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This digital collection has been created by the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Project in conjunction with The Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives (ANLA) under contract to Canada’s Digital Collections, Industry Canada.

Introduction and Overview

The Great War, now usually known as the First World War, erupted in the summer of 1914 in a Europe that had become divided and destabilized by a system of alliances. Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire formed one such alliance (“the Central Powers”), while France, Russia and Great Britain (“the Allies”) constituted another. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. Because of the alliance system, the crisis could not be localized. The other powers were rapidly drawn in, and by August 4 most of Europe was at war. In the months that followed, Italy entered the war on the side of the Allies, and the Ottoman (Turkish) Empire on the side of the Central Powers. The United States joined the Allies in April 1917.

When Great Britain declared war on Germany, it did so on behalf of the entire British Empire. Even those parts of the empire, which possessed responsible government and were in many ways independent—like Newfoundland—had no choice in the matter. So the decision which faced the Newfoundland government and people in 1914 was not whether or not they should take part in the war, but what the nature and extent of their participation should be.

Crowd being addressed in front of the Court House, St. John’s, ca. 1917.
Courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador (PANL F-52-14), St. John’s, Newfoundland.
(51 Kb)

They entered the war willingly; but the grim experience of the four years which followed, both at home and overseas, marked a watershed in the country’s history which is still remembered and commemorated.

Based on glass plate images located in and provided by the Provincial Archives of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John’s, supplemented with images from elsewhere, this site provides an introduction to what was experienced by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador during the Great War. The main sections deal with the home front, Newfoundland’s participation in the war, and the commemoration of the war after 1918.

In addition to the photos appearing in the Article section of our site, the Images section includes a further and extensive collection of the Newfoundland Regiment photographs. This section can be accessed by clicking on the Images tab in the side bar of any page.

The project was funded by Canada’s Digital Collections program, Industry Canada, sponsored by the Association of Newfoundland and Labrador Archives, and executed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site team in the Faculty of Arts at Memorial University of Newfoundland.