Robert Engen


The famous “ratio of fire” data proposed by S.L.A. Marshall claims that no more than 15-20 percent of soldiers fired their weapons in combat. This article examines whether or not historians can treat Marshall’s ratio of fire data as veracious, and if so what interpretations one can assign to the phenomenon of combat non-participation. The article contends that based upon the Canadian experience it is premature to universalize Marshall’s findings beyond his specific historical subjects, and that studies of human behaviour in war need to look beyond the ratio of fire data as a paradigm for understanding the conduct of soldiers in battle.