These Are Our Generals
"Our corps and divisional commanders average just 40 years of age . . . Not one of them began the war with a rank higher than major"
L. S. B. SHAPIRO
Maclean's War Correspondent
LONDON (By Cable)—If you were to ask a British soldier what qualities he recognizes most clearly in his divisional commander, it is likely he would reply: Courage and cleverness. Ask an American the same question and he would probably say: Field leadership and organizing ability. There is no doubt as to how the average Canadian soldier overseas would answer the question. Certainly heknows his generals more intimately than his British and American comrades know theirs; he has seen his commanders oftener, probably has had more than one opportunity to chat informally with them. And he would say the chief characteristics of Canadian generals are: Humanity and efficiency.
The tradition of humanity and efficiency, which has become the guiding principle of Canadian leadership overseas, was established early in the war by General McNaughton. This great and kindly man, philosopher as well as soldier, hates war and loves his country. He regrets the necessity for fighting no less than he recognizes Canada’s duty to man her share of the battlements of democracy. And out of these conflicting strains swirling within him emerged a way of military life that has become the distinctive hallmark of the Canadian Army overseas. McNaughton determined that so far ns military efficiency would allow it the welfare of the individual must become the high concern of his command.
McNaughton himself—“Andy” to all ranks— became the jwrsonificntion of that principle. Perhaps the finest tribute to him came on the day of his retirement, and it was uttered by a private soldier I met in the Beaver Club. He said simply, “Well, this is the way I felt about him. If I ever came up on charges and wanted to tell my side of the story, I’d rather tell it to Andy direct than one of mv own officers.” When a man in the ranks can feel that way about his Commander-in-Chief, the Armybelieve me!—is in healthy shape.
Andy has gone but his tradition still flourishes. It flourishes because it appeals highly to the Canadian character and it patterns the Canadian way of doing things. We may have our faults and our shortcomings, but we are essentially a sensible and even-tempered nation. In our zeal to build the best possible fighting Army, wo do not overdo militarism. And we are as yet a small nation; we have not lost the feel of being a little band of Canadians rather than a mass of soldiers. There is something intimate about being a soldier in our Army. The men are not cogs; they are individuals.
Staunch guardian of the tradition today is Lieut.General Henry Duncan Graham Crerar, Commanderin-Chief of the First Canadian Army. He is a quiet, modest, pipe-smoking soldier. The length and brilliance of his military career are reflected only in the ease and efficiency with which he handles his Army. If you met him socially, in mufti, you might mistake him for a benign college professor.
AT 58 Crerar is the oldest of our field generals and . our most experienced military mind. He was born in Hamilton, Ont., in 1888 and attended the schools of Hamilton, Upper Canada College at Toronto and the Royal Military College at Kingston. He took a position with the Ontario Hydro Electric Power Commission in Toronto and was appointed to a commission in the nonpermanent active militia. He was an artillery officer in the last war, working with and finally succeeding McNaughton as Counter Battery Staff Officer, Canadian Corps. He returned from the war determined to make the Army his life work, and since then he has held every military position within the gift of the Canadian people. He has been commandant of R.M.C., Chief of the Canadian General Staff, a divisional commander, and now G.O.C. in C. of the First Canadian Army. He rounded off his experience with two years in London’s
War Office and another year of brilliant work in Britain’s most advanced staff colleges.
A few months ago I was discussing the Sicily campaign with Crerar. From British troops I had picked up the word “party” in talking of a battle. Crerar said, in a kindly fashion, “If you write anything in connection with me, please don’t use the word party when you mean battle. I just don’t like the word in connection with the battles our troops fight.” He is the most modest general I have ever met. And his modesty is not that of the shrinking genius. It stems from deep within him. He regards himself as the servant of his country and the guardian of the people’s troops. The glamour that goes with high rank is not for him, and he uses the privileges with genuine humility. I remember him most vividly in the days following the Dieppe raid. He spent many hours walking thoughtfully around the area of the Second Division, speaking to the men, studying their reactions. He spoke to me when he returned to his headquarters. “It made me very proud to be with our troops,” ho said. “They are fine soldiers.”
