________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007


Valour at Vimy Ridge: The Great Canadian Victory of World War I. (Amazing Stories).

Tom Douglas.
Canmore, AB: Altitude Publishing (Distributed by Saunders Book Company), 2007.
143 pp., pbk., $9.95.
ISBN 978-1-55439-241-4.

Subject Headings:
Vimy Ridge, Battle of, France, 1917.
World War, 1914-1918-Canada.

Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.

Review by Thomas F. Chambers.

***½ /4


Dysentery was another killer that accounted for thousands of deaths in the trenches. Needless to say, sanitary conditions in these waterlogged ditches were appalling. Latrines were dug behind the lines, but these soon filled up and spilled into the trenches. In addition, many of those excavations had been dug in areas where corpses from earlier battles had been hastily buried, and the decaying bodies were another source of deadly germs. For that matter, the battlefields were located mainly on destroyed farmland, where the soil had been fertilized with manure for centuries. Deadly microbes infested the ground and contaminated wounds, causing gangrene, a horrible affliction that often proved fatal in the days before wonder drugs.

Valour At Vimy Ridge tells the story of the capture of Vimy Ridge by Canadian soldiers in April 1917. Heavily defended by the Germans, it had proved impregnable against the best efforts of French and British troops. Well-researched and factual, the book is a pleasure to read, both interesting and informative. Young readers will learn a great deal about both Canadian history and the horror of war. They could quite easily become history buffs.

     Valour At Vimy Ridge is part of the “Amazing Stories” series of books on interesting people, organizations and events in Canadian history. Author Tom Douglas also wrote Canadian Spies, D-Day, and Great Canadian War Heroes for this series. A copy editor for The Canadian Military Journal, he has written speeches for officials both in the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs. If Valour At Vimy Ridge is any indication, Douglas is fascinated by Canadian history. His style is easy to read but meticulous. As a result, the story comes alive. The many small details help to make Valour At Vimy Ridge very readable. Douglas' attention to the details shows readers what soldiers experienced. Without them, the battle and the achievements of the troops at Vimy would mean much less. Learning about the preparations and what the soldiers had to endure makes their success more meaningful.

     One chapter gives brief biographies of some of the men, including a German*, who distinguished themselves at Vimy. As one would expect, these highlight the exploits of men of all ranks from generals to privates. The chapter also lists the battalions that fought at Vimy and where they were based in Canada.

     Another interesting feature is an Appendix which contains letters written by Private Ronald MacKinnon, who served at Vimy, to his father and sister. The possession of Gordon MacKinnon, a nephew of Private MacKinnon, the letters give a personal touch to the book, a touch that is often missing in books of this nature.

     Valour At Vimy Ridge, while it mentions what caused the war, does not point out that, when Great Britain declared war, Canada, as a member of the British Empire, was also at war. Readers may wonder why there was no parliamentary debate, as there would be today, and why Canada became involved in a war that was a European affair.

     Valour At Vimy Ridge is ideal for recreational reading. It has a brief bibliography of print and Internet resources. It also has four functional black and white photographs distributed throughout the book and a painting in colour on the cover of a Canadian gunnery battalion at work. In addition, there is a map of the ridge showing the location of the Canadian troops on April 9, 1917. There is no index or glossary. The latter, with unusual terms, would have been useful. Students can always turn to a dictionary, but a glossary may ensure that they learn what words mean.

Highly Recommended.

Thomas F. Chambers, a retired college teacher, lives in North Bay, ON.

* Yes, there were heroes on the German side, too.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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