Canadians On The Somme, 1916: The Neglected Campaign by William F StewartCanadians On The Somme, 1916: The Neglected Campaign by William F Stewart

Canadians On The Somme, 1916: The Neglected Campaign

byWilliam F Stewart

Hardcover | October 19, 2017

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Ordered lines of heavily laden soldiers with rifles at 'high port' trudging through mud against uncut barbed wire under heavy machine gun fire is the enduring view of the Somme 1916. What makes Canada's Somme campaign so difficult to characterize was at times this was true, but so were times Canadians advanced at speed over dry ground through smashed German defenses. Over the course of 80 days, they encountered all types of weather, ground conditions, defenses, and defenders. They achieved stirring victories, and suffered staggering defeats. Thus, Canada's Somme experience was not a simple binary of either victory or defeat, but both and most combinations between. These battles do not lend themselves to grand narratives and sweeping accounts of triumph over great odds. This perspective contributes to the absence of detailed operational studies devoted to Canada's military contribution to the Somme campaign. Resulting in 24,029 casualties, the Somme was the second longest and costliest campaign of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. It represents a critical inflection point in the Dominion's conduct of the war as all spheres of its military effort were impacted by its effects. The corps, however, demonstrated sufficient potential that General Sir Douglas Haig assigned the Canadian Corps the crucial role of seizing Vimy Ridge during the next major British offensive. Nevertheless, Canada's campaign remains a neglected aspect of the Somme campaign with no study devoted to its course. This volume addresses this gap in the available literature by examining the Canadian experience at the operational and tactical level. Its primary focus is on how the Canadians fought and why they battled in the manner they did. Focusing on a single corps brings a perspective on aspects of the campaign that are washed out in the general narratives. This allows for a finer grain examination of diverse topics, such as operations, command and control, and tactics. The period the Canadians served also receives less coverage in general campaign accounts, and it witnessed a set of significant changes in operations as both sides adjusted their tactics. Illustrated with numerous maps and images in attached booklet.
A University of Western Ontario MBA, Bill had a 30-year career as a senior executive in the Canadian high-tech industry, in marketing. He returned to university to pursue his avocation of researching and writing history. He received his PhD from the University of Birmingham in 2012 - under the supervision of Professor Gary Sheffield - ...
Title:Canadians On The Somme, 1916: The Neglected CampaignFormat:HardcoverDimensions:9.41 × 7.24 × 0.98 inPublished:October 19, 2017Publisher:Helion and CompanyLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1911512951

ISBN - 13:9781911512950


Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the best background texts on the genesis of the Canadian Corps. The recent William F. Stewart book entitled "Canadians on the Somme - the Neglected Campaign" is one of those rare books on the Great War which presents (i) a fresh illumination to challenge long-standing assumptions coupled with (ii) very detailed and well researched material; (iii) and a new perspective on a major battle. It is destined to become a key reference text to be studied rather than casually read. Whereas many books are inflated with extended descriptive narratives, this book exhibits a structured and distilled clarity which articulates fundamental elements while expanding the thinking of the reader. Most paragraphs are packed with informational gems. In addition, the main text includes a detailed supplemental map book with illustrations which compliment the narrative. As battles were planned from maps, it is logical the elements of each battle should be summarized in these high quality maps. Just as the chemistry of the Canadian Corps was influenced by the ratio of militia-trained officers to Permanent Force officers - Stewart brings a former extended business career forward into a latter day doctorate in military history. His approach reflects the business life experiences of performance management measurement practices versus the sometimes cloistered academic approach. In the final analysis all battles are management by objectives and not tomes of theory. Near the end of the book there is a "Balance Sheet" section which presents a succinct business-like summation of the Canadian experience at the Somme. Canada entered the Somme campaign under the didactic control of the bombastic Sir Sam Hughes, a hastily organized military system of suspect integrity, an untested and often politically appointed military senior officer corps, an inexperienced and haphazard approach to battle planning and logistics, a cadre of enthusiastic soldiers and an artillery and logistics system to be found wanting. Some ninety days later, and after the wanton wastage of over 24,000 soldiers in a muddle of victories and defeats; Sam Hughes is gone, the visceral weaknesses of the budding Canadian Corps is exposed, and the core genesis of the future Canadian Corps forms in this crucible. The near incompetence of the senior British and Canadian officer corps is highlighted on page 216 where the extremely depleted attacking battalions (some at 1/6 normal strength and exhausted from extended time in the front lines) are tasked with virtually impossible tasks. How the soldiers and junior officers knowingly attacked is likely a combination of naïve trust and fatalistic resignation. In one paragraph (page 38) on the then General Haig, the author articulates the character and weaknesses of the man - which then underscore his planning and operation of the Battle of the Somme. One understands more about the man from this single paragraph than from reading books by Duff Cooper et al. We are later given insight into the misplaced coup d'oeil displayed by Haig, Gough and Charteris and the lack of experience and stature of the Canadian Corps senior officers to challenge orders and directives which were clearly ill-conceived and poorly planned. The crucible of suffering of the poor bloody infantry at the Somme would not be repeated by the growing cadre of Canadian Corps officer core during the second half of the Great War. In later battles, the Canadian Corps will challenge Haig et al when orders are ill-conceived. In the future, the Canadian Corps battle plans will, in general, be much more studied, practiced and executed. On page 122, and as an example of the detailed level of research, Stewart comments on the botched local formation relief of the German's 7th's Division's 393 IR regiment near Regina Trench on 21 September 1916. The lack of Germans noted in a scouting report is not a retreat. The utter frustration of attacking Regina Trench can also be felt within the text. The Stewart book is destined to become a classic reference text for the serious reader of the Great War - Canadian or otherwise. It is not a book for the neophyte. Few other books dissect the background, the characters, the foibles of the senior commanders in a series of battles, the fortitude of the poor bloody infantry, and the formation of the foundation of an emerging Canadian Army. The Somme presented the senior officer corps with a potpourri of new offensive and defensive technologies and a dearth of strategic and tactical options. Interplay of personalities and the initial role of politics in the selection of many is included. The transition towards an officer corps based on a meritocracy is glimpsed at. This Canadian book does not carry the baggage and trauma of many British texts on the battles of the Somme and Passchendaele and the author provides some insight into both this distinction and how the topic is treated in his book. Finally, the text includes sections entitled "Call-Outs", "Analysis" and "Aftermath" comments. The book concludes with a distilled summary of the six elements Stewart ascribes to the core of the Canadian experience at the Somme. As a future research tool, the end includes indices on the battles, terms used, military formations, places and the main people involved. If one could buy only one book on the Great War - the Stewart text would likely be the choice of the discerning reader. Helion & Company August 2017 Hardback, 432 pages 77 b/w pictures, 6 b/w diags, 32 colour maps, 12 tables
Date published: 2018-02-13