This collection of First World War military newspapers, or "trench journals," was produced as part of the Early Canadian Periodicals project for its valuable insights into the social and cultural responses to war among Canadian expeditionary soldiers. Notorious for their wit and black humour, trench journals present a unique selection of wry, humorous and poignant submissions from the Canadian rank-and-file serving in France, including letters, poems, editorial cartoons, awards, social events, and a wider commentary on military and civilian life.
The following titles were selected for their value to teachers, genealogists, and scholars in communications, social, and military history:
• The Listening Post (journal of the 7th Canadian Infantry Battalion, 1916-18)
• The Canadian War Pictorial: A Photographic Record (1916-18)
• The McGilliken (journal of the No. 3 Canadian General Hospital, 1916)
• The Rouelles Camp Magazine (journal of the Canadian Base Depot, Le Havre, 1916-19)
• In & Out (journal of the Canadian Ambulance Field Corps)
• The Brazier (journal of the 16th (Canadian Scottish) Battalion,1916)
• The Iodine Chronicle (journal of the No. 1 Canadian Field Ambulance, 1915-1918)
• Vie Canadienne (journal of the Canadian Section, General Headquarters, 3rd Echelon, 1915-18)
• Western Universities Battalion, 196th (1916)
• Chevrons to stars (journal of the Canadian Training School, 1917)
Trench journalism functioned to sustain morale and develop a military culture by providing outlets for soldiers to socialize, share accomplishments, and vent frustrations with military life. Its columns announced football matches and concerts, satirized civilians’ views of the war, provided a forum for officers addressing other ranks, and published verse that ranged from playful and self-deprecating to the type of patriotic purple prose found in government propaganda.
Despite the freedom enjoyed by writers in the trenches relative to the heavily-censored wire stories consumed at home, publications charged with maintaining martial resolve and enthusiasm had little appetite for outright pessimism. Beneath the soldierly gripes lurks a buoyant and optimistic tone, reinforcing the Christian-humanist-democratic aims of, and sustaining a sense of achievement and pride in, Canada’s role in the conflict. Perhaps most telling are the absences—the reality of combat, of violence and suffering, are only obliquely present; new intensities of firepower, producing landscapes of blasted devastation, contrast sharply with the Kiplingesque themes in which soldiers imagined and wrote about their experiences.
To the delight of present-day students and genealogists, trench journals also celebrated unit and individual accomplishments and promoted healthy rivalries in athletics, debating, music, and – if this article is to be believed – more exotic competitions:
About Early Canadian Periodicals
Learn more about ECP, our project to digitize all Canadian periodicals until 1920: How it got started, how it works, and the treasures to be found in it.