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Canadian Tanks in Sussex

Canadian Tanks in Sussex. From a watercolour by Major W. A. Ogilvie, MBE. A Ram II tank of the Headquarters Squadron of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division training in Ashdown Forest, September 1942


This is the first volume of the Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War. The second, dealing with the campaign in Italy, will appear very shortly. The third, dealing with the campaign in Northwest Europe, is in preparation. A subsequent volume will deal with Canadian military policy in the broad sense. This history is more detailed, and based on more thorough research, than was possible in the case of the single-volume Official Historical Summary, The Canadian Army 1939–1945, which was published in 1948.

The present volume is concerned with a variety of subjects. It deals in outline with military events in Canada throughout the war; in somewhat greater detail with the history of the Army in the United Kingdom, including the raiding operations based on that country; and with the Army’s part in the war against Japan. An attempt has been made to apportion the space allotted to the various topics in accordance with their interest and significance. The active operations – notably those at Dieppe and Hong Kong, both of which were important and controversial – have been given more attention than any other matters. Questions of organization and administration at home and abroad, which are certainly important and could well form the matter of several volumes, have been more briefly dealt with; the author has aimed at summarizing the essentials while omitting the detail. Throughout, he has tried to write mainly for the general reader rather than for the soldier and the military student. He hopes that these experts will find the book useful; but information on the more specialized subjects, including the detail of the activities of the technical arms and the services, must be sought in technical monographs. As was stated in the preliminary Official Historical Summary, the main object of the present history 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”.

It has been considered essential to document the book in detail, but since many readers will seldom need to consult the references these have been collected at the back and printed in small type to save space. It may be noted that many of the documents referred to are still “classified”, and the fact that they are cited does not necessarily imply that they are available for public examination. In spite of this it has been thought best to give the references, since a documented narrative carries more weight than an undocumented one even when all the sources cannot be produced; and many of the classified documents cited will presumably become available to students in due course.

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In the interest of security, certain cipher telegrams have been paraphrased without altering the sense. It is not the practice of the United Kingdom to cite unpublished papers in official histories. Such British documents are accordingly referred to in this study merely by the phrase “United Kingdom records”. This method is used at the request of the United Kingdom authorities.

Officers and men are invariably designated in the text by the ranks they held at the time of the events described. It has not been considered necessary to append decorations to personal names in the text. In the Index all individuals are referred to by their “final” ranks and decorations, i.e. those as of the date of compilation.

The author wishes to acknowledge the liberality with which he has been treated in the matter of access to records. He has had unrestricted access to documents in the hands of the Government of Canada. In this respect, he acknowledges special debts to the Privy Council Office and the Department of External Affairs. In addition, many individuals have generously opened private records to him. The kindness of Mrs. Mackenzie has enabled him to make use of the papers of the late Senator Ian Mackenzie, Minister of National Defence 1935–39. General A. G. L. McNaughton has deposited his voluminous papers with the Historical Section for free use in connection with this history; and General H. D. G. Crerar has permitted the Section the fullest access to his private files. Mr. C. G. Power has kindly lent documents from among his own papers. The literary executors of the late Mr. W. L. Mackenzie King have been very cooperative.

It is out of the question to make full acknowledgement here to the many organizations and individuals who have given generous assistance. In London the Historical Branch of the Cabinet Office has accorded us constant and indispensable aid, and we have had much help also from the Air Historical Branch of the Air Ministry and the Historical Section of the Admiralty. We have had helpful exchanges with official historians in New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and India and Pakistan. We owe a great debt to the Office of the Chief of Military History and to the Captured Records Section in the United States Department of the Army. In Canada there is a special obligation to the Director of War Service Records, Department of Veterans Affairs, whose office provided many of the Canadian Army statistics included in this volume. Finally, the author is most grateful to the innumerable participants in the events described who have read the volume in draft, in whole or in part, and have given him the benefit of their comments.

It is quite impossible to thank all the personnel, past and present, of the Canadian Army’s Historical Section who have contributed directly or indirectly to the production of this book. Lt. Col. G. W. L. Nicholson, Deputy Director, and Lt. Col. C. J. Lynn-Grant, Executive Officer, have helped at

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every point. Chapters 6, 7, 8, 13, 15 and 16 were originally drafted by other members of the Section and subsequently revised by the writer; in this respect he is obliged to Captain J. B. Conacher, Major J. C. Newlands and Mr. J. M. Hitsman. All other chapters he drafted himself; and he takes full responsibility for the entire volume as now presented. Captain Bond’s maps speak for themselves. Captain L. R. Cameron has acted as research assistant to the author and has made an invaluable contribution. Mr. A. G. Steiger has given equally important help in connection with German documents. Lastly, QMS (WO2) M. R. Lemay, a friend and colleague in the wartime Historical Section overseas which laid the foundations for this work, has typed the numerous successive drafts with great efficiency and cheerfulness. Readers who discover errors or important omissions in this volume are asked to communicate with the author.

C. P. S.

Historical Section (G. S.),

Army Headquarters,

Ottawa, Canada.