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Remembering World War One

A century after the end of World War One, we're still not done telling stories about this historical event.

A century after the end of World War One, we're still not done telling stories about this historical event, and readers' thirst to learn more only grows as we see the connections between this history and our contemporary moment. This selection of recent books about World War One include titles about war poetry, food on the front, cyclists in battle, hockey hall-of-famers, and more. 


Book Cover Battle Lines

Battle Lines: Canadian Poetry in English and the First World War, by Joel Baetz

About the book: For Canadians, the First World War was a dynamic period of literary activity. Almost every poet wrote about the war, critics made bold predictions about the legacy of the period’s poetry, and booksellers were told it was their duty to stock shelves with war poetry. Readers bought thousands of volumes of poetry. Twenty years later, by the time Canada went to war again, no one remembered any of it.

Battle Lines traces the rise and disappearance of Canadian First World War poetry, and offers a striking and comprehensive account of its varied and vexing poetic gestures. As eagerly as Canadians took to the streets to express their support for the war, poets turned to their notebooks, and shared their interpretations of the global conflict, repeating and reshaping popular notions of, among others, national obligation, gendered responsibility, aesthetic power, and deathly presence.

The book focuses on the poetic interpretations of the Canadian soldier. He emerges as a contentious poetic subject, a figure of battle romance, and an emblem of modernist fragmentation and fractiousness. Centring the work of five exemplary Canadian war poets (Helena Coleman, John McCrae, Robert Service, Frank Prewett, and W.W.E. Ross), the book reveals their latent faith in collective action as well as conflicting recognition of modernist subjectivities. Battle Lines identifies the Great War as a long-overlooked period of poetic ferment, experimentation, reluctance, and challenge.


Book Cover Recipes for Victory

Recipes for Victory:  Great War Food from the Front and Kitchens Back Home in Canada, by Elizabeth Baird & Bridget Wranich

About the bookRecipes for Victory combines history and cooking as it presents domestic and military recipes (and their modern-day equivalents) used during the Great War—in the trenches, behind the lines, and on the home front.

Profusely illustrated with historical drawings and photographs, the text explores the role of the army cook, what soldiers ate in and behind the trenches, the war time efforts on the home front, the role of alcohol, the importance of food packages from home, and the problems of surplus. The text also explores the Children's Potato War Plot Fund, the Vacant Land Cultivation act, and the importance of home gardens. Three elucidating essays by Wayne Reeves, Chief Curator, Museum and Heritage Services, City of Toronto; Kevin Hebib, Program Development Officer, Fort York National Historic Site, and David Webb, Ontario Region Military Curator (ret), Parks Canada, provide fascinating details about the role of food in war.


Book Cover Vimy

Vimy, by Tim Cook

About the book: Why does Vimy matter? How did a four-day battle at the midpoint of the Great War, a clash that had little strategic impact on the larger Allied war effort, become elevated to a national symbol of Canadian identity? Tim Cook, Canada’s foremost military historian and a Charles Taylor Prize winner, examines the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the way the memory of it has evolved over 100 years. The operation that began April 9, 1917, was the first time the four divisions of the Canadian Corps fought together. More than 10,000 Canadian soldiers were killed or injured over four days—twice the casualty rate of the Dieppe Raid in August 1942. The Corps’ victory solidified its reputation among allies and opponents as an elite fighting force. In the wars’ aftermath, Vimy was chosen as the site for the country’s strikingly beautiful monument to mark Canadian sacrifice and service. Over time, the legend of Vimy took on new meaning, with some calling it the “birth of the nation.”

The remarkable story of Vimy is a layered skein of facts, myths, wishful thinking, and conflicting narratives. Award-winning writer Tim Cook explores why the battle continues to resonate with Canadians a century later. He has uncovered fresh material and photographs from official archives and private collections across Canada and from around the world. On the 100th anniversary of the event, and as Canada celebrates 150 years as a country, Vimy is a fitting tribute to those who fought the country’s defining battle. It is also a stirring account of Canadian identity and memory, told by a masterful storyteller.


