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Matt Dixon

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I have just finished reading this excellent book and highly recommend it to anyone interested in this area of France, or the War in general.

The only book I have read on Vimy before was Alexander McKee's "Vimy Ridge", which although excellent is starting to date a bit.

Berton's narrative is superb, and the book is excellently phrased. What really struck me though is the sheer amount of background information and detail about the preparations for the Battle. I don't think I have a read a book in a long time where it is so obvious how much pain staking research the author has done.

One of the best purchases this year. If you haven't read it, then I highly recommend it, it you have then what did you think?

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Could not agree more! 'Vimy' by Berton, like 'First Day On The Somme' is a must-read for any Great War enthusiast. I promise, you wont be able to put it down.

I've read it a half dozen times (at least), and never tire of it.

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I agree with David and Matt. A great read by an icon of Canadian writing. Some literary types here in Canada tend to sneer at Berton because he is a "popular historian" - in other words he makes money at it while their efforts collect dust on bookstore shelves!

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  • 7 months later...

I really appreciate the way Berton writes, his books are always very well researched and are always worth reading.

cheers Shelley :D

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An excellent book. This was my first read related to my relatives' service. It was a great read and a real eye opener for me. Kicked off my interest in the CEF.

Take care,


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I couldn't agree more. Berton's writing style places the reader right into the action--he uses present tense, intead of saying "This is what happened", he says "This is what is happening". Makes one feel the immediacy of the subject. An excellent writer, and while not Great War related, I also recommend his 2 volume history of the War of 1812

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Guest AmericanDoughboy

I have seen a Pen & Sword published book of Vimy by Pierre Berton in my local bookstore and hasn't been purchased for over seven months. I believe I will pick it up due to all these comments.


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  • 1 month later...

This was the first book about the Great War that I read. The result was a trip to battlefields (the first of many, in the planning stages at the moment), and the accumulation of a large, in my oppinion, library. It was a great start. Berton is very interesting to read. His 1812 set is very good, Arctic Grail is a great account of Arctic exploration.

My copy of Vimy is special because it was signed by the author and 2 Great War Vets.

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"Vimy" is excellent - I quite enjoy Berton's writing style. Another recommendation that I can make is "Marching As To War: Canada's Turbulent Years 1899-1953" which talks about Canadian participation in the Boer War, The Great War, WW2, and the Korean War.

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If ya wanna read Canadian, and this is from a Yank, Gas!, the Battle for Ypres, 1915, Vimy, Welcome to Flanders Fields and Marching to Armageddon are "musts."



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"VIMY" is one of my all time favourites - Berton catches the mood of the time very well and he has a very simple but engaging style.

Describing the build up to Vimy, Berton wrote the following about the 28th Battalion (North-West) after their battle to capture Courcellette on the Somme:

"Duncan Macintyre, the one-time prairie storekeeper, now a staff captain with the 2nd Division, rode back along the line of march to meet his brigade, the 6th, on its way out from the Somme battle. These were all Westerners from Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, and the Territories. To Macintyre, astride his horse on a little rise, they seemed a surprisingly small group, winding along the valley road out of La Vivogne so slowly that they scarcely seemed to be moving.

He cantered forward and spotted a man he knew well, Major Alex Ross, leading his old battalion, the 28th, composed entirely of Northwesteners.

"Where's the rest of the battalion, sir?" Macintyre asked him.

"This is all of the battalion, Mac," replied Ross in a choked voice, and Macintyre could see the tears glistening in his eyes."

My Great-grandfather was one of those who marched wwith Major Ross.

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Your excerpt is a great example of why Berton is so popular in Canada. Whatever the topic - the Great war, the War of 1812, the building of the railroad,etc. - he has a way of really capturing the reader's attention. A great Canadian writer, who served his own time as a war correspondent in WW2

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In 1986, Berton's "Vimy" was the first Great War book to "tweek" my developing interest in the Canadian Corps and the possible experiences of my late Grandfather. Although written for popular audiences, it is still well researched - and can serve as a catalyst to bring others into the study and better understanding of this conflict.

In order of reading preference, here are the other books I would recommend for a student of the Great War who wishes to understand the Canadian perspective. As you progress through the list the level of detail and understanding required, increases. Comments and additions/deletions from this list?

Marching to Armageddon - Canada and the Great War 1914-1919

Desmond Morton and J. L. Granatstein, Lester & Orpen Dennys, (1989)

- provides a good initial overview of the conflict from a CEF perspective

When Your Numbers Up - The Canadian Soldier in the First World War

Desmond Morton, Random House of Canada (1993)

- details training and life of a typical Canadian soldier

The Journal of Private Fraser - Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1918

CEF Books, Edited by Reginald Roy, (1998)

- excellent, observant, personal journal on one man's direct experiences

Barker VC - William Barker, Canada's Most Decorated War Hero

Wayne Ralph, Doubleday Canada (1997)

- Canada tends not to honour any war hero - Barker included


Pierre Berton, McClelland and Steward, (1986)

- a classic, easy-read of one of the pivotal battles of the Canadian Corps

No Place to Run - The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War

Tim Cook, UBC Press (1999)

- documents poison gas by and on the CEF - will become a classic reference text

Canada's Army, Waging War and Keeping the Peace

J. L. Granatstein, Univ. of Toronto Press (2002)

- sound overview of many conflicts including the Great War

Paris 1919

Margaret MacMillan, Random House, (2003)

- very well written with a great deal of information packed into it

Passchendaele - The Sacrificial Ground

Nigel Steel and Peter Hart, Cassel Military Paperbacks (2000)

- an extended series of personal accounts of the true horror of this battle

Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War - Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919, Colonel G. W. L. Nicholson, C.D. , Army Historical Section

[Note: Can be downloaded as a .pdf file and used for key-word searches. However, the pagination in the online document is different than the original document - therefore citations with page number references cannot be used.]


The Canadian "Emma Gees - A History of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps

Lt.-Col. C. S. Grafton ,The Canadian Machine Gun Corps Association, London, Ontario, 1938

- of specific interest to students of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps


Library and Archives Canada

Online source of both personal attestation papers and growing database of CEF war diaries. One can do on-line research of both a specific soldier and access a growing digital database of scanned war diaries and appendices.


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  • 4 weeks later...

Interesting thread on Berton's "Vimy". I first read this in hardcover back in 1986, for which I have a letter from Mr. Berton of August 11, 1986 acknowledging my interest in his research work prior to it being published on September 8, 1986. I had offered my grandfather's records for his research, however it was too late in the process for those details to be included in the book.

Certainly the book inspired my initial surge to research my grandfather and his exploits at Vimy, at that time assuming that because my grandfather was Canadian that he fought with the CEF. Only later in my research did I start to learn of the mass transfer of CEF troops to the BEF to gain status as commissioned officers. Now 18 years later, I still have not uncovered all of the details but with Chris's help I may now be closer than ever.

Now that I have read many more books bout Vimy (The Battle of Arras) I can appreciate some of the comments that I have heard from others regarding the Berton version of Vimy. Apparently there are many errors and consolidations of information, probably required to put the whole story in one readable text. I think it is now time to go back and read it again and find out for myself. Pierre Berton is still alive and well and living in Toronto. He was quoted in the Toronto Star just last week as a result of his admission that he like to smoke a little pot once in a while (who would have guessed?). You can read about it here:

Toronto Star - Pierre Berton, a recreational marajuana smoker

There are many good historical records on Vimy, as well as a large number of excellent web sites. I have listed the ones I have found on my Great War web site and am certainly interested in hearing from those that have found other good references.

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