bookTools of the Trade - Equipping the Canadian Army
by Doug Knight.
A5 size softback, 128 pages
ISBN 1-894581-23-7
Service Publications,

Review by Peter Brown

The outbreak of WW2 found Canada's small peacetime army poorly equipped. It would need large amounts of all types of equipment to bring it to modern standards. Pre-war it was understood that a lot of this would come from the United Kingdom, but that did not happen as there was little to spare as its own forces needing material. Canada was therefore forced to meet its own need, this lead to factories being built from scratch and a whole armaments industry being created.

Many of the items produced were to designs foreign, most small arms, mortars and artillery were British patterns and the first tanks built in Canada were Valentines even if they had local modifications. Those Canadian designs which did appear were not always successful. The Ram cruiser tank did not see much action as American-built Shermans were to be the main tank type used in battle, but the design did lead to the very successful Sexton self-propelled 25pdr gun. Several types of wheeled AFVs were produced which while generally sound were not always ideal for their intended purpose. In the area of armoured vehicles, the Universal Carriers were perhaps the biggest success. Although it was a British design, Canadian ones used more powerful engines and improved versions were developed by the end of the war.

Luckily, the history of Canadian arms manufacture and supply was documented at the time, these wartime reports have been used as the basis for this book. It covers with each separate weapon type one by one, from pistols up to heavy artillery. It follows the progress of equipping units at home, those in training in the United Kingdom and on the battlefields of Italy and North-West Europe. Early shortages were gradually made good, though often by the time weapons like 2pdr guns and Boys anti-tank rifles had become available in the specified quantities they were no longer needed. The same could be said of British production, and similar situations happened in other countries.

Progress is shown using facts and figures at various times, and each area is well illustrated using original black and white photos. Usually each type has only one or at best two or three photos, but some are interesting as they show vehicles not commonly seen such as M3 Lee tanks with modified stowage in training "somewhere in England" and rare items such as the Sexton Observation Post and M2A4 Light Tank.

Strangely, the one area in which Canadian production was at its most successful is not given wide coverage. According to the text, one million wheeled vehicles were manufactured and these equipped not only Canadian units but British and other Commonwealth forces as well as going as aid to the Soviet Union. Perhaps this is down to the large number of types produced, as to cover them in anything like detail would either need a far bigger book or a separate volume.

Matters of production and supply are all too often neglected by those studying military history. If enough suitable equipment is on hand it is taken for granted, when there is not good enough of something or what there is outdated it tends to be very noticeable, both to those on the ground as well as those who record events later on. This study follows the Canadian experience, which should be judged a success which stood them in good stead during those long and difficult years.

Thanks to Clive Law at Service Publications for the review book.

Page created April 28, 2005