Legacy of Valour: The Canadians at Passchendaele


239 pages
Contains Illustrations, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-88830-305-X





Reviewed by Ken Ramstead

Ken Ramstead was Associate Researcher at Reader's Digest in Laval, Quebec.


Of all the battles of the First World War, the Third Battle of Ypres, popularly if inaccurately called Passchendaele, has drawn the most controversy. At the time and after, Sir Douglas Haig, the commander-in-chief of the British forces in France, defended his actions on the need to keep the Germans fully occupied while the French recovered from the mutinies that had swept their ranks in the aftermath of the Nivelle offensive. He has had his share of defenders and detractors since then.

Daniel G. Dancocks now enters the fray with Legacy of Valour, an account of the Canadians’ role at Passchendaele. Passchendaele actually refers to the final assaults launched by the Canadian Corps to capture the town. In nightmarish conditions that almost beggar description, the Canadian troops fought one of their toughest campaigns. The severity of the fighting is indicated by the fact that Canadians won nine Victoria Crosses there — almost as many as were won by Canadian soldiers during the Second World War.

But Legacy of Valour is more than just a military history. Mr. Dancocks has skillfully placed Passchendaele within the context of the political and military infighting that was waged along the corridors of power in 1917.

The author contends that Passchendaele, fan from being an inglorious defeat, was a crucial victory that, as Sir Douglas Haig commented, “deserves to be ranked ‘amongst the most glorious of British battles.” “The cream of the German army,” Mr. Dancocks states, was held and ground down for months, and the losses incurred “prompted the Germans to undertake their desperate offensive in the spring of 1918.” Maybe. It can just as easily be argued that the Germans launched their attack in the hopes of securing a decision in the west before the arrival of the Americans, and that itwas the British, not the Germans, who could ill-afford the losses suffered at Third Ypres. But while some of the author’s conclusions can be challenged, there is no doubt that historians will have to take them into account.

With the success of his Sir Arthur Currie (Toronto, Methuen, 1985) and now with Legacy of Valour, Mr. Dancocks is rapidly carving out an enviable niche for himself in the field of Canadian military history. This work is well-written and documented, the author is in command of his sources and has used them to good effect. Blessed with superb illustrations, clear maps and an impressive bibliography, Legacy of Valour is a valuable addition to the study of the period.


Dancocks, Daniel G., “Legacy of Valour: The Canadians at Passchendaele,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 25, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/35264.