Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Simonds, Guy Granville (1903–1974)

Canadian army general, arguably the best Canadian general of the war. Born on 23 April 1903 at Bury Saint Edmunds, England, Guy Simonds graduated from the Royal Military College, Kingston, in 1925 and then served with the artillery in the small interwar Canadian army, where he quickly emerged as a rising star. A brilliant performance at Camberley Staff College in 1936–1937 seemed to confirm this promise. During World War II, Simonds rose from major to brigadier general in September 1942 and to major general in April 1943.

Unlike most of his Canadian peers, Simonds was naturally aggressive with an intuitive grasp of mobile, armored warfare. Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery considered him a protégé and far superior to the plodding General Henry Crerar. Simonds cut his teeth in Italy, commanding the 1st Canadian Division in Sicily with great success and then briefly the 5th Armoured Division in Italy. All this was grooming for Normandy, where he led II Canadian Corps.

Simonds's battle plans in the assaults around Caen and particularly in the bloody, attritional fighting to close the Falaise gap from the north in August 1944 (Operations totalize and tractable) were operational masterpieces, but so complex that they often overmatched the abilities of his inexperienced army. Simonds's performance at Falaise remains controversial. Although he sacked subordinates with abandon and relentlessly pressed his exhausted soldiers forward, many historians since have criticized him for showing insufficient "resolution." In fact, the task given to Simonds's army was beyond its capacity—at least in the time allotted—not least because most units were well understrength.

The greatest achievement of Simonds and First Canadian Army (he assumed command from an ailing Crerar in September 1944) was undoubtedly the clearance of the Scheldt estuary in the fall of 1944, which opened Antwerp to shipping and resolved the supply problem that had threatened to strangle Allied mobility. Fighting under the most appalling conditions and despite Montgomery's inexplicable refusal to allocate sufficient troops, at least until General Dwight D. Eisenhower finally intervened, the Canadians prevailed. Simonds displayed more innovation and flexibility, and both commander and men proved they had absorbed the summer's hard lessons.

Simonds's career went into eclipse after the war. He lost out to the more politically astute Lieutenant General Charles Foulkes in running the postwar army and left little mark, save as a critic of Canada's drift into the American military orbit. Simonds died on 15 May 1974 at Toronto, Ontario.

Patrick H. Brennan


Further Reading
English, J. A. Failure in High Command: The Canadian Army and the Normandy Campaign. Ottawa: Golden Dog Press, 1995.; Graham, Dominic. The Price of Command: A Biography of General Guy Simonds. Toronto, Canada: Stoddart, 1993.; Granatstein, J. L. The Generals: The Canadian Army's Senior Commanders in the Second World War. Toronto, Canada: Stoddart, 1993.; Jarymowycz, R. "General Guy Simonds: The Commander as Tragic Hero." In B. Horn and S. Harris, eds., Warrior Chiefs: Perspectives on Senior Canadian Military Leaders, 107–142. Toronto, Canada: Dundurn Press, 2001.
 

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