Canadian Official History

Source: A.M.J. Hyatt, “Official History in Canada” (written 1967), Official Histories: Essays and Bibliographies from around the World (Kansas State University Library, 1970). W.A.B. Douglas, “Canadian Official History Since 1967”,  Official Military Historical Offices and Sources, Volume II: The Western Hemisphere and the Pacific Rim (Greenwood Press, Connecticut, 2000).
This web page contains both a bibliography and an essay below.

Bookmarks Beaverbrook / Cruikshank / Duguid and the historical section / Plans for a First World War history / “Medical Services ” (WWI) / “Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919” / Stacey’s appointment / Naval history / “Far Distant Ships” / Air service / “The Canadian Army 1939-45 / “Medical Services” (WWII) / “Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War”  / Nicholson’s “Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 / Wise and “Canadian Airmen”


Canada, Air Historical Section. R.C.A.F. Logbook: A Chronological Outline of the Origin, Growth and Achievement of the Royal Canadian Air Force. 1949.

Canada, Armée, Section historique. L’Ainee canadienne en Corée: les opérations des nations Unies (1950-1953) et leurs répercussions, court recit officielle. Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine, 1956.

Canada, Army, Historical Section. Canada’s Army in Korea: the United Nations Operations, 1950-53, and Their Aftermath, a short official account. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1956.

Canada, Army, Historical Section. The Western Front, 1911. Ottawa, Army Headquarters, 1957.

Canada, Army, Historical Section. A History of the Organization, Development and Services of the Military and Naval Forces of Canada from the Peace of Paris in 1763 to the Present Time, with illustrative documents. 3 vols. Ottawa, King’s Printer, [n.d. ca. 1920?].

Canada, Dept. de la Defénce nationale. Les Canadiens dans la bataille de Normandie: La participation de L’Armée canadienne aux opérations du 6 juin à ler septembre 1944 (L’Armée canadienne a la guerre). Ottawa, Imprimeur du Roi, 1946.

Canada, Dept. de la Defénce nationale. Les Canadians en Grande-Bretagne, 1939-1944 (L’Armée canadienne a la guerre). Ottawa, Imprimeur du Roi, 1946.

Canada, Dept. de la Defénce nationale. De Pachino à Ortona: la camagne des Canadiens en Sicile et en Italie (L’Armée canadienne a la guerre). Ottawa, Imprimeur de Roi, 1946.

Canada, Dept. of National Defence. The Canadian Army at War: Canada’s Battle in Normandy: The Canadian Army’s Share in the Operations, 6 June-1 September 1944. Ottawa, King’s Printer, 1946.

Canada, Dept. of National Defence. The Canadian Army at War: The Canadians in Britain, 1939-1944. Ottawa, King’s Printer, [n.d.].

Canada, Dept. of National Defence. The Canadian Army at war: From Pachino to Ortona: The Canadian Campaign in Sicily and Italy, 1943. Ottawa, King’s Printer, [n.d.].

Canada, Dept. of National Defence. The Regiments and Corps of the Canadian Army, prepared by the Army Historical Section. (Vol. 1 of the Canadian Army List). Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1964.

Canada, Navy, Historical Section. The University Naval Training Divisions. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1963.

Chartrand, Rene. Canadian Military Heritage, vol. 1: 1000-1754. 1993 (This is volume one from a projected three-volume work).

Cooke, Owen A. The Canadian Military Experience, 1867-1967: A Bibliography. 1979.

Douglas, W.A.B. The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, vol. 2: The Creation of a National Air Force. 1986.

Duguid, A. F. The Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919: The Record of Five Years of Active Service. Ottawa, King’s Printer, 1947.

Duguid, A. F. Depuis le début des hostilités jusqu’ à la formation du Corps expéditionnaire canadien, août 1914 à septembre 1915 (Histoire officielle de L’Armée canadienne dans la grande Guerre, 1914-1919, histoire, générale, vol. 1). Ottawa, Imprimeur du Roi, 1947. (Un tome de chronologie, appendices et cartes, existe, mais aucun autre volume de cette série n’a paru.)

Duguid, A. F. Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919, vol. 1: From the Outbreak of War to the Formation of the Canadian Corps, August 1914-September 1915. Ottawa, King’s Printer, 1947. (There is a companion volume of chronology, appendices and maps. No subsequent volume was published.)

Feasby, W. R. (ed.). Official History of the Canadian Medical Services, 1939-1945, vol. 1: Clinical Subjects. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1956.

