Telling our soldiers’ tales from frontlines of the Second World War

Victoria author launches ninth in a series of books telling Canada’s war stories

During a Remembrance Day ceremony in Kelowna in the mid-1990s, Mark Zuehlke overheard veterans discussing the Battle of Ortona in Italy.

It was a December 1943 bloodbath between German paratroopers and the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and a battle that Zuehlke knew little about.

“I had no idea how horrific it was, so I went and thought I was going to read a book about it and discovered that there wasn’t one,” Zuehlke said. “I decided that it needs to be a book, so I guess I better write it.”

Ortona: Canada’s Epic World War II Battle, became a Canadian bestseller and transformed the former journalist’s career as he began documenting, from start to finish, Canada’s involvement in the Second World War.

This month marks the release of Zuehlke’s ninth in the Canadian Battle Series, Breakout from Juno, a chronicling of Canada’s role throughout the entire Normandy Campaign following the D-Day landings.

Since Zuehlke began his research into Canadian military heritage, the dwindling number of Second World War veterans has led the Victoria resident to rely more heavily on previous interviews, historical records and regimental histories – resources which abound in the capital city, including in the special collections area of the University of Victoria’s McPherson Library.

Details from his stories also spring from local records of the Canadian Scottish Regiment and Fifth Field Artillery Regiment.

“I take all that, munge it all together and tell a story so it looks like you’re looking over the shoulders of soldiers and going through the battle rather than being off in the distance. It’s very intense and very close up.”

In preparation for his latest work, Zuehlke traveled to French battlefields, many of which have been well-preserved. Verrieres Ridge was one such location, and the scene of a major battle over a five-day period during the Normandy campaign.

The village of Verrieres has disappeared, yet a small chapel remains on the ridge. Inside sits a memorial to Gerard Dore, a 15-year-old soldier from Montreal who was killed outside of the chapel on July 23, 1944.

Since his death, locals have maintained a memorial for Dore, marked with a candle, Canadian flags and newspaper clipping from his hometown.

“It struck me as very poignant when I was in Normandy, to realize that a lot of soldiers’ sacrifices were being well-recognized by the French,” Zuehlke said.

The next edition of the Canadian Battle Series will be released in August, 2012 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the raid on Dieppe.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

Just Posted

Saanich won’t be big in Japan; council rejects potential sister-city relationship

Council also refuses to reimburse former mayor Richard Atwell

MISSING: 34-year-old Lucas Matkowski

Matkowski was last seen by the Victoria Police Department on Dec. 3

Extreme Weather Protocol activated in Greater Victoria

Rain and wind gusts up to 70 km/h predicted, shelters open more beds

Housing advocate questions municipality’s proposed renovation of former Emily Carr library

Marilou Gagnon says Saanich was never serious about helping the Regina Park homeless

Saanich ranks 23rd among best cities for work in British Columbia

Sidney ranks 22nd, while Victoria ranks 36th in B.C. Business Survey

VIDEO: Close encounter with a whale near Canada-U.S border

Ron Gillies had his camera ready when a whale appeared Dec. 7

Prosecution in Colin John murder trial wrapping up in Duncan

John on trial for stabbing death in Chemainus in 2016

RCMP ‘desperate’ for clues in case of missing Parksville mom

Carmel Gilmour was last seen more than a year ago

Oogie Boogie, Sandy Claws and coffin sleigh part of B.C. couple’s holiday display

Chilliwack couple decorates their house for the holidays using Nightmare Before Christmas theme

First Nation sues Alberta, says oilsands project threatens sacred site

Prosper Petroleum’s $440-million, 10,000-barrel-a-day plans have been vigorously opposed by Fort McKay

North Okanagan site of first RCMP naloxone test project

Free kits, training to be provided to high-risk individuals who spend time in cell blocks

1 arrested after bizarre incident at U.S.-B.C. border involving bags of meth, car crash

Man arrested after ruckus in Sumas and Abbotsford on Thursday night

More B.C. Indigenous students graduating high school: report

70% of Indigenous students graduated, compared to 86% across all B.C. students

2 facing animal cruelty charges after emaciated dog found in B.C.

Amy Hui-Yu Lin and Glenn Mislang have been charged with causing an animal to continue to be in distress

Most Read