30,000 Canadian women crossed the Atlantic to be with their men during WWI. But for the nearly 600,000 men who left Canada during the conflict, all left behind women and girls that they loved. It is no wonder that many of the favourite songs of the war focused on this longing.
So in this post let's listen to some of the early songs and let's look at who the men kept in their hearts.
Tipperary was already madly popular in 1914. John McCormack too. His wonderful high Irish Tenor caught the longing that many felt. The song still captured people in WWII and as, boy growing up in post war London, this was the song that all the old ladies would sing when they wanted to remember.
The Canadians had mainly left their girls far away with no chance of seeing them maybe ever again. No leaves back home. No telephone. No way of hearing their voice or feeling their touch.
Who did they leave behind? They left behind women just like you. What did they look like? They looked just like you but with different fashions. Here are some images that made my heart break. For they show women going about their business with no artifice. They show what the Canadians had lost. They had lost you!
But first we see what we all think of as women of the time. We all watch shows today like Downton Abbey where we see upper class women and maids. The show does not do justice to how smart these women were. Have a look at these two!
I find this style very interesting as a man. Everything is covered up but the entire form of the woman is revealed and accentuated. Striking! So in my mind, we even miss how truly exotic upper class women were.
So what did maids look like?
Many were so young. There were over a million servants in London in 1914.
And what about middle class mums - todays "soccer mum"?
And just regular women?
And younger women?
She could be in jeans and have a cell phone!
And what did young girls look like?
And lastly what about Piccadilly?
And the west end?
As I started this series, I found it hard to accept the reality of it all. It was such a long time ago and life was so different. But the more I see pictures like these, the more it all becomes real for me. As the story develops week by week, I get to know them better and as I do, the tragedy of what will take place in their future becomes more painful.
But for now, in 1914, even though the British Army have had nearly 100,000 casualties, it all seems like a huge adventure. The "Hun" had been pushed back to the Belgian border. In 1915, we would win the war, surely!
Only the families of the professional army had been touched by tragedy. The mass of the people had been swept up by a patriotic fervour or had escaped, as we do now, in having fun.
Tomorrow we talk about the poetry of 1914 when all were filled with patriotic ardour.