Great War Commands: Historical Perspectives on Canadian Army Leadership.

Author:Eldridge, Golda
Position:Book review

Great War Commands: Historical Perspectives on Canadian Army Leadership. Andrew B. Godefroy, ed. Ontario: Canadian Defence Academy Press, 2010. Maps. Diagrams. Photographs. Notes. Index. Pp. xv, 247. Free at great_war_commands_godefroy.htm. ISBN:978-1-10015601

World War I combat is frequently characterized as a brutal and mindless slugfest, where hundreds of thousands died needlessly, due to leaders' stupidity and inability to adapt tactics to modern weapons of war. Common images show heroic soldiers being ordered to their deaths as generals sat in comfortable chateaus miles behind the lines, willfully ignorant of the horrors of trench warfare because they never visited the front lines. Military strategists Basil Liddell-Hart and J.F.C. Fuller and poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, all veterans who deplored the waste this type of combat represented, popularized this perspective. There is truth to this perspective; but the authors in this study argue it was not the norm, at least not in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). They argue the CEF fostered a culture of innovation and imagination that was instrumental in making the Canadian Corps one of the premier allied fighting forces on the Western Front.

Renowned World War I historian Hew Strachan says the Great War represented a coming of age for the British Dominions of Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Each country fielded significant combat forces that fought as integral units for the first time. The Australians and New Zealanders are best remembered for their efforts at Gallipoli against Turkey and the Canadians for their successful assault on Vimy Ridge.

A cadre of leaders from these countries rose to high command in a way likely closed to them in the British Army. The authors note that recent scholarship has covered many elements of Canada's military contributions to the Allied victory; but, unlike those of other countries, Canada's military leaders haven't received much attention. They present case studies of nine leaders who played pivotal roles. Some chapters evaluate the subject through the lens of the tactics of a particular battle and others through a broader study of the leader's...

To continue reading