including fourteen Canadians. Of the sixteen RCAF men who survived, seven received military decorations for valour. Dam Busters recounts the dramatic story of these young Commonwealth bomber crews tasked with the high-risk operation against an enemy prepared to defend the Fatherland to the death.

“A Score to Settle with Hitler”: Canada’s Jewish Military Fighters in World War II
Ellin Bessner, 3 April 2019

Nearly 40 per cent of all eligible Jewish Canadian men served in the Second World War. They fought in all the major battles, from Dunkirk to D-Day, and from Hong Kong to Ortona, and in the liberation of Holland. Yet unlike their comrades of other religions, they faced a double threat: they served at great personal risk, should they be captured by the enemy, and their religious identities be uncovered. As Ellin will explain in her lively, interactive presentation, Canadian Jews volunteered for this war not only for patriotism, but also to save their Jewish brethren from the Nazi’s Final Solution to annihilate the Jewish people.

Fall 2018 Speakers

The Winter Line: Italy 1943
Terry Copp, 19 September 2018

The invasion of the Italian mainland was planned on the belief that a pre-negotiated Italian surrender meant an easy occupation of south and central Italy. After the near disaster at Salerno and clear evidence the Germans would fight south of Rome, a new strategy was called for. Instead of a weakened force, from Ortona to the Garigliano the Allies confronted a well-entrenched enemy taking advantage of weather and terrain. After completing a digital project on the First World War, Terry Copp returns to the study of the Second World War with a talk on the Italian campaign. On September 19th, he will speak about command decisions in 1943 and assess their consequences.

The Secret History of Soldiers
Tim Cook, 17 October 2018

Award-winning author and historian Tim Cook will talk about his new book, The Secret History of Soldiers. Based on over twenty years of research into the letters, diaries and memoirs of Canadian soldiers, Cook will explore how soldiers coped and endured in the trenches along the Western Front. To deal with the stress and strain, soldiers created their own society based on a unique culture forged in combat. Soldiers used songs, plays, theatre, slang and superstitions as a shield against the horror and to survive the rigours of service.

From Farm to Front: The First World War and Rural Canada
Jonathan Vance, 7 November 2018

When Canada went to war in 1914, it was a nation dominated by rural life. Yet much of what we know about Canada in that period comes from the cities. When viewed from the back concessions, hamlets, and farms of rural Canada, the First World War looks quite different from what we are used to. Using rich local sources, “From Farm to Front” takes us back to a Canadian war experience that you may not recognize.

Shell Shock: The Legacy of the First World War
Mark Humphries, 5 December 2018

More than 16,000 Canadian soldiers suffered from shell shock during the Great War of 1914 to 1918. How did other soldiers relate to their suffering comrades? Did large numbers of shell shock cases affect the outcome of important battles? Was frontline psychiatric treatment as effective as many experts claimed after the war? On December 5th, Mark Humphries will answer these important question with the launch of his new book, A Weary Road.

Winter 2018 Speakers

First World War British Imperial Defence, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Alexander Maavara, 18 January 2018

How did modern nations deal with the carnage and bloodshed that came with the First World War? Alexander Maavara discusses these issue in his presentation on the Origins of the British Home Front: The Invasion Scare of 1914.

Legacies of US Cold War Policies: The Quest for Justice in the Marshall Islands
Martha Smith-Norris, 24 January 2018

In the race against the Soviet Union for nuclear supremacy during the Cold War, the United States tested a vast array of powerful nuclear bombs and missiles in the Marshall Islands while conducting studies on the effects of human exposure to radioactive fallout. Based on extensive archival research, Smith-Norris will discuss the health and environmental consequences of these American policies and the Marshall Islanders’ ongoing quest for justice in Washington and the United Nations.

The Canadian Corps at Passchendaele 100 Years On
Mark Humphries, 7 February 2018

For more than a century, Passchendaele has been the battle which best captures the horrors and futility of the Great War. Yet the Canadian role in this pivotal fight has strangely received little attention. Professor Humphries re-examines the battle using British, Canadian and German sources to try and understand why Canadians fought there and what the battle tells us about the state of Sir Arthur Currie’s Canadian Corps at the end of 1917.Mark Humphries is the Director of the Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies and the Dunkley Chair in War and the Canadian Experience at Wilfrid Laurier  University. He has published five books and more than a dozen articles on the medical, social, and operational history of the Great War. His most recent book is The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health in Canada (UTP, 2013), he is in the final stages of a monograph on shell-shock during the war.

