On War & Society E7: The Conscripted

by | Nov 30, 2017 | LCSC, Podcast, War and Society

The Conscription Crisis was the central political conflict of the First World War, affecting not only the Canadian government but having an immediate impact on over 400,000 Canadians who were registered for conscription with the intention of being sent overseas. Historians have focused on national divisions between English and French, rural and urban, and the working and middle class, but what has often been lost in these debates are those most directly impacted by conscription – the conscripts themselves. With four of his own ancestors conscripted and casualties of the First World War, Patrick Dennis, in his recently released book, Reluctant Warriors, sheds new light on both the events which led to the decision of the Canadian government to enact conscription in 1917, and the vital contribution made by these conscripts during the Hundred Days campaign of 1918. Guest host Kyle Pritchard sits down with Patrick to discuss his research on the experiences of Canadian conscripts and the present-day legacies of conscription.

A former Fighter Controller in the Canadian Air Force, he served abroad for over 22 years. Apart from senior staff tours, he flew with both NORAD and NATO AWACS, was Canada’s Deputy Military Representative to the NATO Military Committee and the Canadian Defence Attaché to Israel from 2001- 2004. Subsequently he lectured on “global political-military issues” at Wilfrid Laurier University (2008 – 2011) and from 2009-2013 was an instructor in Command and Management with the Canadian Forces College, Toronto.

A graduate of the United States Armed Forces Staff College (Norfolk, Virginia) and the NATO Defence College (Rome, Italy), he has an M.A. in Communication and Leadership from the University of Northern Colorado.


Byers, Dan. Zombie Army: The Canadian Army and Conscription in the Second World War. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2016.

Dennis, Patrick M. Reluctant Warriors: Canadian Conscripts and the Great War. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2017.

Holt, Richard. Filling the Ranks: Manpower in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1918. Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017.

Granatstein, J.L., and J.M. Hitsman. Broken Promises: A History of Conscription in Canada. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977.

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