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Military Books
by Robert M. Stamp

Tidying Up the Battlefields Althoughsome recent military history is squeaky-clean, spy stories are washing ourdirty linen in public MILITARY HISTORYcontinues to be an eclectic and uneven field. This season`s crop of titlesmixes traditional battlefield memoirs and glorious tales of courage under firewith more pedestrian accounts of peacemaking and peacekeeping. Espionage buffscan choose between dastardly stories of enemy agents spying on us or recentlydeclassified revelations of how we courageously spied on them. (Yes, gentleCanadians, we did spy on them -- both friend and foe.) Despite thevariety of offerings, however, many of the basic problems of military historyremain: what is the appropriate balance between valour and horror? Who decideswhom to canonize as "authorized" heroes? How much dirty linen do wewash in public? Begin with Merry HeartsMake Light Days: The War of 1812 Journal of Lieutenant John Le Couteur, 104thFoot (Carleton University Press, 300 pages, $17.95 paper), a book for both thebattlefield traditionalist and the general reader seeking to understand therelationship between military history and the broader sweep of social andcultural history. Le Couteur was an 18-year-old British armyofficer when his regiment arrived in Halifax as the War of 1812 was about tobegin. He participated in the overland march from New Brunswick to Canada thefollowing spring, saw action in the Niagara Peninsula campaigns of 1813 and1814, and did garrison duty in Kingston and Montreal. All the while he kept adaily journal of his experiences and impressions. But Merry Hearts Make Light Days is more than just another account of the"young subaltern abroad." Le Couteur was an acute observer of life aswell as a natural writer with a relaxed and thorough style. His observationsgive us a balanced picture of both the chaotic horror of the battlefield(especially the Battle of Lundy`s Lane) and the controlled social mores ofgarrison life. And in Donald Graves, a historian with the directorate ofhistory, Department of National Defence, Le Couteur has found an ideal editor.Graves provides the scholarly footnotes that help us understand British armylife at the time, as well as an elegant introduction that brings young LeCouteur to life and renders this piece of military history a reader`s delight. For a different view ofthe bloody Battle of Lundy`s Lane, try More Battlefields of Canada (Dundurn,184 pages, $16.99 paper), by Mary Beacock Fryer, a sequel to her earlier Battlefields of Canada- In addition to Lundy`sLane, Fryer discusses 18 battle sites ranging from the Acadian civil war of the1600s, through the Seven Years` War and the War of 1812, to the North WestRebellion of 1885, as well as excursions beyond Canada`s boundaries to theOregon Territory, South Africa, and Hong Kong. Each site is well illustratedwith maps to help battlefield trekkers and military re-enactment groupsretrace the advances and retreats of warring armies. If More Battlefields proves as popular as its predecessor, Fryer should beencouraged to continue her series with volumes on Canada`s First and SecondWorld War European engagements. Those are the conflicts that inspire the mostpassion and the most controversy among our military historians, televisionproducers, veterans` groups, and courts. Enter Arthur Bishop withhis pre-emptive strike on behalf of valour in Courage on the Battlefield (McGraw-HillRyerson, 341 pages, $35 cloth), the second volume in his "CanadianMilitary Heritage" series. (Couragein the Air appearedin 1992; Courage at Sea will follow.) This isorthodox military history. The author himself is the son of the First World Waraviation ace Billy Bishop; a foreword is provided by General A. J. G. D. deChastelaine, our on-off-on-again chief of the defence staff.,and selections are vetted by a bluechip advisory board. Who exhibits thenecessary "courage" or "gallantry" on the battlefield torate a place on Bishop`s roster of heroes? Some well-known names areincluded among the 167 from the First World War -- George Pearkes,who won a Victoria Cross at Passchendaele and later served as minister ofdefence in the Diefenbaker cabinet; Georges Vanier, who lost a leg at Cherisyand ended his public career as governor general. There is also the very modestCharles Rutherford, the last surviving Canadian VC recipient of the First WorldWar, who, according to his granddaughter, "kept the Victoria Cross in adresser drawer with his socks." And even one token woman in this malepantheon of heroes -- the nursing sister Margaret McCann. Another 205 heroes are included from the Second World Warand seven from the Korean War. Unfortunately, Courage