Thursday, November 11, 2010
The War to End All Wars, written by Jack Batten. Tundra, 2009. $24.99 ages 13 and up
"Steadily, firmly, Jellicoe gave his orders without
hesitation. He based his strategy on the deployment
of his twenty-four battleships, directing that they line
up in a formation called line abreast. It meant that the
twenty-four ships positioned themselves side by side
by side, all of them in a straight line stretching for
The story of eighteen year old Ray Goodyear, a Newfoundlander and one of five Goodyear boys who enlisted to see service during the First World War brings the reader face to face with the price paid to keep the enemy at bay. He was not the only son lost, but he was their first and youngest:
"Ray had been so eager to measure up to his older brothers. Just like them, he would shoot his gun and defeat the enemy. In the end, as far as anyone could tell, he never had the chance to fire his rifle. Whe he got his turn to fight the Germans, his time on the battlefield lasted no more than fifteen minutes."
Two other Goodyear boys died overseas during the war. It was a terrible price for a family to pay.
Once I started reading, I found it very hard to put this book down. Military history is not my favored genre; but, great storytelling is. Jack Batten is an accomplished and oft-honored writer...deservedly so. He does not back down from the ills that befell the men who served during 'one of the most tragic episodes in human history'. Despite the success and strength known in European countries in the early twentieth century, there was conflict. Germany and Russia wanted more...more respect, more military strength and they wanted it now! England was prepared to go to war to teach them a lesson. Who could have known the consequences of that decision?
Jack Batten presents the bloody conflict in clear and concise language, allowing readers to meet the soldiers who fought on the Western Front, to watch Billy Bishop as he encounters the Red Baron in the air over the European battlegrounds, to have explicit knowledge of the strategy used to plan for battles at sea and to discover how civilians were able to decode German messages being sent to their ships everywhere. The battles are described in detail, and bravely fought. Every country involved suffered unbearable loss and has paid tribute to the bravery and heroism exhibited in each battle. He pays special attention to Canadians and their contributions to the war effort.
The book is designed to maximize the information shared, with numerous archival photographs and captions to add interest. It follows the trajectory of the war and keeps readers moving at a quick pace throughout the reading. It is not too long, yet gives a clear picture of the men who fought the many battles described.
There is a comprehensive index, a selected bibliography and an afterword which eerily states:
"The corporal was wounded at the Battle of the Somme, suffered from the effects of gas in the last battles at Ypres, and was awarded an Iron Cross. He came away from the war with a lust for revenge against the enemies that had inflicted defeat on Germany. The angry corporal's name was Adolf Hitler."
If you have an abiding interest in military history and the First World War in particular, you are sure to find that this comprehensive recount will satisfy your curiosity and add to your previous knowledge. Check the reverse side of the dust jacket to find the maps that will help you follow the action as you read this compelling book.