As I get older, I find myself becoming a bit of a Canadian history buff.
Sure, our history is not spotless by any stretch, but our participation in both The Great War and then World War II were two things we got right. Our soldiers were liberators fighting in the name of freedom, and we honour their sacrifices every year.
On this Remembrance Day, I thought it worthwhile to offer up a short list of good history books that explore Canada’s wartime legacy. We have a proud history, and it’s important for us to know it.
Vimy by Pierre Berton – One of Canada’s greatest journalists recounts how four divisions of Canadian soldiers “with no military tradition” did in one morning in 1917 what both the British and French forces couldn’t do in two years and with 150,000 lives—capture the German-held Vimy Ridge escarpment in northern France with a loss of only 10,000 men.
A story of sacrifice and victory filled with personal accounts from the men who were on the battlefield, Canada “came of age at Vimy Ridge,” making Vimy a must-read.
Dieppe: Canada’s Darkest Days of World War II by Hugh Brewster – While Vimy Ridge is held up as a story of Canadian triumph during The Great War, Dieppe is often marked as Canada’s great failure from World War II.
Discover how six thousand Canadians tried to capture the port on France’s northern coast, only to retreat six hours later with just over a third of their men.
Old Enough to Fight: Canada’s Boy Soldiers in the First World War by Dan Black and John Boileau – Through the rear-view mirror of history, many see the participation of teenaged soldiers in The Great War as young patriotism in action.
Truth is, many boy soldiers signed up thinking that going to war was an escape from a worse fate at home. Arriving in battle-ravaged Europe, they would learn otherwise.
Find out how almost 20,000 underage Canadian youths signed up for the war and came of age in the worst conditions possible.
Canadian War Posters by Marc H. Choko – Propaganda art has always fascinated me, but this recent purchase was the best money I’d spent in a long time.
With a focus on war posters from the First and Second World Wars, see the images that motivated Canadians to “Buy More Victory Bonds” and to beware when “The Walls Have Ears” until “The Seas Are Free Again.”
Marching As to War: Canada’s Turbulent Years 1899-1953 by Pierre Berton – Another book by the late, great, Mr. Berton, this one explores Canada’s growth as an independent nation, unified by an emerging spirit of nationalism in the face of four wars—The Boer War, The Great War, World War II, and the Korean War—over the course of the first half of the twentieth century.
Got any other reads that honour Canada’s soldiers and wartime history? Share in the comments below.