British Declaration of War – Part II
August 1914-1917

An official notice to recruits, detailing the new standards for service. 
Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-2311.

Last week marked the 103rd Anniversary of the British Declaration of War in 1914. In a time before televisions and widespread use of radio, instant communication was less than ideal. Consequently for those not living within major city centres, word that the Empire was at war often took time to trickle down, and it’s delivery at times could be unconventional, to say the least. This was particularly true for those in the northern wilderness, as this account relates:

‘A surveyor working in the province’s Cascade Range more than 150 miles from the nearest telegraph office only learned in late September that a war had broken out somewhere. Trying to get more details was a challenge, for the man who told him could only communicate via the Chinook trade language.

“Who was fighting?” the surveyor asked.  

“Everybody,” the Indian replied. In Victoria and in Vancouver they fought, but not in Seattle.   

None of this made sense to the surveyor, whose questions only elicited more images of street battles in front of the Empress or Georgia hotels. Finally the Indian paused and shouted triumphantly, “King George, he fight.” Knowing that King George in Chinook meant Great Britain and that Englishmen were called King George’s Men, the surveyor suddenly understood. “I knew this meant that England and Germany were at it, and it took no time for me to decide as to what I should do.”

(Zuehlke, Brave Battalion – The Remarkable Saga of the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) In The First World War, p. 11)  

Recruits on Station Street in Toronto, 9 November 1915. 
Credit: John Boyd/Library and Archives Canada/PA-071690.

*Editors Note: Today’s post is sourced from Mark Zuehlke’s Brave Battalion, written in 2008. However it should be noted, the story specifically is further cited by Zuehlke from H. M. Urquhart’s The History of the 16th Battalion (The Canadian Scottish) Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War, 1914-1919, written in 1932. The language has not been changed so as to remain true to the original document and reflect the vocabulary of that period, despite the use of language that may not be considered appropriate terminology by today’s standards.