Keith Neilson

16 04 2015

I have heard the sad news that Prof. Keith Neilson of Royal Military College has died. At the time of his death, Prof. Neilson was working on the paper described below.

Have any of my readers seen this important paper? If so, please email me so that we can investigate the possibility of obtaining the permission of the author’s estate for a posthumous publication.

Canada’s Imperial Munitions Board (IMB) in the First World War

The IMB was perhaps Canada’s most important contribution to the Imperial war effort in the First World War. It provided as much as one-third of all the shells used by the British and Imperial forces in 1917. Despite this, however, the efforts of the IMB are not widely known.

This is unfortunate, for study of the IMB provides an excellent window into a number of important matters. First, as the IMB was a part of the British Ministry of Munitions (despite being located in Canada, being headed by a Canadian and often funded by the Canadian government), a study of it enriches our understanding of the way in which extra-British business was tied to the Allied war effort. Second, as British war supplies from Canada had to be paid for, an examination of the IMB and its role adds considerably to our understanding of the international financing of the war. This issue of finance has several dimensions. One involves how financing Canadian munitions production affected Anglo-Canadian relations generally (as Britain often wanted Canada to pay for munitions without having any control over ordering) and the relationship between the Canadian government and private banks; the other shows how Britain’s borrowing of money in the United States was linked to British purchasing in Canada (with regard to exchange rates in particular and the distribution of munitions contracts in general).

My paper will deal with these and related topics. It is based on the relevant secondary work and a wide range of primary material. The latter includes the files of the Ministry of Munitions in the United Kingdom (MUN 4 and 5 in particular), the private papers of a number of people intimately involved in this process (the first Minister of Munitions, David Lloyd George; the head of the IMB, Sir Joseph Flavelle; the prominent banker and British liaison with the IMB, Robert Brand, and the Canadian prime minister, Sir Robert Borden among others). It is also utilises the private papers of several prominent Americans, particularly William Gibbs McAdoo, Secretary of the Treasury in the period.



2 responses

21 03 2016
Heather Cripps

I’ve just found the above column and since it’s now a year later, I wonder if you have discovered anything about Canadian munitions workers, My friend has two medals or medallions, one from RMC Co Munitions Worker, and the other from Imperial Munitions Board Woman Worker Canada. I have been unable to find out anything about them. Any help would be much appreciated.

21 03 2016

Sorry, I haven’t come across anything about that. Perhaps some reader of this blog can help.

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