by Ian Bruce Robertson
While Bullets Fly by Ian Bruce Robertson. Victoria: Trafford Publishing, 2008. ISBN 1-4251-3512-9. Paperback, 343 pages. $23.
Numerous books have been written on the exploits of the First Canadian Infantry Division and its supporting units during their march through Sicily and up the east coast of Italy. Mr Robertson’s book adds to this history by focusing on the medical units assigned to the British Eighth Army, and in particular the First Canadian Infantry Division.
Mr Robertson’s introduction to each chapter provides a brief overview of the Italian campaign. The majority of Mr Robertson’s book, though, is a fairly detailed description of the various Canadian medical units’ movements during this battle. Unfortunately, this logistical account will appeal only to a limited number of people. I was disappointed that I was not provided a better appreciation for members of the Canadian Medical Corps, including the author’s father, Dr Rocke Robertson.
The author devotes minimal time describing the actual surgical treatments of various traumatic injuries. I was hoping that he would have detailed various innovations that had developed in the treatment of battlefield injuries. Mr Robertson did relate how the understanding and treatment for “shell shock” had changed such that Canadian soldiers did receive much more appropriate care. The introduction of penicillin and its use by wartime physicians was informative. My father was a Seaforth Highlander and a veteran of the Italian campaign. That was my major motivation for finishing this book. If Mr Robertson’s book was focused less on logistics and more on the medical providers and the medicine they practised during this tumultuous time, this book would have been much more interesting.
—Ted Bain, MD
San Antonio, Texas
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