A Plague of Diseased Soldiers, Guelph Civic Museum
Lyndsay Rosenthal, 15 February 2018

Venereal disease became a problem for the Canadian Expeditionary Force soon after they arrived in England. While VD was initially treated as a moral problem, the military was forced to treat it as a medical problem when the punitive polices aimed at controlling sexual behaviours failed to address the problem. To combat the disease, the C.E.F. implement a VD management system that focused on prevention and treatment. This paper will explore the evolution this system by examining the creation Etchinghill VD hospital, the controversy over 606 treatments and the debate surrounding demobilization.

The (Royal) Flying Canadian: Eddie McKay and Early Air Warfare, 1915–16
Graham Broad, 14 March 2018

In late 1915, Eddie McKay of London, Ontario became one of the first Canadians to join the Royal Flying Corps (RFC). Using McKay’s experience as a lens, early pilot training in the RFC and the development of aerial tactics during the Battle of the Somme in 1916 will be explored and assessed.

Underground at Vimy, Guelph Military Lecture Series
Katrina Pasierbek, 22 March 2018

Located “somewhere in France” is an underground chalk cave that was used to shelter soldiers from the aboveground dangers during the First World War. In the days leading up to the battle for Vimy Ridge in April 1917, Canada’s soldiers passed the time by carving personal messages and images into the soft chalk walls. Over one hundred years later, these messages and artwork remain perfectly preserved on the cave walls, and a group of Canadian volunteers are working tirelessly to ensure these carvings are preserved before it’s too late.

We are very lonely without him”: Children and Families in Canada’s Great War
Kristine Alexander, 11 April 2018

For tens of thousands of Canadian families, the First World War was a moment of rupture. Like their counterparts around the world, Canadian soldiers and the loved ones they left behind used written correspondence to try to maintain their relationships and understand the war’s effects on their lives. This presentation will analyze the letters exchanged between members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force and their parents, siblings, sweethearts, wives, and children to assess the material and emotional effects of total war on Canadian young people and families.

Fall 2017 Speakers

Terry Copp, 20 September 2017

Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster hit Dunkirk arrived in Canadian theaters this summer, depicting the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and Allied forces at Dunkirk in the spring of 1940. Terry will speak about the historical context of the battle and the consequences of the Dunkirk evacuation.

“What stubborn-hearted virtues they disguised!”: Canadian Conscripts at War – 1918
Patrick Dennis, 18 October 2017

In this the centenary of compulsory service in Canada, “Canadian conscripts at War” will provide an overview of the principal events leading up to this historic and controversial legislation, followed by a brief examination of the vital contribution made by conscripts during the Hundred Days. The subject has long been obscured by myth and by inaccurate or incomplete history. Many of these myths will be directly addressed in this presentation.

Professor Jack Granatstein once wrote: “Precisely how many conscripted men saw action remains unclear, and we have no firm sense of whether these unwilling soldiers performed well in action.” As will become evident in this presentation, we now have a much clearer idea about both of these issues.

Reinventing Canada’s Junior Officer Corps: From Passchendaele to Normandy
Geoffrey Hayes, 8 November 2017

Geoffrey Hayes’ talk will explore the changing face of Canadian military leadership between the two world wars. What changed? What remained the same? Did the First World War bring an end to heroic leadership?

The Human Cost of War: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in Korea, 1950-1953
Meghan Fitzpatrick, 6 December 2017

Marred by war and violence, the history of the twentieth century is one of trauma. The Korean War (1950-1953) was a ferocious and brutal conflict that produced over four million casualties. It also represents one of the largest deployments of Canadians in the past hundred years. Throughout the war, psychiatric casualties accounted for one in twenty sick or wounded Commonwealth soldiers. In doing their duty, many of these men would bear permanent scars.

Historian and author Meghan Fitzpatrick investigates the human impact of the “forgotten war.” This talk will examine how the Commonwealth cared for the psychologically wounded in theatre and assess how successful doctors were in returning servicemen to duty. Based on her recently published book, Meghan will explore the challenges that veterans of politically unpopular or neglected conflicts like Korea face in accessing compensation and care. She will also reflect upon how the Korean War experience can inform contemporary policy and underline salutary lessons for the future.

