Military historian comes to Clearwater

Tim Cook will discuss the Battle of Vimy Ridge and why it still matters to Canadians

By Jaime Polmateer

Canadian military historian, Tim Cook, is coming to Clearwater on July 13 to discuss the Battle of Vimy Ridge and his new book Vimy: Battle and Legend.

“I’m coming out to talk about the Battle of Vimy Ridge, which was an important battle fought by the Canadians 101 years ago, and I’ll be looking at the battle itself and why it seems to matter to Canadians,” said Cook.

“Last year 25,000 Canadians went back to Vimy Ridge and it was a pretty epic event; I’m going to be talking about the battle itself, but also about why we still care 101 years later.”

Cook’s Clearwater event is part of a tour organized by the Thompson-Nicola Regional Library and will take place at the Clearwater Legion on 257 Glen Road at 4:30 p.m.

He said he was inspired to write about the battle after being drawn to the phrase, “Vimy, the birth of a nation.”

The phrase is something shown in textbooks and various media, he said, adding he wondered how the battle could be the birth of Canada when the country was confederated 50 years previous.

“That was really the starting point,” he said.

His interest in war in general goes back to his grandfathers, one of which flew in Bomber Command in the Second World War and the other being a pacifist who was fervently against the war, he said.

“I’ve always been drawn to the soldiers themselves—their letters, diaries and memoirs—these eye witnesses to history,” Cook said.

“How they make sense of war, how they survived, how they coped, and often how they didn’t, how they were killed, how they lived their lives wounded in body, mind and in spirit, so I think it’s through the personal lens that’s always attracted me to the study of Canadian military history.”

As part of the event in Clearwater Cook will bring along some rare photos, images and works of art he’s been collecting for 20 years that help illustrate his dialogue, which runs roughly 45 minutes.

The talk will be followed by a question period, which he also looks forward to, as often members of the audience have their own stories regarding the war.

“There are always people in the crowd who are interested on military history,” he said.

“Many of course have visited Vimy Ridge and there’s a personal link often; people have a grandfather or great grandfather or maybe a great grandmother who served in the First World War and I always find that fascinating to hear the family history of people and how they’ve been shaped by war.”

Cook is the First World War historian at the Canadian War Museum (CWM) and has written 10 books.

He curated the permanent gallery at the CWM as well as other temporary, travelling and digital exhibitions.

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