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The CEF Classics Series
Ghosts Have Warm Hands by Will. R. Bird, MM
One of the most powerful memoirs ever written about the First World War. The author served 1916-19 with the Black Watch of Canada. Bird's memoir captures the most poignant side of the war, the sacrifices, the humour, the rats and the terror, so unique to the First World War. His experiences were not only physical but also ethereal. His beloved brother, Stephen, who was killed near Ypres in 1915 played a critical role in Will's survival and "appears" to save him from death on more than one occasion. Stephen told Will in 1914 "if I don't come back maybe I'll find a way to come and whisper in your ear."
"Two words: Buy It" Lee Palser, Windsor Star
Letters of Agar Adamson, 1914-1919. edited by N.M.Christie
The letters of Agar Adamson first came to prominence when excerpts were used in Sondra Gwyn's "Tapestry of War." This collection of letters represent one of the most thorough personal accounts of the Great War. Adamson not only recorded the war, he was there for most of it. As an Officer of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry he arrived in France in early 1915, was wounded later in the year, returned, fought at Mount Sorrel and the Somme. He commanded the Pats in their greatest triumph at Vimy Ridge and watched helplessly as his Regiment was destroyed in the futile attack at Passchendaele.
"One of the most descriptive, first-hand accounts yet of Canadian suffering in WWI."
Doug Fisher, Legion Magazine For Freedom and Honour? by A. B. Godefroy
The First World War was the first total war in the history of mankind. It threw hundreds of thousands of men into a cauldron of inhuman conditions. The stress on living and dying was often too much and for the first time expressions like shell-shock or self-inflicted wound became part of day-to-day vocabulary. Desertion was also a problem. Generals needed to keep up the discipline of their men, so in keeping with military law draconian measures could be taken "for the sake of example". Twenty-five Canadian volunteers were executed by Firing Squad, a small, but sad footnote to Canada's great contribution to the war.
The Journal of Private Fraser, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-18. edited by Dr. R. H. Roy
Donald Fraser was in many ways a typical soldier of the Great War. Like thousands of others he enthusiastically enlisted to support his King and Country in the great European war. Fraser joined the 31st (Calgary) Battalion in 1914. His journey from those jubilant days in Calgary led him to the great battlefields of the First World War. His own war came to a sudden end in the slime of Passchendaele in November 1917. Donald Fraser, lived and fought in the hideous conditions of mud, death, rats, filth, and fire that characterized the Great War. His experiences of trench life were meticulously recorded, bringing to life a soldier's story. What he inadvertently created was a classic account of the First World War, so rich in detail and so vivid the reader can almost smell the cordite and feel the oozing mud.
Only This: A War Retrospect, 1917-1918 by James H. Pedley, MC
James Pedley served as a Lieutenant in the 4th Canadian Infantry from late 1917 to the end of the war. He was wounded at Amiens and awarded a Military Cross in the same action. Originally published in 1927, the book is unique in its detail about life behind the lines, and the infighting in a battalion. His descriptions of his trench tours at Lens, Hill 70, the Quarry, Telegraph Hill, and Feuchy are without comparison. Mostly Pedley names names, he holds no punches in his views on his comrades and the war in general. This rare collector's book is now back in print, with a biography and new footnotes. ISBN 1-896979-26-2
The Great War As I Saw It by Canon Frederick G. Scott, CMG, DSO
No one man embodied the spirit of the Canadians in the First World War like Padre Scott. He served with the 1st Canadian Division from the early days at Valcartier, 1914 through to Cambrai, 1918, when the "old man" was wounded. His chapters on searching for his son's grave on the Somme, and on trying to stop the execution of CQMS Alexander are Great War classics. Througout the book the reader senses Scott's absolute faith in the hereafter and his unshakable devotion to the honour and rightousness of the British Empire. The Great War was Frederick Scott's crusade, and he was the ultimate crusader. First published in 1924, "The Great War As I Saw It" was immediately received as something special, a symbol of Canada's sacrifices in the War. The 1999 edition includes a biography and new footnotes.
The 50th Battalion in No Mans Land by Victor W. Wheeler
Victor Wheeler was an original member of Calgary s 50th Battalion. He served with the unit from its Alberta days in 1915, fought on the Western Front from 1916 to 1918. "The 50th Battalion in No Man s Land" is Wheeler s heart-felt tribute to his comrades-in-arms. It was a life's work and it reflects the passion of someone who wants their stories to be known. Originally published in 1980, it received limited circulation, yet was received as a masterpiece. This extremely rare book is beautifully written and contains rare details about the war and experiences of trench life.
