Wars and Warriors

At 86, Kenneth Ramsden is a retired investment broker, retail executive and soldier. He skis, swims, jogs, rides, and does community service. Now he can add author to his credentials. But like so many seniors who write, he’s had to publish and distribute it himself.

Just when you think every possible Canadian World War II epic had been written, he comes along with one of the best. His The Canadian Kangaroos in World War II (Ramsden-Cavan, 203 pages) is about Canada’s “secret” armoured carrier regiment.

It was, he writes, “a Canadian idea developed to meet formidable battle conditions… to place infantry on their objective… carried in relative safety across open ground at tank speed.”

In just 10 months in Western Europe, the Kangaroos “carried into action” 38 infantry regiments of nine British divisions and 16 infantry regiments of three Canadian divisions.

Ramsden knows his subject — he was in combat as a Kangaroo officer. He writes with fast-paced efficiency, taking us with him through adventures which still touch on many Canadian families.

Ramsden-Cavan Publishing Company is at 1701 Stewart Drive, RR #3, Cavan, Ont., L0A 1C0. <FONT face="ingding” size=”2″>

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Our noted all-Canadian bashing gadabouts, Maude Barlow and Sheila Copps, didn’t invent Yankee-beating. British historian John Sugden has unearthed an old Shawnee who started it all. One-eyed Lalawethika, the “Prophet”, Tecumseh’s brother, beat our current-day crusading ladies by two centuries.

To Lalawethika, early Yankees were the “Big Knives.” Barlow might have written his script. They were, he preached, “the children of the Evil Spirit. They grew from the scum of the great water… I hate them.”

Sugden’s “Tecumseh– A Life” (Henry Holt and Company Inc., 492 pages) throws new light on the epic chief’s dream. It was to create a powerful pan-Indian alliance against U.S. pioneers relentless pursuit of their Manifest Destiny.

It came to naught in the War of 1812 with Tecumseh mortally wounded in the woods at Moraviantown, east of Thamesville, whose exit ramp name you can read today on Ontario’s Highway 401 between London and Windsor.

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Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain (The Atlantic Monthly Press, 356 pages) is fiction’s most unusual love story of the year. It is not a novel to rush through, any more than good wine or fine food are meant to be gulped.

Frazier’s wounded Confederate soldier comes home to his first love. He weaves the lovers’ lives through a tapestry of nostalgic settings of the Old South and chilling episodes of post-war horrors in the doomed Confederacy.

You will want to linger over this one — probably re-read it, as I have.

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On a completely different note, Malta is one destination you might check out if you’re one of our new 50-year olds starting to fantasize about far-off retirement utopias. Gary Brannon tells us this Mediterranean island nation has no property taxes and offers “special concessions” on income tax for retirees.

It is, he writes, “not quite Europe, not quite Africa, and not quite the Middle East, but it is a lot like a hybrid combination of all three.”

Brannon’s new Med and Breakfast (Upney Editions, 134 pages) is, in his words, “a quick guide to affordable retirement in the European sunbelt.”

Portugal, Gibraltar, Spain, France and Italy also catch his expert eye. He was managing editor of a Canadian university small press. Then, at 51, he “escaped from the rat race” to found Upney Editions in 1996.

He and his wife travel extensively in Europe. They have, he confesses, “a special love for the Mediterranean.”

Upney Editions is at

19 Appalachian Crescent, Kitchener, Ont. N2E 1A3.