Merry Hell

The Story of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914–1919

Reviewed by Mark Collin Reid

January 29, 2014

Great War veteran Robert Clements starts his book with these lines: “There is not any such thing as a nice, clean polite war. War is always a mean dirty business.”

When it comes to the First World War, truer words were never spoken. It was savage, dehumanizing, insane. No one who lived through it escaped unscarred, whether physically or mentally.

Many historians have tackled the Great War, but high-quality, well-written memoirs by actual soldiers are rare. In Merry Hell: The Story of the 25th Battalion (Nova Scotia Regiment) we learn the epic tale of this battalion through the words of someone who lived it.

It’s a fascinating read for anyone interested in military history, and the text benefits greatly from the skilled editing of historian Brian Douglas Tennyson of Cape Breton University. With the anniversary of the start of the war looming in 2014, it’s a timely book as well.

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