Book Cover Where Duty Lies

Where Duty Lies: A New Brunswick Soldier in the Trenches of World War I, by John Cunningham

About the book: Frank Grimmer did not set out to earn honours on the field of battle nor did he readily choose to go to war. World powers were shifting. The future of nations was deemed dependant on their armies. It was left to the young men to face the gunfire of other young men who could have been friends under the right circumstances and in times of peace. Where Duty Lies tells the story of how a 23-year-old St. Andrews, New Brunswick, man ended up in the quicksand-like mud of Passchendaele labouring under heavy artillery fire helping construct supply lines that supported the Canadian advance during the Third Battle of Ypres, often referred to as the most horrific in a war of horrific battles.

Frank's call to the trenches came as the guns pounding Vimy Ridge could be heard on the coast of England. Eager to prove himself, he volunteered to join the battle force badly cut down during Canada's warfare with the Germans in France. Here he found himself often deprived of the guns and ammunition to advance or defend himself. But with the other "pioneers" he stayed on the job amidst the blasts of high explosives.

In the hours leading up to the launch of the Canadian assault on Passchendaele Ridge, Frank, thrown several yards by an artillery blast, went on to do all in his power to "render aid" to the wounded and those who died. His bravery earned him the Military Medal—and a thousand nights of torment remembering the violence of the events.


Book Cover Called to Serve

Called to Serve: Georgina Pope, Canadian Military Nursing Heroineby Katherine Dewar

About the book: Georgina Pope is one of the 14 Valiants whose bronze bust at Confederation Square, Ottawa, is viewed by thousands of people every day. The Canadian Mint issued a $5 coin bearing her image. How does a young woman, born in 1862 into privileged circumstances in Prince Edward Island, rise to the top echelons of Canadian military nursing leadership and become a national hero?

Called to Serve details Pope's path to power through the second half of the 19th century and into the 20th. It addresses the significance of her privileged and powerful lineage, the influence of her parents on her world view, and the inspiration of Florence Nightingale who invoked in Pope a "burning desire" to become an "army nurse" in a faraway land.

The story takes us from Georgie's sheltered life in Victorian Prince Edward Island to the "Boston States"; to the dangerous and primitive conditions she experienced as Superintendent of nurses in two South African Wars; to her work in the formation of the nursing component of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC); and to the battlefields of Europe during the First World War where she developed shell shock from the bombing and was invalided home, her career over.

Featuring photos from Georgina Pope's personal photo album with handwritten notes illustrating her wartime experiences PLUS biographies of the Pope family.


Book Cover The Yukon Fallen of WW1

The Yukon Fallen of World War I, by Michael Gates & D. Blair Neatby

About the book: The Yukon was one of the most isolated parts of the British Empire but when news came by telegram that war had been declared against Germany, the response to the call for volunteers was immediate. It was boasted that more Yukoners volunteered per capita than any other jurisdiction in the country. Of the five thousand inhabitants scattered over an area twice the size of England, more than a thousand signed up for service.

High school students enlisted, some lying about their age to do so. Brothers joined up, as did fathers and sons. Two men mushed all the way from Herschel Island to enroll in Dawson. Miners answered the call from the Klondike, Mayo, Atlin, Forty Mile, Kluane, Livingston Creek, Carcross, Carmacks and Whitehorse. Americans, Serbians, Frenchmen and Montenegrins living in the Yukon also rallied to the flag. Several members of the Yukon Council took up the flag, leaving barely a quorum to carry on the business of government. From the most humble, to the most prominent, they all responded to the call to arms.

This collection of short biographies will be published to mark the hundredth anniversary of the end of the conflict—November 11, 1918. Yukon Fallen honours the individual sacrifices made by those soldiers who did not live to see the end of the war. It will appeal to collectors, readers of military history and anyone interested in learning about Yukon’s contribution to World War I.


Book Cover Riding Into Battle

Riding into Battle: Canadian Cyclists in the Great War, by Ted Glenn

About the book: The untold story of how cyclists formed an essential part of the Canadian armed forces during one of most the decisive campaigns of the Great War.

Cyclists in Canada’s armed forces spent most of the First World War digging trenches, patrolling roads, and delivering dispatches. But during the Hundred Days campaign at the end of the Great War, they came into their own. 

