Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Thoroughly Canadian General: A Biography of General H.D.G. Crerar

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

A Thoroughly Canadian General: A Biography of General H.D.G. Crerar

Article excerpt

Paul Douglas Dickson, A Thoroughly Canadian General: A Biography of General H.D.G. Crerar (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), xlvi + 571pp. Cased. £35. ISBN 978-0-8020-0802-2.

Crerar was born in Hamilton in 1888, served in the First World War, stayed in the 'Permanent Force', as Canada's regular soldiers were still called, and eventually commanded the First Canadian Army in and after Normandy. Although much of this biography concentrates on Second World War campaigns, there is important material on Crerar's lonely career as a staff officer in the interwar years. With many institutions of Canadian government existing only in outline, Crerar was the counterpart, and counterpoise, to O.D. Skelton in External Affairs. An autonomous foreign policy dictated escape from the imperial embrace, but the case for a professional army could no longer plausibly claim to provide defence against US invasion. Crerar looked to an overseas role within a Commonwealth alliance, challenging Mackenzie King's tendency towards isolationism. This overlap between policy and strategy explains why Crerar favoured sending troops to Hong Kong, and his pressure for action that led to Dieppe. Only promoted to majorgeneral in 1940, he was essentially a thoroughly First War artillery officer. His detractor, Montgomery, jeered that Crerar believed 'all you want is a good initial fire plan, and then the Germans will run away!' (p. 307). But in his biggest battle, Operation Veritable in the Rhineland, Crerar successfully implemented Vimy tactics despite Passchendaele mud. …

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