The War Begins

The pace in rural Ontario was slower than the cities. An illustration of this was the manner in which the printer media could inform its readers of significant events.

Front page of the Vancouver Daily Province, August 4, 1914.

The First World War started on August 4, 1914, and the Vancouver Daily Province newspaper declared, “Britain and Germany Now at War” on that very date. But in Goderich, a not insignificant municipality of 4,522 (1911 census), had no daily newspaper. Its local newspaper, The Signal, published every Thursday, and thus, would be several days behind major news events.

Front page of The Signal, Goderich, Ontario, August 4, 1914.

Two days had transpired since the announcement of hostilities breaking out, and there would be no doubt that the community would be a buzz with what war news it would have received. Some of the daily newspapers from London and Toronto would be available and The Signal seems to have used its column-inches to focus on the impact of the war on the town specifically.

On the front page The Signal five articles contend with war news and, as life goes on, it relates the people staying at the local Sunset Resort (also known at the Hotel Sunset) with such people of notes, such as Lady Melvin Jones[i] of Toronto who arrived in her limousine which was declared by The Signal as “…one of the finest cars seen in Goderich for some time.” It is further states that this season for the hotel may be “…the best season since the hotel has been in operation,” and further “prophesies” that this is the beginning of an increase in the number of guests in the years to come.

One wonders how the war affected this prophecy.

Annotation 2019-08-04 120418
Brochure 1920. “Hotel Sunset, Goderich, Ontario, Canada: on the Blue Water Highway” Found at

This newspaper gives some idea of the relative isolation from the larger world a small town in Ontario, Canada experienced. Its local paper only published once a week and there was no radio or other means of mass communication. The editor made a conscious decision to devote a very small about of print about the war on the first page of the paper. Later, on this 8-page newspaper, the editor reserved space for several articles about how the war would impact the country and one in particular titled “CANADA’S DUTY PLAIN” which reflects the deep-seated loyalty reflected by the fact that 88% of the population of  Canada, as of 1911, was born in British possessions.[ii]

The war would affect Goderich, and by extension, Ontario, and Canada, in many ways and it would lead to the sacrifice of thirty of its residents[iii]. A further 521 residents from Huron County were to be part of this stark statistic.[iv]

The war has begun and many of the men of the  18th Battalion would join or be conscripted to fight for, “Canada’s duty is plain and there is no difference of opinion among Canadian leaders or the Canadian people as to the prompt, wholehearted action in its fulfilment.”[v] This “fulfilment would be costly for Canada.

[i] Wife of Sir Lyman Melvin Jones.

[ii] (2019). Canadian statistics in 1914. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

[iii] Laye, T., Laye, T. and profile, V. (2019). Goderich. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

[iv] CBC. (2019). Poppy installation remembers ‘every life that was lost’ from Huron County in WWI | CBC News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

[v] (2019). The Signal, 1914-8-13, Page 3 – Laserfiche WebLink. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Aug. 2019].

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