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On the eve of the 90th anniversary of the armistice of the Great War, Canadians have cause to reflect on a conflict so terrible and so devastating for families who lost many of their young sons. In town centres across Canada, war memorials pay tribute to the fallen. Who were they? From what deep well sprang so much courage, resourcefulness and resilience? In the much and filth of sodden battlegrounds, how did these farmers, fishermen and shopkeepers persevere and acquit themselves so splendidly against a superb foe?
Mark Zuehlke, acclaimed author and military historian, tells the story of the average Canadian who volunteered for the Canadian Expeditionary Force through the lens of one battalion-the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. This Highland Regiment fought in the Ypres Salient and in the Somme, at Vimy and Amiens. It suffered the first gas attack; its ranks were decimated as it fought at virtually every major battle in the European theatre.
From the declaration of war to the cessation of hostilities, Zuehlke follows the battalion from marshalling and training in Canada, across the Atlantic to England, and then landing in Europe. In graphic detail he takes the reader into the trenches and onto the shell-pocked battlefields, through assaults on ridges and wooded valleys. One unshakeable, startling image is that of the piper piping troops into battle-exposed to enemy fire all the while.
Brave Battalion is not a sweeping history of the conflict. It is rather the story of war on the ground as told though the accomplishments of a band of brothers-the Canadian Scottish-who came to represent the best of what Canada sent into battle.
Mark Zuehlke has been hailed by Jack Granatstein as Canada's most popular military historian. Of his twenty books, nine have been works of military history. For Honour's Sake: The War of 1812 and the Brokering of an Uneasy Peace won the Canadian Authors Association 2007 Lela Common Award for Canadian History. In 2006, Holding Juno:Canada's Heroic Defence of the D-Day Beaches, June7-12, 1944 was awarded the City of Victoria Butler Book Prize.
Also a novelist, Zuehlke is known for the acclaimed Elias McCann mystery series, which chronicles the misadventures of a coroner in British Columbia's Tofino. Hands Like Clouds garnered a Crime Writers of Canada Arthur Ellis Best First Novel award in 2000, and Sweep Lotus was a finalist for the Arthur Ellis Best Novel in 2004. Zuehlke lives in Victoria, BC. He can be found on the web at www.zuehlke.ca.