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Marching As to War: Canada's Turbulent Years, 1899-1953 Paperback – Sep 24 2002


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Marching As to War: Canada's Turbulent Years, 1899-1953 + The Great Depression: 1929-1939 + The Promised Land: Settling the West 1896-1914
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor Canada; 1 edition (Sept. 24 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385258194
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385258197
  • Product Dimensions: 23.4 x 16.6 x 4.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 680 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #87,896 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

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It was a half-century of unprecedented upheaval and, according to Pierre Berton, the most remarkable period of Canada's history. Between 1899 and 1953, three generations of young Canadians marched off to distant battlefields to fight in four different wars, none of their own making. Berton, Canada's most prolific historian and himself a veteran of World War II, chronicles these years in his 47th book, Marching As to War. Canadians spent nearly 30 per cent of this period at war, fighting on the sun-baked African veldt, the fields of Flanders, the beaches of Dieppe, and the Korean highlands. The half-century also saw Canada transformed from an agricultural nation beholden to the British Empire to an industrial powerhouse closely linked to the United States.

Berton sparks Marching As to War to life with his trademark colourful anecdotes and characters. Among them is Lt.-Col. William Dillon Otter, commander of the Royal Canadian Regiment in the Boer War. The incredibly insecure Otter, whose previous command experiences included two embarrassing battlefield defeats, led his men into a charge against hidden Boer sharpshooters who mowed down the Canadian line. Things got even worse during World War I, Berton says, when a "lunatic" named Sam Hughs was appointed Canadian minister of the militia. "He was the strangest, most maddening politician in all Canadian parliamentary history, and certainly the most disastrous," writes Berton.

Berton's underlying theme is that three of the four wars he chronicles were unnecessary and unjust. Canadians got involved, he says, because of duplicitous media propaganda campaigns and pressure from the superpower of the day. Their sacrifices are a lesson for future generations, he believes. "In the act of remembering," Berton was quoted saying after Marching As to War came out, "we should learn from the past so we can handle the future." --Alex Roslin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

“Pierre Berton entertained me royally. . . . Berton uses newspaper reports, memoirs, diaries and personal reminiscences with panache, leading us over vast historical terrain through the eyes of protagonists who were there.” -- Modris Eksteins, The Globe and Mail

“Berton has written the Canadian story with style and grace. . . . scintillating.” -- J. L. Granatstein

“A superb testament to Berton’s prowess as a writer and an historian.” -- Calgary Herald

“Chock full of keen observation and interesting detail; a glance back at war from one of the country’s most eminent popular historians.” -- The London Free Press

