Recommended reading

Recent books on military history, as recommended by members of the CMHS


Canadians Under Fire: Infantry Effectiveness in the Second World War
Robert Engen, McGill-Queen's University Press, Montreal, 2009.
ISBN: 978-0-7735-3626-5

Engen: Canadians Under FireRelatively short, at only 150 pps, but somewhat dense academic reading. Robert Engen puts paid to "SLAM" Marshall's iconic ratio-of-fire theory — the oft-quoted posit that less than 15% of Allied infantry actually even fired their weapons during combat. Relying on substantial analyses of nearly 300 detailed Battle Experience Questionnaires filled out by Canadian infantry officers who led troops during combat, Engen not only concludes that Marshall's 'theory' seems more fancy than fact (especially since "Canadian officers considered their troops' making too much use of their firearms to be a more pervasive and dangerous problem than their not shooting enough or at all."), but that (again contrary to Marshall's theory that the Western (i.e Allied) citizen soldier was so ingrained with his civilized abhorrence to killing that he had "such inner and usually unrealized resistance to killing a fellow man that... he becomes a conscientious object, unknowing."), with the exception of fire discipline, Canadian infantry in WWII were more than a match for their commonly-touted 'superior' adversaries. Recommended by David S.

 


Bayonets and Blobsticks: The Canadian Experience of Close Combat 1915-1918
Aaron Taylor Miedema, Legacy Books Press, Kingston, 2011
ISN-10: 0978465296; ISBN-13: 978-0978465292

Bayonets and BlobsticksFor a long time, it has been accepted that the bayonet was an inadequate weapon in World War I — an anachronism, relied upon by foolish generals eager to relive the glories of the Napoleonic Wars while incapable of coming to terms with the modern battlefield and trench warfare. But was this the reality of the Western Front of the Great War, or a myth perpetuated by historians? In reality, the soldiers of World War I seemed oblivious to what appears so obvious to critics ninety years removed. They quite liked their bayonets, and they used them — often. In this fascinating and provocative study, Aaron Taylor Miedema takes a new look at the role of the bayonet and shock tactics on the Western front. Through the experience of the Canadian Corps — the British shock troops of the Western Front — he challenges the conventional view of the bayonet as an obsolete weapon system and rekindles the controversial debate over technologies, old and new, on the field of battle. Recommended by Bruce P.