Strangers in arms : combat motivation in the Canadian Army, 1943 1945

Engen, Robert C. (Robert Charles), 1983- author
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  • Creator Robert Engen
  • Format Books
  • Publication Montreal ; Kingston ; London ; Chicago : McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016.
  • Physical Details
    • 1 online resource
  • ISBNs 9780773599086, 0773599088, 9780773599093, 0773599096, 9780773547254, 0773547258
  • OCLC ocn936977954


  • "This book is a study of the combat motivation and morale of infantrymen in the Canadian Army during the Second World War. Using previously unexamined archival sources, including battle experience questionnaires, censorship reports, statistical analyses, and operational research, it offers a "big-picture" look at the human dimensions of warfare as experienced by Canadian soldiers in Italy and northwest Europe from 1943 to 1945. The work addresses many long-standing myths about the composition, behavior, and morale of the Canadians who fought in the Second World War, ie. "that the Canadian reinforcement stream produced poorly trained and unmotivated replacements, men who did not fit well into battle seasoned units and whose lack of basic skills, motivation and knowledge adversely affected the combat power of Canadian infantry units." Engen explains how this perception emerged and became entrenched in official and scholarly historiography, and he shows why it is largely untrue. After establishing some of thedemographic parameters of the Canadian Army in two background chapters, The author assesses the force structure, behavior in battle, morale, cohesion, and motivation of Canadian infantrymen in each of four periods during the war (Sicily and Italy,1943; Italy, 1944-45; Normandy, 1944; northwest Europe, 1944-45), comparing them to demonstrate continuities and change based upon shifting conditions, ground, and circumstances. As with his prior book, Engen connects his empirical research with wider literature in the field--this time using the concept of "swift trust" to explain the cohesion in the Canadian regiments, even as their personnel frequently changed. He proposes a new interpretation of Canadian combat motivation: due to high casualty rates, influxes of new reinforcements, and organizational turmoil, Canadian soldiers frequently fought as "strangers-in-arms" alongside unfamiliar faces. In spite of this, they maintained remarkably high levels of cohesion, morale, and effectiveness throughout the fighting. Engen argues that these successes can be attributed to the phenomenon of swift trust cohesion, the preservation of core leadership despite heavy casualties, and effective training."--


  • Includes bibliographical references and index.


  • Myths and realities of the Canadian Army -- Building the Canadian infantry -- The Canadians in Sicily and Italy, 1943 -- The Canadians in Italy, 1944 1945 -- The Canadians in Normandy, 1944 -- The Canadians in Northwest Europe, 1944 1945 -- Conclusion : strangers in arms
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