Reading: Paul Keery and Michael Wyatt, Canada at War, 2012

Canadian infantry soldiers disembarking at Juno Beach, June 6, 1944
Canadian infantry soldiers disembarking at Juno Beach, June 6, 1944 | Source
Canadian Red Ensign
Canadian Red Ensign | Source
Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, 1945
Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, 1945 | Source

Military distinction vividly portrayed

Paul Keery and Michael Wyatt, Canada at War: A Graphic History of World War Two, Vancouver, Toronto, Berkeley: Douglas and McIntyre Publishers, Inc., 2012, ISBN 978-1-55365-596-1

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Here, Canada's military contribution to World War Two is presented in graphics, with the younger reader in mind. Paul Keery's text and Michael Wyatt's illustrations have combined to produce a very readable set of coverages of the various theatres of the War to which Canadians contributed, often with distinction.

Among the most poignant of the sections is the Battle for the Atlantic, an often unsung aspect of the conflict which is sometimes erroneously treated as an appendage to World War Two, but for Canada and Great Britain it was pivotal to the very survival of the Empire, already evolving into the Commonwealth. The sheer extent of losses, both in terms of tonnage and crews, at times veered near to unsustainable levels, but the North Atlantic convoys persisted despite the U Boat menace.

The Commonwealth Air Training Program in Canadian skies features significantly — as one might expect — in the book. So does the Canadian presence at Juno Beach in the Normandy Landings, of June 1944, and in the Italian Campaign. The distinction of the Francophone "Van Doos" is particularly stressed. The grim realities of the tragedy of the Dieppe Raid in 1942, whith Canadian casualties in their thousands, are not overlooked.

The role of Canadians in liberating The Netherlands is a well known aspect to Canada's participation in World War Two, and this

Maybe inevitably, given the scope of the work, the book seems at times to imply that Canadians single-handedly achieved victory in the many spheres of the War in which they participated, although this was probably not the authors' intention. What does emerge from my reading of the work is the collaborative nature of Canadian participation in warfare: a well established practice already for the Canadian military by the time it began to become involved in UN-sponsored peacekeeping from the 1950s onwards.

Oblique mention of the Consciption issue, and how it impacted French Canada, is made in the work, but overall the impression does seem to be one of glossing over this highly significant aspect of Canada's experience of World War Two. This also leaves the work's treatment of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King as somewhat understated: he comes across as a fairly distinguished military leader, although historians would probably agree that he chiefly excelled as an astute, political practitioner of balancing acts between Great Britain and the United States externally but also between the aspirations and perceptions of English and French Canada respectively.

But as a whole, despite the maybe inevitable oversimplifying that is likely to occur in any work of this nature, it makes for a highly digestible learning experience for the younger reader and a good introduction to distinctions in Canada's military history.

MJFenn is an independent writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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