Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Vance, Jonathan


This dissertation focuses on the burial of Canadian soldiers during the First World War. This study explores the ways in which the body was treated upon death during the early, middle, and late years of the conflict to show the drastically different practices and customs that were implemented and modernized throughout the war. While nineteenth century military burial customs were suitable for religious beliefs at the time, a religious shift among the general populace occurred at the end of the century. Subsequent conflicts showcased the inadequacies of established military practices.

While the Boer War demonstrated soldiers’ need to ensure a proper burial, the First World War acted as the catalyst for change in how the military approached burials. Coupled with significant advancements in military equipment and tactics, military authorities were not prepared to deal with the religious need for burial and the number of burials necessary after conflicts. As a result, military and political authorities feared demoralized troops and potential political crises with news of burial inadequacies reaching the home front, which led to a more formalized approach to burials. Whereas military officials explored battlefield policies and practices, political authorities explored ways to maintain the graves of fallen soldiers. This dissertation traces the evolution of military and political thought in this regard.