At Amiens, Cambrai, and especially the Pursuit from the Sensée, the cyclists made pioneering contributions to the development of the Canadian Corps’s combined arms strategy and mobile warfare doctrine, all the while exhibiting the consummate professionalism the Corps became renowned for.


Book Cover The Eleventh Hour

The Eleventh Hour, by Jacques Goldstyn

About the book: Jim and Jules are childhood friends, born on the same day in the same village. All their lives, Jim has been first—born two minutes before Jules, always faster, always stronger. When the First World War breaks out in Europe, the two young men enlist in the fight with 30,000 other Canadians. 

On the Front, conditions aren’t epic and glorious but muddy and barbaric. Here, too, Jim is the first to attack. Jules is always two minutes behind: lagging in drills, missing the boat, handed chores instead of honors. On November 11, 1918, Jim and Jules are sent out to fight one last time. Jim, always first over the top of the trench, is shot and dies at 10:58am, two minutes before the Armistice takes effect at 11:00am. 

Illustrated by political cartoonist and Letters to a Prisoner author Jacques Goldstyn and inspired by true events, this picture book is a simple, poignant, thought-provoking story to commemorate the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice in 2018.


Book Cover Churchill

Churchill The Young Warrior: How He Helped Win the First World War, by John Harte

About the book: This is the intriguing chronicle of Winston Churchill’s early years as a young soldier fighting in several different types of wars—on horseback in the cavalry at Khartoum, with saber and lance against the Dervishes at age twenty-two, in the South African war against the Boers, and finally in the First World War after he resigned as First Lord of the Admiralty, to volunteer to lead a Scottish brigade in the trenches of the Western Front, as Lieutenant-Colonel. The book also covers the failure, bloodshed, and disgrace of Gallipoli that was blamed on him, which could have led to his downfall, as well as the formative relationships he had with the two important women in his young life—his mother, Jennie, who was an eighteen-year-old woman when she married an English aristocrat, and Churchill’s young wife, Clementine. How did the events of his early life shape his subsequent life and career, making him the leader he would become? What is the mystery behind how World War I erupted, and what role did Churchill play to end it?

Most readers are aware of Churchill’s leadership in World War Two, but are unaware of his contributions and experiences in World War One. Through engaging narrative non-fiction, this book paints a startlingly different picture of Winston Churchill—not the portly, conservative politician who led the UK during World War II, but rather the capable young man in his 20s and 30s, who thought of himself as a soldier saving Britain from defeat. Gaining experience in battle and developing a killer instinct and a mature worldview would serve him well as the leader of the free world.


Book Cover In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words: Three Maritimers Experience the Great War, edited by Ross Hebb

About the book: What was the First World War really like for Maritimers overseas? This epistolary book, edited by historian Ross Hebb, contains the letters home of three Maritimers with distinct wartime experiences: a front-line soldier from Nova Scotia, a nurse from New Brunswick, and a conscripted fisherman from Prince Edward Island. Up until now, these complete sets of handwritten letters have remained with the families, who agreed to share them in time for the one-hundredth anniversary of the Great War's end in 2018. These letters not only give insight into the war, but provide greater understanding of life in rural Maritime communities in the early 1900s.

In Their Own Words includes a learned introduction and background information on letter writers Eugene A. Poole, Sister Pauline Balloch, and Herry Heckbert, enabling readers to appreciate the context of these letters and their importance.


Book Cover A Soldier's Place

A Soldier's Place: The War Stories of Will R. Bird, edited by Thomas Hodd, by Will R. Bird

About the book: Nova Scotia-born Will R. Bird miraculously survived the First World War and returned to Nova Scotia. Determined to tell the stories of the brave soldiers who served, Bird became one of the most prolific authors on the subject, completing both fiction and nonfiction works.

For nearly two decades following the war, Bird published war stories in magazines and periodicals, which have now gone out of print and were never digitized, and the stories had long fallen into obscurity—until now.

Carefully curated by author and editor Thomas Hodd, A Soldier's Place is an anthology of fifteen of Bird's best combat stories, based on the experiences of himself and of others, covering all aspects of the war effort and following brave Canadian, American, and Australian soldiers.


