A NATION FORGED IN FIRE: CANADIANS AND THE SECOND WORLD WAR 1939-1945
J.L. Granatstein and Desmond Morton.
Volume 17 Number 6
Taking advantage of a 50th and 75th anniversary, historians Granatstein and Morton have written A Nation Forged in Fire, and a companion volume, Armaggedon: Canadians and the Great War, 1914-1919 ¹, published earlier this year. Like its predecessor, this book is extremely well done with a fine combination of text and pictures.Both Granatstein and Morton are well-known, accomplished Canadian historians. Their books are too numerous to mention here. A Nation Forged in Fire is further testament to their ability to write comprehensive, readable, and enjoyable history. In this book, all three services are given individual chapters and pictorial sections. Both the home front and the battles overseas are well covered without tedious detail. Throughout, the authors have included interesting and illuminating excerpts from a variety of sources. Hal Lawrence's A Bloody War ² described life on a corvette: "The bread grows green mould ... Dry clothes are forgotten. In the foetid crowded messdecks exhausted men sleep where they can ...". The use of such sources is an important element in this story. Unfortunately in this book, as in the book on the First World War, there is no bibliography. In some cases authors are mentioned with no book title. In other instances both author and title are given. From my perspective, quotes and excerpts add much to a story, and can also whet the appetite for further research. The omission of a bibliography is the only serious criticism I have. The maps are quite good and some are "cross-referenced." The chart showing the location of Canadian ships lost and U-boats sunk is an interesting one. There, south of England, is the place where the corvette Alberni was sunk with a Gordon Bell High School student, Wallace Laing, amongst the missing. The picture and war art reproductions are very well done. Some of the pictures are familiar, others not so. One picture is captioned, "... The saturnine portrait of a Canadian sniper ...". In Ken Bell's book Not in Vain (University of Toronto Press, 1973) the same picture is identified as Sergeant H.A. Marshall; and another showed him in later life as a curler in Calgary! In their conclusion, the authors make the following comments: "We should weep for the dead of the Second World War. The Second World War was a just war." At the end of Pierre Berton's book on Vimy, he asked "Was it worth it?" Berton's answer was "no." Granatstein and Morton pose the same question at the end of A Nation Forged in Fire. Their answer, "Oh yes." This book is an excellent addition to material on Canada and the war years 1939-1945. It would be good company for Bloody Victory ³ and Out of the Shadows (Oxford University Press, 1977).
J.D. Ingram, Gordon Bell High School, Winnipeg, MB.
¹ Reviewed vol.VIII/l Winter 1989, p. 39
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