Canadians on the Somme, 1916: The Neglected Campaign, by William F. Stewart, Helion & Co., Solihull, U.K., 2017, $59.95
Presenting the first detailed account of the Canadian experience in the 1916 Battle of the Somme, author Stewart justly frames it as the neglected campaign. Over some 80 days Canadian troops encountered all types of weather, ground conditions, defenses and dogged defenders. They smashed through German defenses and achieved stirring victories; they also recorded staggering defeats, suffering 24,029 dead or wounded in what proved the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s second-longest and costliest campaign, surpassed only by the 1918 Hundred Days offensive, during which it suffered 45,000 casualties.
The Canadian Corps won its principal victory at the Somme on Sept. 15–17, 1916, when it captured two sets of formidable defenses and the village of Courcelette.
That momentum was impossible to sustain. The Battle of Thiepval Ridge followed soon after, the Canadians doggedly advancing some 1,600 yards before failing at the last. It would take another four weeks of fighting before Regina Trench was in their hands.
Supplemented by 79 photographs and 33 maps, this well-written and very detailed narrative properly recognizes the sacrifice and determination of Canadians who fought in 1916, reflecting on their loss and the experience gained paving the way to ultimate victory at Vimy Ridge in 1917.