In the early 1940s the population of Nelson was approximately 7,000. Want to guess how many of those bravely set off to fight in the Second World War?
Great, now take that guess and double it. And maybe double it again.
Because 1,300 young men and women from Nelson, nearly 20 per cent of the population (!) were willing to give their lives for the war effort. Seventy of them did not come home.
And Nelson’s contribution didn’t end there. Nelsonites also raised millions of dollars in support of the war effort (including $8 million for Victory Bonds). They also sent 17,000 pounds of clothing and eight tons of jam overseas.
I learned this from one of the books in the local history collection at the library: Homefront and Battlefront: Nelson B.C. in World War II, by Nelson’s own Sylvia Crooks. Crooks has also written about the First World War. In Names on a Cenotaph: Kootenay Lake Men in World War I she reveals the stories of many of the 280 men from the shores of Kootenay Lake who died in the First World War.
These books can be found on our library shelves, alongside titles that highlight the significant contributions made by Indigenous soldiers (Indigenous Peoples in the World Wars; For King and Kanata) — as well as books that document the horrors of B.C.’s Japanese internment camps (Years of Sorrow, Years of Shame; A Child in Prison Camp; The Enemy That Never Was).
And if you’re hoping to teach your child or teenager about Remembrance Day, we have lots of books in our collection that explain the complicated and sensitive issues surrounding war to younger minds.
Sometimes we look to fiction to help give us some perspective on what life was like during a specific time period — and the world war eras are popular settings for novels. If you enjoy reading in that genre, you might want to explore books by authors such as Joy Kogawa, Jennifer Robson, Kate Quinn, Kerri Sakamoto, Jacqueline Winspear, Charles Todd, and Elie Wiesel.
These days, our heroes wear scrubs and white coats. But in prior years, we were more likely to find heroism in the battlefield, where 170,000 Canadians died in wars since 1812. By remembering them, we honour the sacrifice they made for their country.
Avi Silberstein is the Children’s Librarian at the Nelson Public Library. Check This Out runs every other week. If you’re interested in learning more about library programs and services, sign up for our monthly newsletter on our website or by giving us a call.