Zombie Army
344 pages, 6 x 9
22 b&w photographs, 10 tables, 3 maps
Release Date:15 Jan 2017
Release Date:16 May 2016
Release Date:16 May 2016
Release Date:21 Jul 2016

Zombie Army

The Canadian Army and Conscription in the Second World War

UBC Press

Zombie Army tells the story of Canada’s Second World War military conscripts – reluctant soldiers pejoratively referred to as “zombies” for their perceived similarity to the mindless movie monsters of the 1930s. As Byers argues, although conscripts were only liable for home defence, they also soon came to be a steady source of recruits for active duty overseas.

While Canadian generals were criticized for championing an overseas army too large to maintain through voluntary enlistment – inevitably leading to calls to send conscripts to Europe and a political crisis that almost tore apart the federal government – until now there has been little satisfactory explanation for why military leaders pushed for (and politicians accepted) such a sizeable overseas force.

In the first full-length book on the subject in almost forty years, Byers combines underused and newly discovered records to argue that although conscripts were only liable for home defence, they soon became a steady source of recruits from which the army found volunteers to serve overseas. He also challenges the traditional nationalist-dominated impression that Quebec participated only grudgingly in the war.

Zombie Army will appeal to scholars and students of military history, Canadian social history, and political history, as well as anyone seeking a more nuanced understanding of how Canadians responded to the Second World War.

Zombie Army tells the whole arresting story with an even hand and smart commentary. The work is as compelling as the subject. Holly Doan, Blacklock's Reporter, February 2017
Under Canada’s National Resources Mobilization Act of 1940, thousands of men were forced to serve their country. Byers ably brings to life the story of these conscripts – who they were, where they came from, and what happened to those who served and those who refused to do so. J.L. Granatstein, author of The Weight of Command: Voices of Canada’s Second World War Generals and Those Who Knew Them
Zombie Army is a masterful account of compulsory military service during the Second World War. Byers skilfully links voluntarism with compulsion, home front to battle front, and political strategy to war fighting. Serge Durflinger, author of Fighting from Home: The Second World War in Verdun, Quebec
Daniel Byers is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Laurentian University. He has published in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association, Canadian Military History, the Canadian Army Journal, the Bulletin d’histoire politique, and Ontario History.


Part 1: The Historical Legacy

1 Conscription and Canadian History, 1627–1939

Part 2: The National Resources Mobilization Act and the Rise of the Big Army

2 Mobilizing Canada: The Creation of the Thirty-Day Training System, 1939–40

3 Enshrining the NRMA: Compulsory Military Service, 1940–41

4 Creating the “Big Army”: Conscription and Army Expansion, 1941–43

Part 3: Canadian Conscripts and Their Experiences During the War

5 Canada’s Zombies, Part 1: A Statistical Portrait

6 Canada’s Zombies, Part 2: Life in Uniform

Part 4: The Fall of the Big Army

7 “No stone … unturned”: The Failure of Conscription and the Big Army, 1943–44

8 Revolt or Realization? The NRMA and the Conscription Crisis of 1944

Part 5: The Aftermath

Epilogue: Conscription and Canadians in the Second World War

Appendix I: The National Resources Mobilization Act, 1940

Archival Sources Consulted; Notes; Index


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