In this second instalment on his two-volume masterpiece on the Canadians (infantry) in World War I, the author picks up where he left off at the end of "At the Sharp End" (Volume one). Here, the horrors experienced by the soldiers on the Western Front continue to be recounted with just as much gory, heart-wrenching detail as in the first volume. However, in this case, the major battles in which the Canadian Corps undertook were resounding victories - although very costly ones. As before, the life of the trench warrior is the main focus, but the high command is also well covered. What I found particularly fascinating in this volume were the last few chapters in which the last hours and minutes of the war are discussed, as well as the events after the armistice: the soldiers' feelings at not being sent home immediately and the way they expressed their discontent, the eventual incorporation of thousands of returning soldiers into Canadian society, feelings towards the Canadian high command (Currie), the tabulation of the casualty statistics, the adequacy of pensions for disabled soldiers and their families, and how the Great war has been viewed over the decades until the present. As in the first volume, the writing style is clear, authoritative, accessible and always very engaging. The detailing of the various activities of the Canadian Corps's different military units can be a bit overwhelming at times; but the stories of some of the individual selfless sacrifices, astounding acts of heroism and the ultimate accomplishments of the Corps as a whole can leave the reader in awe. Once again, this is a book that can be read and appreciated by absolutely anyone.
on October 23, 2009
Tim Cook retains his reputation as one of Canada's leading WW1 historians.
While recounting the course of the battles that Canada was involved in, he also keeps our interest by telling the intimate stories of the men who wore the Maple leaf. He resists the urge to have us believe that Canada was the sole reason for the allies success and is fair in his criticism and praise of the military and political characters in this sad drama.
This is a very readable book and one that should be in the library of every Canadian. Can't wait to see what he does with the next book on Currie and Hughes.
on March 21, 2009
I am not a professional book reviewer but as my Father's family was totaly involved in WW 1 I have read anything I can get my hands on relative to the Canadian involvement in that war. Tim Cook's treatment, in my opinion, is the best written to date. His research and subsequent publication is unbelievably excellent. Mr Cook's first volume "At The Sharp End", deserves the same comment. Anyone looking for a very readable detailed historical account of the Canadians in World War 1 cannot do better than these two volumes.
on May 4, 2015
Tim Cook's two books, Shock Troops and the Sharp End are probably his masterpieces, although he is still a fairly young man I think. They are highly readable with him juggling different stories of the ordinary men in the trenches, the junior officers and the senior officers--and he does it seamlessly. He writes well enough that this can be said to be a piece of classic literature. Granted, it won't be read by too many outside of Canada so it won't be famous, but it ought to be. World War One threw a lot of colourful characters onto the pages of Canadian history and Cook takes full advantage of this fact. I would call it rollicking good fun, but it is well paced and has a serious subject. But some of the characters like Currie and Hughes and their relationship are golden. They started out as friends with Hughes as the senior person, then as Currie rose higher they became deadly enemies. One of Cook's other books deals with this more fully. It wouldn't fit even into a two book set. In any case it was a wonderful and enlightening read. My grandfather and his brother were in that war and I do like to read about WW 1, just so I can understand my beloved grandfather better. It has given me a greater appreciation of him as a man than the grampa I knew as a child.
on May 28, 2014
Canadian forces became the sharp point of the Allied effort in Europe, and were used by the British as Shock Troops, hence the title. Sometimes they were badly handled by British Commanders who regarded them as cannon fodder, but by 1917 they had risen to being regarded as the finest soldiers on the Western Front, and were being directed by their own commanders. Sadly this volume includes Second and Third Battles of Ypres, the Third of which is often called Passchendaele, and was the bloodiest campaign the Canadians ever fought in. The ground was waterlogged, trenches became chin or deeper canals, and the German artillery had spent 4 years zeroing in on the Allied positions. The Germans were broken finally because of the healthier better equipped and by that time better fed troops, but it was a tragedy for both sides.
on March 12, 2015
Volume One and Volume Two of this thoroughly-researched history book really need to be read together. For example, Volume One shows some lessons learned very painfully by leaders of Canadian troops in World War I, then Volume Two shows how willing they apparently were to squander those lessons in pursuit of career success. This war was such a horrible event-- even the current mess in the Middle East is fairly directly attributable to it, as are such more obviously direct consequences as the Bolshevik Revolution, the German economic collapse of the 1920s, the rise of Hitler, World War II, and the Holocaust-- that no attempt to justify the sacrifices the war entailed could possibly be successful, but author Cook, within the more limited parameters of his chosen topic, gives a good try.
on July 28, 2014
Without doubt, the most comprehensive and personal presentation to date of Canada's involvement and the influence of her front-line soldiers through the Great War . . . A read for all Canadians in this 100th year commemoration of that conflict's origins. Don't be intimidated by the 1500+ pages (including Pt #1, The Sharp Edge). Neither repetitive nor redundant at any juncture and easily readable for teens on upwards.
I still have some pages left, so I have not read the conclusion. This book covers every single aspect of a soldiers life in the Great War. Like a lot of Canadians, I had relatives that fought in the Great War. I wanted to know what they went through. You later realize why the quote "he never talked about the war," was so common to hear from older relatives. WW1 was not a pleasant experience. This book, and At The Sharp End, will give you everything there is to know about life on the Western front. Cook has done an outstanding job at researching the material.
While reading, there are times when it is a little rough to stomach all the stories of death and disease. The hardship these people endured, is almost beyond belief.
on May 18, 2014
Now that this sensational book has been written, Canadians will no longer be able to call World War I, which broke out in 1914, 'The Forgotten War'. Tim Cook, WWI historian at the Canadian War Museum, puts it all on the record vividly. He gives an exhaustive 648-page account (plus notes) that establishes facts and promotes pride in Canada's WW1 infantry forces' character and achievements.The reader is right at the front line as shock troops of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (part of the British
the strategies, tactics and action of battalions, groups and heroes of each battle in graphic detail. It is based on National Archives data previously locked up and pictures archived in the CMC. Short sentences and direct quotes interspersed with descriptions keep the narrative going at a fast pace. Without hyperbole or sentimentality, the author uses the victims' or witnesses' own words to convey the impact of horrific conditions, killing and destruction. The tone of the narrative is bitter sweet wherever possible and consistently proud. I was particularly interested to find out about shell shock, executions, trench community life, morale, family contacts, illnesses, leave and many other broader topics, all excellently covered.This is a valuable document for anyone wishing to know exactly what his or her relative did or didn't endure.It is a very good, readable, competent book and I recommend it to others. However, my advice to readers who might get bored by so many meticulous, comprehensive accounts of successive
battles, or who don't identify excitedly with battle manoeuvers, is to skip ahead.References to events further from Cook's topic, such as the Brest-Titovsk Treaty between Germany and Russia, should be checked out with other sources. And come prepared. All the way through it will seem like you are right there, ready to do or die, and that's not easy!
on May 14, 2013
Tim Cook is one of the foremost historians writing on the Great War, a writer whose work I value. I'm glad to own this account, which sits next to his equally fine work, AT THE SHARP END. As someone who has written extensively on this subject, it is comforting to be able to reach for these two books when I'm writing about the Canadian role in the war. Though I'm a U.S. citizen, it has long annoyed and distressed me that few refer to Canadians as the first American troops to serve in Belgium and France. So, great kudos to Tim Cook.