Official History of the Canadian Medical Services, 1939-1945, vol. 2: Organization and Campaigns. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1956.

Gagnon, Jean Pierre. Le 22e Battalion (Canadien-Francais), 1914-1919: étude socio-militaire. 1986.

Goodspeed, D. J. (ed.). The Armed Forces of Canada, 1867-1967: A Century of Achievement. Ottawa, Canadian Forces Headquarters, 1967.

Goodspeed, D. J. (ed.). The British Campaigns in the Peninsula, 1808-1814. Ottawa, Army Headquarters, 1958.

Goodspeed, D. J. (ed.). Les forces armées du Canada, 1867-1967: un siècle de grandes réalisations. Quartier général des Forces canadiennes, 1967.

Goodspeed, D. J. History of the Defence Research Board of Canada. 1958.

Granatstein, J. L., and Robert Bothwell. Pirouette: Pierre Trudeau and Canadian Foreign Policy. 1990.

Greenhous, Brereton et al. Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, vol. 3: The Crucible of War, 1939-1945. 1994.

Hatch, Fred J. The Aerodrome of Democracy: Canada and the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945. Monograph Series No. 1. 1983.

Historical Section. Royal Canadian Air Force. The R.C.A.F. Overseas: The Fifth Year. 1945.

The R.C.A.F. Overseas: The First Four Years. 1944.

The R.C.A.F. Overseas: The Sixth Year. 1949.

Hitsman, J. M. Military Inspection Services in Canada, 1865-1950, with an appendix by W. M. Thomson, Controller General Inspection Services. Ottawa, Dept. of National Defence, 1962.

Hunter, T. M. Marshal Foch: A Study in Leadership. Ottawa, Army Headquarters, [1961].

Hunter, T. M. Napoleon in Victory and Defeat. Ottawa, Army Headquarters, [1964].

Kealy, J. D. F., et E. C. Russell. Histoire de l’aéronavale canadienne. Ottawa, Section historique de la Marine, 1965.

Kealy, J. D. F. A History of Canadian Naval Aviation. Ottawa, Naval Historical Section, 1965.

Kennedy, John de Navarre. History of the Department of Munitions and Supply: Canada and the Second World War, vol. 1: Production Branches and Crown Companies. 1950.

History of the Department of Munitions and Supply: Canada and the Second World War, vol. 2: Controls, Service and Finance Branches and Units Associated with the Department. 1950.

Kerry, Armine John, and W. A. McDill. The History of the Corps of Royal  Canadian Engineers, vol. 1: 1749-1939. 1962.

The History of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers, vol. 2: 1939-1946. 1966.

Letellier, Armand. DND Language Reform: Staffing the Bilingualism Programs, 1967-1977. Socio-Military Series No. 3. 1987.

Macphail, A. Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War, 1914-1919: The Medical Services. Ottawa, King’s Printer, 1925.

Melnyk, Terry W. Canadian Flying Operations in South-East Asia, 1941-1945. Occasional Paper No. 1. 1976.

Milner, Marc. North Atlantic Run: The Royal Canadian Navy and the Battle for the Convoy. 1985.

Nicholson, G. W. L. Official History of the Canadian Army in the First World War: Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1962.

Nicholson, G. W. L. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, vol. 2: The Canadians in Italy, 1943-45. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1956. [Note: volumes one and three are Stacey

Nicholson, G. W. L. Les Canadiens en Italie, 1943-1945 (Histoire officielle de la participation de l’Armée canadienne à la seconde Guerre mondiale, vol. 2). Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine, 1960.

Nicholson, G. W. L. Le corps expéditionnaire canadien, 1914-1919 (Histoire de la participation de l’Armée canadienne à la premiére Guerre mondiale). Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine, 1963.

Nicholson, G. W. L. Marlborough and the War of the Spanish Succession. Ottawa, Army Headquarters, 1957.

Pariseau, Jean, and Serge Bernier. French Canadians and Bilingualism in the Canadian Armed Forces, vol. 1: 1763-1969, The Fear of a Parallel Army. Socio-Military Series No. 2. 1988.

Schull, J. The Far Distant Ships: An Official Account of Canadian Naval Operations in the Second World War, 2nd rev. ed. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1952.

Schull, J. Lointains navires: aompte rendu officiel des opérations de la Marine Canadienne au oours de la seconde Guerre mondiale. Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine 1953.

Snell, A. E. The C.A.M.C. with the Canadian Corps during the Last Hundred days of the Great War. Ottawa, King’s Printer, 1924.

