From the Klondike to Berlin: The Yukon in the First World War


  • Michael Gates


Yukon, First World War, Joe Boyle, George Black, Martha Black, Robert Service, The Fallen


The Northern Review 44 (2017): 9–30

The participation of the Yukon in the First World War is a neglected part of northern history. For four years, the people of the Yukon, young and old, men and women, from all walks of life, became actively involved. A quarter of the population enlisted and fought in many of the major battles of the war; many came back as heroes, while others never came home at all. Those who remained at home were heavily committed to King and Empire. Women of the Yukon volunteered for service, raised funds for the war effort, and became socially active in such causes as prohibition and suffrage. Yukoner Joe Boyle distinguished himself in Russia during the war by financing a machine gun battery of fifty men, then volunteering to save the crown jewels and national treasury of Romania, negotiating an international treaty between Russia and Romania, and establishing a spy network. Robert Service, the Bard of the Yukon, volunteered as an ambulance driver and later penned the best-selling book of poetry of his long career. Individual acts of courage led to two men from the Yukon receiving the Victoria Cross, and many others receiving other honours. George Black, the commissioner of the Yukon, volunteered for service, bringing 250 Yukon men with him to the battlefields of France. Martha Black, his wife, accompanied him and became a mother figure to the men overseas and a Yukon goodwill ambassador. Many acts of commemoration and remembrance followed the war. This article is part of a special collection of papers originally presented at “The North and the First World War” conference held May 2016 in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Author Biography

Michael Gates

Michael Gates is an independent historian and author living in Whitehorse; he is the author of From the Klondike to Berlin, about the Yukon in the First World War (Harbour Publishing, April 2017)






The North and the First World War