Fighting from Home: The Second World War in Verdun, Quebec

Fighting From Home: The Second World War in Verdun, Quebec

By Margaret Goldik

A review of Fighting From Home: The Second World War In Verdun, Quebec by Serge Marc Durflinger

Published on October 1, 2006

Fighting From Home: The Second World War In Verdun, Quebec
Serge Marc Durflinger

UBC Press
$29.95
paper
296pp
0-7748-1261-3

At the dawn of World War II, Verdun, a borough on the western side of the Island of Montreal, was “a municipality with a distinct character whose working-class inhabitants shared a strong community identity.” Fighting From Home, whose author is himself a former Verdunite, is the remarkable story of a community – split along class, religious, and language lines – that pulled together and proved a model of consensus and cohesion.

Verdun’s English-language population was overwhelmingly British, often British-born or first-generation Canadian. They enlisted in the armed services in incredible numbers, so much so that in some neighbourhoods most of the able-bodied men were on active service. French speakers had no such emotional commitment to France, but they were Verdunites, and supported their concitoyens. Even the Verdun branch of the Société St-Jean-Baptiste, although alienated from the European conflict, helped its fellow Verdunites. The sense of community overrode all other considerations.

Verdun might have been an anomaly: a city that lived with age-old divisions had such a strong sense of itself as an entity that all these divisions were weak by comparison. But it does show what such a sense of community can achieve.

Fighting From Home was originally a doctoral dissertation, but in this (presumably) less academic version, Durflinger has captured a fascinating era in Canadian history, reporting without judgement on how a community excelled in extraordinary times. mRb

Margaret Goldik is a former editor of the Montreal Review of Books.

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