Percy Willmot: A Cape Bretoner at War.


276 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 978-1-897009-21-5
DDC 940.4'8171




Reviewed by Tim Cook

Tim Cook is the transport archivist at the Government Archives and
Records Disposition Division, National Archives of Canada, and the
author of No Place to Run: The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the
First World War.


The Great War of 1914–1918 resulted in the death of more than 60,000 Canadians. Percy Willmot was one of them, but his story lives on in this powerful legacy of letters that he wrote regularly and with much affection to his sister, Dorothy, over the course of the war. The author of the collection, Brian Tennyson, a professor emeritus at Cape Breton University, provides important contextual information on the war and the part played by Cape Bretoner Percy Willmot and the 25th Battalion, but he recognizes the importance of allowing Willmot’s voice to be heard and does not drown it out with his own remarks. The value of compilations like this one are the strength of the eyewitnesses’ words and experiences; in this case, Willmot’s poignant remarks home provide deep insight into the lives of ordinary Canadians at war. Witness Willmot’s recounting of the epic Battle of Vimy Ridge: “During 18 mos of warfare I have become more or less deadened to feeling & emotion but I could not prevent the tears from rolling down my checks, and the choking in my throat for the cheery lads who were marching away, many of them never to return. At 5:28 A.M. on the morning of the ninth our lads were at their appointed places. At 5:30 thousands of guns of all calibres belched forth a fire such as was never before seen in all the war. Nothing human could stand it. As the guns spoke, over the bags they went – men of C.B., sons of NS & NB – FC’s [French Canadians] & westerners – all Canucks.” Willmot was wounded in October 1918, and his life was cut short a year later when his 30-year-old weakened body succumbed to complications from his injuries. His voice lives on in this admirable collection of his letters.


Tennyson, Brian Douglas., “Percy Willmot: A Cape Bretoner at War.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 23, 2024,