Cat No.: CA0291:Subtitled: Being a record of the part played by officers of the bank in the great war. 1914 - 1919.
Over 1,700 staff members resigned their positions with the Canadian Bank of Commerce to go and do their bit in the Great War. As letters began to trickle back from these erstwhile bank employees the bank's Staff Inspector (what we would call the head of Human Resources today) conceived the idea of publishing a series of pamphlets containing suitable edited extracts from these letters so that remaining staff members, and indeed customers, could follow the fortunes of those at the front. It was not long before these 11 initial pamphlets began to find their way to the front themselves and were eagerly passed around so that news of other bank employees could be shared.
Following the war, when many of the survivors were returning to their old jobs, the bank was casting around for ways in which it could commemorate their valiant efforts as well as making a fitting tribute to those who had failed to make it home. This book was one of the ways in which the Bank decided to accomplish this so they collected all the materials originally published in the 11 pamphlets, updated and enhanced it with information which had been previously censored or unavailable, and added extensive Honor Roll lists, a portrait gallery of over 392 employees and biographies for (it was believed) every member of staff who took an active part in the war in some way or another. Further enhancements include photographic plates showing the unit badges of Canadian, British and even US military units in which bank members served, a map of the Western Theater of War and photographs of the more traditional statuary the bank intended to erect. The addition of these biographies and other materials, necessitated an expansion into a second volume. To maintain continuity the biographies are cross referenced to the letters published in the first volume.
It can be seen then that the editors were at great pains to ensure that everybody who joined the armed services was commemorated, and yet, perhaps the most important function this book serves today is to provide a completely different perspective on the War from the one we are more used to finding in the various official and military unit histories. Here we find the stories, the reactions, the feelings of the individual who has been brought face to face with a type of war that no one had experienced to that time. Frequently expressed in the sort of flippant banter which we have been conditioned to expect of the service people of that time, here are stories of everyday domestic life in the trenches, cheek-by-jowl with tales of the most extraordinary acts of heroism and then again with recounts of sudden, unexpected, and violent death.
Although clearly in a majority, not all the letters concern the war in the trenches. Many of the bank's employees served in the Navy, the Royal Flying Corps as well as in other theaters of war, including the Turkish front. There is no clear statement on the organization of the letters but it seems to be mainly chronological by date of writing and to assist with relating the letters to the more universally recognizable (historical) events of the war a timeline of events has been provided at the beginning of volume 2.
This digital edition also includes a copy of our Gleaning, CAG027 - Honour Roll of Bank of Hamilton & Standard Bank of Canada, Military Service in the Great War, two institutions which were merged with the Canadian Bank of Commerce after the war. This information was originally published as an appendix to volume 3 of a history of the Bank, published in 1934 and was indicated to be considered an addition to Letters from the Front.
We have placed a sampler of this book on our Downloads page.
This valuable book has been loaned to us by Marc Leroux. Marc has joined Chris Wight to undertake the mammoth task of making a biographical database of all the Canadians who took part in The Great War. This work will be underway for a long time, but the current data base contents have been made available and can be found at http://www.canadianGreatWarProject.com/ Please visit their site so they know their work is being appreciated.
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