Oil painting by A.Y. Jackson that depicts a scene of war. There is a line of soldiers at right walking towards the horizon through a wartorn landscape. There are searchlights in the evening sky and distinctive barren tree trunks throughout the painting.

The First World War, 1914-1918, radically altered the lives and landscapes of the twentieth century, sending shockwaves of fear, pride, and grief across the globe.

The war had far-reaching impacts in even the smallest corners of the world. Cape Breton Island, on the east coast of Canada, was no exception.

A copse, Evening, 1918. A.Y. Jackson. Canadian War Museum.

Image is a coloured and edited section of a war map from 1914 which depicts Cape Breton Island in a highlighted circle. Several European countries are featured in the image, including the Ireland, Scotland, England, Holland, France, Germany, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden.

Cape Breton’s contributions to the war effort were significant, both at home and abroad.

As an island in the North Atlantic, Cape Breton was strategically located at the time of Canada's call to service.

Section of a map showing European countries
with Canada's Atlantic coastline, 1914.

Sepia panoramic photograph of Sydney Harbour, with at least a half-dozen large convoy warships at anchor. In the foreground of the photograph, there is a small wharf on the left hand side, children playing at the water's edge, and a small dighy is tied to shore.

Cape Breton’s proximity to Europe, large harbour in Sydney, and established coal and steel industries all served the conflict overseas, but it was the people who formed the core of the Island's involvement in the war.

Convoys in Sydney Harbour, ca. 1917.

Black and white group photograph of dozens of soldiers wearing their Highlanders uniforms, including kilts. The men are photographed on the steps of a French chateau.

Cape Bretoners who served in the First World War included immigrants who came to work in coal and steel, Indigenous and Black Nova Scotian volunteers, miners who worked in tunnelling companies, and women who worked in military hospitals treating the sick and wounded.

85th battalion (Nova Scotia highlanders) in Lozinghem, France, July 1918.

Colour map of Cape Breton Island showing electoral boundaries, rail lines, and coal areas.

Learn about Canada’s involvement in the war through four personal accounts and interactive resources that tell the stories of the men and women involved in the global conflict that shaped the twentieth century.

Discover these lives and stories of Cape Breton and the First World War.

Standard Map of the Island of Cape Breton, 1903.

Image is a watercolour and pencil sketch showing a soldier suffering from gangrene; the nurse is opening the wounds to facilitate drainage. The sketch is by Katharine McLennan, created in 1917 at l’Hôpital d’Évacuation no. 18 in Vasseny, France where she served as a nurse's aide during the First World War.

Follow a nursing sister and anaesthetist from Sydney through her work with the Canadian Army Medical Corps overseas.

Meet Helen Kendall

Gangréne Gazeuse, 1917. Katharine McLennan. Cape Breton Regional Library.

Image is a black and white photograph of two Canadian soldiers emerging from a German underground tunnel in France. One soldier is standing and lending his hand to the other soldier, who is exiting the tunnel. There are bombed out buildings in the background.

Explore life as a tunneller in England and France with a coal miner from Donkin.

Meet John Roderick McDougall

Canadians coming out of Boche tunnel on the outskirts of Lens, September, 1917.
Library and Archives Canada.

Item is a watercolour landscape of the Margaree Valley, surrounded by mountains.

Learn the story of a student turned Lieutenant from North East Margaree, wounded at Vimy Ridge.

Meet James Murphy

Vale of Margaree, 1904. Louise McLennan.

Item is a black and white photograph of a prisoner of war camp in Germany during the First World War. Several dozen men in uniform are pictured with shovels performing manual labour.

Experience the heartbreaking journey of a Polish immigrant to Cape Breton who died a prisoner of war in Germany.

Meet Anthony Sumiejski

Friedrichsfeld Prisoner of War Camp, Germany, ca. 1915.

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