Jeanette Elliott, Collections Relocation Coordinator

As a World War One researcher my greatest interest is not in military strategy, technological advances in weaponry or the political climate of the time - it is the “human element” - the personal thoughts and experiences of those that served and the families they left behind. As we make preparations to celebrate the holiday season with our family, friends and co-workers, one can only imagine how different Christmas must have been for those separated by the Great War. A couple of artifacts in the Fanshawe Pioneer Village permanent collection help to provide us with a rare and personal glimpse into Christmases past.

Small and diminutive, but covered in patriotic Canadian imagery, this little chocolate tin was produced in Toronto by The Cowan Chocolate Company of Canada. The tin would have been marketed in retail stores across Canada during the war years and likely many found their way to the front line. Filled with the company’s famous “Maple Buds”, or perhaps milk medallions or chocolate ginger, the tin and its contents would have been a welcome Christmas treat and a remembrance of home to a soldier in the trenches.

Chocolate Tin

Even Britain’s Royal Family took steps to make sure those serving in his Majesty’s Service were remembered at Christmas. In 1914 Princess Mary, the 17 year-old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, organized...

Jeanette Elliott, Collections Relocation Coordinator

In Flanders fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses, row on row…

This iconic poem, written in May 1915 by Lt. Col. John McCrae during the Second Battle of Ypres, has long been associated with the observance of Remembrance Day in Canada. In fact, it is believed published poets wrote more than two thousand poems about and during the First World War. Today we feature one such poem on this beautiful WW1 era postcard, one of over a thousand in the Fanshawe Pioneer Village postcard collection. The short but poignant verse below the flag is from a poem written by Canon Frederick George Scott, author, poet and much loved Chaplain to the First Canadian Division.


At the outbreak of WW1 in 1914, Frederick George Scott was a 54 year old Victorian clergyman. Fiercely loyal to the ideals of the British Empire he wasted no time enlisting for overseas duty. Ignoring the risks to his own personal safety, Scott spent the war with his “boys” in the frontline, following his beloved First Division into every major Battle.

Frederick George Scott

Frederick Scott also suffered a personal tragedy during WW1 with the loss of his son, Captain Henry Hutton Scott, killed in action on October 21, 1916 during an attack on Regina Trench. In mid-November, as the troops were preparing...

Jeanette Elliott, Collections Relocation Coordinator

An exciting discovery of a Farm Service Corps uniform in our collection serves to remind us that men were not the only participants in World War One. While women were restricted from participating in direct combatant roles, they organized and outfitted themselves for home defense, including military drills and rifle training. Canadian women also played a vital role on the home front, ensuring the economy continued to thrive by assuming roles traditionally held by men. According to the Imperial Munitions Board, nearly 35,000 women produced ammunition in factories in Ontario and Quebec during the First World War. But the shortage of labour in rural Canada led to government and private sector support for employment of women in agriculture.

One such program, the Farm Service Corps, was an initiative of the Ontario government. The “Farmerettes” worked in many areas of agriculture, replacing the labour of men lost to military service. For example, 2,400 women assisted with the fruit harvest in the Niagara region in 1918. The Young Women’s Christian Association, or YWCA, also had farm work programs, as did some charitable agencies and provincial departments of public works. While there were no formal arrangements like this in other provinces, rural women contributed extensively to farm work, as they had before the war, but now they often did so without their husbands, sons, or labourers to assist. Despite these challenges, it was...