World War I

Canada has a military history going back to well before the War of 1812 (fought between Great Britain and Canada, and the United States). Its roots are found at the beginning of European supremacy in North America with the arrival of the French. Although the letters reproduced here deal with Canadians in the First World War, settlement of the country throughout the Nineteenth Century progressed under the protection of the Imperial Army and a large militia drawn from the civilian population. An example of a military life, which began in the War of 1812, continued in the West Indies, dealt with life on half-pay in Paris, in London at the Horse Guards and concluded with the obscure Carlist War of 1835-7 will be found in The Canadian Don Quixote – the life and works of Major John Richardson by David Beasley at

The Mavor collection is two bound volumes of correspondence, reports and military orders collected and collated by Dr. James Mavor, former Professor of political economy of Toronto University. The correspondence covers a narrow period of the First World War, abbreviated WWI, from August 1914 to September 1915 and covers a wide range of operations in the conflict. This range includes pre-war Germany, France, England, Gallipoli, Mesopotamia. Mavor's correspondence collected from a wide circle of family, friends, former students and colleagues who were involved in the fighting or directly affected by it as in the case of Mrs. Alfred E. Mavor whose journal, beginning 1 August 1914 and ending 5 August 1914, provides an interesting experience of a non-combatant hoping to reach safety before the fighting began.

Professor Mavor gathered the letters, reports, diary and journal entries either sent directly to him or donated by people who knew him. The collection includes some military documents that included minor military intelligence reports and one set of orders issued by a German Divisional Headquarters to corp commanders. Dr. Mavor summarized collection and added photographs of the contributors when he could. This, in short, is a brief description of the set of the collected works that has come to be known as the 'Mavor Collection'.

Mavor bequeathed the collection to his son, Brigadier Wilfred Mavor in 1921. Some of Mavor Jnr's letters are to be found in the collection. He, in turn, willed the set to his daughter Mrs. Sasha Armour. The two volumes consist of copies of the original letters, the originals having been donated to the University of Toronto Library. According to the original deed, copyright ownership of the collection remains with the Mavor-Armour family. The two volumes are presently in the possession of Mr. Douglas M. Armour of Toronto, who has sanctioned use of the material on this site.

Some correspondence, however, specifically stipulates that it is not to be used for publication. For example, the correspondence of Captain (later Major) Ramsay of the Cameron Highlanders, wounded in May 1915, includes the note 'Copied in accordance with instructions from him: not to be used for publication'. Major Ramsay was an instructor at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

The thread that binds the collection together, the letters at least, is that the correspondents were either members of the Mavor family close friends.

The help, cooperation and assistance of Mr. Douglas M. Armour, grandson of Brigadier Wilfred Mavor and great-grandson of Professor James Mavor, is gratefully acknowledged. The letters, documents and reports listed here are generally presented in dated order, the link being the persons or authorities here listed.