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Banner: From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History


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Second World War
Art, Music and Literature

Fiction, Poetry and Drama

In her examination of Second World War Canadian fiction, Dagmar Novak finds the novels to be "curiously detached" and to lack the sense of outrage of the best of the First World War novels. The dominant theme is that of the everyday, of the protagonist as a small part of the greater war machine, becoming increasingly alienated from the cause for which he is fighting and from his own moral identity.

If "In Flanders' Fields" is undoubtedly the best-known Canadian poem of the First World War, the sonnet "High Flight" is arguably the most famous Second World War poem. It was penned by Pilot Officer John Magee, an Anglo-American RCAF fighter pilot, before his tragic death in a mid-air collision. Hagedorn's work remains the standard biography.

Roch Carrier's first major novel, La guerre, yes sir!, a study of English- and French-Canadian attitudes in Quebec at the time of the conscription crisis, is perhaps the most important work of literature in French relating to the war and was equally well-received in English translation.

Allen, Ralph. -- Home made banners. -- Toronto : Longmans, Green, 1946. -- 256 p.

  • Allen was a war correspondent

Allister, William. -- A handful of rice. -- London : Secker and Warburg, 1961. -- 288 p.

  • As a prisoner of war in Hong Kong, Allister kept a diary, in which he concludes, "Prison life was the most horrible and rewarding experience of my life. I could watch men at close quarters with the veil of civilization torn off."

  • In his novel, Allister examines man's potential for emotional and spiritual growth in an unrelenting prison setting

Bourinot, Arthur S. -- Canada at Dieppe. -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1942. -- 16 p.

  • A single poem in several parts

* Carrier, Roch. -- La guerre, yes sir! -- Translated by Sheila Fischman. -- Toronto : Anansi, 1970. -- 113 p. -- Also published in French under the title: La guerre, yes sir! : roman

  • Investigates French-English relations during the conscription crisis in Quebec

  • Adapted as a stage play in French in 1970 and in English in 1972

Colley, Peter. -- You'll get used to it! ... The war show : a drama with music. -- Toronto : Simon & Pierre Pub. Co., 1981. -- 72 p. -- (Canplay series)

  • A stage revue

  • Also published in: Popular performance plays of Canada: Volume II. -- Edited by Marian M. Wilson. -- Toronto : Simon & Pierre Pub. Co., 1981

Creed, G.L. -- For freedom. -- Toronto : Dent, 1942. -- 60 p.

  • A semi-official book of verse from an RCAF squadron leader

Garner, Hugh. -- Storm below. -- Toronto : Collins, 1950. -- 192 p. -- (A white circle pocket edition)

  • A fictional account of a Canadian corvette's six days on an escort run in March 1943

  • Garner was himself a veteran of small escort vessels

Hagedorn, Hermann. -- Sunward I've climbed : the story of John Magee, poet and soldier, 1922-1941. -- New York : Macmillan, 1943. -- 166 p.

Jackson, James. -- To the edge of morning. -- Toronto : Baxter Pub. Co., 1964. -- 187 p.

  • Jackson was a wartime pilot in the RCAF and, at the time the novel was published, was Director of Extension and Research at the Air Force College in Toronto

  • Set in the Ceylonese jungle, To the edge of morning is as much about the battle against heat and disease, as it is about the battle against a Japanese enemy

Kogawa, Joy. -- Obasan. -- Toronto : Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1981. -- 250 p. -- (The international fiction list)

  • A novel about the expulsion of Japanese Canadians from the West Coast

Mansikka, Eric, comp. -- Pack up your troubles : Canadian war humour. -- Cartoons by Paul Gomiratto. -- Toronto : Methuen, 1987. -- 112 p.

  • Second World War humour accompanied by original cartoons.

McDougall, Colin. -- Execution. -- Toronto : Macmillan, 1958. -- [228] p.

  • Also: New York : St. Martin's Press, 1958.

  • McDougall, a decorated Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry officer in Italy, has written what is arguably the best Canadian novel about the Second World War. This work deals with two executions -- that of an Italian deserter and of a Canadian rifleman implicated in the death of an American military policeman. Novak praises the strength of this novel's authoritative detail and stark realism.

Meade, Edward F. -- Remember me. -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1946. -- 318 p.

  • Also: London : Faber & Faber, 1946

  • Meade, who was a platoon commander in a tank transporter unit, wrote chapters in Europe and sent them home to his wife

Milner, Marc. -- Incident at North Point. -- St. Catharines, Ont. : Vanwell Pub., 1998. -- 234 p.

  • Novel, by a noted naval historian, of a fictional antisubmarine action in the Gulf of St. Lawrence; a conjecture based upon a possible real submarine wreck off the tip of Prince Edward Island

Mooney, Hugh R. -- Clipped wings. -- Victoria, B.C. : Printed by Quality Press Printers, [1945?] -- 84 p.

  • A collection of poetry and short stories written while the author was a prisoner of war

Novak, Dagmar. -- Dubious glory : the two World Wars and the Canadian novel. -- New York : P. Lang, 2000. -- 174 p. -- (Studies in world literature in English, v. 9)

  • Based on her Ph.D. thesis: "The Canadian novel and the two World Wars : the English-Canadian literary sensibility". -- Ottawa : National Library of Canada, [1987]. -- (Canadian theses on microfiche). -- Ph.D. thesis, Univ. of Toronto, 1985. -- 249 l.

Pratt, E.J. -- Behind the log. -- Toronto : Macmillan, 1947. -- 47 p.

  • An epic poem on the battle for convoy SC 42 in 1941

Sallans, G. Herbert. -- Little man. -- Toronto : Ryerson Press, 1942. -- 420 p.

  • Sallans was Director of Information for the Canadian Army and this was the first important Canadian novel about the Second World War

  • It deals with the experiences of a father and son in both world wars

Scriver, Stephen. -- Under the wings. -- Regina : Coteau Books, 1991. -- [112] p.

  • Verse from a no. 6 Group, RCAF, ground crew

Souster, Raymond. -- Jubilee of death : the raid on Dieppe. -- [S.l.] : Oberon Press, 1984. -- 154 p.

  • Verse presented as the voices of prominent participants in the raid

_____. [pseud. John Holmes]. -- On target : a novel. -- Toronto : Village Book Store Press, 1972. -- 248 p.

  • First-person novel of a bomb aimer in No. 6 Group, RCAF

Vaillancourt, Jean. -- Les Canadiens errants. -- Montréal : Cercle du livre de France, 1954. -- 250 p.

  • Le "Régiment du St-Laurent" fictif dans l'Europe du Nord-Ouest

Voices of victory : representative poetry of Canada in war-time. -- Toronto : Macmillan, 1941. -- 97 p.

  • Winning entries from a Canada-wide competition sponsored by the Poetry Group of the Toronto Branch, Canadian Authors Association

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