When McNaughton was retired there was no question as to who would succeed him. Crerar possessed many of the qualities that made McNaughton so outstanding a figure in the early war years. And he had something additional. He had an exceptional talent for discussion and compromise, for getting along with people of varying tradition and temperament. This is important for the future of the Canadian Army because our troops must necessarily fight in close collaboration with British and other Allied troops. In his quiet, modest, shrewd way Crerar may be relied upon to get the best of all possible breaks for his charges. It is the measure of the man that he is as popular with Eisenhower and Montgomery as he is beloved by his own staff.
Overseas Staff Chief
^INCE McNaughton’s departure a new post has O been established in the Canadian Army overseas. It is that of Chief of Staff, Canadian Military Headquarters, and it is held by Lieut.-General Kenneth Stuart, 53-year-old Quebecker.
Gen. Stuart, son of an Anglican clergyman, was born at Three Rivers, Que. He is a graduate of R.M.C. and the Imperial Staff College in England. He served in the Canadian Engineers in the last war, winning the D.S.O. and the Military Cross.
Between wars he was District Engineer Officer at Calgary, Quebec and Victoria; Director of Military Intelligence and Operations at National Defense Headquarters and Commandant of R.M.C. This war has brought him three appointments—military representative on the Canada-U. S. Permanent Joint Defense Board; Vice-Chief of the General Staff; Chief of the General Staff.
Stuart’s career has been closely bound with those of Crerar and McNaughton. He is a cheerful, softspoken, handsome man, and it is his job to handle the
Army’s high policy and administration, thus leaving Crerar free to concentrate on field cemmand of the Army. Many believe it was McNaughton’s determination to carry the burden of high policy, administration and command that was the main factor in precipitating the situation calling for his retirement. This error is not being repeated.
Stuart and Crerar work like twins. They are close friends as well as intimate associates. Between them they control the destinies of Canada’s fighting men.
WE COME now to the corps and divisional generals—the men who will actually command our troops on the battlefield—and here we are confronted with an array of revolutionary facts. The Canadian Army is absolutely unique in its selection of battle commanders. The two lieutenant-generals and the five major-generals who make up our command hierarchy in Britain and Italy average just 40 years of age. Not one of them began the war with a rank higher than major. Two of them never attended a military college. Three of them are nonpermanent soldiers.
These facts are pregnant with significance. They mean that there are no cliques in the Canadian Army overseas; that there are no prejudices arising out oí age or pre-war station; that there are no politics in the system of promotions. These facts proclaim that ability is the only measuring stick by which men are advanced. The old tradition that a nonpermanent soldier could not advance beyond the rank of brigadier hats been smashed.
General Crerar once explained the system in a characteristic, matter-of-fact way. “If there are two officers available for a responsible job and both are at that point equal in ability, and if one is a permanent force man and the other a nonpermanent man, I will select the nonpermanent man for promotion. My reason is simple. If the nonpermanent man has been able, by sheer ability, to attain equality with the permanent soldier who has the advantage of a lifetime of training, it is logical to assume that the nonpermanent man will, three months hence, be a better soldier than the permanent man.”
In 1941, when Canada had barely a corps overseas, I remember McNaughton saying in his typically intense manner, “Our divisions are chock-full of wonderful talent. It is my duty to give every soldier a chance to move ahead as fast as his ability warrants.” The system by which ability is the sole yardstick accounts for the meteoric rise of Lieut.-General Guy Granville Simonds, probably the most scintillating military mind Canada has developed in the last two generations.
Simonds was born at Ixworth, near London, Eng., of a military family, went to Canada as a youngster and, prior to entering R.M.C., was educated at Ashbury College, Ottawa. He joined the permanent force as an artillery lieutenant in 1925, and came overseas in 1939 as a major. He was marked for success; he had graduated first in every staff course, including Britain’s famed Camberley.
