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

BREAKING: Police raid Victoria pot shop thats been open for 23 years

Police are currently on scene and a group of supporters are outside the shop

Father of murdered Realtor writes letter, pleading for help from Saanich mayor

Lindsay Buziak was stabbed to death on Feb. 2, 2008, her case remains open

Despite reports, no one found in Saanich donation bin

Police confirmed no one found stuck or in the area

West Shore RCMP looking for suspects after Langford site hit twice with graffiti

Police urge the public to report any vandalism they witness

Victoria adoption centre closes despite effort to save it; B.C. left with two agencies

Choices Adoption and Pregnancy Counselling in Victoria was set to close in April

POLL: Do you support CUPE workers in their dispute with School District 63?

SD63 schools to remain closed as strike continues Tuesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Nov. 12

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Use of force deemed justifiable in arrest of suspect after snowy chase near Nanaimo

Independent Investigation Office of B.C. reports on incident from late last winter

B.C. to restrict nicotine content, bring in 20% tax on vaping products

Province will also restrict candy and fruit flavoured vaping products to adult-only stores

B.C. woman sends fight to reduce preventable medical errors to Victoria

Teri McGrath and South Okanagan senior’s centre members presented 150 signature petition to local MLA

B.C. First Nation Chief Ed John faces historic sex charges

John served as minister for children and families under then-premier Ujjah Dosanjh

Nearly half of B.C. drivers nervous in winter conditions: BCAA

‘Wait and see’ approach common practice for 32% of B.C. motorists

At least 3 hurt in California school shooting, gunman sought

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department looking for a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the location

Most Read