Stacey, C. P. L’Armée canadienne 1939-1945: résumé historique officiel. Ottawa, Imprimeur du Roi, 1949.

Stacey, C. P. La campagne de la victoire: Les opérations dans le nord-ouest de l’Europe, 1944-1945 (Histoire officielle de la participation de l’Armée canadienne à la seconde Guerre mondiale, vol. 3). Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine, 1960.

Stacey, C. P. The Canadian Army, 1939-1945: An Official Historical Summary. Ottawa, King’s Printer, 1948.

Stacey, C. P. Introduction à l’étude de l’histoire militaire à l’intention des étudiants canadiens, 4e éd., rév. et aug. Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine, 1955.

Stacey, C. P. Six années de guerre: l’armée au Canada, en Grande Bretagne et dans le Pacifique (Histoire officielle de la participation de l’Armée canadienne à la seconde Guerre mondiale). Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Relne, 1957.

Stacey, C. P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, vol. 1: Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1955.

Stacey, C. P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, vol. 3: The Victory Campaign: The Operations in Northwest Europe, 1944-1945, Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1960.

Stacey, C. P. The War Policies of Canada: Arms, Men and Governments: The War Policies of Canada 1939-1945. 1970.

Thorgrimsson, T., and E. C. Russell. Canadian Naval Operations in Korean Waters, 1950-1955. Ottawa, Naval Historical Section, 1965.

Thorgrimsson, T., and E. C. Russell. Les opérations navales du Canada aux eaux Coréennes, 1950-1955. Ottawa, Section historique de la Marine, 1965.

Tucker, G. N. The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History, vol. 1: Origins and Early Years. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1952.

The Naval Service of Canada: Its Official History, vol. 2: Activities on Shore During the Second World War. Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1952.

Wise, S. F. The Official History of the Royal Canadian Air Force, vol. 1: Canadian Airmen and the First World War. 1980.

Wood, H. F. Singulier champ de bataille: les opérations en Corée et leurs effets sur la politique de defénce du Canada, Ottawa, Imprimeur de la Reine, 1968.

Wood, H. F.Strange Battleground: The Operations in Korea and Their Effects on the Defence Policy of Canada. (Official history of the Canadian Army). Ottawa, Queen’s Printer, 1966.

Semi official History

Beaverbrook, Max Aitken (Baron). Canada in Flanders: The Official Story of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Two vols. 1917 (3rd volume by C.G.D. Roberts).

Cook, F. D. The Canadian Military Engineer: A Brief History of the Canadian Military Engineers, 1610-1973. 1973.

Cruikshank, E. A. The Origin and Official History of the Thirteenth Battalion of Infantry and a Description of the Work of the Early Militia of the Niagara Peninsula in the War of 1812 and the Rebellion of 1837. 1899.

Hewitt, G. E. The Story of the Twenty-Eight (Northwest) Battalion, 1914-1917. 1917.

Relevant Nonofficial History Material

Douglas, W.A.B. “Filling Gaps in the Military Past: Recent Development in Canadian Official History.” Journal of Canadian Studies 19, no.3 (Fall 1984): 112-124.

Duguid, A. Fortescue. Canada on Vimy Ridge. 1964 (Reprinted from The Canadian Year Book, 1936).

Stacey, C. P., editor, Introduction to the Study of Military History for Canadian Students, 5th ed., 2nd rev. Ottawa, Army Headquarters, 1963. [listed by Douglas as 1953—probably 1st edition

Other work by Col. Stacey

Canada and the British Army 1846-1871: A Study in the Practice of Responsible Government (London: Longmans, 1936).

Military Problems of Canada:  A Survey of Defence Policies and Strategic Conditions Past and Present (Toronto:  Ryerson, 1940).

A pamphlet in the “Oxford Pamphlets on World Affairs” series, Canada and the Second World War (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1940).

“The Myth of the Unguarded Frontier, 1815-1871,” The American Historical Review, 56:1-18; October, 1950. This article was rewritten in 1953 for the Canadian Historical Association’s Historical Booklet series, The Undefended Border: The Myth and the Reality (Ottawa: The Canadian Historical Association, 1953).

“The Nature of an Official History,” Canadian Historical Association Report, 1946, 74-83.

“The Historical Programme of the Canadian Army Overseas,” The Canadian Historical Review, 26 (September, 1945), 229-38.

Quebec, 1759: The Siege and the Battle (Toronto: Macmillan, 1959).

Other work by Col. Nicholson

The Fighting Newfoundlander:  A History of The Royal Newfoundland Regiment (London: Government of Newfoundland, 1964).

