Why Stay We
Why Stay We Here? (Odyssey of a
Canadian Infantry Officer in the
Great War) was republished (Nov.
2002) by Godwin Books in Victoria.
This autobiographical novel had been
out of print since 1930. It is the
sequel to The Eternal Forest (1929)
which we republished in 1994.
The author, George Godwin
(1889-1974) was born in London,
studied for several years as a
teenager in Germany, then
homesteaded as a fruit-farmer in the
Fraser Valley (1911-1916). His
many-faceted impressions of Canada
are recorded in The Eternal Forest.
Impoverished and desperate, Godwin
and his family returned to England
from British Columbia in 1916.
Godwin signed up with the Canadian
Infantry, saw action in France, was
invalided out, and returned to
Canada for rehabilitation. All of
this is recorded in Why Stay We
A wise saying has it that "the first
casualty of war is truth". This is
certainly true for the First World
War. Not only was this war conducted
with ultra-tight censorship; it was
complex and controversial in the
extreme. Historians are still trying to make sense of it.
This is where Godwin has much to say
of value as a first-hand eyewitness.
He describes how soldiers and
civilians were damaged, physically
and mentally, and how the damage did
not end in November, 1918, but tended to be
transmitted over the generations, up
to the present day. He has much to
say about subtle indoctrination (via
the official publication on the
War’s progress, Land and Water),
censorship of letters, demonizing of
the enemy, the abuse of power by
some officers, etc.; on the positive
side Godwin writes of valor and
self-sacrifice, and the ineffable
but powerful esprit de corps which
binds a battalion together.
The 1930 edition contained only the
text and one reviewer in 1930
lamented that Godwin’s book was
unfortunately appearing at the
tail-end of a plethora of books
about World War One and that people
had had enough of the subject. This
new edition contains a preface by
Professor Reg Roy, a detailed (11
pp.) introduction by publisher
Robert Stuart Thomson, hundreds of
footnotes on the text, and a section
of photographs and other realia to
illustrate many of this book’s