In The Footsteps Of The First Canadian Army: Northwest Europe 1942-1945

June 10, 2009|
In The Footsteps Of The First Canadian Army: Northwest Europe 1942-1945 by Angus Brown
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First Canadian Army was not only the largest field command of the Second World War for Canada, but it also was a major coalition formation with a number of units from different countries under General H.D.G. Crerar.  Through the medium of text, art and photos this book traces the operations of First Canadian Army during the liberation of Northwest Europe: from the long prelude of garrison and training in the United Kingdom, to the beaches of Normandy and the killing fields of France, through the clearing of the Channel ports, into the horrible conditions of the Scheldt and the violent fighting in the German Rhineland, to the final freedom of the Dutch people in Holland.  This narrative will help people to put these momentous events of the Second World War into geographical and historical perspective.  Through it all, First Canadian Army slogged along in poor weather and slugged it out with a determined foe. This is the story of Canadians and compatriots who took their place in the line with bigger, more glamourous and better-known Allies.   During my first three years of service with the Queen's Own Rifles in Calgary and Germany in the early 1960s, my two commanding officers, one company commander and one regimental sergeant-major had all gone ashore at Juno Beach on D-Day.   My other company commander had flown a glider into Arnhem during Operation MARKET GARDEN.   Even at twenty years of age, I was relatively familiar with their exploits, because it was easy to absorb a good deal 'by osmosis' through the considerable volume of Second World War recorded history dealing with the achievements of our regiments and battalions that made up First Canadian Army.   In addition, movies and early television programming frequently dealt with unit-level operations and even smaller sub-units like commando operations, presumably due to the abundance of human-interest stories involving personal heroism in the thick of battle.   Any soldier who went ashore during the D-Day landings on 6 June 1944 and served in the front lines of the subsequent operations through northwest Europe, culminating in the Allied victory in May 1945, more than once probably exclaimed, “Who is the idiot running this show who thought this one up!” - or words to that effect.   And so we come to the operational level of command, rarely explained or described, due to the complexities associated with such an elevated level of decision-making.   This is particularly true for Canadians, because we rarely have an opportunity to operate at such a level due to the modest size of our post-Second World War contributions to multinational coalitions, be they UN or NATO.   Paradoxically, any analysis of the operational level of command reveals an ample dose of intrigue, both military and political, as well as personal conflicts, compromise, initiative, misjudgments and, at times, courage and genius.   General Harry Crerar, the commander of First Canadian Army, had to cope with the most multinational force (a 'coalition-of-the-willing' in today's parlance) in the entire European theatre, with all the resulting unique challenges, particularly as that force executed a multitude of joint operations on land, sea and air.   Making his command even more challenging was his successful commitment to maintaining an identifiable Canadian profile and independence within 21 Army Group, an aim at odds with the vision of its formidable commander, Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery.   In the Footsteps of First Canadian Army proves that the operational level of command can be extremely interesting and at times entertaining, particularly when complemented with war art, photographs, maps and quotes from the Canadian War Museum 's oral history collection.   Arriving later than some into the fight, First Canadian Army quickly came of age and more than made up for lost time.   Just ask the enemy.   Lewis W. MacKenzie, CM, OOnt, MSC and Bar, SBStJ, CD Major-General (Ret'd)
Angus Brown served as an Armoured Corps officer in the Canadian Forces for 35 years in a variety of command and staff positions in Canada, NATO, the Middle East, the United States and on exchange duty with the British Army.  He is a graduate of various military courses,the Canadian Forces Staff College and the United States Army W...
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Title:In The Footsteps Of The First Canadian Army: Northwest Europe 1942-1945
Format:Hardcover
Product dimensions:160 pages, 11.28 X 8.42 X 0.37 in
Shipping dimensions:160 pages, 11.28 X 8.42 X 0.37 in
Published:June 10, 2009
Publisher:John McQuarrie Photography
Language:English
Appropriate for ages:All ages
ISBN - 13:9781894673327

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