Other work by Col. Duguid

“Canadians in Battle 1915-1918,” Canadian Historical Association Report, 1935, 36-50.

Brief Review of Operations Canadian Corps, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918 (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, n.d.)

Historical Summary Canadian Expeditionary Force: 1st Infantry Brigade and similar summaries for each of the other nine brigades in the First World War.

A copy of the narrative which he produced in the thirties for the walls of the Memorial Chamber was printed in 1947, The Canadian Forces in The Great War 1914-1919:  The Record of Five Years of Active Service (Ottawa:  King’s Printer, 1947).

Other work by Dr. Tucker

The Canadian Commercial Revolution, 1845-1851 (New Haven, 1936).

“The Organizing of the East Coast Patrols 1914-18,” Canadian Historical Association Annual Report, 1941, pp. 32-40.

“The Career of H.M.C.S. ‘Rainbow’,” British Columbia Historical Review, VII (January 1943), 1-30.

“Canada’s First Submarines, CCI and CC2: An Episode of the Naval War in the Pacific 1914-18,” ibid., VII (July, 1943), 147-70.

“The Royal Canadian Naval Historical Section and its Work,” The Canadian Historical Review, 26 (September, 1945), 239-45.

“Some Aspects of the Battle of the Atlantic,” Canadian Historical Association Annual Report, 1946, 84-91.

“The Naval Policy of Sir Robert Borden, 1912-14,” The Canadian Historical Review, XXVIII (March, 1947), 1-30.

Other work by Air Historical Section personnel

Kenneth B. Conn, “The Royal Canadian Air Force Historical Section,” The Canadian Historical Review, XXVII (September, 1945), 246-54.

Dr. F. H. Hitchins, “The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan—A summary of the R.C.A.F.’s Major Role in the War of 1939-45,” Canada Year Book 1946 (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1946), pp. 1090-99.

“Evolution of the Royal Canadian Air Force,” The Canadian Historical Association Annual Report, 1946, 92-100.

The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan, 1939-1945: An Historical Sketch and Record of the Ceremony at R.C.A.F. Station Trenton (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1949).

Numerous articles in Canadian Air Cadet, The Roundel, and The R.C.A.F. Staff College Journal

Flying Officer W. S. Large, The Diary of a Canadian Fighter Pilot (Toronto: Reginald Saunders, 1944).



Government support for military history in Canada began in 1915. The Canadian Government appointed a correspondent in England to “give the public of Canada an account of the performance of Canadian troops” and that this would be done “by means of daily cables.” The correspondent was an expatriate Canadian, Sir Max Aitken (better known as  Lord Beaverbrook).

In January 1916, Beaverbrook established the Canadian War Records Office in London. As A.M.J. Hyatt wrote:

Files were maintained at the War Records Office on every Canadian unit serving in England or France, including a copy of all War Diaries. But the War Records Office did more than collect records, and Beaverbrook did more than run the War Records Office. Within a short time the office began to issue pamphlets, booklets, and daily journals for Canadian troops, while Beaverbrook simultaneously began compiling a narrative for a contemporary history and collecting an enormous quantity of badges, films, paintings, and war souvenirs which he hoped would give “a more vivid truthful, and lasting impression than can be done even by the written word.” At the end of the war this collection, which included work by some 108 different artists and which now forms an important part of the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, was turned over to the Canadian government together with plans for a building to house the collection. However, the plans remained committed to paper and the collection was divided among various existing government departments.

Beaverbrook’s literary activities were more successful: he personally wrote two volumes of Canada in Flanders: The Official Story of the Canadian Expeditionary Force; and a third was written by Charles G. D. Roberts, who subsequently became a well-known Canadian poet. Any “loss in accuracy” resulting from the contemporary nature of these accounts, Beaverbrook considered, would be compensated for by a “gain in vividness.” Such gain, however, was not sufficient to satisfy Sir Arthur Currie, the Canadian Corps Commander in France, for he bitterly objected to the word “official” in the title on the grounds that the history was inaccurate. Given the contemporary nature of Canada in Flanders, inaccuracy was almost inevitable. On the whole, Beaverbrook’s account was a reasonably good one, and much of Currie’s objection was based on antipathy caused by Beaverbrook’s continual intriguing at army headquarters.

