This is a remarkable book, another gem that surfaced recently in the FCWM's Used Military Books Room.
At first brush, this book appears to be just another book discussing the treatment of Canadian casualties on the Western Front during the First World War. But, unlike most such books, this book was not written from a Canadian perspective, or a British perspective. Rather, it is written from the perspective of the Commonwealth. So Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan and, indeed, Newfoundland, as well as Canada and the United Kingdom, are treated equally. And I found it really refreshing to see an acknowledgement that, indeed, other Commonwealth nations suffered at least as grievously as Canada in the two World Wars.
Most of the material in this book is by now almost certainly available on the Internet. But this book was published twenty-five years ago, before the Internet became well established. And even if the material is available on the Internet, this book provides a compendium of extremely valuable historical information that would be difficult to assemble otherwise. And nearly all of the information in the book is still current.
Of course, many Commonwealth countries were more involved in the Middle East and the Far East than in Europe. And so the book contains information relating to these theatres as well as information on events in Western Europe.
Part I of the book, "Historical", lays out the background for the rest of the book. In only forty pages, Part I contains what I judge to be a excellent summary of not only the First World War and what led up to it, but also the rise of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan in the inter-war years, and then the Second World War. This historical summary concludes with a country-by-country summary of the involvement of each Commonwealth country in these conflicts, including a summary of their contributions and sacrifices.
Part II of the book then focuses on the conception of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, its mission and responsibilities, and its history, particularly the transition from its initial establishment after the First World War, through the upheavals occasioned by the Second World War, and then into the modern day. There is also a very interesting chapter, under the heading of "The Business of the Commission", that discusses some of the Commission's practices in the day-to-day treatment of burials in its charge.
The last part of the book, Part III and its associated appendices, contains a vast array of information on the CWGC cemeteries and memorials, again including all Commonwealth nations, not just Canada and the United Kingdom, and not just in Europe. And, as you might expect in a book of this nature, there is a fascinating variety of historical factoids which only serve to deepen the sense of respect and remembrance for our fallen.
This is not a "beautiful" book with lots of nice photographs. This book is mostly "hard", albeit very interesting, data. But the few plates that are included have significant historical value.
An interesting and valuable perspective on the two World Wars of the last century. Highly recommended.
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|Last updated: 21 February 2016|