Panoramic sepia photograph of hundreds of uniformed soldiers at a training camp with the commanding officer in the foreground and rows of military tents in the background.

About The Exhibit

Unama’ki espi-kina’matno’kuom etek Mi’kma’ki, wla na no’kamanaq aq maqamikewminu mena’q iknmuetuk. Wla maqamikew anquna’toq wla ta’n teluisik “Ankuo’mkewey Wantaqoti aq Witaptultimkewey” ta’n Mi’kmaq aq Wulustukewaq (Maliseet) mimajuinu'k amkwesewey ewi'kmi'tip wla ta'n qame'kewaq aklasie'wk pekisitu'tip 1726-ek. Ankuo'mkewe'l kisna teplu'taqn mu eteknupn iknmuetasik maqamikew aq wla ta'n apoqnmask mimajuaqn nasik mikwaptasikɨp Mi'kmawewey aq Wulustukewey wisunkewey aq kisa'tu'tɨpn ptlutaqn wjɨt wela'matultimkewey.

Cape Breton University is located in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaw people. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) people first signed with the British Crown in 1726. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations.

The Beaton Institute is the archive for Cape Breton University and a cultural heritage archive mandated to preserve the social, economic, political, and cultural history of Unama’ki, Cape Breton Island. Archives underpin virtually all other aspects of culture and heritage. They support the work of educators, students, historians, journalists, filmmakers, urban planners, publishers, archaeologists, engineers, genealogists, the built heritage community, museum workers, immigrants, and artists. The Beaton Institute holds in stewardship over 3,000 fonds and collections, 300,000 photographs, 7,000 sound and moving images, as well as thousands of rare, local, and out-of-print maps, newspapers, and publications.


Cape Breton and the First World War was created between 2016-2019 by the exhibit team and a host of other individuals, donors, and project partners, using archival resources to piece together these narratives.

During the First World War, if an Indigenous man enlisted he not only lost his treaty status but at the same time was not entitled to the pensions received by other veterans. And yet despite this, thousands of Indigenous people voluntarily enlisted to fight in the war. Over 200 L’nu or Mi'kmaw sma'knisk (soldiers) from across Mi'kma'ki enlisted to serve, with at least 89 from Nova Scotia alone. The known names of L'nu or Mi'kmaw sma'knisk from Unama'ki that enlisted and served during the First World War are given below. Wela’liek sma’knisk, we honour you.

Frank William Paul (Eskasoni/Whycocomagh), William John Bernard (King's Road, born in North Sydney), Peter Googoo (King's Road, born in We'koqma'q), Frank Herney (Malikewe’j), William Herney (Malikewe’j, Big Harbour Island), Lewis Isaac (King's Road), Christopher Morris (King's Road), Noel Paul (Membertou), Frank M. Paul (Red Island), Noel John Paul (Little Narrows), Lewis Toney (Little Narrows), John Julian (Eskasoni), Noel Paul (Wagmatcook), Frank Toney (Lennox Island, PE), Noel Cremo (We'koqma'q), Samuel Simon Nevin (We'koqma'q)

"In Sydney after the war started, quite a few Blacks volunteered for active service and were told point blank, 'We don't want you. This is a white man's war.' However, around 1917, the Canadian Army was up against it. They had lost a lot of men in France. At that point, they were willing to take anyone. Conscription came in, and they took the Blacks and the Whites."

Veteran Isaac Phills, quoted in Canada’s Black Battalion, No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920 by Calvin Ruck.

We want to acknowledge the names of the Black Cape Bretoners who served in the No. 2 Construction Battalion, C.E.F., also known as the Black Battalion. Sydney/Whitney Pier: Sgt. Maj George Frederick Alberga, Pte. John Bailey, Pte. Edward Bowers, Pte. Alexander Brammah, Pte. George Deane Brown, Pte. Leonard Walter Butcher, Pte. Lloyd Byer, Pte. John Clarke, Pte. Grandville Collymore, Pte. Garnet Wesley Cox, Pte. Joseph Dottin, Sgt. Matthew Nathaniel Edwards, Corp. Sydney Flood, Pte. Joseph Fordingham, Pte. Henry Griffiths, Pte. Belfield Hall, Pte. Da Costa Hall, Pte. Joseph Harris, Pte. Charles Horton, Pte. Gilbert James, Pte. David King, Pte. Evan Kirton, Corp. Walter Medford, Pte. Charles Miller, Pte. Thomas Montague, Pte. Edmund Nurse, Pte. Herbert Arthur O'Neil, Pte. Clement Parris, Pte. George Pilgrim, Pte. Rufus Sergeant, Pte. Charles Sheppard, Pte. Seifert Stoute, Pte. Julian Sullivan, Pte. Angus Talbot, Pte. Arden Rufus Thorne, Pte. Evans Waith, Pte. George Alfred Whelan, Pte. Nathaniel Williams, Pte. James Young. Glace Bay: Pte. Frank Bowers, Pte. Adolphus Darlington, Pte. Michael Jackson, Pte. Ernest Tarbot, Pte. George William Tarbot. New Waterford: Corp. Frederick Henry.

