Tim Cook is a historian at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. He was lead historian responsible For Crown and Empire: The South African War and First World War. Tim conceived, researched, and wrote the entire storyline for the permanent 10,000 square-foot gallery at the Canadian War Museum, which also involved creating internet products, educational material, and scripts for audio and audio-visual products. The Canadian War Museum opened in May 2005 and, to date, has received more than 1.2 million visitors.
Tim has been studying Canada and the Great War for over a decade. His first book, No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War (UBC Press, 1999), won the prestigious C.P. Stacey Award for most distinguished book in Canadian military history. His second book, Clio’s Warriors: Canadian Historians and the Writing of the World Wars (UBC Press, 2006), has received positive reviews and is used in many university courses across the country. Tim has also published extensively in academic and popular journals in Canada and around the world, including the United States, Great Britain, and Australia. His recent article, “The Politics of Surrender: Canadian Soldiers and the Killing of Prisoners in the Great War,” Journal of Military History 70.3 (July 2006), was recognized with the Moncado Award by the Society of Military Historians.
Tim has led battlefield tours of the Western Front, where he provides historical and expert commentary on all matters relating to the Great War. He has been interviewed over fifty times in radio, print, and television, and has appeared on CBC National, CTV, CPAC, and the History Channel. Tim is also an adjunct professor of research at Carleton University in Ottawa.
I have been fascinated with the Great War since my parents took me to the European battlefields in high school. My interest has always been in trying to understand the experience of war and its impact on individuals. Canada’s Great War civilian-soldiers were drawn from across the country. These fathers and sons, uncles and brothers, fought and died in horrific conditions. Perhaps because it is so foreign to me, I’ve always sought to study and explain how these ordinary Canadians survived, how they endured, and how they eventually played such a key role in defeating the German forces.
Canada is both a nation of peacekeepers and peacemakers. As we have seen with the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the myth of the Canadian peacekeeper is slowly being buried in a hail of Taliban fire. We are as much warriors as peacekeepers, and we can trace this warrior reputation back to the Great War. The war drove Canadians to embrace their place on the world stage, and they did so with bulldog tenacity. The Canadian Corps —an army of over a 100,000 battle-hardened troops—was recognized by our allies and enemy as the best fighting force on the Western Front by war’s end. It is worthwhile remembering that Canada’s much-respected forces today have a rich history leading back to the Great War.
These two books, with their emphasis on the soldiers’ experiences within the harsh world of Western Front combat, are a significant reappraisal of the Canadian Great War experience. There has never been a two-volume history of the Canadians in battle. Nor has there been such a history based on the same decade-long research into the archival sources since the writing of the one-volume official history in the late 1950s. Much has changed since then, and these two books incorporate not only new scholarship but also years of additional research into archives around the world.
The experience of soldiers is at the core of these books. With more than 430,000 Canadians serving overseas during the war, there are a myriad of stories to tell. Every soldier’s war was different, but bringing them together into the rich mosaic of history can help us understand this bloody war that raged from August 4, 1914, to November 11, 1918, and killed more than 61,000 Canadians. With only one Canadian Great War veteran still alive, these two books draw upon the voices of hundreds of soldiers and thousands of never-seen-before archival documents to shed light on the terrible struggle that forged our nation.
: © Sarah Klotz