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Nelson author Sylvia Crooks releases second book

By Contributor
July 24th, 2014

The names of 280 soldiers are engraved on cenotaphs and memorials around BC’s Kootenay Lake, names that our generation stand in front of and honour every year on November 11.

But who were these men?

What did they endure?

Author Sylvia Crooks, born and raised in Nelson, delves into letters, diaries, artifacts, and photographs to discover the stories behind the names of these soldiers who bravely fought in World War I.

Six years of research to answer these questions has become her new release, Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I.

Crooks, who retired from the University of British Columbia faculty after 16 years of teaching in the field of Library Science in 2002, said she wrote her book, “To make some of the men live again, to tell their stories, and make them more than just names on a cenotaph.”

She adds, that it is “written out of respect for them, as well as out of anger at the sacrifice of a generation of men in a futile war.”

In her book, Crooks documents what motivated the scores of men who enthusiastically enlisted in a war where thousands died daily. She discovers what provoked these men of Nelson, BC to leave their families and  their lives in Canada’s west, even while sometimes lying about their ages, to join the patriotic fervor of the time.

They traded their lives in the beautiful Kootenay Valley to serve under horrific conditions halfway around the world– rats, flames, gas attacks, hip-high mud, and the constant threat of German shells and snipers.

Crooks investigates who these young Canadians were– ranchers, miners, loggers, fruit growers. Many attended Nelson High School.

They left as sons, fathers, husbands, and brothers to join the fight for God, home, country, and empire. Crooks documents horrifying accounts of brutality soldiers endured and the shell shock and war wounds of its survivors. She asks questions about the impact on the following generations in our unrecoverable losses and unrealized contributions these soldiers could have made had their lives not be cut short.

Through this important historical book, readers can better appreciate the magnitude of the sacrifices of so many men from our small Canadian communities, and better honour these names on a cenotaph.

Crooks wrote her previous book, Homefront & Battlefront: Nelson, BC in World War II, and was honoured by the BC HIstorical Federation in its 2005 Historical Writing Competition.

Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I is her second book.

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