Combat Stress in the 20th Century: The Commonwealth Perspective (2010)

I’ve recently borrowed many books from the Toronto Public Library about the First World War.

The fact the war started 100 years ago has prompted my interest in the topic. It follows naturally that I’ve also been borrowing many books from the Toronto library dealing with the Second World War.

Borrowing many books in a short time has prompted me to get a sense of which authors are of most interest to me.

Terry Copp

There are many such authors. One of them is Terry Copp. A web page at Wilfred Laurier University sums up well what his research interests are about (I’ve taken the longer text and have broken it into shorter paragraphs):

“I am actively involved with the Laurier Centre for Military and Strategic Disarmament Studies (LCMSDS) and in its publications program. In addition to editing the journal Canadian Military History, I am editing Operational Research in 21 Army Group and writing a study of the Canadian soldiers’ experience of the battles on Verrieres Ridge July-August 1944.

“My long-term interest in the military effectiveness of the Allied armies in North West Europe, which led to studies of battle exhaustion and brigade level operations, will be developed in a new book on 21 Army Group. This study will incorporate work on tactical air power which has been a subject of interest for a number of years.

“My interest in military psychiatry, including the long term effects of exposure to combat-related stress, will continue leading to the publication of articles and the presentation of papers.”

Combat Stress in the 20th Century (2010)

Combat Stress (2010) is a study by Terry Copp and Mark Osborne Humphries that I am currently reading.

Trench Warfare. Photo taken by an official British photographer during WWI, 1917. Source: History In Pictures ‏@HistoryInPics

The book deals with the history – as a blurb on the back cover notes – “of the ways in which combat stress reaction and its aftermath have been interpreted by soldiers and psychiatrists in the British Empire and Commonwealth.”

Every author brings to the task of writing a particular state of consciousness and intention, and speaks in a particular “voice.”

I feel at ease in reading an author such as Terry Copp. What stands out in his work, as I perceive it, is the thoroughness and range of his research, and the clarity that he brings to the task of analyzing and sharing what he has learned. He also comes across as a thoughtful person, whose insights about the experience of warfare are of tremendous value.

I strongly recommend studies by Terry Copp for any person who seeks to attain a better understanding of the First and Second World Wars, of previous wars, and of the wars now under way.

Updates: Combat stress and related topics

A Sept. 20, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Canadian soldiers may be hiding health problems to protect pensions: More than 6,200 soldiers were discharged due to medical reasons since 2009.”

A Sept. 24, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “PTSD and the ethics of erasing bad memories: Research on possibility of erasing recollections raises ethical questions.”

The article notes:

“Memory, in an evolutionary sense, is about survival, says Dr. Sheena Josselyn, a senior scientist at the Hospital For Sick Children Research Institute in Toronto.

“It is our warning system to prevent us from repeating dangerous actions.

“But traumatic memories, such as those in the brains of people with PTSD, can interfere with daily living. They can cause sleeplessness, or if sleep comes, disturbing dreams. They can bring moments of anxiety and can make normal relationships with others impossible.

“In her lab, Josselyn is working to find a way to delete, or at least dampen, the fear associated with traumatic memory.”

[End of excerpt]

A Sept. 16, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Paramedic Joanne Trofanenko couldn’t save colleagues, has PTSD claim denied: Trofanenko says emergency responders are treated like ‘disposable heroes'”.

An October 2014 Harper’s article, which I read in the print version of the magazine, is entitled: “You Are Not Alone Across Time: Using Sophocles to treat PTSD.”

Tim Cook

A number of historians are described, depending on who the describer happens to be, as the leading Canadian war historian.

Who is characterized as the “Canada’s leading war historian” is up to people, possessed of greater knowledge and wisdom than I possess, to decide.

With regard to that topic, by way of a further update, a Sept. 3, 2014 news release from Carleton University is entitled: “Carleton’s Tim Cook to Launch Volume One of The Necessary War.”

A Sept. 12, 2014 Toronto Star article is entitled: “WWII book was author’s coping strategy during cancer treatment: In The Necessary War, Tim Cook seeks to go beyond mythmaking and chronicle the grit, the doubt and the occasional failed nerve of mortal men.”

A Sept. 23, 2014 Globe and Mail article is entitled: “Going the distance to chronicle Canada’s necessary war.”


The latter article notes that Canadian histories have a limited market. From my perspective, that is part of the beauty of Canadian histories.

Additional updates

A July 17, 2014 CityTV Toronto article is entitled: “The Inside Story: Family blames Toronto police for officer’s suicide.”

An Oct. 7, 2014 CBC article is entitled: “Ron Francis’s lawyer makes plea for PTSD help after Mountie’s suicide.”

An Oct. 7, 2014 Metro Toronto article is entitled: “Don’t hide traumatic stress risk of jobs, report says.”

An Oct. 6, 2014 Foreign Policy article is entitled: “Suicide Mission: Ty Carter fought in Afghanistan and became a hero. Now he has one more enemy to fight: PTSD.”

A Feb. 20, 2015 New York Times article is entitled: “‘The Evil Hours,’ by David J. Morris.”

The opening paragraph reads:

“The field of psychiatric studies exploded during World War II because of an influx of traumatized soldiers. War is a kind of grand opening for studies of the mind. Historically, interest in trauma studies rises sharply during wartime, then wanes in its aftermath. But this time, even as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan recede from public attention, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder have continued to increase. PTSD is currently the fourth-most-common psychiatric disorder in America.”

[End of Excerpt]

Also of interest: Extremely Violent Societies: Mass Violence in the Twentieth Century (2010).

A Feb. 7, 2016 CBC article is entitled: “Trauma prompts the brain to focus on survival, not ‘peripheral details’: Traumatic or deeply emotional experiences are encoded by a special neural pathway, psychologists explain.”

A June 30, 2016 CBC article is entitled:  “Newfoundland at Armageddon.”


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