Politics of Command

Politics of Command: Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton and the Canadian Army, 1939-1943

JOHN NELSON RICKARD
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 416
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442686427
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  • Book Info
    Politics of Command
    Book Description:

    Based on a wide range of sources,The Politics of Commandwill redefine how military historians and all Canadians look not only at "Andy" McNaughton, but the Canadian Army as well.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8642-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Maps
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. Tables and Figures
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    Marc Milner

    If you ask veterans of First Canadian Army who they served under, chances are they will say Montgomery. Certainly they recall no warmth for the dour technicians who commanded Canada’s field army through those grim days from Normandy to the Baltic. Lieutenant-General Guy Granville Simonds may have been brilliant – historians still disagree on that – but he came across as moody and taciturn at best, unquestionably distant from the front-line soldier. General Harry Crerar, who ultimately made his fame as commander of First Canadian Army, was – as Monty once described him – ‘a good plain cook.’ More important,...

  6. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xxii)
    Andrew Leslie
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxv-2)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    Andrew George Latta McNaughton was a gifted soldier-scientist. Prior to the First World War he had pursued postgraduate work in engineering at McGill University, and throughout that war he used his scientific expertise to increase the effectiveness of Canadian artillery. He initially commanded an artillery battery, but by war’s end he had taken command of the Heavy Artillery of the Canadian Corps. After the war he remained in the Permanent Force, and by 1926 he was the Vice Chief of the General Staff (VCGS). In 1929, at the age of forty-two, McNaughton was promoted to major-general and Chief of the...

  10. Part One: The Making of Andy McNaughton

    • 1 Early Life and the Crucible of the First World War
      (pp. 11-22)

      Andrew McNaughton was born on 25 February 1887 (the same year as Montgomery) in the prairie town of Moosomin, thirty-six miles east of Regina, to Robert Duncan McNaughton and Christina Mary Ann Armour. Both of Andrew’s parents were descendants of immigrants from Glasgow, Scotland. Had the Canadian Pacific Railway not reached Saskatchewan by 1882, Andrew McNaughton might well have been an American, for his father, fascinated by the American West, had traded in buffalo hides in Chicago in the 1870s. In 1885, Major-General Sir Frederick Middleton, commander of the Canadian Militia, used the railway to defeat Louis Riel’s North West...

    • 2 The Road to High Command
      (pp. 23-36)

      McNaughton was thirty-two when the First World War ended. He was prepared to resume his scientific studies and pursue a promising engineering career, but his plans were derailed when Currie, the newly appointed Inspector General of the Militia Forces of Canada, made a personal appeal for him to stay in the army. Currie wanted McNaughton to serve on the Otter Committee, a body charged with incorporating the CEF units into the post-war militia. This was unfortunate, for while others such as Patton were investigating the future employment of tanks (at least for a while), McNaughton was essentially involved in a...

  11. Part Two: The Problem of Deploying the Army

    • 3 A Willingness to Fight, 1940–1941
      (pp. 39-53)

      With the exception of Hong Kong and Dieppe the Canadian Army saw no combat during the first three years of the Second World War. A division and an army tank brigade fought in Sicily and Italy in 1943, but the bulk of the army was not committed to battle until 1944. By that time the British, Australians, Indians, South Africans, New Zealanders, and even the Americans had been heavily engaged for years. The blame for this unfortunate turn of events has consistently fallen on McNaughton. J.L. Granatstein, one of Canada’s most prominent historians, has perpetuated this school of thought, arguing...

    • 4 From ROUNDUP to TORCH
      (pp. 54-68)

      The prospects for getting the Canadian Army into action did not significantly improve during 1942. The entry of the United States into the war, brought about by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December – and Hitler’s declaration of war three days later – was a welcome addition to the Allied cause, but it threw the proverbial ‘monkey wrench’ into strategic calculations as far as the Canadian Army was concerned. Under the RAINBOW 5 plan, the United States was committed to a ‘Germany first’ strategy, but exactly when and how the Western Allies would come to grips with...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 5 Practical Operations of War
      (pp. 69-80)

      While McNaughton continued to stick by his (and King’s) policy of looking to the COS to recommend Canadian deployment, Ralston and Stuart were disheartened by the 3 October meeting and immediately began to increase pressure on the War Office. Three days later Brooke recorded that Stuart ‘is anxious for Canadian forces to be given a more active role.’ A little more than a week later, in conversation with Massey, Ralston, and Stuart, Brooke noted that it was not an ‘easy matter to lock them into any of our proposed offensives.’¹ Indeed, it never had been, but Ralston kept up the...

  12. Part Three: McNaughton as Military Commander and Trainer

    • 6 The Difficulty of Training in 1940
      (pp. 83-95)

      Between 1940 and 1943 McNaughton and Brooke waged a private battle not only over physical control of Canadian formations, but also over when and where those formations would fight. At times, such as after the Brittany operation in 1940 and Exercise VICTOR in early 1941, the tension between the two boiled over into sharp confrontations. Yet there was a parallel fault line between them. Soon after he became C-in-C Home Forces in July 1940, Brooke became concerned about the state of training in the 1st Canadian Division and later the Canadian Corps. Indeed, even after four-and-a-half years of preparation in...

