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It Can't Last Forever

The 19th Battalion and the Canadian Corps in the First World War

By David Campbell
Subjects History, Military History, Canadian History
Series Canadian Unit, Formation, and Command Histories Hide Details
Hardcover : 9781771122368, 680 pages, October 2017
Ebook (EPUB) : 9781771122542, 680 pages, October 2017

Table of contents

1. Recruiting and Mobilization: 1914–15
2. Training in England: May-September 1915
3. Life in the Trenches: September–December 1915
4. Waging Trench Warfare: September 1915–March 1916
5. Trial by Fire: Saint-Eloi, April 1916
6. “Trying the Nerves”: May–July 1916
7. A Daylight Coup and Departing Belgium: 29 July–August 1916
8. Preparing for Battle: 28 August–15 September 1916
9. Fighting at the Somme: 15 September–3 October 1916
10. A “Most Uneventful Tour”: October 1916–March 1917
11. “Leaving Nothing to Chance”: 25 March–8 April 1917
12. An “Easter Gift” and a Bloody Setback: 9 April–3 June 1917
13. “The Worst Ever”: June–August 1907
14. “A Dirty, Dirty Country”: September–November 1917
15. Days of Uncertainty: November 1917–March 1918
16. “It Was Pretty Lively”: 21 March–June 1918
17. Prelude to Victory: July–7 August 1918
18. The Battle of Amiens and Its Aftermath: 8–18 August 1918
19. Arras: 19–31 August 1918
20. Cambrai and Iwuy: 1 September–13 October 1918
21. Long Road to Mons: 14 October–11 November 1918
22. To the Rhine and Back: 12 November 1918–19 January 1919
23. Going Home: 20 January–25 May 1919
A. Casualties, 19th Battalion, 1915–19
B. Discipline in France and Flanders


The 19th Battalion was an infantry unit that fought in many of the deadliest battles of the First World War. Hailing from Hamilton, Toronto, and other communities in southern Ontario and beyond, its members were ordinary men facing extraordinary challenges at the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, and other battlefields on Europe’s Western Front. Through his examination of official records and personal accounts, the author presents vivid descriptions and assessments of the rigours of training, the strains of trench warfare, the horrors of battle, and the camaraderie of life behind the front lines. From mobilization in 1914 to the return home in 1919, Campbell reveals the unique experiences of the battalion’s officers and men and situates their service within the broader context of the battalion’s parent formations—the 4th Infantry Brigade and the 2nd Division of the Canadian Corps. Readers will gain a fuller appreciation of the internal dynamics of an infantry battalion and how it functioned within the larger picture of Canadian operations.


“David Campbell writes compellingly of the 19th Battalion at war, putting its story within a broad political and military context while never forgetting the soldier’s view on the blood-stained ground. In 1969 Herb Fearman, a decorated officer in the 19th Battalion, was dismayed when a new history of the Canadian Corps omitted his proud regiment. Fearman’s unit suffered 60 percent casualties among its 5,000 men and he wanted his battalion understood in terms of both its service and its sacrifice; now, almost 50 years later, Campbell has fulfilled his wish and done so in brilliant fashion. “

- Robert L. Fraser, University of Toronto

"Campbell set the bar at its highest in researching and writing this engaging book, making it easily one of the best CEF unit histories ever produced. "

- Andrew B. Godefroy, CD, PhD, author of For Freedom and Honour and Great War Commands

“Lieutenant R. O. Spreckley, a veteran and historian of the 19th Battalion, warned in the mid-1930s that he could not write an ‘intimate’ regimental history without knowing what the ‘boys did, thought, felt, smelt, and endured’ during the war. He was forced to abandon the history. It has taken eighty years, but David Campbell has picked up the torch to write a rigorously scholarly and eminently readable history of the 19th Battalion. He captures the strain and struggle of a battalion at war, linking it to the wider war effort but always reminding the reader of the crucial role of individual Canadians on the Western Front and behind the lines. It Can’t Last Forever is essential reading for those interested in the Canadian Corps and the Canadian soldiers who delivered victory in the many hard-fought battles and campaigns of the Great War. ”

- Tim Cook, C.M., Canadian War Museum

". ..a tragic and beautiful book. "

- Holly Doan, Blacklock's Reporter