Reading and learning are two of my passions and it is my pleasure to share these books with you.I have read them all and have found them to be both insightful and engaging. I encourage your feedback and I hope that you enjoy them as much as I did.
Maj Chris Buckham
The title ‘Valour Road’ refers to the name
that Pine Street in Winnipeg, Manitoba was changed to once it was discovered
that three of the 71 Victoria Crosses (the highest medal for combat valour)
awarded to Canadians since its inception following the Crimean War, had come
not only from that street, but from the same block. All three were awarded
during the First World War; two posthumously. The recipients Leo Clarke, Robert
Shankland, and Fred Hall were all recognized for exceptional bravery in the
face of the enemy and their stories and the story of the place from which they
came is the focus of this book.
Nadler combines the accuracy and detail of
a historian with the engaging style of a reporter to bring to life the world of
these three soldiers, both at home and at the front. The tale is gripping and
harrowing as one is plunged into the chaos and violence of trench warfare while
concurrently introduced to the activities of the home front and their unique
challenges. The author limits his narrative to the story of these families and
soldiers. In doing so he is able to bring out detail that would inevitably be
lost were the scope broader. Thus is the reader introduced to the Winnipeg
‘Bomber’ unit that Leo Clark and his brother were a part of; thesesoldiers undertook hazardous strikes against
enemy trench lines securing the flanks of the main body attacks. Such was their
fame and reputation that the City of Winnipeg named their Canadian Football Team
Nadler has drawn upon present day family
recollections, diaries, unit histories and British, French and Canadian national
military histories to put together a story of remarkable depth and personality.
This fusion of historical narrative and personal recollection adds significant breadth
to this snapshot of time. I was particularly impressed by the isolation of
Winnipeg during this period. Access to information was very limited and it
often took a significant amount of time to garner news about casualties and the
Front. Further, the idea of travelling to Europe was comparable to the idea of
going to the moon today. Despite this, the home front remained very supportive
and active; Nadler does a commendable job of shedding light on the stresses of
absent soldiers on the routine of everyday life. I was also impressed by the
unquestioning loyalty to Empire and the Crown; on the surface a seemingly simpler
but extremely challenging period for Canada.
Nadler’s descriptions of life at the front
are of particular poignancy. The emphasis on the lives of these three soldiers
and their immediate comrades brings the readers focus to the lowest and most
basic level of life experience. Faces are put to the WW1 experience; these men
are no longer black and white still photographs on a page. They are alive once
more with their strengths, fears, flaws and desires highlighted in harsh
reality. The capacity for these soldiers to be able to fight, function and
maintain their sanity within the absolute nightmare of the Front, is testament
to their strength of character developed through their upbringing and bonds of
comradeship. Through their recollections we are introduced to the terror,
boredom and humour of life in a time far removed from today.
What would have added to the story, in my
opinion, would have been the inclusion of maps of the regions in which these
men were operating. This would have provided better context and a visual
reference for the reader.
This is a gem of a book. For Canadians it
serves as an outstanding study of our history both domestic and overseas.
Nadler has done an outstanding job and deserves full credit for the
contribution he has made to the Canadian story. The narrative of these three
men, their comrades and their families is the story of Canada at the turn of
the century and we may be proud of the legacy that they left behind.