Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Death So Nobel: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Death So Nobel: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War

Article excerpt

Death So Noble: Memory, Meaning, and the First World War by Jonathan F. Vance. UBC Press, University of British Columbia, 6344 Memorial Road, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T1Z2, 1997, 319 pages, S39.95.

History is something of a collection of memories-by definition, the memories of the survivors and, in most cases, the victors. Jonathan Vance takes a look at the memories of the First World War from the Canadian perspective and notes the tremendous difference in the recollections, the assessments, the glorification, and the memorialization of this defining Canadian experience from the real experience of Canadian soldiers in combat.

His point in doing this is to demonstrate the long-term effect of the war, not only on the generation of Canadians who participated but also on those who did not participate and the generation that followed in their footsteps to fight the Second World War. The First World War defines Canada's nationhood much as the Civil War did for the United States. Despite a lack of direct threat or attack, Canada answered the call from the motherland and performed admirably. It is not surprising that the recollections of Canadian veterans, widows, orphans, and families tend to minimize the horrific aspects of the western front in deference to a heroic memory of true and pure soldiers fighting to defend God, country, and the king from the evils of the German kaiser. This perception of the First World War manages to soften an inherent Canadian pacifism and fuels a second war effort for Canada 20 years later. …

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