Before the war had ended, and while Beaverbrook was still at work aboard, another appointment was made in Canada itself. In January 1917, Brigadier-General A. E. Cruikshank was assigned to compile “the history of the present war [as it was] undertaken and carried out in Canada.” Hyatt writes:

Before this could be done, Cruikshank believed that it would be necessary to write an account of military development in Canada prior to the outbreak of war in 1914, and he proceeded to do just that. In the meantime, however, he recommended the immediate formation of an Historical Section of the General Staff so that work might proceed on the war history. In November of 1918 Cruikshank became Director of the Historical Section of the General Staff, and the following year his first volume of A History of the Organization, Development and Services of the Military and Naval Forces of Canada From the Peace of Paris in 1763 to the Present Time (With Illustrative Documents), was published. In all, General Cruikshank produced five volumes carrying the story down to 1784, of which three were finally published the manuscript of the remaining two is still held by the Army Historical Section. Each of the volumes consisted of approximately forty pages of text and over two hundred pages of documents, indifferently transcribed from the collections in the Public Archives of Canada.

In May 1921 Cruikshank retired, but just before leaving the service he produced a volume on the First World War which followed the general format of his earlier series twenty-eight pages of text and 234 pages of miscellaneous documents. Both the Chief of the General Staff and General Currie suggested that a much fuller work would be desirable, and thus Canadian War Records: A Narrative of the Formation and Operations of the First Canadian Division, to the End of the Second Battle of Ypres, May 4, 1915, though already printed, was not distributed. Instead, Major A. Fortescue Duguid, D.S.O., an officer in the Royal Canadian Artillery, was given a small temporary staff and instructed to proceed with “the compilation and publication of a complete official historical account of the services of the Military Forces of Canada in the Great War.” Duguid had joined the War Narrative Section of Beaverbrook’s establishment after the war, and had assisted Sir Arthur Currie in the preparation of his report on Canadian operations which appeared in Report of the Ministry for Overseas Military Forces of Canada. At the same time, the historical section was given a number of other duties which included the custody and classification of wartime military documents, provision of information on military subjects for the government, preparation of location ledgers for Canadian units in the field and cooperation with the Imperial War Graves Commission, as well as assistance to civilian historians. The nature and range of these duties were to prove beyond the capacity of the tiny section.

Duguid made a plan for the official history of the Great War which would not come to pass. The initial proposal was for seven volumes on general military operations, and four volumes on specific services engineer, medical, chaplain, and nursing. Hyatt writes:

No one on Duguid’s staff had any special historical training and always other things seemed to impede the production of the history. One hundred and thirty-five tons of records which had been returned to Canada in 1919 had to be unpacked and sorted; claims of units for Battle Honours had to be checked; Duguid himself was engaged in checking Canadian references in the British official history and doing research for the construction of a Memorial Chamber in the Canadian Parliament Buildings.

It’s telling that the first book to appear, The Medical Services (1925), was written outside Duguid’s office (though commissioned by him). The author was Sir Andrew Macphail, Professor of the History of Medicine at McGill University. Unfortunately, Macphail roved beyond his subject to condemn errors, as he saw them, of the larger Canadian war effort. Macphail was particularly critical of the Canadian Minister of Militia, Sir Sam Hughes. Publication caused many angry reactions and plans for the other three service volumes were cancelled.

The first volume in the military operations series appeared in 1938, twenty years after the war had ended. The first volume of the Official History of the Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919 covered just thirteen months (August 1914 to September 1915), from the beginning of war in Europe to the formation of the Canadian Corps. Hyatt writes:

It is easy to be critical of Colonel Duguid, given the time spent on production and the period covered by the book, but it is also easy to forget that he and his tiny staff struggled conscientiously with an enormous task for which they had little training, and to which they could rarely devote their full time. One can quibble, perhaps, over Duguid’s emphasis, but probably many of the contentious points would have been settled by his subsequent volumes. One can complain that insignificant information is crowded into the text, but it is clear that the author was convinced that he was recording the events of a “war to end wars” in which Canadians had played an important part, and, thus, every detail was to him worthy of mention. Given such a detailed narrative, moreover, one cannot but admire the accuracy of Colonel Duguid’s account, and regret that the subsequent volumes of his series were never completed.

The Army in World War II

As in the United States, a new historical staff was appointed for the new conflict (and each of the services would have their own historical sections). The key appointment was  Dr. Charles Perry Stacey: an author, a reserve officer in the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals and a member of the history department of Princeton University.

