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Battle Exhaustion

Battle Exhaustion: Soldiers and Psychiatrists in the Canadian Army, 1939-1945

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Battle Exhaustion
    Book Description:

    At the outset of the Second World War Canadians wanted to avoid the horrors encountered on the western front in 1914-18, one of the most significant of which was "shell shock." Most medical personnel preferred not to assign to combat those who showed neurotic symptoms during training, but this approach was challenged by the Canadian Psychological Association and by the new Personnel Selection Directorate established in 1941. Personnel Selection claimed to be able to distinguish, before training, between those suited and those unsuited to combat duty.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6259-2
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xiii-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)

    Earle Birney’s description of Turvey’s encounter with a Canadian Army psychiatrist is based on his own observations as a personnel selection officer in North-West Europe. The humour, as in all Turvey episodes, has particular appeal to those who served in the army, for Turvey’s adventures are firmly grounded in reality. This study is in many ways a long, involved, academic footnote to Birney’s description of army psychiatry and the “anxiety states,” scared “about getting killed,” that psychiatrists dealt with.

    Copp’s interest in the field was sparked by studying the experience of Canadian infantry battalions in the North-West European theatre of...

  6. CHAPTER ONE No. 1 Nuts The Development of Army Neuropsychiatry, 1939–1942
    (pp. 11-26)

    The Canadian Army mobilized for war in the late summer of 1939 with a national call to arms. Just after noon on 1 September Army Headquarters alerted military districts, which in turn spread the word to local militia units. Commanding officers paraded their soldiers, called for active service volunteers, then filled vacancies with other recruits from nearby communities. Enthusiasm varied regionally and from unit to unit. The Chief of the General Staff noted that the “infantry was not coming along as well as might be desired.”¹ Infantry soldiering was not the most appealing life, particularly for those who considered it...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Square Pegs and Round Holes The Impact of Personnel Selection
    (pp. 27-43)

    At the outbreak of war the Canadian and British Armies had rejected intelligence testing and psychiatric screening of recruits, but by the beginning of 1941 both armies believed they were facing a severe shortage of manpower, particularly of skilled tradesmen. The British had begun using a verbal intelligence test for new recruits in July 1940 but its main purpose was to isolate dull and backward men for referral to a psychiatrist. During 1941 a series of experimental studies led to the establishment of a British army directorate for the selection of personnel. By mid 1942 an army-wide program of intelligence...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Into Battle Psychiatry in the Mediterranean Theatre: North Africa, Sicily, Ortona
    (pp. 44-62)

    The expansion of Canadian army neuropsychiatry in response to the demands of personnel selection had drawn attention away from the original purpose of the branch – the treatment of stress-related neuroses. Since no Canadian army units were in continuous combat before July 1943, the priority attached to personnel selection seemed logical. The whole Canadian Army appeared to have settled in for a protracted stay in England and most psychiatrists came to share the general preoccupation with classification.

    At Basingstoke Neurological and Plastic Surgery Hospital (plastic surgery was added in early 1943) Richardson was unhappy with the changed priorities, arguing that the...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The D-Day Dodgers Italy 1944
    (pp. 63-89)

    One of the paradoxes of military affairs is that a unit needs battle experience to complete its training, but the inherent strain of operations begins a wearing-down process, which if not arrested, leaves the unit impotent. Accumulating casualties can easily shift the boundary between battle worthiness and ineffectiveness. Eventually the unit can become, as it were, a collective neuropsychiatric casualty. The 1st Division was on the brink in the weeks after Ortona. Heavy losses in rifle companies, especially of junior leaders, seriously strained battalions. “I am compelled to bring to your attention, therefore,” the divisional commander, Major-General Christopher Yokes, informed...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE If This War Isn’t Over. . . Battle Exhaustion and the Manpower Problem in Italy, 1944–1945
    (pp. 90-108)

    There was a two-month interlude between the Liri Valley and the next major operation, which was against the Gothic Line on the Adriatic coast south of Rimini. It was a period not without interest. The Eighth Army Commander, General Sir Oliver Leese, first tried to sack General Burns and, when that failed, moved to break up the Canadian Corps. General Leese preferred a homogeneous army untouched by national identifications and like many other senior British officers wanted Canadian troops, but not their senior commanders.² For a time, consequently, the 1st Division was detached to the newly stabilized front on either...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Normandy The Battle Exhaustion Crisis of July 1944
    (pp. 109-127)

    Operation Overlord, the invasion of North-West Europe in 1944, was one of the most complex military operations ever undertaken. Between the spring of 1943, when planning began, and June 1944, thousands of staff officers prepared reports on almost every aspect of the scheme. It was not, however, until February of 1944 that 21 Army Group, General B.L. Montgomery’s Anglo-Canadian invasion force, allowed the appointment of a psychiatric adviser. Even then Montgomery’s senior staff, including the DMS, Major-General E. Philips, were reluctant to commit resources to treating psychiatric casualties. Philips did not fully abandon his view that psychiatry was “a new...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Proximity, Immediacy, and Expectancy Forward Psychiatry in Northwest Europe, 1944–1945
    (pp. 128-148)

    The battle exhaustion crisis was just one aspect of the stalemate that developed on the Normandy battlefield that summer. The battlefield forced the British, American, and Canadian Armies to re-examine and revise many of their assumptions about the nature of modern warfare. This chapter examines the development of Canadian policy on battle exhaustion from the July crisis to the end of the war.

    The Canadian experience can be examined in unique detail. The Canadian forces in North-West Europe, unlike those of the British and United States Armies, were concentrated in one sector of the battlefield. They were also relatively few...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 149-162)

    The medical officers who prepared the chapter on neuropsychiatry for the official medical history concluded that “in comparison with medicine and surgery, the advances made by psychiatry during the war were not spectacular.”¹ Rather, diagnostic and treatment procedures that had been implemented during World War I were rediscovered and incrementally advanced. The main difference between the two war experiences was that “the psychiatrist in the Second War developed a new relationship to administrative authority ... By the end of the campaigns in the Mediterranean and European theatres, the functions of the psychiatrists in the divisions and in the corps had...

  14. Appendixes
    (pp. 163-192)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 193-232)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 233-244)
  17. Index
    (pp. 245-249)