“War Without Battles” is the first history of a NATO Cold War formation and uses the Canadian Army’s contribution to NATO’s Central Region in West Germany as a lens from which to view NATO strategy and operational doctrine critical to deterring the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact forces. This history covers the whole period, from the dangerous days of 1951 right up to the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Germany in 1993. Commissioned by 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade, “War Without Borders” benefits from substantial access to NATO material as well as more limited access to Warsaw Pact planning which was seized after the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany re-integrated with West Germany. Nuclear planning aspects predominate in the first half of the book, while the NATO re-armament programme of the 1980s is the focus of the second half. The final chapter was the first discussion of Canadian UNPROFOR operations in Croatia and Bosnia: the first contingent was drawn from 4 CMB. I was extremely fortunate to have the distinguished General Sir John Hackett of Arnhem, Third World War and Third World War: The Untold Story fame write the foreword.
It is a privilege to be invited to write a foreword to this account of Canada’s NATO Brigade, which served for 40 years in Germany from 1951 to 1993. I knew it very well , being there to help it on its arrival and working-up, and seeing a good deal of it thereafter in many different ways until I had it under my command when it was one of the outstanding elements in the Northern Army Group. Its subsequent history was not to end happily, and those in its own country responsible for this bear a heavy burden for depriving Canada of such splendid representation, seen in such high relief abroad.
My own connection with Canada is considerable. My wife and I have often been there; a grandson was born (and baptized) in Borden when his officer father was there on secondment from Britain; a great-nephew of my own name passed through Royal Roads to a commission in the PPCLI. There is quite a sprinkling of close Hackett relatives settled over there. I am not in a position to offer an authoritative estimate of the whole of Pierre Trudeau’s service to his country. What I can pass judgment on is his notable disservice to Canada’s position in the outside world in the treatment of the Canadian brigade in NATO, now so fully documented in Sean Maloney’s book.
The Canadian Infantry Brigade Group was to become, soon after its arrival in Germany, a key element in the emergency defence planning of the Northern Army Group. This book explains most cogently how and why the development of its structure into that of a complete, small, well-balanced division admirably suited to the task assigned to it. As a well equipped, highly trained and admirably led formation, it drew much admiring attention and ensured for Canada a position in NATO planning which had never been attained before and could not be maintained when the brigade was reduced and finally removed from a position at the sharpest end under British Command in NORTHAG to the status of reserve troops at a low level under American command further South.
It has been a saddening experience for a military professional to see something so good so mishandled, and to have to watch while its parent country threw away a prime position in NATO to became of its own volition a little considered also-ran, right down to the final withdrawal of the remnants of this fine formation in 1993.
In some 35 years’ service under arms I spent eight years or so in NATO on the continent of Europe. I was a Q Staff Brigadier in H.Q. BAOR when 2 CIBG came into the British Army of the Rhine, and had much to do with providing accommodation for them in Westphalia. As commander of an armoured brigade and then of an armoured division in the same part of Germany, I saw much of them. As C In C BAOR and Commander Northern Army Group, I had them under my command and saw much more.
This was always a very good brigade group under very different commanders. They were active, inventive, resourceful and full of enterprise. The brigade worked hard and in harmony. It was always a pleasure to be with it. Of all the brigades I have known in my thirty-five years under arms they were more closely knit than almost any other and their equipment in supporting arms and services (particularly in artillery, both nuclear and non-nuclear) endowed them with an unusual breadth of experience. In my own esteem they ranked close to the parachute brigade I raised in the Middle East and was later to see destroyed around me in the Arnhem battle. They were, in their prime, very good indeed. I often reflected how glad I would be to have them with me in battle, perhaps commanded by someone like little Ned Amy. All their commanders were good but I probably got to know Ned best, since he took the brigade group on about the time I came in to command BAOR and the Northern Army Group and we got to know one another well.
The sad decline in the brigade’s fortunes is well and clearly told here.
Reductions in British defence costs in the late fifties inevitably reduced the support given to NATO by the UK. As a small, strong and complete formation between 1964 and 1970, the position of 4 CIBG was pivotal in the forward defence of Germany against the Soviet bloc where it furnished 15% of the British Corps’s fighting strength with 20% of its nuclear firepower. The defence policy of the Trudeau Government almost killed 4 CIBG late in the sixties. The sad tale of decline in so many respects of a unique fighting formation is well and soberly told here, down through the move in 1970 to a miserably poor station and diminished standing in CENTAG up to the final removal from NATO of what still remained of the Canadian Brigade Group in 1993.
No one who knew this splendid formation in its prime can fail to be saddened by its decline and fall. No one who holds Canada in high regard and finds its standing as a world power important can fail to regret Canada’s wanton withdrawal from a responsible position, held in high regard, in the defence of western freedom. The regrets of Canada’s allies at her leaving to top table and opening a gap within the alliance that was hard to fill finds full expression in these pages. They deserve careful reading and reflection. I look back upon my own association with the Canadian Brigade Group in NATO with pride and pleasure. It was a privilege to serve with them and I am grateful for this opportunity to say so.
– General Sir John Hackett, GCB, CBE, DSO and Bar MC