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Authors: Pierre Berton

Vimy

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Vimy
Pierre Berton
Anchor Canada (2010)
Rating: ★★★★☆
Tags: History, Canada, General
Historyttt Canadattt Generalttt

One chill Easter dawn in 1917, a blizzard blowing in their faces, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in France went over the top of a muddy scarp knows as Vimy Ridge. Within hours, they held in their grasp what had eluded both British and French armies in over two years of fighting: they had seized the best-defended German bastion on the Western Front.

How could an army of civilians from a nation with no military tradition secure the first enduring victory in thirty-two months of warfare with only 10,000 casualties, when the French had lost 150,000 men in their unsuccessful attempt? Pierre Berton's haunting and lucid narrative shows how, unfettered by military rules, civilians used daring and common sense to overcome obstacles that had eluded the professionals.

Drawing on unpublished personal accounts and interviews, Berton brings home what it was like for the young men, some no more than sixteen years old, who clawed their way up the sodden, shell-torn slopes in a struggle they innocently believed would make war obsolete. He tells of the soldiers who endured horrific conditions to secure this great victory, painting a vivid picture of trench warfare. In his account of this great battle, Pierre Berton brilliantly illuminated the moment of tragedy and greatness that marked Canada's emergence as a nation.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Review

"Among the most important and vital accounts of war that we have…it is inexcusable not to read it."
—Timothy Findley

"…
Vimy
is Berton at his best and that's the best there is."
—Peter C. Newman

"A book to make us proud, to make us week."
—June Callwood

From the Trade Paperback edition.

From the Inside Flap

One chill Easter dawn in 1917, a blizzard blowing in their faces, the four divisions of the Canadian Corps in France went over the top of a muddy scarp knows as Vimy Ridge. Within hours, they held in their grasp what had eluded both British and French armies in over two years of fighting: they had seized the best-defended German bastion on the Western Front.

How could an army of civilians from a nation with no military tradition secure the first enduring victory in thirty-two months of warfare with only 10,000 casualties, when the French had lost 150,000 men in their unsuccessful attempt? Pierre Berton's haunting and lucid narrative shows how, unfettered by military rules, civilians used daring and common sense to overcome obstacles that had eluded the professionals.

Drawing on unpublished personal accounts and interviews, Berton brings home what it was like for the young men, some no more than sixteen years old, who clawed their way up the sodden, shell-torn slopes in a struggle they innocently believed would make war obsolete. He tells of the soldiers who endured horrific conditions to secure this great victory, painting a vivid picture of trench warfare. In his account of this great battle, Pierre Berton brilliantly illuminated the moment of tragedy and greatness that marked Canada's emergence as a nation.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

 

As far as I could see, south, north along the miles of the Ridge, there were the Canadians. And I experienced my first full sense of nationhood.

Lieutenant Gregory Clark, M.C
.
    Weekend Magazine,
November 13, 1967

Copyright © 1986 by Pierre Berton Enterprises Ltd.
Anchor Canada paperback edition 2001

All rights reserved. The use of any part of this publication, reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photoc opying, recording or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system without the prior written consent of the publisher — or, in the case of photocopying or other reprographic copying, a license from the Canadian Copyright Licensing Agency — is an infringement of the copyright law.

Anchor Canada and colophon are trademarks.

National Library of Canada Cataloguing in Publication Data

Berton, Pierre, 1920–
   Vimy

eISBN: 978-0-385-67361-7

1. Vimy Ridge, Battle of, 1917. 2. World War, 1914–1918 –
Campaigns – France. 3. World War, 1914-1918 – Canada. I. Title.

D545.V5B47 2001      940.4′31      C2001-930603-2

Published in Canada by
Anchor Canada, a division of
Random House of Canada Limited

Visit Random House of Canada Limited’s website:
www.randomhouse.ca

v3.1

Books by Pierre Berton

The Royal Family

The Mysterious North

Klondike

Just Add Water and Stir

Adventures of a Columnist

Fast Fast Fast Relief

The Big Sell

The Comfortable Pew

The Cool, Crazy, Committed World of the Sixties

The Smug Minority

The National Dream

The Last Spike

Drifting Home

Hollywood’s Canada

My Country

The Dionne Years

The Wild Frontier

The Invasion of Canada

Flames Across the Border

Why We Act Like Canadians

The Promised Land

Vimy

Starting Out

The Arctic Grail

The Great Depression

Niagara: A History of the Falls

My Times: Living with History

1967, The Last Good Year

Picture Books

The New City (with Henri Rossier)

Remember Yesterday

The Great Railway

The Klondike Quest

Pierre Berton’s Picture Book of Niagara Falls

Winter

The Great Lakes

Seacoasts

Pierre Berton’s Canada

Anthologies

Great Canadians

Pierre and Janet Berton’s Canadian Food Guide

Historic Headlines

Farewell to the Twentieth Century

Worth Repeating

Welcome to the Twenty-first Century

Fiction

Masquerade (pseudonym Lisa Kroniuk)

Books for Young Readers

The Golden Trail

The Secret World of Og

Adventures in Canadian History (22 volumes)

Contents

Cover

Epigraph

Title Page

Copyright

Other Books by This Author

OVERTURE:
Ten Thousand Thunders

BOOK ONE:
MARCHING AS TO WAR

CHAPTER ONE
Sam Hughes’s Army

CHAPTER TWO
A Ribbon of Deadly Stealth

BOOK TWO:
THE BUILD-UP

CHAPTER THREE
Marking Time

CHAPTER FOUR
The Byng Boys

CHAPTER FIVE
The Raiders

CHAPTER SIX
Not What They Expected

CHAPTER SEVEN
Things Worth Remembering

CHAPTER EIGHT
The Final Days

CHAPTER NINE
The Final Hours

BOOK THREE:
THE BATTLE

CHAPTER TEN
The 1st Division

CHAPTER ELEVEN
The 2nd Division

CHAPTER TWELVE
The 3rd Division

CHAPTER THIRTEEN
The 4th Division

CHAPTER FOURTEEN
Mopping Up

AFTERMATH

APPENDIX ONE British Army Formations

APPENDIX TWO The Canadian Battalions at Vimy

Author’s Note

Acknowledgements

Select Bibliography

List of Maps
The Vimy Sector
The Western Front, 1917
The Ridge
Subways at Vimy
A Portion of the Grange Subway
1st Division Assault
2nd Division Assault
3rd Division Assault
4th Division Assault
Maps by Geoffrey Matthews
Drawing of Vimy Ridge by Robert White

OVERTURE
Ten Thousand Thunders

5:30 came and a great light lit the place, a light made up of innumerable flickering tongues, which appeared from the void and extended as far to the south as the eye could see, a light which rippled and lit the clouds in that moment of silence before the crash and thunder of the battle smote the senses. Then the Ridge in front was wreathed in flame as the shells burst, confining the Germans to their dugouts while our men advanced to the assault.

Private Lewis Duncan to his aunt Sarah,
April 17, 1917

Ten Thousand Thunders

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