07 August 2009

New Books, a Family Tree and a Flag

A bit of miscellany for this post.

The Spring 2009 catalogue for the UBC Press is out and contains three new publications of particular interest to students of Canadian military history:

Bennett, Y.A. (Ed.), Kiss the kids for dad, Don't forget to write: The Wartime Letters of George Timmins, 1916-18 (July 2009);
"Between 1916 and 1918, Lance-Corporal George Timmins, a British-born soldier who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, wrote faithfully to his wife and children. Sixty-three letters and four fragments survived.

These letters tell the compelling story of a man who, while helping his fellow Canadians make history at Vimy, Lens, Passchendaele, and Amiens, used letters home to remain a presence in the lives of his wife and children, and who drew strength from his family to appreciate life's simple pleasures. Timmin's letters offer a rare glimpse into the experiences and relationships and the quiet heroism of ordinary soldiers on the Western Front."
Carroll, Michael K., Pearson's Peacekeepers: Canada and the United Nations Emergency Force, 1956-67 (May 2009):
"In 1957 Lester Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize for creating the United Nations Emergency Force during the Suez Crisis. The award launched Canada's love affair with, and reputation for, peacekeeping. Pearson's Peacekeepers explores the reality behind the rhetoric by offering a detailed account of the UNEF's decade-long effort to keep peace along the Egyptian-Israeli border. The operation was a tremendous achievement, yet the UNEF also encountered formidable challenges and problems. This nuanced account of Canada's participation in the UNEF not only challenges received notions of Canadian identity and history but will also help students, policy makers, and concerned citizens to accurately evaluate international peacekeeping efforts in the present."
Shaw, Amy J., Crisis of Conscience: Conscientious Objection in Canada during the First World War (November 2008):
"The First World War's appalling death toll and the need for a sense of equality of sacrifice on the home front led to Canada's first experience of overseas conscription. While historians have focused on resistance to enforced military service in Quebec, this has obscured the important role of those who saw military service as incompatible with their religious or ethical beliefs. Crisis of Conscience is the first and only book about the Canadian pacifists who refused to fight in the Great War. The experience of these conscientious objectors offers insight into evolving attitudes about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship during a key period of Canadian nation building.

This book will appeal to readers interested in Canadian military and peace history. The book is also relevant to those concerned with questions of voluntarism and obligation in a democratic society, and issues of gender history and minority freedom and identity."
I'm particularly looking forward to seeing Bennett's book on George Timmins. I often find the thoughts of an "other rank" to be particularly insightful and the First World War is easily my favourite period of Canadian military history.

This past Wednesday, The Globe and Mail ran an obituary piece by Buzz Bourdon on the late Jean-Antoine de Lotbinière Panet. Talk about Canada's military heritage being wrapped up in one family. In general, the story of the Panet family isn't completely unknown, Jacques Gouin and Lucien Brault having written Les Panet de Québec : histoire d'une lignée militaire in 1984 (translated as Legacy of Honour: The Panets, Canada's foremost military family in 1985).

Finally, I've been holding onto the reference for a story from yourbarrhaven.com (Barrhaven is a suburb of Ottawa) since February. Titled "Algonquin students preserve Canadian history", the article describes how two Algonquin College museum studies students - Michelle Hunter and Meredith Thompson - were working on preserving a Royal Union Flag (Union Jack) and a Red Cross flag belonging to the Prince Edward Island Regimental Museum in Charlottetown. It appears both flags were flown by No. 2 Canadian Stationary Hospital (the first Canadian unit to serve on the continent during the First World War) in France. I'd love to know how things worked out with the preservation process. Très cool.

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