    • 7 The Politics of Training
      (pp. 96-113)

      While McNaughton struggled mightily throughout the first half of 1940 to address the Canadian Army’s materiel deficiencies, he fell behind in the actual exercise of command. After Dunkirk, his division returned to General Headquarters (GHQ) Reserve and the ‘Canadian Force’ came back into being. On 20 June, McNaughton told his senior commanders that the division now had to be prepared to possibly counter-attack in all directions. Therefore he decentralized the division into battalion groups and issued instructions that they were to be trained as complete combined-arms units.¹ The threat of German airborne drops was a major concern at the time,...

    • 8 Enter Montgomery
      (pp. 114-127)

      On 17 November 1941 Montgomery took over South-Eastern Command from Paget and immediately began to make his influence felt on the Canadian Corps. Paget moved up to take over Home Forces from Brooke, who in turn, on 1 December, assumed the duties of CIGS from John Dill. While Montgomery, Paget, and Brooke were all rising to greater positions of authority and influence over both the British Army and the Canadian Corps, McNaughton fell ill with a low-grade chest infection and went on sick leave. Crerar believed that McNaughton had actually suffered some form of breakdown.

      When Guy Turner departed for...

    • 9 Exercise SPARTAN
      (pp. 128-149)

      SPARTAN, a large-scale army-versus-army exercise held in the south of England in early March 1943, proved to be a turning point in McNaughton’s command of First Canadian Army. Involving ten-plus divisions, it was the largest field exercise since BUMPER. Brooke had designed it to test the Canadian Army in the dual tasks of breaking out of an established bridgehead and making the transition to open warfare. In late December 1942, McNaughton confidentially characterized SPARTAN to an Army public relations officer as ‘a dress rehearsal for full-scale invasion on the continent.’ Indeed, he believed it entirely conceivable that it ‘might very...

    • 10 The Long Shadow of SPARTAN
      (pp. 150-168)

      McNaughton’s performance on SPARTAN has not received the attention it deserves. His lone biographer, John Swettenham, found little fault with it, declaring that he displayed ‘superior generalship.’ John English has taken the complete opposite view. Outside the official history, little serious analysis has been offered over the years even though SPARTAN was an important factor in McNaughton’s relief and in the relief of several other senior Canadian officers at the time.¹ One possible explanation for the lack of interest in this critical training event is that Canadian military historians have accepted the judgements of Paget and Brooke without conducting their...

  13. Part Four: The End of an Idea

    • 11 The Sicily Incident
      (pp. 171-186)

      At the beginning of the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, McNaughton attempted to visit Canadian forces fighting under Montgomery’s command in Eighth Army. It was perfectly understandable that McNaughton would want to see his men in action after their long training in England.¹ Any other senior commander of any other national force would have wanted the same. He had missed that opportunity during the ill-fated Dieppe Raid. Yet Montgomery refused outright to grant him access to his troops. This cold rebuke was one of the most confusing and frustrating episodes confronted by McNaughton during his tenure as commander of...

    • 12 Broken Dagger: A Corps in Italy
      (pp. 187-207)

      The circumstances that led to the establishment of I Canadian Corps in Italy in late 1943 raise many questions. At stake were the very idea of First Canadian Army, McNaughton’s position as its commander, and the autonomy of Canadian forces. Stuart and Ralston consistently stressed to McNaughton that more of the army had to get into action to gain battle experience in anticipation of the cross-Channel invasion. As a result, they purposely steered a course towards sustained dispersion of the army between Britain and Italy. Simultaneously, they plotted with Brooke to get rid of McNaughton. The solution that Ralston, Stuart,...

    • 13 The Final Months of McNaughton’s Command
      (pp. 208-216)

      The established view of McNaughton’s ultimate relief from command of First Canadian Army holds that Ralston and Stuart acted on Brooke’s advice in early 1943 to remove him. Yet the evidence suggests that Stuart voiced the opinion that McNaughton was not the right man to command the army even before Brooke did. On 20 March 1943, Stuart told King that McNaughton ‘had become far too removed from the troops’ and that Crerar ‘was nearer to them and understood them better.’¹ Since this opinion was expressed almost two months before Brooke raised the issue of McNaughton’s fitness to command in May...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 217-218)

    The problem of finding a replacement for McNaughton reared its head only two days after he began his medical leave. Ralston appointed Stuart Acting Army Commander, but the decision did not sit well with Crerar. According to Ralston, Crerar advocated giving the army to a British general rather than to Stuart.¹ In his last hours as Army Commander, McNaughton sided with Crerar, arguing that appointing Stuart was ‘most unsound.’² Ralston appointed Stuart anyway as an interim measure until Crerar returned from Italy. Crerar came back to England in mid-March 1944 without having gained any battle experience. McNaughton’s relief never solved...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 219-230)

    This study has attempted to trace the reasons why Andrew McNaughton, a brilliant scientist and outstanding soldier from the First World War, failed as commander of First Canadian Army. Three lines of investigation have been followed: McNaughton’s apparent refusal to sanction the division of the army; his training and command deficiencies; and the effects of personality. The purpose of the multiple lines of investigation has been to compare the current interpretation of McNaughton’s relief against the historical record.¹ This fresh analysis has revealed that the historical record has much more to say about McNaughton’s wartime difficulties and ultimate failure than...

  16. Appendices
    (pp. 231-246)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 247-332)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 333-356)
  19. Index
    (pp. 357-366)