on the Battlefield provides uneventreatment of its warrior heroes. Some merit well-rounded, fullbiographical profiles, while others flash by without any prebattlefield or (ifthey survived) post-battlefield lives. More serious is Bishop`s selectivetreatment of "other" wars. He offers two brave warriors from the Warof 1812 (Brock and Tecumseh),one each from the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny, and four from the SouthAfrican War. But why the War of 1812 and not the Seven Years`War? Why the Indian Mutiny but not the North West Rebellion of 1885? The South African War but not the SpanishCivil War? Did those omitted conflicts not engender courage among warriors? More squeaky-cleanmilitary history comes with Between the Lines: Canadians in the Service of Peace (Macmillan, 160 pages, $39.95 cloth). Text and colourphotographs by John McQuarrie glorify Canadian peacekeepers in Croatia, Kuwait,the Golan Heights, Somalia, and Cyprus during 1992 andearly 1993. McQuarrie shows usgallant Canadian troops patrolling in far-away lands and befriendingpassive civilians. Do nor expect photos of troops meting out physical abuse toSomali citizens, or troops being harassed in Bosnia. Like Bishop`s Courage on the Battlefield, Between theLines presentsthe orthodox view. The book comes complete with a foreword by Admiral JohnAnderson, our recently sacked chief of defence staff; an introduction by Major-GeneralLewis MacKenzie, the hero of Sarajevo; and a dedication to Lester Pearson, thefounding father of peacekeeping. A counterbalance to theorthodoxy of battlefield courage and peacekeeping gallantry is provided byespionage history, one of the fastest-growing sub-categories ofmilitary writing. Here are revealed the legally and morally questionable actionsof those who spied on -- and spied for -- Canada. Herewriters stray far from the official line and do not hesitate to wash dirtylinen in Public. Canada`s Enemies: Spies and Spying in thePeaceable Kingdom (Dundurn, 158 pages, $24.99 cloth), by the Laurentian University historian Graeme S.Mount, offers glimpses of foreign spies and our own "spy-catchers"operating on Canadian soil from the time of the SpanishAmerican War to Frenchefforts in support of Quebec independence during the 1960s and 1970s. Thegeneral impression is the incompetence of most spies and the indifference ofofficials - Canada was just not important enough in the internationalscheme of things. Curiously, the author omits Confederate agents operatingalong the CanadianAmerican border during the American Civil War, Fenian agitatorsimmediately after that war, and, most important of all, the Igor Gouzenko case.Attention to these might have helped the reader treat the history of spyingmore seriously. Espionage becomesserious business in John Bryden`s Best Kept Secret: Canadian Secret Intelligencein the Second World War (Lester, 400 pages, $28.95 cloth). Although the generaloutlines of Bryden`s story began appearing in print in the early 1980s, he hassince gained access to several thousand more recently declassified documentsfrom the Communications Security Establishment in Ottawa (Canada`s present-daycode-breaking operation). Many documents, of course, had been severelyedited and were incomplete. To piece them together, Bryden used techniquessimilar to those of the most skilful Second World War code-breakers. Although Canada beganthe war with virtually no intelligence-gathering capability, Ottawa soonbuilt a crack team of cryptographers who helped the Allied effort by breakingVichy French and Japanese codes. Indeed, by August 1941, Canada wasintercepting and decoding the private diplomatic correspondence of a friendly power -- Colombia. Along theway, Bryden introduces a gallery of heroes and villains: Herbert Yardley, thefirst head of Ottawa`s code-breaking "Examination Unit"; LesterPearson, who broke the news to Yardley that the Americans wanted him fired;Herbert Norman, at the helm of Canadian intelligence and thought to be a Sovietmote; and finally Sir William Stephenson, "The Man Called Intrepid,"whom the author dismisses as "from first to last, a liar." This is not the firsttime Bryden has turned his investigative skills to Iess-than-valorousaspects of our warring past. His earlier book, Deadly Allies:Canada`s Secret War 1937-1947, probedthe Allied development of chemical and biological weapons during the SecondWorld War. As a journalist and freelance historian, Bryden has built areputation for ferreting out embarrassing secrets from the federal bureaucracy.On October 25, 1993, he was elected Liberal member of parliament for HamiltonWest (Ontario). May he continue to be a thorn in the side of the bureaucracy.

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