Impact on Canada and the World

"The Allies in presence of this crowning atrocity have a duty to perform."

While Patzig and his U-boat crew agreed not to speak officially about the events of June 28, 1918, reaction elsewhere in Europe and North America was swift and angry. In particular, the killing of Canadian nursing sisters infuriated people, with Allied leaders publicly condemning the German actions. The New York Times wrote, “The Hague Convention gives belligerents the right to visit hospital ships. But these cold-blooded assassins refused to exercise that right; they strike and slay because it is in their hearts to glut their cruelty upon helpless non-combatants after trumping up a case of justification, which is only another infamy. The Allies in presence of this crowning atrocity have a duty to perform.” Primary Source: Article from the July 2, 1918 New York Times.

The response by the Dutch news media also suggested that German actions of this type were likely to strengthen the efforts to defeat them, “His (Patzig’s) reckless action will therefore rightly arouse the greatest indignation not of the enemy alone but also of neutrals…” Here the newspaper editors suggest that when a nation crosses the line set out by the international community about what is acceptable during war and what is not, other countries, even those that are trying not to pick sides, find it hard to remain neutral.

Of course, the strongest reaction was in Canada, at having lost its ship, crew, many Medical Corps staff, and the 14 nursing sisters including Margaret Marjory Fraser. A Canadian Brigadier, George Tuxford, reacted by using the event as a “battle cry” for his troops: "Amongst those murdered were two Moose Jaw nurses, Sister Fraser and Sister Gallagher. I gave instructions to the Brigade that the battle cry on the 8th of August should be "LLANDOVERY CASTLE," and that that cry should be the last to ring in the ears of the ‘Hun’ as the bayonet was driven home.” Indeed, this battle cry became popular in part due to the fact that the Canadian government quickly turned it into a War Bonds propaganda poster in which a drowned nursing sister lies in the arms of a surviving crew member waving his fist at the German U-boat, just behind a life-preserver inscribed with LLANDOVERY CASTLE. The title, Kultur vs. Humanity, pits the barbaric “Huns” and their vicious approach to war against the supposed moral integrity of the Allies.

To memorialize the sacrifice of the staff and crew of LLANDOVERY CASTLE, especially the nursing sisters, many plaques have been erected across Canada and internationally.

Questions:

  1. To what extent does propaganda help/hinder the war effort at home?
  2. Is it a “fair” strategy of war? How do we draw the line between “news” and “propaganda” during crises?
  3. Can you find more recent examples of propaganda interfering with the relaying of news during a conflict crisis? Can you find more recent examples of propaganda supporting a nation’s war effort?

For those who prefer a text version, please see a transcript of the segment below:

DURFLINGER

The First World War produces an equality of sacrifice. Everybody’s equal in death, but what the war did not produce was an equality of memory. During the First World War Canada had a population of barely eight million people. It’s hard for us to conceive today, what it would mean to lose more than sixty thousand. There were those families who had an opportunity to remember physically with a marker and a location, but for one third of Canadian families who lost a loved one that opportunity did not exist.

They had no known grave. They had to suffer their grieving alone and without any opportunity of saying any final goodbye.