He moved steadily ahead until, as McNaughton’s Brigadier General Staff, he was sent to Africa to study Montgomery’s methods in the desert. What happened there was related to me by one of Montgomery’s staff officers at a headquarters mess dinner in the heart of Italy last October.
“When Simonds arrived,” this officer told me, “we were fed to the teeth with visitors from other armies. They all asked the same questions. None of them apparently had bothered to study our problems before coming to the desert and we were weary answering their elemental questions.
out the campaign’s particular problems to the full
Continued on page 44
These Are Our Generals
Continued from page 12
extent possible from reports, and when he arrived at our headquarters he had his finger on the very points we ourselves were in procass of solving. Monty was vastly impressed. He was the best officer who ever visited us in the desert.”
It was little wonder, then, that Simonds was raised to major-general to command the Canadian Division joining the Eighth Army for the Sicily campaign. He was then just under 40.
The Sicily campaign was a triumph for Simonds’ nimble mind. Fie is a tactical genius—quick at planning and organizing lightning assaults on enemy features. And in Sicily, where the advance was impeded by small groups of Germans strongly entrenched in mountainous terrain, Simonds’ talent accounted greatly for the magnificent performance of his Canadian division.
Today he is 41, the youngest corps commander in the Flmpire, and a figure to be reckoned with in the future operations of the Canadians.
The other corps commander is Lieut.General Edson Louis Millard Burns, a Montrealer who has been a professional soldier since the last war.
Gen. Burns was born at Westmount, Que., in 1897, and was educated at St. Thomas, Ont., and at Lower Canada College in Montreal, before entering the Army at an early age. He came out of the last war with a captaincy and the M.C. to follow a military career which in peacetime was highlighted by his work in aerial photography and map making. He is an engineer and studied at the Engineering College in FIngland, at the Staff College of Quetta, India, and had just completed a course at the Imperial Defense College when this war broke out.
Fie too was a major in 1939, and soon distinguished himself as a general staff officer with the Second Division. He became a brigadier, a major-general and a lieutenant-general with such rapidity that his batman hardly had time to sew the proper insignia on the uniform before another promotion came along. His outstanding quality is his fierce efficiency; his weakness his anxiety to get as close to the front line as possible. At 47 he is the oldest of our field commanders.
Probably the most capable of our divisional commanders is MajorGeneral Rodney Keller, 44-year-old British Columbian.
Gen. Keller is a permanent force soldier who graduated from R.M.C. in 1920. Fie was a lieutenant for 10 years, and a captain for eight. Born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, he moved with his family to Kelowna, B.C., attending school there before entering R.M.C. He was a brigade major at the outbreak of war and rose to command the famed Princess Pats. In 1941 he was appointed a brigadier and in September, 1942, he took command of a division. He is a tough, stubby man, probably the toughest physically in the whole Army. He has become a legend at headquarters for the efficiency and high morale of any formation he commands.
Major-General Christopher Vokes, Ottawa, who succeeded Simonds in command of a division in Italy, Ls a soldier by tradition. His father was a professional and young Vokes almost automatically went, to R.M.C. He was educated at the Kingston Collegiate Institute, R.M.C. and McGill University, where he graduated as an engineer. He was first commLssioned in the Royal Canadian Engineers, Perma-
nent Force. Born in Armagh, Ireland, in 1904, he later moved with his family to Canada.
Gen. Vokes plodded through a routine professional career until the Sicily campaign found him in charge of a Canadian brigade. It was notably the toughest of all Canadian brigades in that campaign—and the most successful. His handle-bar mustache bristling over his stern Irish face, Vokes led his men in a storied attack against the western hinge of the German Etna line in Sicily, an action which smashed strongly entrenched enemy defenses and led to the collapse of resistance in the island. Vokes was awarded an immediate D.S.O. by General Montgomery. He is 40 and not nearly as fierce as his fighting face would indicate.
