Ordeal by Fire: Canada, 1910-1945

By Ralph Allen | Go to book overview

LI
The reinforcement problem--McNaughton re-enters and Ralston departs

THE Canadians did take heavy casualties in Holland, and these, together with the still formidable losses in Italy, gave them an almost impossible task of reinforcement.

In this fifth year of war the armies of both sides found it hard to keep up to strength. One problem they all shared was a hazard not yet defined but later made famous as Parkinson's Law. The old-fashioned citizens' army--and by 1944 they were all citizens' armies--had been founded on the principle that anybody handy and able grabbed a musket and started shooting at the nearest stranger.

But with the exception of the desperate and driven Russians, this spartan rule did not apply to the armies of the early 1940s. All of them were clogged to the verge of smothering by their administrative overhead. They had NAAFIs (for tea, sausage rolls, and Woodbine cigarettes), ENSAs (for elderly dancing girls and musichall comics), and PXs (for Lucky Strikes and Lifebuoy soap), and in addition to these amenities all the Allied formations had almost incredible numbers of headquarters and line-of-communications troops.

The question of the "teeth to tail" ratio in the various armies is never likely to be settled beyond dispute, but one of the bestinformed insights has come down from the late Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Ignatieff. A Russian by birth and a Canadian by adoption, Ignatieff dealt closely with his former compatriots as a British intelligence and liaison officer.

"I attended a meeting," he wrote after the war, "at which a group of British and Soviet tank experts were discussing the Red

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