Slang of the First World War
"Green Envelope"

19 January 1918 – “Left Marble Arch at 5:30 a.m. took underground to Victoria and got kit [from Maple Leaf Club]… Got the boat and arrived at Boulogne at 1:30 p.m… Wrote Lucy and posted a green envelope at the YMCA in Boulogne.” (Cane, It Made You Think of Home – The Haunting Journal of Deward Barnes, Canadian Expeditionary Force: 1916-1919, p. 150).

Did you know a “green envelope” was a specially coloured envelope, meant to indicate that its contents would not be censored by superior officers? The letter writer had to sign a declaration on the outside of the green envelope, swearing that the contents within were only personal or family matters. The premise was to allow soldiers to write home without concern of their private matters being read by their superiors within the battalion. However, “green envelopes” were issued sparingly and the letters were still subject to censorship further in the rear at base. (See Pegler, Soldier’s Songs and Slang of the Great War, p. 103 & Brophy & Partridge, Dictionary of Tommies’ Songs and Slang, 1914-18, p. 129).

A “Green Envelope”.
© Royal Mail Group Limited 2018.
© Royal Mail Group Limited 2018.

18 January 1918 – Writing Home

“Canadian writing home from the line.”
Credit: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/PA-001388 (modified from the original). Colourized by Canadian Colour.

Following the many battles of 1917, the winter months of 1918 provided a brief respite for the Canadian Expeditionary Force as it settled into the “relatively quiet Lens sector” (Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, p. 338). Without scheduled attacks, save for the nightly raiding parties, some Canadians took the time to step back and reflect on what they had just experienced. On 18 January 1918, one soldier’s letter home was published in a local newspaper :

“Any person who went through that Passchendaele Advance can safely say we went through more mud and shell fire, than was ever experienced in this God-forsaken hole called Europe… it is impossible to imagine what the Germans had to contend with… One prisoner who was captured said the Germans thought the Canadians were superhuman, and would not face them at all. It certainly looked like it, the way they disappeared when we started after them.”

– Lieutenant D. Lynn Dudley, 4th Canadian Trench Mortar Battery, private letter published in The Cobourg World, Friday, 18 January 1918, Page 5:3. (Climo, Let Us Remember – Lively Letters From World War One, p. 269).

Epitaphs of the First World War

“Faithful Unto Death”

Epitaph of Private John Derry, Service Number 2005364, of the 78th (Winnipeg Grenadiers) Battalion. John Derry was married and working as a teamster when he enlisted in Regina, Saskatchewan with the Canadian Engineers in January 1917. On 29 December 1917, he joined the 78th Battalion in the field as a reinforcement. He died of shell wounds to both thighs just 18 days later on 16 January 1918 and is buried in Anzin-St.Aubin British Cemetery, France.

Image Courtesy: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, 2018.

Vimy 100 In The Classroom
New Video - "Maps"

Check out our brand new Vimy 100 in the Classroom video on maps during the First World War! Stay tuned, we’ll be sharing the second video tomorrow. Special thank you to Sound Venture Productions for their support on this project!

This short video is part of our new Vimy 100 in the Classroom learning modules, learn more here :…/vimy-100-in-the-classroom/


Slang of the First World War
The "No. 9" Pill

Did you know the excessive “prescribing” of “No. 9” pills by military doctors resulted in the troops mockingly depicting it as a cure-all for the common soldier’s many ailments? In reality, the “No. 9” was “a universal laxative pill, given when no other remedy was deemed suitable. It gave rise to the bingo call ‘Doctor’s orders – number nine.’ ” (Pegler, Soldier’s Songs and Slang of the Great War, p. 135). Today’s image is meant to be a comical advertisement for the “No. 9”, and comes from the Christmas 1916 / New Year 1917 trench publication of the 5th (Western Cavalry) Battalion!

“The Pill of the Period”
Credit: Library And Archives Canada, Inventory no.: 7322, Volume 5078, MIKAN no. 4167959, “Garland From The Front (5th Battalion) – 1916-1917 Christmas and New Years edition.”, p. 2.

Beaverbrook Vimy Prize 2018 – Now Accepting Applications!

Daniel Schindel at Bayeux War Cemetery – BVP 2017.
Credit: Hanna Smyth, The Vimy Foundation 2017.

Last August, Daniel traced his grandfather’s footsteps across France with the Vimy Foundation’s Beaverbrook Vimy Prize!

Apply now for the 2018 Beaverbrook Vimy Prize! 15-17 year old Canadian, British, and French students can win an unforgettable educational experience with the Beaverbrook Vimy Prize. The two-week long program in Europe gives high school students the opportunity to study Canada and its interwoven history with Great Britain and France during the First and Second World Wars.

Apply here :

Epitaphs of the First World War
Part VII

Reginald and fellow members of D Company, 2nd Battalion pose for a portrait in the Holloway Studio, St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Credit: The Rooms. Series, Item B 5-157, 11 Sept. 1916. Holloway Studio (St. John’s, N.L.)

“Until the day dawn Jesu mercy”

Epitaph of Sergeant Reginald Bayly White, Service Number 3048, of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Reginald died on 9 January 1918 of tubercular meningitis and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery. He was the son of Canon William Charles White, the first native-Newfoundlander to become Bishop of the Church of England for the Diocese of Newfoundland.

Following Reginald’s death, his parents requested that a parcel of skin boots recently sent to their son be distributed to a deserving NCO or Private of the Regiment.
Credit: Provincial Archives Division, The Rooms Corporation of Newfoundland and Labrador. Sourced from Library and Archives Canada, Reference: RG38-A-2-e, Finding Aid 38-27, Reel T-18184, Volume 632, Item Number: 655225, Record Group: Royal Newfoundland Regiment and Forestry Corps, p. 16.

8 January 1918 – #OnThisDay
Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points Speech

Credit: Pach Brothers, c1912 Dec. 2, Reproduction Number LC-USZ62-249, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.

On this day in 1918, President Woodrow Wilson delivers his Fourteen Points speech to the United States Congress. Initially greeted with sweeping enthusiasm, the Fourteen Points would create substantial complications and diplomatic tension at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. (See MacMillan, Paris 1919 – Six Months That Changed The World).

4 January 1918 – #OnThisDay

On this day in 1918, thousands of kilometres from the front, four men of the Canadian Railway Troops and Service Guard die in Montreal. Unfortunately, their personnel records provide little details of their service, and it is only known that all four died of “accidental injuries” suffered on 4 January 1918. Privates Thomas Kelly and Delore Lalonde are buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery and Privates Andrew Hunter and John Mackie are buried in Mount Royal Cemetery.

Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1983-28-867.