Best O'Luck by Alexander McClintock, DCM
A reprint of the 1917 edition. The book was sub-titled " How A Fighting Kentuckian Won the Thanks of Britain s King", (the Canadian version was exactly the same with the exception of the sub-title, which states "A Fighting Canadian...") and sums up what this work is about. McClintock was one of an estimated 40,000 Americans who served with the Canadians in the First World War. He enlisted with the 87th Battalion Grenadier Guards in Montreal, and served with them in France and Flanders from August 1916 until he was wounded on the Somme in November 1916. Interestingly McClintock was the soldier who escorted Canon Scott into No Man's Land to search for his son's body (Scott's son was an officer in the 87th). It is a very detailed book as it mentions names, places and many grim descriptions of trench life. The 2000 edition contains maps, an introductory preface, biographies and many photos. A fascinating addition to any First World War library.
Thirteen Years After by Will R. Bird, MM
In 1931 Will Bird, the ex-corporal of the 42nd Battalion revisited the Western Front 13 years after the war ended. His reports originally appeared as a series in Maclean's magazine and were later expanded and published. Bird's return to the war zone is a fascinating journey, not only in terms of what he saw, but how he felt. It seems after only 13 years the war was long gone, and forgotten. All along the old frontline life had resumed and it seemed the war only occurred in old soldier's imagination! Will Bird's journey is a touching read, and as always contains much of his story-telling. The 2000 edition of this rare book contains more than 30 photographs, maps and some updating on the sites of importance.
For King & Empire: The Canadians in the First World War
By Norm Christie
All books in series, pb $14.95
Vol. I. The Canadians at Ypres, April 1915
The Battle of Ypres was Canada's horrific introduction to modern warfare. The book contains a Historical overview, Battlefield tour and asides on how the battlefields were cleared, Odds of survival, etc.
Vol. II. The Canadians on the Somme, Sept.-Nov. 1916
The Battle of the Somme was one of the bloodiest battles in a bloody war. For a gain of 2 miles more than 8000 Canadians died. This books contains a Historical overview, Battlefield tour and asides on the Canadians executed in the war, nationalities in the CEF, etc.
Vol. III. The Canadians at Vimy, April 1917
The capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian Corps brought Canada instant recognition. The price of success was high with more than 3600 Canadians killed on April 9th alone. This book contains a Historical overview, Battlefield tour, and asides on the building of the Vimy Memorial, the Pilgrimage of 1936, Japanese Canadians, mining warfare, etc.
Vol. IV. The Canadians at Passchendaele, 1917
The Battle of Passchendaele was the most horrific battle in the Great War. It cost the British Empire 250,000 dead, wounded and missing. Amongst the ranks of the fallen were 5000 Canadians. This book details the battle and contains a Historical overview, Battlefield tour and asides on Canadian Indians, etc.
Vol. V. The Canadians at Arras, Aug.-Sept. 1918
The Battle of Arras and the Breaking of the Drocourt-Queant line was Canada's greatest military victory in the Great War. In 8 days the Canadian Corps cracked 5 German defensive line. It was considered to the most spectacular victory of the War. The book contains a Historical overview, Battlefield tour, asides on Conscription, the Newfoundlanders, etc.
Vol. VI. The Canadians at Cambrai, Sept.-Oct.1918
Thrown against the German defences of the Canal du Nord they forced their way across and in 4 days of heavy fighting carried the defences north of Cambrai. The book contains a Historical overview, Battlefield tour and asides on the Mutiny, Spanish Flu, etc.
Vol. VII. The Canadians at Amiens, August 1918
On August 8, 1918, 100,000 men of the Canadian Corps smashed the German defences east of Amiens and advanced for 8 miles. It was the first major defeat inflicted on the Kaiser's Army. The book chronicles the Battle and includes a Historical overview, Battlefield tour and asides on the killing of Canadian Nursing Sisters and the killing of POWs, etc.
Vol. VIII. The Canadians at Mount Sorrel, June 1916
The Battle of Mount Sorrel was typical of many "small", local actions in the Great War. In less than 2 weeks in June, 1916, 9,000 more than 3,000 Canadians were dead. Amongst the dead and prisoners were two Canadian Generals and five Colonels.
Access to History: The Canadian History Series
The "Access to History" series is a set of 20, 48 page, full colour booklets. Each volume is dedicated to a specific battle or event from our past, and includes colour maps, paintings, lithographs, etc. Currently the first four volumes, on the major Canadian Battles of the First World War, have been published. They are:
No. 1: Gas Attack!
The Canadians at Ypres, 1915
ISBN 1-896979-06-8 pb
No. 2: Futility & Sacrifice,
The Canadians on the Somme, 1916
ISBN 1-896979-08-4 pb
No. 3: Winning the Ridge,
The Canadians at Vimy, 1917
ISBN 1-896979-10-6 pb
No. 4: Slaughter in the Mud,
The Canadians at Passchendaele, 1917
ISBN 1-896979-12-2 pb