Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

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

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

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

Article excerpt

John Nelson Rickard, The Politics of Command: Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton and the Canadian Army, 1939-1943 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010), 416 pp. Cased. $46.95. ISBN 978-1-4426-4002-3.

General 'Andy' McNaughton is probably best known for his role in the conscription crisis of 1944 when he returned from retirement to become Minister of National Defence as part of Mackenzie King's attempt to avoid conscription. This book, however, focuses on the events of the previous year, when McNaughton was removed as Commander of the Canadian army in Europe. Rickard challenges the consensus among other historians that this was primarily a result of McNaughton's unsuitability to command an army in the field, com - pounded by his resistance to sending Canadian troops to gain much-needed battle experience in Italy or the Middle East (emulating Arthur Currie's defence in the First World War of a single, unified Canadian army), and an abrasive personality. Rickard's conclusion is that McNaughton's primary failing was the last - his inability to work smoothly with Layton Ralston, the defence minister, and with key British commanders such as Brooke and Montgomery. Rickard also suggests that senior Canadian officers such as Generals Crerar and Stuart intrigued for his removal, but while painting McNaughton as the victim of military politics does not mention the other side of the ledger - the domestic political support enjoyed by McNaughton. He was favoured by McKenzie King because of his belief in a voluntary army (and, in Rickard's view, prematurely promoted to a level of command he was unable to properly exercise, given the absence of any meaningful training in modern warfare by the chronically underfunded and neglected Canadian armed forces in the interwar period). …

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