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Canada’s Dream Shall Be Of Them: Canadian Epitaphs of the Great War Hardcover – 1 Mar 2017
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The book comes with the highest recommendation of the reviewer and is beautifully written and produced - but do not be put off by the lack of appendices or index! This is a book which requires neither. It is a pure gem. --Britain at War magazine
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The Dedication of this book reads ‘To the men of the Canadian Corps who brought lasting renown to their country, and to the families of the fallen who bore the lasting burden of the war’
'My Son, My Son'
This isn’t a book where one follows the war through inevitable chronology or through vivid accounts of battles or by colourful maps showing sweeping arrows of advance and pitiful trench maps, hiding the misery of man pitted against man, nature and technology. No, this is a book of emotion, the emotions of those left behind to suffer the anguish of grief and given just 66 letters in which to sum up a lifetime! A lifetime often, too often measured in the low teens.
'Ready, Aye, Ready'
The book is broken down into some 7 Chapters, whose headings are well known epitaphs in themselves for the horrors of the Great War: - Vimy Hill, Ypres Salient, The Somme, Passchendale and the Hundred Days. Whilst each chapter contains some historical narrative to give it context, the bulk of the wording is given over to the history, formulation and production of the epitaphs and memorials themselves. It details out the many types of epitaph, from the Religious, to those using borrowed words from famous works of literature, to those espousing pride and obviously anger. The latter is a given emotion in war, though the Imperial War Grave Commission had absolute power of rejection and “intemperate wording, overt hostility, or vengeful sentiments were rejected” An example given from an Australian request wanted it to read ‘His Loving Parents curse the Hun’ However one saying, ‘Another Life Lost, Hearts Broken, for What?’ passed muster and still resonates down the decades to more modern conflicts.
'We Are Only Remembered by What We Have Done'
The countless epitaphs and narrative are handsomely supported by some truly sumptuous photographs by Steve Douglas, and several evocative wartime paintings, whose use of colour tie in so well with ones’ emotions when reading this work. Though now separated by a hundred years or more from these events, and how attitudes of remembrance, sacrifice and nationalism have waxed and waned over this period. You can’t help but feel the bleeding rawness of the loved ones trying to do true justice to their feelings, as well accurately reflecting the ‘mood’ of an individual and a nation.
This is a book that you can read as a standalone, or even treat as a coffee table book to dip into from time to time. However, its best read in tandem with those great military history works that detail out Canada’s engagements during the Great War. For by doing so you’ll connect the lives lived and lost on neatly typed pages and reproduced trench maps, with those immaculate CWGC cemeteries and their 66 letter epitaphs of the men and women of Canada, who made that ultimate sacrifice.
The Evening Brings All Home