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Format: Hardcover
I have read many of Pierre Berton's books, and this one is typical Berton in many ways. He always attempts to take a look at events through a different slant. This book is no different. It both describes Canada's development and maturation of a nation through its participation in four separate international conflicts, and it also uses those conflicts as a measure of the nation itself. The two word wars were the major interest points in this book. Of particular significance is when Berton smashes Canada's storm trooper image in the second world war, that it had acquired in WWI. He effectively discredits both the armed forces and political leadership during WWII, revealling Mackenzie King's once revered "Not necessarily conscription but conscription if necessary" stance as what it truly was, political indecision that resulted in the needless loss of soldier's lives. The book starts and ends slowly, with the chapters on the Boer and Korean wars not being as compelling. Overall, the book is very informative read. It loses a star in that it is not as entertaining or as smooth flowing as some of Berton's previous works, particular his two on the War of 1812 and the Arctic Grail
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Format: Hardcover
Of course, most Americans dont know much about Canada at all. What we have forgotten is the reputation that Canada had in the early 20th Century as a, believe it or not, military nation. Pierre Berton, the dean of Canadian popular historians (I highly recommend is books on the War of 1812 and the Canadian Pacific Railway) has written a book that, by tracing the way Canada fought and approached the wars it fought in the 20th Century (give or take a couple of years), shows how a raw, immigrant, frontier society, with significant social and ethnic divisions, can come to maturity and take a constructive place in world affairs.
The story starts with the Boer War, and English Canada's enthusiam for the empire, when Sir Wilfred Laurier could say that Canada stands "ready, aye ready" to play its role in defending the empire. It leads to a lot of young men getting killed and tension between English and French-speaking Canada. Quebec is far less excited about sending young men to die for the empire it seems than the rest of Canada. The Boer war leads to some questioning of war and support of the empire, but not much, paving the way for Canada's participation in World War I.
This was a much greater question and a larger commitment by the nation. Canada, Australia and New Zealand quickly joined in the war against Germany, and began to organize armies and send troops to Europe almost immediately. The extent of Canadian (and Australian) participation in the war is one of the forgotten aspects, at least in the U.S. Canadian troops quickly gained a fearsome reputation on the Western Front, and by 1918 were, along with the Australians, considered the shocktroops of the British Army. If an offensive were being planned, you could be sure that the Canadians and the Australians would be used.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dexter on Dec 16 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent overview of the history of Canada's involvement in wars from the Boer war to Korea. It looks at the leading personalities and public attitudes in Canada with material from contemporary sources and diaries plus critiques of our generals and politicians. Very readable.
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Amazon.com: 5 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Forgotten Aspect of Canadian History April 15 2004
By Jeffrey Reed - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Of course, most Americans dont know much about Canada at all. What we have forgotten is the reputation that Canada had in the early 20th Century as a, believe it or not, military nation. Pierre Berton, the dean of Canadian popular historians (I highly recommend is books on the War of 1812 and the Canadian Pacific Railway) has written a book that, by tracing the way Canada fought and approached the wars it fought in the 20th Century (give or take a couple of years), shows how a raw, immigrant, frontier society, with significant social and ethnic divisions, can come to maturity and take a constructive place in world affairs.
The story starts with the Boer War, and English Canada's enthusiam for the empire, when Sir Wilfred Laurier could say that Canada stands "ready, aye ready" to play its role in defending the empire. It leads to a lot of young men getting killed and tension between English and French-speaking Canada. Quebec is far less excited about sending young men to die for the empire it seems than the rest of Canada. The Boer war leads to some questioning of war and support of the empire, but not much, paving the way for Canada's participation in World War I.
This was a much greater question and a larger commitment by the nation. Canada, Australia and New Zealand quickly joined in the war against Germany, and began to organize armies and send troops to Europe almost immediately. The extent of Canadian (and Australian) participation in the war is one of the forgotten aspects, at least in the U.S. Canadian troops quickly gained a fearsome reputation on the Western Front, and by 1918 were, along with the Australians, considered the shocktroops of the British Army. If an offensive were being planned, you could be sure that the Canadians and the Australians would be used. Vimy Ridge and Amiens were only two of the places that Berton writes about.
The cost was high, however. As manpower in the Canadian corps began to run short the Borden government introduced conscription, which inflammed the French/English split, as well as alienating some of the farm communities in western Canada. The effects would be felt in World War II. Canada was also an early participant in this war, in support of Great Britain. An army was raised to fight in Europe (seeing action in Italy and France). But the Mackenzie King government steadfastly refused to adopt conscription, even to the point of seeing their military contribution to the allies decay. A tension between Canadian militance and willingness to participate in war, and the needs of preserving the unity of the country was apparent, and grew even larger as a result of participation in the last great war of the 20th C, in Korea.
What the Canadians pioneered as a result of this history, is a national commitment to peacekeeping and support of the UN. Lester Pearson made his reputation during the Suez crisis as a peacekeeper, a commitment Canada keeps to this day. Its important to note on the 10th anniversary of the genocide, that the UN General in Rwanda was a Canadian, and he did all he could to preserve lives despite the failure of the UN - or the rest of the world - to back him up.
Berton's book dramatically illustrates the transformation. Canada went from a jingoistic nation, supporting Britain's empire in wars in AFrica and Europe, with a worldwide reputation for courage and military skill, to one of the prime supporters of peacekeeping in the late 20th Century. Nations can grow up after all.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
CEF Researchers Must Read! Aug. 14 2005
By Richard V. Laughton - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
CEF Study Group:
Posted: Sun Aug 14, 2005 9:21 pm Post subject: Marching as to War: Pierre Berton

Okay, I am not a great fan of Pierre's accuracy when it comes to Great War texts (i.e "Vimy"), however in this case I can say that this is a "must read" for the serious WW1 researcher.

What I found most interesting was how PB went back into the Boer War and showed how the "politics" of the Canadian Army developed during this period. He also covered the period in Canada when Laurier, Borden, Haig, Bourassa, Hughes (and even some mention of Diefenbaker) were battling it out on the home front. I thought it would be boring but in actual fact it added a considerable amount to what I knew about the "life and times" of the first decade of the century.

I am now at the point in the book that WW1 has ended and so I do not know how much further I will go, but he has my interest. Perhaps, as it suggests, WWII was not a separate war but the "finalization" of the Great War.

You will want to read this book!

This is the LINK on Amazon but on my paperback version it is Currie on the cover .... but this is an interesting photo on the hardcover version as only this week (August 2005) did the lady in the picture identify herself in the Toronto Star:

Cheers to all, happy reading!!
_________________
Grandson Richard Van Wyck Laughton
Paternal: Great War: George Van Wyck Laughton
Maternal: Great War: Josiah Alexander Chancellor Kennedy
We Live Today for Their Valiant Efforts Then
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Fun to read but controversial Nov. 19 2007
By Craig MACKINNON - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Pierre Berton holds a special place in the pantheon of popular historians, as the man who has brought Canadian history to life. I have read Vimy, his 2-volume set on the War of 1812 (The Invasion of Canada and Flames Across the Border), and others. Even something as potentially tedious as building a railroad springs to life in The Last Spike. So it was with eager anticipation that I waited for Marching as to War. Surely the subject matter - Canada's 4 wars between 1899 and 1953 - was so grand that the master Berton would dazzle once again.