Winter 2017 Speakers

Tools of Peace: Munitions Disposal and Postwar Reconstruction in Canada, 1943-1948
Alex Souchen, 25 January 2017

During the Second World War, Canada mobilized unprecedented levels of industrial production and munitions procurement. By 1945, Canadian factories had equipped the nation’s military and allies with some 9,000 ships, 16,000 aircraft, 850,000 vehicles, 5 billion rounds of ammunition and artillery shells, and countless other supplies. Although this wartime productivity was dwarfed by American, British, and Russian efforts, it was still an incredible achievement for a country of just 11 million people. However, when the war ended, the remnants of war posed a daunting postwar challenge to political, economic, and social stability. Victory triggered a major disposal problem. Without a war to fight, much of Canada’s vast arsenals were surplus to requirements. So what happened to all the leftover stuff? Drawing from extensive archival and primary research, Alex will explore how the Canadian government and military supported postwar reconstruction and rehabilitation by tackling the great problem of materiel demobilization. In doing so, he will explain how surplus munitions and supplies were reduced, reused, and recycled into new forms of utility in peacetime.

Toronto, Urban Space, and the Great War, 1914-1918
Mary Chaktsiris, 15 February 2017

In Toronto during the First World War, there were spectacles to be seen and obstacles to avoid. The war was viewed by some as a call to arms, a possibility for adventure, and an opportunity to distinguish the Dominion on a world stage. Yet the war was also inconvenient, divisive, and brought with it a war effort that disrupted daily life. Over four years of war the city’s landscape changed as its urban geography shifted to war work: its boulevards became parade routes, its parks used for ceremonies of mourning and remembrance, its exhibition grounds used to train troops and jail suspected enemy aliens. Based on original archival research, this talk will explore how different strands of the war effort – including sentiments of belonging, acceptance, resistance, and frustration – crossed and became entangled within Toronto during the war years.

Fall 2016 Speakers

Into the Blue: The Commonwealth Soldier in the Western Desert, 1940-1943
Alan Allport, 21 September 2016

The campaign in the Western Desert of Egypt and Libya from June 1940 to February 1943 was the quintessential experience of the British and imperial soldier during the middle years of the Second World War. At the height of the struggle, more than 1,000 Commonwealth soldiers and 5,000 tonnes of supplies were arriving in Egypt every day. Though the war for the Western Desert lasted over two-and-a-half years, heavy fighting only took place for six months in all, and most of the combat was confined to a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean coast barely 100 miles from end to end. For much of the time and across most of its extent, then, it was the desert itself – ‘the Blue’, as it was known to the troops – that was the Commonwealth soldier’s enemy, not the unseen Afrika Korps. It was a place of malevolence but also great beauty and spirituality, utterly strange to the vast majority of soldiers, and the Eighth Army which fought there had to adjust to it both practically and psychologically.

‘Ghastly and Gruelling’: Canada’s Ignored Campaign on the Somme, 1916
Bill Stewart, 26 October 2016

The Somme was the second longest and costliest Canadian campaign of the First World War. Its mix of victories and defeats triggered massive changes in the way the Canadian Corps fought, the administration of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and in the Canadian political leadership of the war effort. Unlike the intense interest in the Somme battles in the UK, New Zealand, and Australia, there is scant Canadian coverage of this critical campaign. Based on his upcoming book, Bill will address this gap by delivering a presentation on its course, and the factors that shaped how the Canadians battled. He will also present some of his key findings on the importance of artillery, combat losses, attack outcomes, and loss distribution.

The Forgotten Gunners: The Tale of Two Anti-Tank Batteries at War 1940-1945
Marc Milner, 8 November 2016

Little is known of the raising, training and operations of Canada’s anti-tank batteries in the Second World War. Anti-tank guns typically operated dispersed on the battlefield and their actions are often subsumed in the dominant narratives of the units and formations they supported. As part of the work on Loyal Gunners: 3rd Field Artillery Regiment (The Loyal Company) and the History of New Brunswick’s Artillery, 1893-2012 the story of two NB anti-tank batteries were rescued from obscurity. The 103rd (Campbelton) Battery, equipped with 17-pdrs, operated as part of the 6th Anti-Tank Regiment which was the heavy anti-tank reserve held by II Canadian Corps in Northwest Europe, while the 105th (St George) Battery of 3rd Anti-Tank Regiment played a key role in supporting 3rd Canadian Division. This talk will highlight their origins, changing roles and equipment, and their salient moments on the battlefield.

