Technicians of Battle: Canadian Field Engineering from Pre-Confederation to the Post-Cold War Era


367 pages
Contains Photos, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-919769-00-3
DDC 358'.22'09




Reviewed by J.L. Granatstein

J.L. Granatstein, Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus,
York University, served as Director of the Canadian War Museum from 1998
to 2000. He is the author of Who Killed Canadian History? and co-author
of The Canadian 100: The 100 Most Infl


Bill Rawling is one of the new generation of Canadian military
historians, a skilled researcher and writer with wide interests and
extraordinary range. At almost the same time, he published a heavily
researched history of Canadian military medicine and this volume, a
history of Canadian field engineering from pre-Confederation days to the
present. This volume too is massively researched, making full use of
archival collections around the country and, most especially, at the
Directorate of History and Heritage at National Defence Headquarters, a
valuable archive little known to any but military historians.

Military engineers are those who, as Brigadier-General Dean Smith says
in the foreword, “can pick up tools and use them effectively in a
battlefield setting.” That means building bridges, constructing
fortifications, laying out roads, and digging trenches—and engineers
did just such duties in every Canadian campaign from the Northwest
Rebellion to the Great and Second World Wars and in the smaller wars
that followed over the next six decades. The sappers bridged the Canal
du Nord in the greatest battle of Sir Arthur Currie’s Canadian Corps
and they cleared the mines that blocked the advance through the Gothic
Line in northern Italy in August 1944. This book will be of most use to
military historians, but it can be read with pleasure by all those
interested in technology and the many and various ways in which soldiers
function in adversity.


Rawling, Bill., “Technicians of Battle: Canadian Field Engineering from Pre-Confederation to the Post-Cold War Era,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 30, 2024,