Stacey took the post of Historical Officer at Canadian headquarters in London. He was joined in October of 1941 by a second historian, Dr. G.F.G. Stanley, who had also been appointed to the historical section. [After the war Lt-Col. Stanley became chairman of the history department of The Royal Military College of Canada, and wrote, Canada’s Soldiers 1604-1954:  The Military History of an Unmilitary People (Toronto: Macmillan, 1954).]

The historical section was eventually arranged so that an historical officer and a war artist was attached to each Canadian Division. A senior historical officer was attached to each corps headquarters. Other personnel served at army headquarters and at Canadian Military Headquarters in London.

During the war, the Historical Section published two reports: The Canadian Army at War: The Canadians in Britain 1939-1944 (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1944) and The Canadian Army at War: From Pachino to Ortona: The Canadian Campaign in Sicily and Italy, 1943 (Ottawa: King’s Printer, n.d.). A third volume was published under Stacey’s name at the end of the war: The Canadian Army at War: Canada’s Battle in Normandy the Canadian Army ‘s Share in the Operations, 6 June-l September 1944 (Ottawa:  King’s Printer, 1946).

At the war’s end, Col. Stacey was appointed Official Historian and Director of the Historical Section. Duguid retained a seperate staff within the section to resume work on volume two of the general history of the First World War.

The Air Force and Navy

In May 1941, Dr. Gilbert Norman Tucker, a Yale University historian, was appointed “to collect material for and to write the official history of the Naval Service.” Hyatt writes:

Dr. Tucker planned a three-volume history, The Service of Canada: volume one, Origins and Early Years, dealing with the History of the Canadian Naval Service down to 1939, and volume two, Activities on Shore During the Second World War, both appeared in 1952. The projected third volume, “devoted to Operations, including operational policy,” was not written. In accord, apparently, with a post-war decision to lower defence expenditure, the Minister of National Defence, the Hon. Brooke Claxton, ordered the reduction of all three of the service historical sections. Consequently, the final planned volume of naval history had to be abandoned, and in its place a “popular account of the Operations,” based upon the researches already completed, was written by Mr. Joseph Schull, a professional journalist. Schull’s book, The Far Distant Ships, while it is a good survey history, does not fill the gap caused by the cancellation of Tucker’s carefully prepared series. However, the decision to cut back official history fell most drastically on the air force plans.

Canadians had flown with great distinction as part of the RAF in the First World War, but no real Canadian air service was established until the beginning of the second. Hyatt writes:

An Air Force Historical Section was established as early as February 1940 under Group Captain Kenneth B. Conn, D.F.C., a First World War pilot. Equally important, it was staffed by first-class personnel. Dr. F. H. Hitchins, a professor of history at New York University with a longstanding interest in air power, was attached to the section and subsequently became its head. Hitchins and his colleagues immediately  began to collect and preserve material for an official history, and during the war a number of pamphlets and booklets were sponsored by the Air Historical Section, or written by its members [These included: Flying Officer W. S. Large, The Diary of a Canadian Fighter Pilot (Toronto: Reginald Saunders, 1944); and Kenneth B. Conn, “The Royal Canadian Air Force Historical Section,” The Canadian Historical Review, XXVII (September, 1945), 246-54.]  It was agreed that the section should concentrate, for the time being, on a “popular” account of the R.C.A.F., which, in the words of the Hon. Mr. C. G. Power, Minister of National Defence for Air, would be “based only on such records as can now be revealed without endangering security.” It was also arranged that this history would be privately printed so that the proceeds of its sale could be turned over to the R.C.A.F. Benevolent Fund. The first volume of The R.C.A.F. Overseas appeared in 1944 and subsequent volumes were published in 1945 and 1949.  (Also in 1949 Wing Commander Hitchins wrote a short, but useful, chronology of the force entitled R.C.A.F. Logbook.) But, as the preface to the third volume of The R.C.A.F. Overseas indicates, the series was “not planned as … a history of the R.C.A.F.” Even Mr. Power recognized this and indicated that “some day when the war has ended … [a history] will be written in complete detail.” But these plans lapsed when, as a result of the post-war cutback, the Air Historical Section was substantially reduced and the planned official history was dropped.

Historical activity (and lack of same) from 1945 to the end of the century

War’s terrible cost should be reason enough for any government to support a full study of its conduct. The post-war experience in Canada, however, is the rule rather than the exception worldwide.

