Author Tim Cook to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 62 on October 16, 2018 at Book Keeper Book Store. Tim Cook’s latest book, The Secret History of Troops is due out in September. Tim Cook is the Great War historian at the Canadian War Museum, as well as an adjunct professor at Carleton University. In 2008 he won the J.W. Dafoe Prize for At the Sharp End and again in 2018 for Vimy; Shock Troops won the 2009 Charles Taylor Prize for Literary Non-Fiction. In 2013, Cook received the Pierre Berton Award for popularizing Canadian history. He is a member of the Order of Canada.
In The Secret History of Soldiers, Tim Cook, Canada’s foremost military historian, offers a surprising portrayal of how soldiers found solace, distraction and entertainment to escape the horrors of the trenches during the Great War.
There have been thousands of books on the Great War, and hundreds on Canada’s part in the conflict, but most of these have focused on commanders, battles, strategy, and tactics. Less attention has been paid to the daily lives of the combatants, how they coped with and endured the unimaginable conditions of what was then modern industrial warfare: the rain of shells, bullets, and chemical agents. The Secret History of Soldiers examines how those who managed to survive the horrific conditions of trench warfare on the Western Front found solace, relief, distraction, and even entertainment.
Over the years, both writers and historians have overlooked this aspect of soldiers’ lives, as there are no official histories or records. These tales come from the soldiers themselves, captured in letters, diaries, memoirs, and oral accounts. The recollections and artifacts of more than five hundred soldiers form the basis of this book; they include such rare resources as trench art, postcards, and even songsheets. Each piece of history is a reminder that these battles were fought by living, breathing human beings who, when they weren’t engaged in battle, needed escapist activities to counter the daily horrors of trench life. It is those eyewitnesses to the bloodshed and carnage who act as guides to the Great War.
The world they introduce readers to isn’t limited to the harrowing struggle to another day. Cook catalogues the violence of war, but also the gallows humour the soldiers employed to get through it. The Great War was a devastating event, but another layer of life that included songs, skits, art, and even newspapers existed on and behind the battle lines.
With his trademark narrative abilities, Cook has created another landmark history of Canadian military life.
Tickets are $10 and can be used towards $10 off the price of The Secret History of Soldiers. Tickets are now available at the store