Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Zombie Army: The Canadian Army and Conscription in the Second World War

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

Zombie Army: The Canadian Army and Conscription in the Second World War

Article excerpt

Daniel Byers, Zombie Army: The Canadian Army and Conscription in the Second World War (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2016), 324 pp. Cased. $95. ISBN 978-0-7748-3051-5. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-7748-3052-2.

Historians have usually agreed that one of the main reasons that conscription for overseas service became necessary after D-Day is that, in a lot of ways, Canada had overextended itself. By creating the nine divisions strong 'Big Army', that is, an army much larger that it could sustain once serious battle attrition would start, the Army's high command in effect made conscription for overseas service ultimately unavoidable.

While not entirely rejecting this thesis, Daniel Byers asserts quite convincingly that we can get a much better understanding of the political crisis of 1944 by first understanding the complete dynamic of the mobilisation of forces introduced by the National Resources Mobilisation Act (NRMA) and especially the experience of those men who came to be derided as 'Zombies' (those that served under the NRMA but refused to volunteer for overseas service). For Byers, the conscription crisis of 1944 can better be explained as a derailment in the steady stream of voluntary recruits that were first introduced to army life through compulsion for home defence. Byers shows compellingly that for the first part of the war, through 1943, the NRMA served as a gateway to general service, either because men eventually decided for themselves to join or because of the many pressures that were put on the soldiers to do so. …

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