As part of post-war belt tightening, Col. Duguid’s First World War project was terminated, and records were transferred to the Public Archives of Canada. The World War II Air Force history was cancelled and the naval series was abridged. Only the Army’s history survived. Hyatt writes:

Colonel Stacey’s sketch history, The Canadian Army 1939-1945: An Official Historical Summary, was published in 1948, and was given the Governor General’s award for non-fiction. Next to appear, in 1953, was the second volume of the Official History of the Canadian Medical Services 1939-1945 on clinical subjects. Both volumes, the first was published three years after the second, were edited by Dr. W. R. Feasby who was assisted by a temporary sub-section attached to the historical section. Meanwhile work proceeded on the three-volume Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War which was completed in 1960. Colonel Stacey himself wrote the first and third volumes, and the second was authored by Lieutenant-Colonel G. W. L. Nicholson, who had been with the Historical Section since 1943 and who became its deputy director in 1947. All three volumes eschewed political questions [covered by a special volume on policy, Stacey’s Arms, Men and Governments: the War Policies of Canada 1939-1945]. The history was scrupulously accurate and the authors did not hesitate to make penetrating judgments on the conduct of various campaigns. By any standard, Stacey’s series is excellent.

Col. Stacey retired in 1959 as official historian and returned to academic life at the University of Toronto (he would return in 1964). Col. Nicholson served as director until his retirement in 1961, and his book on the Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 was published in the next year. Meanwhile, Nicholson’s Deputy Director, Lieutenant-Colonel H. F. Wood, began a history of the Canadian Forces in Korea where Wood had commanded an infantry battalion.

When Stacey returned in 1964, the Canadian armed forces were unified and so were the service historical sections. Douglas writes:

[Stacey] was reappointed on the same terms which he had negotiated in 1945—access to the chief of the defence staff (CDS) when required and that only the CDS and the minister were to approve of what was produced. Otherwise Stacey’s staff was responsible only to him as Director of History and he had full editorial responsibility. This translated into a statement in the front of each volume to the effect that the author and not the Department of National Defence would stand behind his own statements….

While the new directorate inherited an army history program that was in relatively fine fettle, the naval and air legacies left much to be desired. Nevertheless, the start was made by preparing what was to have been the fourth army volume a study of policy [Arms, Men and Governments. But since the new section was now inter service, the new volume of necessity had to include defence policy as a whole. This meant that much space had to be devoted to the air force, for the RCAF had been the third largest Allied air force in the 1939-1945 war. One advantage enjoyed in the new task was the passage of time, which had dulled sensibilities. Thus, three previously sensitive matters could be tackled the firing of General A.G.L. McNaughton from command of the army in 1943, the Canadianization of the RCAF, and the equipment problems of the navy, the latter of which has still continued to be a subject of some controversy. This policy volume was still essentially Stacey’s final volume in the earlier series [Canadian Army in the Second World War].

At the same time, his highly valued senior historian, D. J. Goodspeed, undertook the editing of the centennial history of the Canadian services for 1967 [the centennial of Confederation, when British North America became Canada].

A three-volume history of the RCAF eventually obtained ministerial approval, thanks to Stacey’s efforts. After a search, Syd. F. Wise was placed in charge of this work. Wise was a fine choice, for he was both a prize-winning historian and himself a veteran pilot from the RCAF. Co author of the widely read text Men in Arms with R.A. Preston, his own specialty in the Confederation period of Canadian history was responsible for respect and contacts with the academic world….

The decision was made to devote a volume of the RCAF history to the Canadian experience in the First World War. Syd Wise took over from Stacey in 1966. Douglas writes:

One reason for this was that the official British history of the war in the air had been largely completed under the eyes of a major participant and by the 1960s very different conceptions of the history of air power had begun to emerge. The decision to make the charge was far-reaching in its consequences, a matter that is fully laid out in the introduction to Canadian Airmen and the First World War (1980). Canadian airmen had largely been ignored in the British official history, owing to an inherent concept of dominions as colonies, still evident in Britain during the Second World War. Wise and Goodspeed felt that the 1914-1918 heritage was one of which Canadians could be proud and, therefore, it should not be allowed to fade into the dim past. The intention of the new RCAF history was, after all, to provide, as one of the prime functions of official history, a new framework for further research into the major branches of Canadian history. Unfortunately, one of the first snags for this enlightened vision was the discovery that much of the essential documentation had not been preserved.

