The Lethbridge Herald Review - Passchendaele
The Lethbridge Herald
Reviewed by: Garrett Bishoff
To write about past events takes a lot of putting oneself into the shoes of immortal men, women and children. However, when one is the greater historical advisor for a film based on true events, it is a greater challenge to help present the true stories of people lost in all but memory and pictures, if they're lucky. Norman Leach did this and more as he taught actors how to be soldiers, and told the true tale of a struggle between Canada and Germany's real heroes the mud-soaked, blood-covered, oft-forgotten soldiers of the First World War. Leach's book tells the incredible story of how men fought, died, drowned and killed in the bloodbath of Passchendaele. He dives deep into historic facts as we see the faces of men who gave all they had for their country, king, relatives, personal glory or just about any excuse there was. These men did not all fight for the same thing, but they were joined by their culture and independent goals that helped them survive the murky fields of Flanders.
Leach proves he knows his history, as he should, seeing as he was the historical advisor of Canada's biggest film to date, 'Passchendaele. 'His main focus, however, is not on the facts and figures we dumb these events down to, he has stated that he wants to tell the personal stories of the men who were witness to the slaughter on the Western Front, a statement he told me as I bumped into him on the set of Passchendaele. Meeting with the author and talking about our common interest in history gave me insight to his motives behind his book. And as I read through the chapters and saw their stories, I truly felt a connection to the men not much older (and sometimes younger) than me who went overseas to fight.
Reading Leach's book really tells you a story, it's not just a fact book with nameless faces and numbers, one learns of the real thoughts under the helmets. I felt immense pride as I read the should-be-famous accounts of Canada's identity in being one of the toughest armies in the world at the time, the first to be called 'Stormtroopers,' and respected by both allies and enemies. Though I would have liked to see more of a German perspective as a comparison, this book does Canada justice and shows the recognition the soldiers deserve. However, as it was very well done I wanted to read more, but alas the book is fairly thin, and full of pictures which may have left out more stories for those interested.
Overall, the book was full of great facts, stories and pictures and tells a great story. Its only shortcomings are it is a bit short and it won't attract everyone's attention, but those to whom it does, whether they be historian, nationalist or just a casual reader, this book promises to tell the facts as they happened and to not overshadow the personal experiences of the people who were there. A great read to go with the movie, and helpful for finding information on the battle with some more information on the First World War itself. Article by Garrett Bishoff.