Book Cover The Forgotten Warrior

Forgotten Warrior: The Life of Sir Arthur Currie, by Robert Linnell

About the book: Arthur Currie’s funeral on December 4, 1933, had 250,000 people standing in the cold and wet streets of Montreal, more than had paid their respects to Sir John A. MacDonald or Wilfrid Laurier. Today, he is not accorded the standing that his contribution to the Great War effort merits. Who was this man and what were his accomplishments?

Most World War One biographers and historians have worked with Canadian and British sources, Robert Linnell has mined the files of German archives and discovered dispatches in which comments about Canadian forces have been made–and these documents show that the Canadian forces under Currie’s command were amongst the most feared.

When nearing the war’s end, Foch required two specific battles to win the entire war, he said, “I need Currie for this.”


Book Cover From Rinks to Regiments

From Rinks to Regiments, by Alan Livingstone MacLeod

About the book: This year marks the centenary of two pivotal events in Canadian history—one of them weighty, the other an enduring source of delight. In November 1918, the catastrophe of the First World War came to an end. That same year, the first season of the National Hockey League concluded with the Toronto Arenas winning the NHL championship over the Montreal Canadiens. This book with deals the nexus, or collision, between hockey and war.

Unbeknownst to many modern-day fans, thirty players, one referee, and one builder now enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame were also soldiers in the Great War. Most of them served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force—the Canada Corps that distinguished itself on the battlefields of Ypres, the Somme, Vimy, and Passchendaele. Four of these men were killed in action. Four were decorated for gallantry. Twenty-seven were volunteers, and five were conscripted under the Military Service Act of 1917. All have remarkable stories. From Rinks to Regiments resurrects the memories of these national heroes and celebrates their contributions on both the ice and the frontlines.


Book Cover Winnie's Great War

Winnie's Great War, by Lindsay Mattick, Josh Greenhut, and Sophie Blackall

About the book: The story of the real bear that inspired Winnie-the-Pooh has been capturing readers’ imaginations since the publication of the Caldecott Medal award-winning picture book, Finding Winnie.

But there was so much left to be told—not just about Winnie, but about the great world events she witnessed. Now, the creative team behind the bestselling picture book has reunited to bring you Winnie’s Great War.

In a triumphant blending of deeply researched history and magnificent imagination, we follow our irrepressible Bear on her journey—from her infancy in the woods of Ontario, to her unlikely friendship with Captain Harry Colebourn and her time as the mascot of the Second Canadian Infantry Brigade, to her experiences in wartime London before she met Christopher Robin Milne.

Told in beautifully crafted language and infused with Sophie Blackall’s irresistible renderings of an endearing bear, the book is also woven through with actual entries from Captain Harry Colebourn’s wartime diaries. The result is a one-of-kind exploration of the realities of war, the meaning of courage, and the indelible power of friendship, all told through the historic adventures of one extraordinary bear.


Book Cover REdpatch

Redpatch, by Sean Harris Oliver & Raes Calvert (Coming in March 2019)

About the book: This is the story of a Métis soldier fighting for Canada on the Western Front of Europe during World War I. Vancouver 1914: a young Indigenous man named Jonathon Woodrow, desperate to prove himself as a warrior, enlists to fight in the Canadian army. Relying on his experience in hunting and wilderness survival, Private Woodrow quickly becomes one of the most feared trench raiders in the 1st Canadian Division. But as the war stretches on, with no end to the fighting in sight, Woodrow begins to realize that he will never go home again.

A 2017 finalist for the Playwright Guild of Canada’s prestigious Carol Bolt Award for Playwrights, Redpatch focuses on how First Nations soldiers and communities contributed to Canada’s involvement in the First World War.


Courage Sacrifice and Betrayal

Courage, Sacrifice and Betrayal: The Story of the Victoria Rifles of Canada, 60th Battalion, in the First World War, by Richard R. Pyves

About the book: Courage, Sacrifice and Betrayal provides a detailed account of the day-to-day operations of the 60th Battalion and the lives of its many soldiers. The 60th is one of only 50 battalions to actually fight as a unit as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I.

It was the 60th Battalion that captured, on day two of the Battle of Vimy Ridge, the villages of Vimy and Petit Vimy. Engagements at Vimy Ridge, Sanctuary Wood, the Somme, and Regina trenches are set against the backdrop of the broader Canadian, British, and French combat operations against the Germans and their allies. Author Richard Pyves skillfully brings readers into “the moment of war” through many long-forgotten personal accounts and letters included in the book.

