Chapter 3: The Expansion of the Army, 1939–1943
THE preceding chapters dealt at some length with planning and preparation in Canada before 1939, and with the action taken immediately following the outbreak of war. The first weeks of hostilities have a special interest for both the general reader and the military planner. It seems unnecessary, however, to deal with subsequent happenings in such detail. Accordingly, we shall try to present an authentic outline, rather than a complete account, of the long and jerky process by which the two divisions mobilized in September 1939 evolved into an overseas Army of two corps.
The present chapter deals primarily with policy as it developed in Canada. The problems encountered by the Canadian Army in Britain are described later in this volume.
The Completion of the 2nd Division
The mobilization of the units of the 1st and 2nd Divisions has already been described, and we have noted that at an early date the decision was taken to send the 1st Division overseas and to keep the 2nd, for the present, under arms in Canada.
Having been brought up to strength, and provided with equipment to the limited extent which Canadian resources then permitted, the 1st Division duly moved to the United Kingdom, sailing from Halifax in two “flights” on 10 and 22 December 1939.* The third flight, comprising, for the most part, the ancillary units which had been the subject of special negotiations with the British Government, sailed on 30 January 1940.
The units of the 2nd Division in Canada had plenty of troubles during this winter of 1939–40. As we have seen, all recruiting for them had been suspended in October, when some were still short a good many men. No concentration of the Division had been possible, and practically all the regiments remained in the home areas where they had been mobilized. The
* On the First Flight, see below, page 189.
accommodation situation was such that it was necessary for many, for a considerable time, to place their men “on subsistence”, i.e., to pay them a cash allowance to enable them to provide themselves with lodging and meals. This, as already noted, was inevitably detrimental to the progress of discipline and training. At the same time, the shortage (and indeed, in many items, the total deficiency) of modem equipment made realistic training extremely difficult. Add to this the effect of the Canadian winter climate, and the fact that neither divisional nor brigade headquarters had yet been organized, and it is not surprising that the state of the 2nd Division units during these “phony war” days was not ideal.1
This was a period of inactivity in Europe. Poland had been quickly overrun in September 1939. On the Western Front, there had been no action of any importance; the combatants lay in their elaborate fortifications, watching each other and awaiting events. In France, on the Belgian border, a small British Expeditionary Force commanded by General Lord Gort had taken its place beside the French and was gradually being built up. No bombs had yet fallen on the United Kingdom. As one looks back upon this winter little sense of urgency seems apparent in France, Britain or Canada.
Nevertheless, those in positions to know viewed the immediate future with deep anxiety. On 7 November Brigadier Crerar cabled the Chief of the General Staff from London pointing out the superiority of the German forces in the West on the ground and in the air, and reporting apprehension at the War Office as to the result of major attacks there next spring. “If the Allied forces, by reason of these circumstances”, he wrote, “are defeated before next summer, it matters little as to long-term Allied plans for military superiority a year or more from now”. Among these long-term schemes, the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan had an important place; but Crerar noted, “It is very necessary to remember that more immediate and most important object is to secure our military position during period required to build up all forces to decisive superiority”. His cable ended, “At War Office conferences question of despatch of second Canadian division has been raised several times”.2
The first indication of the 2nd Division’s future employment was given in the Canadian House of Commons on 25 January 1940, during the one-day session in which the dissolution of Parliament was announced. The Prime Minister then stated that a second division would be sent overseas “as soon as may be possible”. The evidence indicates that this announcement was made primarily with a view to preventing any question of the further dispatch of troops from becoming a political issue during the election campaign then pending. No decisions had been taken on a long-term programme for the Canadian Army Overseas; and accordingly no elucidation of the announcement was sent to the Canadian authorities in England.
