Volume II Number 3
November 3, 1995
One Village, One War:
Hantsport, Nova Scotia: Lancelot Press, 1995. 374pp, paper, S16.95.
ISBN 0-88999-563-X. No CIP.
World War, 1914-1918-New Brunswick-Dorchester.
World War, 1939-1945-New Brunswick-Dorchester.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
The Manitoba Library Association
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