________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 29 . . . . April 1, 2011


World War I:1914-1918. (Canada at War).

Heather Kissock.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $13.95 (pbk.), $27.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-723-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55388-719-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
World War, 1914-1918-Juvenile literature.
World War, 1914-1918-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Canada-History-1914-1918-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4


World War II:1939-1945. (Canada at War).

Douglas Baldwin.
Calgary, AB: Weigl, 2011.
48 pp., pbk. & hc., $13.95 (pbk.), $27.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55388-724-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55388-720-1 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
World War, 1939-1945-Juvenile literature.
World War, 1939-1945-Canada-Juvenile literature.
Canada-History-1939-1945-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-9 / Ages 9-14.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4



A Soldier's Uniform

Soldiers heading to war were equipped with a standard uniform that they were to wear while in the field. Each soldier also had a kit that accompanied the uniform. The kit contained all of the equipment the soldier was expected to need while away from camp. The soldier carried his gear wherever he went.

When soldiers were first sent overseas, their headgear consisted of a soft cap made of khaki serge. As more men experienced head injuries from flying shrapnel, the cap was replaced with a steel helmet that weighted about 1 kilogram. The helmet did protect against shrapnel injuries, but it did not block bullets. These could still penetrate the metal.

Canadian soldiers used two types of gas masks in World War I. The first was known as the PH helmet. It covered the entire head, and its ends were tucked into the soldier's uniform. the helmet was made of flannel. It had glass eyeholes and a metal tube for the mouth. The helmet was treated with chemicals that countered the effects of a gas attack.

Later in the war, soldiers were given another type of gas mask called a box respirator. This gas mask had a box attached that served as a filter. Chemicals in the box removed the poisons from the air the soldier was breathing. The mask was strapped to the wearer's head, and the box was worn in a carrying bag on the soldier's chest. (From
World War I:1914-1918.)

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan

Shortly after Canada entered the war, Prime Minister Mackenzie King offered to train pilots as Canada's major contribution to the war effort. The program under which this training took place became known as the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP). When King made this commitment, the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) had only about 4,100 personnel and fewer than a dozen airports. The RCAF had to recruit instructors, build air bases, acquire aircraft, and develop training schools. By the time the program ended, Canada had established 151 training schools across the country.

Most of the instructors and staff at the schools were Canadian, but the recruits came from all over the world. Once they arrived at their training facility, they trained under a strict regimen. They had to complete their courses quickly to keep the air war on track. Total training took 38 to 45 weeks. The pilots were then considered ready for war and were sent overseas. Besides training potential pilots, the program also provided instruction for navigators, wireless radio operators, air gunners, air bombers, and flight engineers.

By the end of the war, the BCATP had graduated 131,533 pilots, observers, flight engineers, and other aircrew for the air forces of Canada, West Indies, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, France, Czechoslovakia, Norway, and Poland. (From
World War II:1939-1945.)

      The two books of this series offer a remarkably clear and concise account of the causes and courses of World War I and II. Both books have a double page map close to the beginning of the book indicating the areas allied with Canada and Great Britain, those allied with Germany, and those that remained neutral; they were indeed world wars. The series is definitely written from a Canadian perspective, highlighting the various theatres where Canadian troops played a significant role. Emphasis is, of course, on the battles that could be called victories - Vimy Ridge, Passchendale, Juno Beach - but the costs in men and material are not ignored. The books are not a glorification of war, and we didn't always win the battles. For example, World War II:1939-1945 does not attempt to make the Dieppe disaster anything but an enormous planning blunder in which more than 2000 Canadians died or were taken prisoner or even try to 'justify' it and events like it by citing the effect they had on the home front in stiffening the resolve to oppose Hitler "on the beaches,... on the landing grounds", etc.

      Both wars had a big effect on life back home in Canada. Women joined the workforce and enjoyed the new freedoms of jobs and money of their own. Rationing created hardships for everyone. Conscription was a political issue in both wars, as was racism. All of these issues are touched on, though obviously not in any great detail.

      The aftermaths of the wars - the Winnipeg General Strike in 1919, votes for women, the baby boom after 1945 - are mentioned briefly, and there are a couple of pages in each book giving charts, graphs, and tables of relevant numbers regarding costs and casualties. It is curious that Canada had no civilian casualties in World War II and 2000 in World War I (perhaps an indication of how many more jobs were classified as military by 1939?).

      The science, technology, weaponry, and heros of the two wars are likely to be very popular sections of these books. It was good to see William Stephenson profiled as well as the flying aces Billy Bishop and Buzz Bearling; we are not just treated to a list of Victoria Cross winners.

      As with any overview of this sort, it would be nice to have more details of the bits that interest any reader particularly. But that is the function of an overview - to whet the appetite for more, and to give some suggestions where the 'more' can be found. No websites or books are specifically mentioned, but the possibility of further research and some leading questions are the concluding section of each book. Combined with an index and a glossary, these books are a good beginning to research on the topic of these two wars, as well as being of general interest to the young reader wanting to know just a bit.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas works in an elementary school library in Winnipeg, MB, and wishes that guns and war were a little less popular subjects with her students.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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