In the summer of 1943, Canadian Minister of National Defence J.L. Ralston and Chief of Staff Lieutenant-General Ken Stuart pressured the reluctant British Chiefs of Staff to send 1st Canadian Corps to the Italian Campaign. This decision was not popular with all of Canada’s top brass. Army Commander General Andrew McNaughton argued that fighting in Italy was not in Canada’s best interest. He urged Ralston to visit Washington and insist on taking part in strategy sessions of the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Then the Canadians could decide their best course of action with an eye on strategy. Ralston replied that he could not do so. Canada was fighting as a junior partner in a coalition war, and had adopted a position of “contribution without representation.”
This dissertation assesses the implications of the Canadian government’s disconnection from Allied strategy-making for 1st Canadian Corps in the Italian Campaign. It also examines whether Canada’s national interest— which, second to the defeat of Nazi Germany, was defined as waging a recognisable, independent war effort without imposing conscription—was advanced when fighting within the coalition of nations in Italy from 1943-1945, as manifested in the Anglo-Canadian relationship. It argues that the Canadians made decisions about 1st Canadian Corps and the Italian Campaign without ever having a clear picture of Anglo-American strategic objectives for the theatre, caused by serious problems of Allied communication for which both the British and Canadians were complicit. This led to tension and resentment in the Anglo-Canadian alliance, which had knock-on effects on the operational level. The Canadians eventually realised that their interests could only be protected by considering strategy, but it came too late for the situation to be meaningfully remedied.