Winnipeg's Great War

A City Comes of Age

Jim Blanchard (Author)


From the local bestselling author of Winnipeg 1912 comes the riveting next chapter in the city’s history. Winnipeg’s Great War picks up in 1914, just as the city is regrouping after a brief economic downturn. War comes unexpectedly, thoughts of recovery are abandoned, and the city digs in for a hard-fought four years. Using letters, diaries, and newspaper reports, Jim Blanchard brings us into the homes and public offices of Winnipeg and its citizens to illustrate the profound effect the war had on every aspect of the city, from its politics and economy, to its men on the battlefield, and its war-weary families fighting on the home front. We witness the emergence of the city’s social welfare services through the work of women’s volunteer organizations; the political scandals that led to the fall of the Rodmond Roblin government; and the clash between independent jitneys and the city’s private transit company. And we hear the conflicted emotions that echoed in the city’s streets, from anti-foreign sentiment and labour unrest, to patriotic parades, and a spontaneous Victory Day celebration that refused to end. Through these stories, Blanchard reveals how these crucial years set the stage for the decades ahead, and how the First World War transformed Winnipeg into the city it is today.


"Jim Blanchard’s Winnipeg’s Great War examines how Winnipeg’s 160,000 people faced the war from 1914 to 1918. An award-winning author of a previous book on Winnipeg and a librarian at the University of Manitoba, he knows where many of the city’s skeletons are buried. Blanchard writes in an engaging style as he explores why Winnipeggers enlisted and went overseas, and how those at home coped with their absence.”

Canada’s History, June-July 2011


Margaret McWilliams Popular History Award (2010)
Manitoba Day Award, Association for Manitoba Archives (2011)

About the Author

Jim Blanchard is a retired academic librarian and Librarian Emeritus of the University of Manitoba. He has worked in public libraries, the library of the Canadian Grain Commission, and was the Director of Public Library Services for Manitoba.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 — 1914: The Coming of War / Jewish Soldiers / Mobilizing the Civilian Population / Poor Women and the Patriotic Fund / The Manitoba Red Cross / Women’s Volunteer Reserve Corps / The IODE Goes to War / City Politics in 1914 / The 1914 Election

Chapter 2 — 1915: Recruiting the Second Contingent / The Second Battle of Ypres / “The War Has Struck Home” / Mourning the Wounded / Patriotic Week / “I have nothing but contempt for the man who can go but does not” / Training / Winnipeg Women in England / City Politics in 1915 / Jitneys and the Winnipeg Electric Railway / Provincial Politics—The Fall of Rodmond Roblin

Chapter 3 — 1916: “They lost their heads entirely”—The Winnipeg Police and the Soldiers’ Riot / “It Was Simply Hell”—The battles of 1916 / Deserters / The Norris Government

Chapter 4 — 1917: Winning at any Cost / Hospitals /Conscription /Inflexible Determination / The Role of Women in Winning the War / The IODE Fights On

Chapter 5 — 1918: Conscientious Objectors / Exemptions, Treason, and Anti-Foreign Hysteria / The Jitney Problem Resolved / City Issues / Labour Organizing / Memorials / The End of the War