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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 published a selection of humurous, poignant, and insightful submissions from the front lines, 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)
• 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.
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:
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 is what remains unsaid: the reality of combat, of violence and suffering, is only obliquely present; what we now know about the new intensity of firepower faced by these men, and the landscapes of blasted devastation they encountered, contrast sharply with the Kiplingesque way in which soldiers imagined and wrote about their experiences.
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.