Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

XLVIII
The firing of McNaughton--Italy and the battle of Ortona

THE Sicilian campaign partly relieved the government's nightmare of maintaining a non-combatant army--however accidentally or unwillingly--throughout the most vital war in history.

But while the First Division and the attached Three Rivers Tank Regiment were still fighting their way up through Leonforte, Assoro, Agira, Adrano, and Regalbuto, the quiet and for the most part courtly battle between the politicians and the generals went into another phase.

As the one unreconstructed champion of a unified, self-contained Canadian Army, McNaughton had been forced more and more on the defensive. He had acquiesced in the dispatch of the Canadian contingent to Sicily only on the understanding that it would be returned to his command in England in time for the invasion in France a year later. Far from considering that it had disappeared permanently from his control, he had flown to Eisenhower's headquarters at Algiers four days before the landing and in mid-July asked Montgomery to arrange for him and a small party of his staff officers to visit the Sicily headquarters of the First Division.

Montgomery's reply could not have been more blunt. He not only refused to allow McNaughton into Sicily but let it be known that if the Canadian commander in chief tried to land there without permission he would have him arrested. Montgomery later explained his attitude in his postwar memoirs: "The 1st Canadian Division had not been in action before and officers and men were just beginning to find their feet. [ Major General] Guy Simonds, the Divisional Commander, was young and inexperienced: it was the first time he had commanded a division in battle. I was deter-

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