Then the critics sucked the wind from my (and Berton's!) sails. Jack Granatstein (ironically, a later winner of the Pierre Berton award for historical writing) blasted the book's facts. If I may quote from his review in Quill and Quire: "Berton messes up the battle of Paardeberg in South Africa; he has Sam Hughes as minister of militia after he was sacked; he attacks Dieppe in 1942 with a division instead of a brigade; and even his chart of military formations and ranks is full of errors." To be fair to Berton, some of these issues are irrelevant to his audience of amateur historians - calling a brigade a division is likely a "typo" that should have been caught by the editors, for example.

More importantly, the book does not do narrative justice to its subject matter. Berton spends far too much time being indignant than in presenting his story. It's one thing to denigrate the Boer War as being crass imperialism (it was), but it's another to declare that Canada's contributions to all the big wars of the 20th century were stupid and futile. This is clearly not going to endear him to the majority of Canadians who are proud of their country's military contributions. It's not so much that Berton expresses this view, it's that he beats it to death over and over. Further, the average armchair historian well knows that corruption, profiteering, and stupidity percolate through all military adventures (of all countries!), so why does he get so angry by the examples he cites in this book?

Ultimately, though, Berton at his worst is still better than most populist historians. The flow and pacing of the book is quite good. The prose itself is fun and easy to read. Knowing that there are some errors does not decrease from the enjoyment, especially since most of the errors are those that the layman will not notice, or even care about. I enjoyed the book, but I could have done without the quivering indignation that Berton infuses into too many passages.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Berton is always worth reading May 8 2004
By Melvin Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I have read many of Pierre Berton's books, and this one is typical Berton in many ways. He always attempts to take a look at events through a different slant. This book is no different. It both describes Canada's development and maturation of a nation through its participation in four separate international conflicts, and it also uses those conflicts as a measure of the nation itself. The two word wars were the major interest points in this book. Of particular significance is when Berton smashes Canada's storm trooper image in the second world war, that it had acquired in WWI. He effectively discredits both the armed forces and political leadership during WWII, revealling Mackenzie King's once revered "Not necessarily conscription but conscription if necessary" stance as what it truly was, political indecision that resulted in the needless loss of soldier's lives. The book starts and ends slowly, with the chapters on the Boer and Korean wars not being as compelling. Overall, the book is very informative read. It loses a star in that it is not as entertaining or as smooth flowing as some of Berton's previous works, particular his two on the War of 1812 and the Arctic Grail
Good, not exactly military, history July 22 2013
By David W. Nicholas - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Many years ago, probably at least 25, I read Pierre Berton's history of the War of 1812, which comes in 2 volumes and is quite interesting in terms of the Canadian half of the story. The author was a Canadian "personality," part TV "presenter" (host to us Americans), part journalist, part historian, and part a bit of several other things. He won almost every literary or journalistic award in Canada over a career that spanned more than half a century, and wrote a whole library of books: history, biography, picture books describing places, memoirs, journalism, travel...pretty much everything, even a novel. You get the sense that this is his summation of much of his earlier writing, composed towards the end of his life. He seems to be mulling everything from Canada's place in the world to its intentions in the international wars it participated in during this era: the Boer War, World War 1 & 2, and the Korean War. The book is grouped into four parts, each covering one of the wars, with a separate section covering the interwar period between each pair of conflicts. As a result, the book is in many ways more a history of Canada from 1899-1953 than it is about the wars that were fought during that period.

Like most Americans I know little of Canadian history. They're too close to us, and frankly very quiet and polite, so they don't attract much attention. We haven't ever really fought a war with them. The closest comes during the times when colonial powers owned the country, and we had to fight that power (twice as the United States, during the Revolution and the War of 1812, and several times as colonies of the British, fighting against the colonial French) but the Canadians themselves have always been pretty friendly.

The peak of Canada's military reputation comes during World War 1, when they fought valiantly on the Western Front and earned a good reputation as soldiers. As far as the author's concerned, their best general ever, Arthur Currie, was the commander during this period, and his penchant for training and careful preparation led to the battle of Vimy Ridge, the victory for which they are best known. Berton makes the point that they essentially cruised on their reputation during World War 2, and when he recounts the disagreements between Canadian commanders (first Crerar and then his successor, Simonds) and Montgomery in Northwestern Europe, he really doesn't pull any punches: he thinks Crerar was only semi-qualified for the job, and Simonds, while a good administrator and commander, a martinet whom the soldiers would fight for but never love. Strangely, Montgomery winds up looking like the better soldier here (something an American reader will find a bit weird) but you wind up sympathizing with him.

The book is quite readable and entertaining, and not at all long. I enjoyed it immensely, though I did see a few errors, mostly of the typo sort. On one occasion he calls Matt Ridgway, who took over command of the US Army in Korea after Walker was killed, a 36-year-old general...when he'd been in the army for 36 years at that point, I imagine. I understand that some Canadian historians have gotten on him about other details involving the Canadian army during these conflicts, but I'm not qualified to correct them. I did find it a readable and interesting book, however.

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