History Idol: Sir Arthur Currie

The Americans have their MacArthur and Patton, the British, their “Monty.” Canadians, whether they know it or not, have Sir Arthur Currie.

Posted January 17, 2011

Dr. Tim Cook’s bestselling new book, The Madman and the Butcher, details the war of wills between two of Canada’s military titans. Cook is the First World War Curator at the Canadian War Museum, and a member of the Canada’s History Society board of directors. Cook sees Sir Arthur Currie as one of our greatest military leaders — a man who did what was necessary to help win a meat-grinder war, while always seeking ways to protect his troops from outright slaughter.

Listen and watch as Dr. Cook explains why Currie is his History Idol.

About Sir Arthur Currie

The Americans have their MacArthur and Patton, the British, their “Monty.”

But when it comes to glorifying our military leaders, few Canadians would likely recognize the name their most respected general, Sir Arthur Currie. Born in 1875, near Strathroy, Ontario, Currie was a school teacher and militia member who rose quickly through the ranks during the First World War.

He wasn’t an affable, charismatic leader, but he was efficient, intelligent and an expert at getting the most out of his men. Like all men who aspire to powerful positions, he made enemies — the worst being Sam Hughes, the federal minister of milita in the Borden government. When Currie refused to promote Sam Hughes’ son, Garnet, and reward him with a key leadership position in the Canadian army, Sam Hughes vowed his revenge.

From his perch in the House of Commons, the elder Hughes launched a blistering character assassination of Currie, accusing him of butchering his men in needless battles to pad his political and military resume.

Et cetera

The National Film Board has a microsite called Images of a Forgotten War: Films of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in the Great War. Watch Sir Arthur Currie being decorated by General Orth in 1918.

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