The Second Battle of Ypres was, by any definition, a brutal event in a brutal war. The already terrible conditions of trench warfare, punctuated by the unimaginable horror of shell fire that turned men into “pink mist,” became even worse when the Germans introduced chlorine gas. But despite the terror, the battle marked a key moment in the formation of Canadian identity and pride. After the Germans’ initial gas attack opened a 12-kilometre-long hole in Allied lines, it was the heroic 1st Canadian Division—men who had been in the trenches for just over a week—who rushed to fill the gap and block the enemy advance.
Drawing on never-before-published material, Nathan M. Greenfield, author of The Battle of the St. Lawrence, presents a gripping new account of the Second Battle of Ypres. Here are the voices of the soldiers themselves—both Canadian and German—reaching across more than 90 years with a stunning immediacy.
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The Second Battle of Ypres pitted highly trained German soldiers—armed with the first weapon of mass destruction, chlorine gas—against the 1st Canadian Division, which had been in the trenches for just over a week. Yet it was the Canadians who triumphed, stopping the German advance. After that battle, which claimed John McCrae’s close friend, the doctor and poet penned “In Flanders Fields,” now read every Remembrance Day.
In Baptism of Fire, Nathan M. Greenfield revisits the battlefields and war rooms of history, deconstructing military motives and unearthing scores of unpublished interviews. He gives voice to the Germans who nervously joked that the mysterious silver cylinders, filled with poison gas, were a new kind of German beer keg; reveals how surprise turned to terror as the Canadian infantry saw the first clouds of chlorine gas rolling towards them; and relates, in the soldiers’ own words, the nightmare of the “filthy, loathsome pestilence” that turned copper buttons green and seared men’s lungs.
Recreating how the Canadians immediately filled the 12-kilometre-long hole in the Allied line after the initial gas attack, Greenfield takes readers into the unimaginable horror of shell fire that obliterated trenches and turned men into “pink mist,” leaving the survivors to defend a position of death. And he explains how the untried Canadians, with their defective Ross rifles, breathing through urine-soaked handkerchiefs, made one of the most important stands of the war—perhaps even staving off an ultimate German victory.About the Author:
NATHAN M. GREENFIELD, PhD, is the Canadian correspondent for Times Educational Supplement and is a contributor to Maclean’s, Canadian Geographic and TLS. He is the author of The Damned, which was a finalist for the Governor General’s Award for Non-Fiction; Baptism of Fire, which was a finalist for the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction; the widely praised The Battle of the St. Lawrence; The Forgotten; and The Reckoning. Greenfield lives in Ottawa.
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Book Description Harpercollins Canada, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. First Paperback Edition. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0006395767
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. Book Condition: new. Shiny and new! Expect delivery in 20 days. Bookseller Inventory # 9780006395768-1
Book Description Harpercollins Canada, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 6395767
Book Description HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110006395767