Volume II Number 3
November 3, 1995

image One Village, One War:

Douglas How.
Hantsport, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press, 1995. 374pp, paper, S16.95.
ISBN 0-88999-563-X. No CIP.

Subject Headings:
World War, 1914-1918-New Brunswick-Dorchester.
World War, 1939-1945-New Brunswick-Dorchester.
Dorchester (N.B.)-History.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Neil V. Payne.


They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them,
nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun
and in the morning
We will remember them

There are 41 names now, 16 more than there used to be, but the monument also says things the names themselves don't say. Its arithmetic is strikingly similar to the statistics for the entire country: the loss of lives in 1914-18 was roughly 50% greater than it was in 1939-45 when the national population was twice as large. Moreover, the village has done what many communities have: it has, in a sense, accepted that there were not two wars but one, has put the names of the fallen of 1939-45 on the memorial to the fallen of 1914-18. Many cities and towns have dedicated parks and libraries and rinks as memorials of a more practical kind, but something has happened to the theology of monuments; some scepticism or bewilderment in the 20th century mind seems to have numbed the urge to erect memorials to human beings, perhaps as part of a doubt in man about man himself.
So the names of the 16 dead of my generation stare at me, and I remember most of them. Their faces come to me, young again, surprisingly vivid, laughing with the radiance of youth, haunting with the age they've been denied. But when the service is over I look at the original 25 names, and I recognize family names but no faces come to me. For they are the names of men who died before I was born. In the evening at the Legion banquet, I speak of the village dead of my own generation and suddenly realize that most of the men in the room have never known them either. I remember that amid the incandescence of the '60s there arose among the young a feeling that since war is bad something less than honor is due to those who wage it; that at a recent Remembrance Day service at nearby Mount Allison University virtually the only students who showed up were those assigned a role in the ceremony.

memorial One village, One War was a project that started as a memorial to the war dead of the village of Dorchester, New Brunswick, because, the author feared, most Canadians living today have no memories, no experiences, no understanding of either the importance of those years in Canada's development, or what they were like for the people who lived through them.

One village, One War describes Canadian life in that period as it was in one small village. It details how Dorchester lived the events that forged the identity of Canada as an independent nation, both internally and among the community of nations. And it reminds us how great events shape and are shaped by the everyday lives of ordinary people.

It's all there: the experiences of the ones who went away to fight for King and country, and those who stayed behind; those who returned and those who didn't; the quiet self-effacing memories of Canadian veterans contrasted with the self-assured, movie-driven American hero.


There is also an unexpected dimension -- the Klotz family, German immigrants whose children grew up alongside the author during the Great Depression. They returned to Germany when war was both imminent and obvious, to avoid the confiscation of their farm and internment in prison camps for enemy aliens that the father suffered during World War I. So members of the Klotz family found themselves fighting on the other side in Hitler's war.

Along with a number of historians, the author insists that the two world wars were, in fact, one war, with a pause in the middle just long enough to grow another generation of soldiers. So the story is told chronologically through the eyes of the author, who was born in 1919 just after the first phase of this thirty-one-year war, and who, with his contemporaries, had just reached the age of enrollment in the forces as the second phase began. At first, How's tale follows the quiet pace of life in Dorchester and mentions the great events on the national and global stage as a backdrop to day-to-day, small-town life. The returned men from the previous war didn't talk much about their experiences, and no one bothered to ask them, so no one thought much about wars past or future.

As first the possibility, then the likelihood, of war grew again, the Klotz family came in for some suspicion and minor hazing, but for the most part, those powerful forces shaping the world were very distant.

And when war came, young men and women joined up and drifted away in ones and twos, and life went on in the village much as before -- except that letters home came from the war zones instead of from Halifax and Fredericton and Montreal, where the young of the village habitually went to become nurses, teachers, bank tellers, or whatever.

How's story ends with a school reunion in 1988, with hundreds of the villages' people, including Gottfried Klotz, returning, many for the first time since they went off to war.

One Village, One War is an engaging story: well told and familiar in the best sense. It is a homy account of young people coming of age in a difficult time while our nation was coming of age in battle in Europe, Africa, and Asia, and on the oceans of the world.

It is a story that needs telling, as those who were there become fewer every year. The vast majority of Canadians, who came along later, and now enjoy the benefits won at staggering cost, forget the lessons of those simpler days at their peril.

One village, One War is an ideal source for social history. The reader may readily identify with the young people who went off to war, with the older ones who stayed behind, and with the returning veterans -- no longer either young or innocent.

It is also a fascinating and enjoyable portrait of ordinary people in extraordinary times, who dealt with whatever infamy might be visited upon them by a world gone mad with resolve, humour, and humility. I would endorse it very highly for public and high-school libraries.

Highly recommended.

Neil V. Payne is a teacher-librarian at Kingston Collegiate in Kingston Ontario. He has served thirty-four years in Canadian Naval Reserve, holding rank of Commander.

The images accompanying this review are paintings by Mary Riter Hamilton, currently in the collection of the National Archives.

Copyright © 1995 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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