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Old Enough to Fight
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Old Enough to Fight

Canada's Boy Soldiers in the First World War

By Dan Black and John Boileau, Foreword by Romeo Dallaire

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Between 15,000 and 20,000 underage youths, some as young as ten, signed up to fight in Canada's armed forces in the First World War. They served in the trenches alongside their elders, and fought in all the major battles: Ypres, the Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge, and the rest. Many were injured or suffered psychological wounds. Many died. This is the first book to tell their story.

Some boys joined up to escape unhappy homes and workplaces. Others went with their parents' blessing, carrying letters from fathers and mothers asking the recruiters to take their eager sons. The romantic notion of a short, victorious campaign was wiped out the second these boys arrived on the Western Front. The authors, who narrate the fighting with both military professionalism and humanity, portray many boys who, in the heat of battle, made a seamless transition from follower to leader to hero.

Authors Dan Black and John Boileau combed the archives and collections to bring these stories to life. Passages from letters the boy soldiers wrote home reveal the range of emotions and experiences they underwent, from the humorous to the unspeakably horrible. Their parents' letters touch us with their concern, love, uncertainty, and often, grief. Meticulously researched and abundantly illustrated with photographs, paintings, and a collection of specially commissioned maps, Old Enough to Fight is Canadian military and social history at its most fascinating.

List of Maps
Canadian Corps Infantry Divisions, Brigades, & Battalions
The Boy Soldiers
Preface
Foreword by Senator Romeo Dallaire

Introduction
THE BOY SOLDIER TRADITION

Chapter 1
"Take a walk around the block."
RECRUITING BOY SOLDIERS, 1914-1918

Chapter 2
". . . about a third of the boys had been to France and they were glad to be back."
OVERSEAS, BUT UNDERAGE, 1914-1918

Chapter 3
"Goodbye Mother, Forgive Me."
SECOND YPRES, APRIL 1915

Chapter 4
"The hard work agreed with him. And since he has been in France he has grown three inches."
NEUVE CHAPELLE, FESTUBERT, GIVENCHY, AND PLOEGSTEERT, MAY-DECEMBER 1915

Chapter 5
"I ducked and tried to get my head in a hole that a peanut would not fit in."
ST. ELOI AND MOUNT SORREL, DECEMBER 1915-JUNE 1916

Chapter 6
"Dead men can advance no further."
THE NEWFOUNDLAND REGIMENT AT GALLIPOLI AND THE SOMME, AUGUST 1914-OCTOBER 1916

Chapter 7
"You won't be able to get me back because buglers are needed for the gas attacks!"
CANADIANS ON THE SOMME, AUGUST-NOVEMBER 1916

Chapter 8
"I am only a mere boy, but I thought I was a man..."
WINTER IN THE TRENCHES, NOVEMBER 1916-MARCH 1917

Chapter 9
"I was just a young boy. But we knew what we had to do so we just went ahead and did it."
PREPARING FOR VIMY, JANUARY-MARCH 1917

Chapter 10
"It will be one of the biggest things in Canadian history."
VIMY RIDGE, APRIL 1917

Chapter 11
"He seems to want to go . . . his mother and I will be willing to let him."
THE NEWFOUNDLAND REGIMENT, OCTOBER 1916-OCTOBER 1917

Chapter 12
"Well, they might have at least given you a new uniform."
ARLEUX AND HILL 70, APRIL-AUGUST 1917

Chapter 13
"I saw a man stuck in the mud up to his waist and there was nothing we could do for him."
PASSCHENDAELE, OCTOBER-NOVEMBER 1917

Chapter 14
"We are anxious to know whether he is living or not."
CAMBRAI, NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 1917 AND GERMAN OFFENSIVES, MARCH-APRIL 1918

Chapter 15
"It was a hush-hush performance."
AMIENS AND DROCOURT-QUÉANT LINE, AUGUST-SEPTEMBER 1918

Chapter 16
"My advice to you is, go back home and wait until you grow up!"
HINDENBURG LINE, SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER 1918

Chapter 17
"This is the youngest VC in my army."
THE ROYAL NEWFOUNDLAND REGIMENT, APRIL-NOVEMBER 1918

Chapter 18
"There was some jumping around and things like that . . . but I was kind of fed up, glad it was over."
THE END OF THE WAR, NOVEMBER 1918-JUNE 1919
Chapter 19
"What is this, a nursery? This kid can't be more than fifteen. I won't put up with this."
CANADA'S FIRST SOLDIERS AND AIRMEN

Epilogue
"The medal no mother wants."
THE MEMORIAL CROSS

Endnotes
Bibliography
Image credits
Index

"Dan Black, respected editor of Legion Magazine, and John Boileau, a retired army colonel and author of 10 books, tell the compelling story of Canada's war effort through these underage witnesses.... Perhaps the greatest strength of Old Enough To Fight is that these stories may resonate deeply with today's youth and help them to connect with the war of one hundred years ago."

- Tim Cook Canada's History Magazine

"Old Enough to Fight gives us a vivid picture of the intolerable conditions the combatants endured. The marvel is not that so many were killed or seriously wounded in mind or body, but that some many survived relatively unscathed. Old Enough to Fight is a horrifying thought-provoking book, suitable for reading as we commemorate all who have died in war."

- Charlottetown Guardian

"Old Enough to Fight grips the imagination by its vivid portrayal of the youngsters through whose eyes one sees unimaginable conditions on the Western Front."

- Halifax Chronicle-Herald

"Dan Black, respected editor of Legion Magazine, and John Boileau, a retired army colonel and the author of ten books, tell the compelling story of Canada's war effort through these underage witnesses.... Perhaps the greatest strength of Old Enough to Fight is that these stories may resonate deeply with today's youth and help them connect with the war of one hundred years ago."

- Tim Cook, winner of the 2013 Governor General's History Award for Popular Media: The Pierre Berton, Canada's History Magazine

"The authors include excerpts from the boys' letters home, which include vivid descriptions of trench warfare, battles, and the constant discomfort in which the soldiers lives. They were cold, wet, hungry, ill, and often lonely for home, and the letters make that plain."

- Maritime Forces Atlantic Trident

"The boys' backgrounds are fully developed, and their testimony is skilfully woven into the bloody battles and routine horrors of trench warfare. The human element extends the book's appeal to readers beyond those whose interest is primarily military... destined to be an immediate success."

- Atlantic Books Today

DAN BLACK, former Editor-in-Chief of Legion Magazine, has written and edited hundreds of articles on Canada's military, past and present. He has worked with serving men and women at all levels and with most of Canada's top military historians. He lives in Ottawa.

JOHN BOILEAU is a retired Canadian army colonel and author of ten books and nearly 300 articles. He is a frequent commentator on military issues for radio and television and a lecturer to service organizations and historical societies. In 2010 the Minister of National Defence appointed him Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Halifax Rifles. He lives in Nova Scotia.

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Publication Details:

Binding: Paperback, 464 pages
Publication Date: 13th August 2015
ISBN: 9781459409552
Format: 9in x 6in
150 visuals and 16 maps

Binding: Electronic book text, 464 pages
Publication Date: 18th September 2013
ISBN: 9781459405424
Format: EPUB
150 visuals and 16 maps

Previous Editions: (show)
Publication Date: 18th September 2013
ISBN: 9781459405417
Binding: Hardback
Replaced by: 9781459409552

BISAC Code:  HIS006020
Imprint: Lorimer


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