For them, however, it raised important questions. If a second division was to arrive at an early date, the formation of a Canadian Corps was a natural and probable development. In the absence of further information, General McNaughton proceeded to explore the possible implications of this in a conference with the War Office on 9 February. It had been understood that the 1st Canadian Division would in due course be incorporated in the 4th British Corps, which was to go to France in the summer.3 Now, however, it was suggested that to do this would merely be to dislocate that corps when the Canadian Corps was formed; and it was agreed that instead it would be proper, in the meantime, to employ the 1st Division and the Canadian ancillary troops together as a self-contained formation directly under General Headquarters, BEF General McNaughton reported the results of the discussion to Ottawa, mentioning that some 8000 additional ancillary troops would be necessary to complete a two-division Corps.4
The War Committee of the Canadian Cabinet discussed the matter on 12 February. As a result a telegram was sent to Canada House emphasizing that the Government had not authorized the formation of a Canadian Corps and that discussions with the War Office should proceed only on the basis of offers and commitments already expressly made. Mr. Massey and General McNaughton were told that, barring some unforeseen emergency, conversations concerning “any additional undertaking to War Office” should await the election of a new Parliament, when the Canadian Government would be in a position to have direct discussions with the British Government on a long-range programme of cooperation in all phases of the war effort.5
The Government’s concern over the apparent tendency of its generals to anticipate events was based, in part at least, on financial considerations. On 22 February a further telegram to Canada House, sent following a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on War Finance and Supply, called attention to the extent of Canadian war expenditures. These already amounted to $375 million; while estimates of war expenses for the fiscal year ending 31 March 1941 totalled some $500 million, and the undertaking to send the 2nd Canadian Division to England, and certain other measures, meant further increases, to roughly $560 million. The telegram remarked, “Obviously it would be nothing but a disservice to the task we have in mind and to our Allies for us to attempt to undertake something beyond our capacity”.6 Soon afterwards McNaughton was told that the Government did not concur in his recommendation that the 1st Division and ancillary units should constitute a self-contained formation directly under GHQ, but considered it advisable to “adhere to original proposal under which First Canadian Division would be employed on arrival at front as part of a British Corps”.7
The Canadian officers and officials in England urged that this decision be reconsidered, Mr. Massey fully supporting General McNaughton in his argument that many difficulties of jurisdiction and organization would be obviated by accepting the tentative arrangement which had been made with the War Office.8 The election campaign made it difficult for Ministers to give proper attention to the matter. On 26 March, however, the general election took place and the Government was sustained. Thereafter, with its position secure and its members again assembled in Ottawa, it was able to give more adequate consideration to military policy. On 5 April, following discussion by both the War Committee and the full Cabinet, Massey was notified that McNaughton’s proposal for organizing the Canadian forces in England as a GHQ reserve had been accepted, “provided a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached with United Kingdom with respect to financial implications of this proposed arrangement”.9
In the meantime, recruiting for the 2nd Division had been resumed. On 18 February, orders had gone out permitting the resumption of enlistments for tradesmen and specialists; and on 18 March general recruiting for the Division’s units was authorized.10 Its total strength rose from 13,829 all ranks on 2 March to 17,635 all ranks on 22 June.11 During the interim, it may be noted, the war establishment of an infantry (rifle) battalion had been increased by 133 men.
Divisional and brigade headquarters had not yet been organized, but this was now done. The command of the Division was given to Colonel (Honorary Brigadier General) V. W. Odium, who though not a soldier by profession had fought in the South African War and commanded an infantry brigade in the First World War. In 1939 he was Honorary Colonel of the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment). He was promoted Major General and (following the precedent set in the case of General McNaughton) appointed Inspector General of the units of the 2nd Division with effect from 6 April. Soon afterwards he was gazetted as GOC 2nd Canadian Division.12 The divisional headquarters was organized in Ottawa at the end of May, and about the same time the three brigade headquarters were set up – the 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade at Camp Borden, Ontario, the 5th at Valcartier Camp, Quebec, and the 6th at Shilo Camp, Manitoba. Simultaneously the units moved to these camps.13 Thus at last concentrated in brigades, they were now able to undertake really effective training for the first time. Due to the adverse conditions already described, their progress so far had been slow; indeed, General Odium, after a tour of inspection, wrote to the Minister of National Defence on 4 July, perhaps with some exaggeration, that they were “no further advanced than they should have been in two months of effective training”.14 They had actually been mobilized for ten.
There was considerable discussion as to when the Division should go overseas. General McNaughton, anxious that it should reach England as soon as possible, recommended that it arrive there about 15 April.15 The Canadian Government, however, preferred to postpone its departure, and at the end of February the High Commissioner in London was told that subject to agreement with the British authorities it would probably be sent about 1 July. This would allow a month’s training in camps in Canada before embarkation. The idea was that after three months’ further training in England with the equipment which it was hoped would be available there, the Division would be able to go “to the Front” in France about 1 November.16 Like many others, however, these forecasts were voided by events on the Continent in May and June.
