Seven Days in Hell

A nonfiction book by David O'Keefe.

David O'Keefe

Centred around one of Canada's most storied regiments, Seven Days in Hell tells the epic story of the men from the Black Watch during the bloody battle for Verrières Ridge, a dramatic saga that unfolded just weeks after one of Canada's greatest military triumphs of the Second World War. O'Keefe takes us on a heart-pounding journey at the sharp end of combat during the infamous Normandy campaign. More than 300 soldiers from the Black Watch found themselves pinned down, as the result of strategic blunders and the fog of war, and only a handful walked away. Thrust into a nightmare, Black Watch Highlanders who hailed from across Canada, the United States, Great Britain and the Allied world found themselves embroiled in a mortal contest against elite Waffen-SS units and grizzled Eastern Front veterans, where station, rank, race and religion mattered little, and only character won the day. Drawing on formerly classified documents and rare first-person testimony of the men who fought on the front lines, O'Keefe follows the footsteps of the ghosts of Normandy, giving a voice yet again to the men who sacrificed everything in the summer of 1944. (From HarperCollins)

From the book

None of the men in the 1st Battalion of Canada's Black Watch had seen the sun for a week when it pierced through a thin veil of overcast to beat down upon their position at the foot of Verrières Ridge. As they quickly surmised, its warm rays did little more than taunt and torment, for nothing could relieve the tension and gut-gnawing dread that had ballooned during their week-long baptism of fire that now reached its crescendo.

Each of the 320 hollow-eyed, grimy and grim Highlanders, all that remained of four battered rifle companies, sat, knelt or crouched in a muddied, vacant beet field, waiting for the next move. Their heavy woollen battledress, smeared with mud, palster dust, ash and splatters of blood, sported sweat-soaked armpits, groins and necklines that bore witness to their week-long macabre dance with the unholy trinity of sweltering heat, intense combat and waves of soul-destroying fear and anxiety.

From Seven Days in Hell by David O'Keefe ©2019. Published by HarperCollins.