This photo, taken in 1914, depicts four Peace River Army recruits in crisp new uniforms. When Britain declared war on Germany in August of that year, public opinion held that the entire affair would be short-lived, and the boys would be home in time for Christmas. The optimistic expressions seen here reflect the attitudes of the time: war was still largely perceived as an adventurous opportunity and an excellent chance for young men to see the world.
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As the war dragged on over four long years, opinions began to change. The impact of trench warfare combined with modern technology was both unexpected and devastating. Newfangled machines like tanks and machine guns, scientific developments like mustard gas, and a disturbing malady known only as ‘shell shock’ sent many soldiers home with horrific and often incurable injuries. Others were not so lucky: more than sixty thousand Canadians lost their lives in the First World War. By the time the conflict ended in 1918, the idea of war as a romantic notion had literally been killed in action.
Roy Foote, seen on the far right, is 22 years old in this photograph. He died two years later in 1916, likely during the Battle of the Somme. His body was not recovered. Roy Foote is currently memorialized on the Vimy Ridge Memorial Monument in Pas de Calais, France.
The identity and fate of the other soldiers in the photograph is unknown.