The Legacy of the Somme 100 Years On
Mark Humphries, 16 November 2016

On hundred years on, the Battle of the Somme remains emblematic of the horror and futility that has become our memory of the First World War. Historian Mark Humphries will explore the legacy of the Battle of the Somme and the First World War more broadly in popular culture and the ways in which our conventional image of the Somme is at odds with the ways in which those who fought chose to remember the battle.

Winter 2016 Speakers

‘He stays and endures, while you go’: Canada’s Rejected Volunteers of the First World War
Nic Clarke, 24 February 2016

Two Wars between Two Covers: Reflections on Writing a New Survey History of Canada in the First and Second World Wars
Andrew Iarocci, 22 March 2016

The presentation will discuss the process of writing and publishing A Nation in Conflict: Canada and the Two World Wars, a new survey history text on the Canadian experience in both world wars. It will address some of the historiographical and methodological issues that we encountered, as well as the challenges of interpreting the war for a new generation of Canadian students.

Fall 2015 Speakers

The Life of the Elusive Mr. Pond
Barry Gough, 17 September 2015

In The Elusive Mr. Pond, Dr. Barry Gough sheds light on one of recent history’s most influential and shadowy figures whose legend has been forgotten in favour of those who came after him. While most North Americans won’t recognize his name, Pond mentored the more well-known Sir Alexander Mackenzie and mapped much of northwestern Canada before him. Peter Pond was extraordinarily ambitious, and became a notable figure in the founding of the empire of the St. Lawrence. And he was both an entrepreneur and pioneer–venturing into the wild and unexplored expanse of the far distant Arctic watershed. His exploits in the fur trade were legendary and elevated him to become a founding partner in the North West Company. These experiences, combined with his reputed violent temper and implication in two murders, make him a compelling historical figure.

Prior to The Elusive Mr. Pond, much of Pond’s life has been shrouded in mystery. Renowned researcher and historian Barry Gough has created the definitive portrait of this captivating character. Gough’s research re-examines Pond’s surviving memoirs, explorers’ journals, letters written by acquaintances of Pond, publications in London magazines and many other sources to create the most complete portrait of this eccentric, industrious, sturdy, aggressive and secretive fellow ever published.

Newfoundland at Gallipoli: An Unknown War 100 Years On
Mark Humphries,
30 September 2015

A century ago, in September 1915 the Newfoundland Regiment (later the Royal Newfoundland Regiment) landed at Suvla Bay on the Gallipoli Peninsula where they took part in the final phase of one of the most disastrous military campaigns of the First World War. The regiment, raised on the tiny island Dominion of Newfoundland which had a population of only 250,000 in 1914, was the smallest of the Imperial contributions to the British war effort but its experience at home and overseas was characterized by many of the same obstacles and challenges faced by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. In December and January, the regiment participated in the only successful part of the campaign: the rearguard actions covering the secret evacuations of the beachheads. During the war, the Gallipoli experience became an important part of Newfoundland’s emerging war story, but it was soon overshadowed by the disastrous massacre at Beaumont Hamel on 1 July 1916. Join professor Humphries, who spent three years at Memorial University, as he explores this forgotten chapter in our history and the ways in which the memory of the campaign is being used in Newfoundland today.

First Canadian Army in the Fall of 1944: The Officer’s Experience
Geoffrey Hayes, 28 October 2015

This talk draws from memoirs, letters, even newsreels to explore both the appearance, as well as the experience of the junior army officer, First Canadian Army in the fall of 1944.

Remembering Canada’s Second World War, 1945-2015
Tim Cook, 25 November 2015

Operation ARTEMIS: The Canadian Armed Forces’ Ongoing Contribution to Counter-Terrorism and Maritime Security Operations
Commodore Brian Santarpia, Combined Task Force (CTF)-150, RCN, 1 December 2015

From December 2014 until April 2015, Commodore Brain Santarpia was deployed to Bahrain where he commanded Combined Task Force (CTF)-150, a multi-national group of ships and aircraft conducting counter-terrorism operations.

