As historian Desmond Morton reminds us, “Wars are made by masses of people, and masses are made up of individuals, with their own motives and experiences, joys, terrors and tragedies.” But how does one really measure the impact of war on society? By the number of men and women who volunteer for military service? By the mounting strain on both personal and public economy? By the harsh political decisions that often flow from military necessity? When war was declared on August 4th, 1914, few New Brunswickers conceived of how these and other concerns would come to dominate almost every facet of their lives. On the contrary, with the enlistment from the province of 1,134 men to the first contingent, enthusiasm for war remained strong throughout the province. Whether driven by a sense of adventure, the need to combat injustice, love of Empire, or a budding sense of nationality, as many as 26,000 New Brunswick-born men and women would eventually wear the uniform of one of the Maritimes’ many distinctive military units. Approximately one in ten did not return. As casualties mounted, New Brunswickers found ways to deal with the increasing cost of war: charities were formed to help support soldiers’ families; agricultural societies banded together to find new ways to increase production; and, as volunteerism began to wane, recruiting associations gave way to conscription as a means of winning the war. Some New Brunswickers openly doubted the province’s ability to give more; but even in the darkest days of 1917 and 1918, most residents remained resolute in their desire to secure victory and to bring their loved ones home.
The New Brunswick Great War Project (NBGWP) is an ongoing program to preserve and illustrate a collection of sources relating to this province’s commitment to the Great War (1914-1919). Its principal aim is to provide both researcher and genealogist alike the foundation for a better understanding of the relationship between war and society. The project is not a comprehensive study of all people and all sources. It is an attempt to lend context to what is arguably a very complex subject. While great effort has been made to balance local with provincial topics, the project is heavily biased towards those sources dealing with military personnel, their families, and the wartime activities they engaged in.
The project is divided into two separate but equally important parts: the first provides the names and vital statistics of approximately 32,000 soldiers and nurses of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) who are linked to New Brunswick’s military effort. The majority were born in the province. Some emigrated to the Maritimes before the war. Others resided in Nova Scotia, Quebec, or New England, but found themselves enlisting in one of a number of provincial units such as the 26th Battalion. The list is imperfect. Not all of the men and women who are connected to New Brunswick’s wartime record have been identified. Furthermore, personal data such as date and place of birth have been extracted from several different sources and has not yet been verified. Efforts are currently underway to correct these deficiencies and to expand upon the basic military information that is currently available, but this is a very time consuming process.
The second part of the project provides users with almost 50,000 articles drawn from three provincial newspapers, namely the Kings County Record, the St. John Standard, and Fredericton’s Daily Gleaner. Articles, ranging in date from 1914 to 1920, cover a number of important wartime issues. The largest category of clippings details the extent of New Brunswick’s military contribution to the Great War, from recruiting to the publication of personal letters and the twice-daily casualty list. Other categories include charitable fundraising, politics, economic expansion, the role of women and children, and the influence of religion. Eventually, this project will be expanded to include a total of ten provincial newspapers – five of New Brunswick’s largest dailies and five regional weekly newspapers – and upwards of 150,000 articles in both official languages. Indexes have been provided to narrow potential searches by location, by topic, by title keyword, and by date. Users are warned, however, that scanned images are only as good as their source. While substantial effort has been made to clean-up images and present them in as legible a form as possible, some images may be difficult to read.
The NBGWP was created through the collective efforts of historian Curtis Mainville, the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, and the University of New Brunswick’ Gregg Center for the Study of War and Society. Additional thanks are extended to the Harriet Irving Library and Library and Archives Canada. Images are copyright-free. Reproduction is subject to the credit of The New Brunswick Great War Project.
- Curtis Mainville