Another man for whom the Sicily campaign became a long-sought-for opportunity is Major-General Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister. He was an auditor in civilian life. Born in Vancouver in 1907, he attended public and high schools there. He was first commissioned a lieutenant in a British Columbia unit, the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, in 1927. He picked up a reserve commission as a major to come across at the outbreak of war. Only a battalion commander during the Sicily campaign, he distinguished himself by pioneering a novel form of infantry cum tank warfare. He was promoted to brigadier in time for the assault on the Italian mainland and soon after took command of a division. He is a painstaking tactician.
The newest of the Canadian divisional commanders Ls Major-General Charles F’oulkes, London, Ont. Born in England he was educated in London and was commissioned in the Canadian Machine Gun Corps in 1923. He reverted to lieutenant from the rank of captain in 1926 when he transferred to the Royal Canadian Regiment as a permanent force officer. He has made steady if unspectacular progress in staff positions. He Ls considered expert at organizing and polishing new formations.
The most spectacular career in the Canadian Army is that of MajorGeneral George Kitching. He was a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Regiment at the outbreak of war. Today, at 33, he is a major-general in command of a division. There is probably no other career in this war’s Allied armies to match Kitching’s.
Born in China of English parentage, he attended Sandhurst and served with the British Army in India. He came to Canada in 1937 and undertook a business career in Montreal. In 1939 he came overseas as a lieutenant; in 1940 he was promoted captain; in 1941 he won hLs majority, in 1942 his lieutenant-colonelcy. He fought in Sicily as General Simonds’ staff officer, and turned out so magnificent a pupil of this master tactician that he was given command of a brigade when the First Division invaded Italy. Early this year he was named a major-general.
He is quiet, looks older than his years, and seems destined one day to be Canada’s top soldier.
These, then, are your generals. In these brief sketches I have not been able to highlight all those facets of character which have brought them to positions of responsibility in the great offensives of thLs year. But this much can be said of all of them: They are the best soldiers and leaders Canada could possibly develop up to this point in the war. They are the result of a painstaking four-year search for the finest material in the Canadian Army. I think that if our generals were selected by popular vote among the troops these men would be selected.
Generals And Morale
Not very many weeks ago a Canadian general, whose name I cannot mention without breaking confidence, was driving through an English town. He spotted a Canadian private, dishevelled and groggy, weaving his way out of a pub. The general stopped his car, helped the soldier into the back seat and delivered him to his unit. No charge was laid against the soldier. The general, telling me of the incident, said, “When the soldier came to and found himself riding in my car beside me I guess that was enough punishment fur him. I don’t fancy he’ll get drunk again in a hurry.”
Incidents such as these could fill a book and they all crystallize into a single observation—our generals are warm human beings, mindful always that discipline and understanding must be blended skilfully in order to produce high fighting morale.
It is this principle that has carried the Canadian troops over four bleak and lonesome years and sends them into battle with fresh and fervent enthusiasm. It is this flair for human understanding by Canadian generals that has wrought a miracle of morale. No military expert believed it possible
that a volunteer Army could be transported 3,000 miles from home and thtre undergo a four-year vigil without cracking up. Yet the Canadians did it and now, at the climax of the European war, if they are fighting with storied magnificence wherever they are assigned the credit must go to the generals. They have been not only commanders of their troops but also fathers and counsellors. They have taught their troops how to fight and they have educated them to know that patience is as fine a virtue as courage. They have guided the cream of Canadian youth into manhood with singular success and they are leading them into battle with great distinction.
Each has proved his right to general rank by his ability in lower stations from 1939 until this day. Each has shown that he can handle men and the machines of war with brilliance. Most important, each has been rigidly trained in Andy McNaughton’s school of Humanity and Efficiency.
Back in Canada Andy McNaughton can sit by his well-earned fireside and glow in the satisfaction of knowing that his human principles molded not only an Army but a whole generation of Canadian youth.