The deployment was part of Operation ARTEMIS, the CAF’s ongoing contribution to counter-terrorism and maritime security operations across the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Oman and Indian Ocean. Through maritime security operations and regional engagements, CTF-150 worked to deter and deny terrorist organizations from using the high seas for smuggling weapons, illicit cargo and narcotics while ensuring the safe passage of merchant ships in some of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

Winter 2015 Speakers

Air Force Mercy Flights in the Arctic During the Early Cold War
Richard Goette, 20 January 2015

During the early Cold War period (1945-1960), the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) maintained a constant presence in Canada’s North. Though many individuals are familiar with the RCAF’s role in sovereignty protection and continental air defence in the region during this time, the story of the air force’s important benevolence endeavours to provide assistance to those in need through its numerous Mercy Flights has gone largely untold.

This presentation will utilize a broad definition of “Mercy Flights” to consist of “soft” air power RCAF missions and tasks to aid those in need of assistance in Canada’s northern region. Flying from numerous locations, the RCAF air mobility community performed a variety of Search-and-Rescue (SAR) missions, delivered emergency aid (medical and supplies), and brought relief and joy (notably “Operation Santa Claus” in December) to numerous individuals, military and other government workers, and various communities in the North (including indigenous peoples).

This presentation will detail not only a few Mercy Flights themselves, but also the policies, aircraft and aircrew, and domestic and operational considerations therein. It will also discuss implications for the current RCAF air mobility community as it continues to exercise “soft” air power in Canada’s northern region. It is therefore hoped that this presentation will not only make a valuable contribution to Canada’s aviation history, but also highlight other important aid to the civil power and whole-of-government (WoG) approach lessons learned that are relevant today.

Henri Bourassa: A Canadian Dissenter in the First World War
Geoff Keelan,
25 February 2015

In this talk, Geoff Keelan will discuss the reasons behind French Canadian nationalist Henri Bourassa’s opposition to the First World War. Bourassa was one of the most vocal opponents to the war in Canada who debated the war’s purpose and value within a Canadian context. Though the majority of Canadians disagreed with him, his position aligned with other international commentators from the Allied countries who also opposed the war. Keelan explores Bourassa’s thoughts on Canada at war as well as international issues during the years 1914-1918.

Democracy and Empire: War, Memory and Commemoration
Sir Hew Strachan,
7 March 2015

Join award-winning author and acclaimed military historian Professor Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War at All Souls College, Oxford, England. Strachan will be delivering the keynote address at the Tri-University Annual History Conference, which takes place on March 7 at the Delta Waterloo Hotel in Waterloo, ON. His talk will address an important avenue of his wider research which focuses on military history from the 18th century to date, including contemporary strategic studies, but with particular interest in the First World War and in the history of the British Army.

Disaster May Never Occur Here: Mobilizing Women for Cold War Civil Defence
Tarah Brookfield,
18 March

Fall 2014 Speakers

Hunting a Killer: Searching for the Origins of the 1918 Flu
Mark Humphries, 19 November 2014

Tracking down the origin of a killer virus can be a painstaking, difficult process. They often behave like shadowy stalkers, emerging in fits and starts, learning to kill over time and space before they actually begin to spread in a significant way. The deadliest epidemic in history was the so-called “Spanish Flu” of 1918 which killed between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. But even after nearly 100 years of research, the virus’ origin site remains hotly debated. While the mid-western United States, France, and China have all been identified as potential candidates by medical researchers, the military context for the pandemic has been all but ignored. Conversely, military historians have paid little attention to a deadly disease which underlines the important relationship between battlefield and home-front.

Canada’s One Hundred Days, 1918
J. L. Granatstein, 22 October 2014

Surprisingly, few Canadians are familiar with the real story of Canadian military success and sacrifice: the Hundred Days that led to the end of the war. Beginning on August 8, 1918, the Canadian Corps launched a series of attacks that took Amiens, crossed the Canal du Nord, smashed the Hindenburg Line, took Cambrai and Valenciennes, and defeated a quarter of the German Army in the field. The 100,000 soldiers of the four Canadian divisions fought a mobile war that was revolutionary in its effectiveness and, as J. L. Granatstein argues, would influence the course of subsequent fighting, particularly in World War 2. With 45,000 casualties in three months (almost a quarter of Canadian casualties during the whole four years of the war), however, the costs were heavy. This new account of Canada’s one hundred days will displace Vimy as the moment to remember about how the Great War was won – with difficulty, determination, and sacrifice.