As British as the King

Lunenburg County During the First World War

Reviewed by Mark Collin Reid

Posted January 22, 2021

The title of Gerald Hallowell’s book is quite clever, given the subject matter. When the First World War broke out in 1914, residents of the fishing village of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, were looked upon with suspicion due to their Germanic descent.

With many settler Nova Scotians at the time being maybe only a generation or two removed from Great Britain (the province’s population largely consisted of immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and England) questions were raised about Lunenburg’s loyalty to “King and Country.” Lunenburgers retorted that they were “as British as King George V himself.” The British Royal family — today known as the “Windsors” — were actually German, of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Hallowell’s book is a fine addition to the growing library of First World War community histories that has flourished since the one hundredth anniversary of that 1914–18 conflict.

As British as the King offers a unique and interesting viewpoint of a community that felt the need to prove its patriotism due to the ancestry of its people. Much like Berlin, Ontario, which quickly renamed itself Kitchener due to anti-German sentiment, Lunenburg also faced unfair scrutiny from the dominant British-stock majority. Hallowell’s book is a fascinating look at an immigrant community swept up by the tides of war.

Buy this book from Chapters-Indigo

This article originally appeared in the February-March 2021 issue of Canada’s History.

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