Rich in historical fact, Courage, Sacrifice and Betrayal provides an intimate portrayal of life in the trenches and reveals the destructive emotional impact of war.


Book Cover Morrison

Morrison:  The Long-lost Memoir of Canada’s Artillery Commander in the Great War, edited by Susan Raby-Dunne, by Edward Morrison Major-General Sir

About the book: The First World War marked a turning point in Canadian history and in Canada’s self-identification as a nation. Yet in memorializing the iconic events and battles of the War, certain key individuals who participated have been lost in our collective memory. One of those individuals is Major-General Sir Edward Morrison.

Morrison was instrumental in the Canadian Army’s efforts and achievements throughout the War, but especially from 1916 until 1918, when he commanded all Canadian artillery, including at the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele. An accomplished journalist who was the editor of both the Hamilton Spectator and the Ottawa Citizen, Morrison recorded his experiences, strategies, darkly humourous observations, and insights into the nature of modern warfare in a memoir that he completed but never published before his death in 1925. Now, with the permission of his estate, Morrison’s words are made public for the first time, with a thought-provoking introduction by military historian Susan Raby-Dunne. Morrison: The Long-lost Memoir of Canada’s Artillery Commander in the Great War is a fascinating and highly readable historical document that brings a rawness and immediacy to a century-old conflict.


Book Cover Vimy

Vimy, by Vern Thiessen

About the book: France, 1917. Four wounded Canadian soldiers recover in a field hospital in the wake of the battle for Vimy Ridge, waiting to find out where they’ll be sent next: back home or back to the front. Along with a young nurse from Nova Scotia, they share their stories, reasons for fighting, and treasured memories. In Vimy, Governor General’s Literary Award–winner Vern Thiessen brings us a classic play that is not about war, but a reflection of the everyday lives of soldiers—their hopes and their dreams—and how actions can define individuals and nations.

In the brand-new piece Bluebirds, Thiessen brings to light the stories of three Canadian nurses who crossed oceans to take care of others in the war. Bonding over their duties and patients, the nurses keep up a positive atmosphere, even as the front line draws closer to their field hospital.


Book Cover a Township at War

A Township at War, by Jonathan F. Vance

About the book: A Township at War takes the reader from rural Canadian field and farm to the slopes of Vimy Ridge and the mud of Passchendaele, and shows how a tightly knit Ontario community was consumed and transformed by the trauma of war.

In 1914, the southern Ontario township of East Flamborough was like a thousand other rural townships in Canada, broadly representative in its wartime experience. Author Jonathan Vance draws from rich narrative sources to reveal what rural people were like a century ago—how they saw the world, what they valued, and how they lived their lives. We see them coming to terms with global events that took their loved ones to distant battlefields, and dealing with the prosaic challenges of everyday life. Fall fairs, recruiting meetings, church services, school concerts—all are reimagined to understand how rural Canadians coped with war, modernism, and a world that was changing more quickly than they were.A

This is a story of resilience and idealism, of violence and small-mindedness, of a world that has long disappeared and one that remains with us to this day.


Book Cover a Family of Brothers

A Family of Brothers: Soldiers of the 26th New Brunswick Battalion in the Great War, by Brent Wilson

About the book: They fought at Ypres in the fall of 1915, on the Somme at Courcelette and Regina Trench in 1916, they carried on to Vimy Ridge, Hill 70, and Passchendaele in 1917, and they were part of the battles at Amiens and the Hundred Days campaign of 1918. The 26th New Brunswick Battalion was the only infantry unit from the province to serve on the Western Front from 1915 until the Armistice. More than 5,700 soldiers passed through the battalion during the war, of whom more than 900 were killed and nearly 3,000 were wounded.

A Family of Brothers tells the story of the 'Fighting 26th' from their mobilization to the aftermath of the war. Using a wide range of sources, including letters, diaries, newspaper accounts, war diaries, and other official documents, this compelling history recounts the stories of the soldiers at the front and behind the lines and how their wartime service affected them during the war and after they returned.

A Family of Brothers is volume 24 of the New Brunswick Military Heritage Series.

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