First World War Web site launched
By Will Hilliard, The Telegram


June 11, 2000. Copyright © 2000, The Telegram. Reprinted with permission.
The Telegram can be reached on the web at www.thetelegram.com

A new multi-media Web site packing more than 400 images has been set up to teach young Newfoundlanders about the sacrifices their forefathers made in the First World War.

Memorial University historian David Facey-Crowther says it couldn't have come a moment too soon.

"Hollywood crafts our image of the past through films like . . . Saving Private Ryan and The Thin Red Line and this new one (U-571) about the submarine that captured the Enigma machine at a time when the Americans weren't even at war, and in a sense it's hard for our true stories to get out—even though they may be twice as interesting," he said.

"This Web site is meant to serve the school market, to give schoolchildren in this province and across Canada and across the world, access to a small part of our province's military history as it actually happened."

The Web site was launched during a military history conference in St. John's Saturday. It was developed by the Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site and Memorial University, with the help of the provincial archives association and funding from Industry Canada's Digital Collections program.

Materials for the site were researched and compiled by the history department at Memorial University over 16 weeks, with the help of three students who were hired under a youth job strategy program.

The online exhibit – www.heritage.nf.ca/greatwar – is based upon a series of rare glass plate images located at the provincial archives in St. John's. It includes photographs and motion-picture reels depicting members of the Newfoundland Regiment on both the homefront and the battlefields, as well as academic articles interpreting the involvement of the Dominion of Newfoundland in the war.

The Great War, now usually known as the First World War, erupted in the summer of 1914 in a Europe that had become destabilized by a system of alliances.

Being a part of the British Empire, the decision Newfoundlanders faced was not whether or not they should take part in the war, but the nature and extent of their participation.

"It's a virtual history book and it's really a very heavily illustrated history book," said Memorial University professor Jim Hiller, who walked a roomful of conference participants through the Web site.

"I'm not aware of any as big as this which deals with this particular subject. I think what we all would like to see now is a similar site dedicated to Newfoundland's role in World War II," he said.

That sentiment was echoed by a Second World War veteran at the conference who complained that Newfoundland's contributions as an independent nation in the North Atlantic theatre were largely ignored after Confederation in 1949.

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