About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

21 Days in Normandy by Angelo Caravaggio

(24. – 954.) 21 Days in Normandy by Angelo Caravaggio – Over the past 15 years I have been reading about the Canadian army in Normandy. In particular, I have read several accounts about the Canadian Army’s efforts to close the Falaise Gap in August of 1944. It was the moment during the war when the Canadian army had the opportunity to change the war. Closing the gap quickly would have meant the capture and destruction of the German army in Normandy. It was rare that the Canadian army had a chance to play such a significant role.

Canada did close the gap but it took longer than most historians felt needed which allowed tens of thousands of German soldiers to escape.

In the battles to close the gap the tip of the Canadian army was the 4th Canadian Armoured Division (4 Cdn Arm Div). Their leader, Major General George Kitching, was relieved of his command as the battle ended. Caravaggio argues he should not have been removed.

In 21 Days in Normandy there is a detailed exploration of the structure and makeup of the Canadian army. That section is slow going and could have been significantly reduced with much of the information consigned to footnotes or appendices for those readers wanting such detail. (There were already detailed and extensive footnotes and appendices.)

It was useful to have background information especially about the woeful state of the Canadian army in 1939. Canada was ill-prepared for armoured warfare. When WW II commenced Canada had a mere “sixteen outdated British Light Mk VI tanks and twelve Carden-Lloyd carriers”.

Unlike most books on battles there is extensive discussion on how army bureaucracy can help or hinder the troops fighting the battles.

The Canadian army of WW II had an enormous number of reports and orders flowing up and down from division HQ. With regard to the functioning of the division in Normandy:

Breakdowns in situational awareness, common intent and battle procedure would plague the 4 CDN Armd Div in its first major battle.

Kitching trained and served in the British Army before coming to Canada in 1938. He joined the Canadian Army in 1939 as a 2nd lieutenant. By February of 1944 he was a Major General in commanding the 4th Canadian Armoured Division. It was a series of promotions not uncommon in the rapidly expanding Canadian army of WW II. It was not considered necessary that the commander of an armoured division have experience in an armoured division. Kitching was an infantry officer.

Simonds worked well with Kitching in Sicily and Italy and wanted Kitchings to be with him in northern Europe. Each highly respected the other.

It was a surprise that the division had no actual division scale exercises prior to being deployed to France.

They arrived in France well after the invasion on June 6.

They prepared for battle and moved into position in early August to lead the attack to close the gap.

(My next post will contain the rest of my review.)


  1. This sounds like a thorough discussion, Bill. And it's good to hear that, besides the story of the actual battles, etc., there's also discussion of the forces at work behind them, and the bureaucracy that managed it all. I'll be looking forward to the rest of your review.

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. It is an interesting book. I hope you will add some thoughts when I put up the rest of my review.