One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa, 1940-1944

11 July 2012

One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa, 1940-1944
Edited by Rollie Bourassa
Published by Canadian Plains Research Center
Review by Keith Foster
$29.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-221-2

For the average soldier, war is mostly long periods of endless monotony, occasionally interrupted by spasms of sheer terror. This maxim is nowhere more clearly borne out than in One Family’s War: The Wartime Letters of Clarence Bourassa.

As the title suggests, this really was a family war because it affected the entire family. By enlisting in the South Saskatchewan Regiment and being shipped overseas in 1940, Clarence had to leave his wife Hazel and two young sons, Rollie and Murray, back home at Lafleche, SK.

Edited by his son Rollie, with an introduction by Regina Leader-Post reporter Will Chabun, these letters express Clarence’s abiding love for his wife and children, often with sentimental terms of endearment.

Many of the letters are deeply personal. Right from the first, the reader can feel Clarence’s deep pangs of loneliness. And the further he got from his wife, the worse he felt: “I’m all alone in my tent with a great big lump in my throat, and I sure feel like crying.”

Aside from letters, the only thing that sustained him was his involvement in the regimental orchestra. Without it, he confided, “I would go nuts.”

The nearly 600-page book is supplemented with two dozen black and white photos of Clarence’s family and army life. A collection of Hazel’s letters, if they still exist, would make a handy companion volume.

A highlight of the book is Clarence’s firsthand account of his participation in the disastrous Dieppe Raid, which occurred 70 years ago this summer. Although wounded himself, he helped evacuate other casualties. He did this even with “bullets snapping past and hissing in the water all around me, my face bleeding quite freely.”

This book deserves to be read by all Canadians, and Clarence’s sacrifice needs to be remembered and appreciated all year long and not just on Remembrance Day.


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