Stacey had made his historians narrators, and their narratives provided the basis from which authors and historians could then branch out. The RCAF historical team had to start with only an incomplete list of Canadians who had served in the British flying services, 1914-1920. To rebuild the records a search had to be made of the Public Record Office documents in London, Canadian repositories, and the personal papers and reminiscences of former airmen. Wise then had to turn Stacey’s approach on its head and, instead of working down from the cabinet and headquarters, to start at the bottom. But as Canadians had held few policy-making positions, Wise had to use his post-1944 training and insights both as a flyer and a scholar to make his unique contribution to the country’s official histories. He stuck with Stacey’s  insistence upon meticulousness, but he added a view of the RCAF and its antecedents as complex human structures amendable to the new types of analyses being used by historians all across the country, together with the ability to explain both rapid change and technological necessities. His search for sources included those in social history which he added to the other methodologies used to provide a wide frame upon which he could stretch his canvas of the preliminary narratives.

His task was aided by the passage of time, which had diminished the pressure to protect reputations, that bugbear of official historical writing. Then, too, he had the advantage of being able to look at all the documentation on air warfare of the First World War and of the writings which had appeared on both sides of the Channel and of the Atlantic. At the same time, the early narratives and, indeed, the shape of the volume had to undergo drastic change when new unknown batches of Canadian documents surfaced. This caused the strategy to change from a chronological to a thematic approach. Making use also of the relatively new computer, all the data on Canadian airmen from the Great War was analysed and codified in the appendices. Investigators had begun on the records in 1967 and finished their task in 1973. From then until 1980 the writing and publishing processes consumed the years. Fortunately, the volume Canadian Airmen and the First World War was well received by both reviewers and that hardy group of survivors from the first great air war, who had finally got their due.

….Work began in the late 1970s on the documentary bases for Volumes II and III of the RCAF history. Since so many Canadians had served abroad in RAF units, it was necessary once again to go to the well at the Public Record Office (PRO) and to copy massive numbers of documents on the Second World War. And as a considerable number of RCAF operations were in connection with the Battle of the Atlantic, to copy copiously also from the admiralty as well as the air ministry records. Moreover, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan had been instrumental in training flyers of many Commonwealth countries in Canada, and to write that story both British political and diplomatic records were needed. Thus, these two RCAF volumes represented new departures for Canadian official historians, who also had to spend a considerable amount of time in the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. The researchers were helped in this large overall task by the notes and publications of Fred Hitchins, whose work, unfortunately, had not covered the First World War. On the contrary, the narratives prepared for the 1940s history of the RCAF proved almost useless owing to their narrowness in conception and undocumented presentation. This meant that before any draft chapters of RCAF II or III could be produced, the fundamental narratives had to be written. This work was begun in 1980, and by 1984 the final draft for Volume II was ready to be edited….

The Francophone version of Canadian Airmen was but a reflection of the pressures in Canadian society for bilingualism and biculturalism. For these the Department of National Defense has found historical publications a useful outlet. Such works helped fill the void in recording the history of the armed forces in terms of Canadian ethnic and cultural realities. In consequence, DHist established a section in 1974 charged with examining major themes in francophone aspects of Canadian military history. The immediate task was a study of the participation of Francophones in the armed forces from Confederation in 1867 to the present. Yet it was difficult to staff this section, as military history in the twentieth century had not been a francophone interest. Nevertheless, a small team was brought together. One of the first fruits was Jean Pierre Gagnon’s Le 22e battalion (canadien-francais) 1914-1919 (1986). It went beyond the computer methodology used in Wise’s first volume to carry out a sophisticated computer analysis of every person who served in that unit. Malheureusement, this is work which can only be done inside the directorate, for only there can researchers have access to the necessary personnel files. Gagnon and his supervisor, Jean Hamelin, were particularly suited to the work because of their training in the tradition of the French Annales. Thus, it was appropriate that the first official history written in French should be such a work. Jean Pariseau also directed a series of francophone studies, culminating in French Canadians and Bilingualism in the Canadian Armed Forces, Volume I (1987) as well as Armand Letellier’s DND Language Reform (1987). Under Serge Bermers supervision a new popular and handsomely produced series, Le patrimoine militaire canadien (Canadian Military Heritage) is under preparation. The first of three volumes by Rene Chartrand appeared in 1994.

W.A.B. Douglas (as Director of History from 1973-1994) oversaw the writing and publishing of the RCAF history. Three volumes history have been published. Unfortunately, a fourth is in limbo as of 2000.

In 1996, the government downsized the Directorate of History (or DHist) from twenty-seven military and civilian positions to ten civilians. This effectively halted many programs including the completion of the RCAF history, a three-volume history of the Royal Canadian Navy, a history of Canadian forces in the Gulf War, and a history of peacekeeping. One hopes the story of official history in Canada isn’t over: Canada has much to teach the world.