We would also like to acknowledge the known names of several Jewish First World War veterans from Cape Breton Island: Jacob Burnstein of Glace Bay, Hyman Lighter of Sydney, Philip Michaels of Glace Bay, Jacob Nathanson of Sydney (Whitney Pier), and Israel Perlin of Sydney (Whitney Pier).

Further reading

There are many excellent resources and projects that share stories and give the history of the lives lost and sacrifices of the First World War. The exhibit team has put together a list of further reading for this exhibit. Please note this is a summary list and not meant to be a comprehensive bibliography.


1914-1918: International Encyclopedia of the First World War”:

Canada and the First World War,” Canadian War Museum:

Clements, Robert N. 2013. Merry Hell: The Story of the 25th (Nova Scotia Rifles) Battalion, ed. Brian Douglas Tennyson. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2013.

Cook, Tim. At the Sharp End: Canadians Fighting the Great War, 1914-1916. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2007.

Cook, Tim. Shock Troops: Canadians Fighting the Great War 1917–1918. Toronto: Viking Canada, 2008.

Cook, Tim. Vimy: The Battle and the Legend. Toronto: Allen Lane, 2017.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography. “The First World War.”

MacDonald, W. James, and Bonnie Thornhill. In the morning: biographical sketches of the veterans of Victoria County, Cape Breton, that served in both World Wars. Sydney, N.S.: University College of Cape Breton Press. 1999.

Personnel records of the First World War,” Library and Archives Canada:

Tennyson, Brian Douglas. Canada's Great War, 1914-1918 : how Canada helped save the British empire and became a North American nation. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014.

Tennyson, Brian Douglas. Nova Scotia at War, 1914-1919. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Nimbus Publishing, 2017.

Ruck, Calvin W. Canada’s Black Battalion, No. 2 Construction, 1916-1920. Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Society for the Protection and Preservation of Black Culture in Nova Scotia, 1986.

The World Remembers”:

Nursing Sisters

Dewar, Katherine “A Surprise Encounter with German Submariners,” The [Charlottetown] Guardian, 18 February 2017:

Gass, Clare. The War Diary of Clare Gass, 1915-1918. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004.

MacDonald, Hilda and Helen Kendall, “World War One Continues: Nursing Sisters in England and France.” Cape Breton’s Magazine, Issue 34, August 1983: 1-7.

Mann, Susan. Margaret Macdonald: Imperial Daughter. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.

Nicholson, Gerald W. L. Canada’s Nursing Sisters. Toronto: S. Stevens, 1975.

Prisoners of War

Cadeau, Carmen. “Canadian POWs: First World War

Cadeau, Carmen. “Vimy Ridge”:

Jones, Heather. “Prisoners of War.” International Encyclopedia of the First World War.

Morton, Desmond. Silent battle :Canadian prisoners of war in Germany, 1914-1919. Toronto: Lester, 1992.

Vance, Jonathan F. Objects of Concern: Canadian Prisoners of War Through the Twentieth Century. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2011.


Barton, Peter. “‘A Deadly Rhythm’: Military Mining in WW1”:

Barton, Peter. “Was the Tunnellers’ Secret War the Most Barbaric of WW1?”:

Barton, Peter, Peter Doyle, and Jona Vandewalle. Beneath Flanders Fields: The Tunnellers’ War 1914-18. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2005.

Pascas, Brian. "Clay-kickers of Flanders Fields: Canadian Tunnellers at Messines Ridge 1916-1917." Canadian Military History 27, no. 2 (2018), Article 16.

Keating, Cecilia. “Mining Warfare in WW1,” CIM Magazine (4 November 2016):

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