This volume has been prepared in order that the people of Canada may have in their hands at as early a date as possible an authentic comprehensive outline of the work of their Army in the War of 1939- 1945 against Germany, Italy and Japan and their satellites.
In no previous conflict did the military forces of Canada serve in so many lands and in such varied roles as in this Second World War. Canadian soldiers did duty in some capacity in every continent, and the tasks they performed were of such diversity as to defy enumeration. In this relatively brief summary our main concern must of course be their battles, and these in themselves would fill a much wider set of covers. The Canadian field army was denied large-scale action for a long period, but when its time came it played distinguished parts in two of the three great European campaigns which produced the defeat of Germany: that in Sicily and Italy beginning on 10 July 1943, and that which began with the invasion of Normandy on 6 June 1944.
In the nature of things, this account of these events cannot be definitive. It is an interim report: a Summary, not a History. It is too brief to tell the whole story, and is published too soon to be able to make any claim to finality. The activities of the Canadian Army in the late war are recorded in hundreds of thousands of documents--War Diaries, reports on operations, departmental and headquarters files, and miscellaneous papers of scores of different sorts. Before anything approaching a final history can be produced, these documents must be read in detail. The historian must also consult the multitudinous British and Allied documentary sources of information, as well as the great mass of papers captured from the beaten enemy. In addition, he must seek assistance from men who participated in the events of which he tells, supplementing the evidence of official papers by drawing upon the memories and the private records of individuals.
This task is obviously enormous, but fortunately it is now far advanced. Historical work was in progress throughout the war. There had been a Historical Section of the General Staff in the Department of National Defence for many years; and as early as 1940 the present writer was appointed Historical Officer at Canadian Military Head- quarters in Great Britain, with the duty of "collecting and preparing material for the Official Historian". When the Canadian troops were
committed to large-scale active operations, a Field Historical Section was provided to accompany them in each of the two main theatres where they fought. These Sections were ultimately so organized as to provide a team consisting of an Historical Officer and a War Artist, with a clerk and drivers and independent transport, for every Canadian Division engaged in operations.
Thanks to these activities in the field, a great deal of valuable historical information which would otherwise have been lost was obtained and recorded. At Canadian Military Headquarters, at the same time, the work of preparing formal and detailed Preliminary Narratives to serve as the basis for the future Official History was in progress from 1942 onwards; but it was inevitably much in arrears of events when hostilities came to an end. It is still going on, and a probable period of about two years is required for its completion.
The present volume is far from exhausting Allied sources of information, and has drawn only to a limited extent upon the German documents which became available more recently. The only episodes on which examination of enemy sources can be said to have been completed are the Dieppe raid and the campaign in Sicily and Southern Italy during 1943. This Summary is, however, enriched by the results of a programme of interrogation of German officers, in the course of which some thirty senior commanders and staff officers who were especially concerned with operations against the Canadians were interviewed. As a result of the recent war crimes trials at Hong Kong, useful information has been obtained concerning Japanese operations there.
This volume supplements three booklets already published by the Department of National Defence under the collective title The Canadian Army at War. Of these booklets, the first, The Canadians in Britain, 1989-1944, dealt with the long static period in the United Kingdom; the second, From Pachino to Ortona, chronicled the first six months of Canadian operations in the Mediterranean theatre; and the third, Canada's Battle in Normandy, told the story of the Canadian share in the opening phase of the campaign in North-West Europe in 1944-1945. On these special episodes, the booklets mentioned afford rather more detail than can be included here, and the reader is referred to them. Certain other episodes not dealt with at length in those booklets, but on which much historical investigation has been done--notably the 1st Infantry Brigade's experience in France in June 1940, and the Dieppe raid of 1942--are treated here in a more detailed fashion than the length of the book might otherwise justify. It has been felt in particular that, since full details of Dieppe are now available, they should be given to the public at this time, even at the cost of somewhat upsetting the balance of the book.
As for the Official History proper, the "target date" for its completion is the autumn of 1950. It is intended that it shall consist of three volumes, arranged as follows:
VOLUME I: History of the Canadian Army, 1939-43, including organization, training and home defence measures in Canada; organization, training and operations in the United Kingdom and adjacent areas; operations in the Pacific Theatre.
VOLUME II: The Campaign in Sicily and Italy.
VOLUME III: The Campaign in North-West Europe.
In addition, a volume is to be prepared on Canadian military policy in the broad sense, covering the organization and employment of all three armed services.
It is intended to tell the story as completely as is possible within these limits, but in terms comprehensible to the average person. The main function of the Official History, it is considered, is not to instruct the Canadian soldier of today, though it is hoped that he will find it useful; the object is to tell the Canadian citizen what his army accomplished in the last war, and to provide him, perhaps, with the means of forming an intelligent judgement on military issues that may confront him in the future.
The volume now presented deals primarily with operations overseas. It is too small to contain, in addition, any detailed account of military policy in general and of events in Canada. Accounts of these matters, and of many others which cannot be brought within the compass of this Summary, will be included in the more complete Official History above described. The Summary attempts to tell in broad outline the story of the Army as a whole, and particularly of events on the battlefield. It has been out of the question to explain individually the work of many arms and services without whose tactical and administrative support the units actually in contact with the enemy could not have fought. That must be left for other studies.
It has likewise been impossible to do that full justice to the work of Canadian, British and Allied Naval and Air forces which would be ideally desirable. The war was won by the selfless cooperation of brave men of many nations and of three fighting services. This book's particular task is to tell the story of the part played by the Canadian Army.
It is not possible to express adequately here the writer's sense of gratitude to the very numerous persons who have helped him in his considerable task, or to thank them individually by name as would be
proper. The Historical Section, Cabinet Office, London, and the Historical Division, War Department Special Staff, Washington, have both given kind assistance. A great number of soldiers and ex-soldiers of various ranks have read the book in draft, in whole or in part, and have made most helpful comments. Several eminent Canadian historians have also read the draft and made valuable suggestions for its improvement. Of the personnel of the Canadian Army's Historical Section, during the war and since, literally scores--officers, other ranks and civilians--have made direct or indirect contributions to this book. It may perhaps be proper to mention those officers of most senior rank who have been closely connected with the work. Most of them have now returned to civil life. Lieutenant-Colonel G. F. G. Stanley was the writer's first assistant at Canadian Military Headquarters, and his skilful scholarship and boundless industry made incalculable contributions to the programme both there and, later, at Ottawa. Lieutenant-Colonels W. E. C. Harrison and S. H. S. Hughes served as Historical Officers in the field during the operations and subsequently at C.M.H.Q., to the very great profit of the History. Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. L. Nicholson has given invaluable service in the preparation of preliminary narratives, and also drafted the section of this volume dealing, with the second half of the Italian campaign. Two special obligations are those to Major T. M. Hunter, who drafted portions of the account of the North-West Europe campaign, and to W.O.II V. Boucher, who typed the many successive drafts of the volume. To these and other helpers the book owes much of whatever virtue it possesses. For its shortcomings the present writer takes full responsibility.
In a volume so relatively brief and so comprehensive as this, it has not been considered either necessary or practicable to supply detailed references to sources of information. The book is based upon fully-documented preliminary studies which are held in the Historical Section at Ottawa. It will be found that in many cases the sources of quotations and statements made are identified in the text. It should be noted that officers are invariably described by the ranks held at the time of the events referred to.
The author will be grateful if readers will advise him of, any errors or important omissions which they may detect in this volume.
C. P. S.
Historical Section (G.S.),
Table of Contents
Next Chapter (1)