The Minister of National Defence (Mr. Rogers) visited England and France from 18 April to 9 May, and one of the matters he discussed in London was the formation of a Canadian Corps. On 26 April, in a conference with four British Ministers (the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Dominions Secretary, the Minister of Supply, and the Secretary of State for War), he said that he had authority to open discussion on this question. He added that so far as the Canadian Government was concerned “the primary factor was one of finance”, and inquired whether it might be possible for the United Kingdom to provide, “for an interim period”, the additional ancillary troops required to complete a Corps of two divisions. The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Oliver Stanley) agreed to this, provided that the commitment would cover only a specified period. In answer to an inquiry from Mr. Rogers, the four British Ministers assured him that it was “definitely the wish of the British Cabinet that a Canadian Corps should be formed”; and when he asked further whether the British ancillary units which might be attached to a Canadian Corps would “continue to be a British financial responsibility”, some indication was given that this would be the case, on the understanding that the troops would be required only for a short time.17
The Summer Crisis of 1940: Formation of the 3rd and 4th Divisions
On 9 April 1940 the calm of the “phony war” was shattered by the German attack on Norway and Denmark; and the Norwegian campaign which followed was a severe blow to Allied confidence. The Western Front, however, remained quiet for another month. Then, on 10 May, the German forces were let loose upon neutral Belgium and the Netherlands. Within a few days it was clear that the Allies were faced with another disaster, and
the events which followed in France and Flanders had an immediate and drastic effect upon Canadian military policy.
On the afternoon of 10 May the War Committee of the Cabinet held an emergency meeting to review the situation and consider the methods by which Canada might give further assistance to the common cause in cooperation with the United Kingdom. Later that day a telegram was sent to London outlining the decisions taken. Leaving aside the naval and air measures proposed, it is enough to note that the Government now stated that it would be prepared to arrange to dispatch the 2nd Division to England during June and July instead of in July and August as planned. At the same time, in response to a request just received from London, it authorized sending a Canadian infantry battalion to Jamaica to replace a British unit which was going to Curacao. The British Government was invited to offer suggestions for other measures.18
The emergency soon produced a decision to expand the existing Active Service Force very considerably. On 17 May the War Committee met again. The country was now in the atmosphere of crisis induced by Allied reverses in France and the Low Countries during the past week. The Dutch Army had already surrendered. The Germans had smashed through the French front at Sedan; and the British and French armies on the Allied left, thus threatened with encirclement, were falling back from the positions in Belgium to which they had advanced following the German invasion. The Minister of National Defence reported to the Committee on the visit to the United Kingdom and France from which he had just returned, describing the impression of German mechanical superiority and Allied complacency which he had gathered in the days immediately before the attack.
Some thought had already been given to the possible formation of a third division of the CASF As early as 13 September 1939 the Director of Military Operations and Intelligence had suggested to the Chief of the General Staff a tentative composition for such a division.19 On 2 February 1940 General Anderson had pointed out to the Minister of National Defence the importance of “a home reserve”. If the 2nd Division were sent overseas as announced by the Prime Minister, and the ancillary troops required for a two-division corps went too, only about 4200 mobilized ancillary troops would remain in Canada, and the CGS therefore recommended that “upon departure of the 2nd Canadian Division overseas, a 3rd Canadian Division should be raised for duty in Canada”.20
The War Committee at the meeting of 17 May considered raising this 3rd Division and also, as an alternative, forming a Canadian Corps. With Mr. Rogers’ report of his discussions in England before it, it decided to do both. The financial scruples and questions of “capacity” that had seemed so
important a few weeks before had suddenly passed into the background; for the Allied cause and the very existence of the Commonwealth were now hanging in the balance.*
* As noted above (page 74), in February war expenditures for 1940–41 were estimated at $560 million, a figure which was regarded with considerable alarm. The actual ultimate total was approximately $778 million.21
On 20 May the Prime Minister announced the decisions in the House of Commons. A Canadian Corps, he said, would be formed in the field, to consist of the two existing divisions and the necessary corps troops, this involving sending several thousand more men overseas. Mr. King added, “We shall undertake the raising of a third division, to be available for such service as may be required in Canada or overseas.” These measures had anticipated by only a narrow margin a request from the British Government. On 18 May Lord Caldecote, Secretary of State for the Dominions, wrote to Mr. Massey in reply to the Canadian ministers’ invitation to make suggestions.22 He placed in the forefront the possibility of Canada’s undertaking to provide and maintain a garrison for Iceland (where British marines had landed on 10 May); and he observed that accelerating the dispatch of the 2nd Division would be “a great help and encouragement” and that everything would be done to find shipping to make this possible. His letter proceeded:
The Army Council would next wish to suggest that detailed consideration should be given as soon as practicable to the formation of a Canadian Corps. ... The provision of the necessary Corps, Army and GHQ troops would then become a matter of great urgency. ... We should also like to suggest that the Canadian Government would wish to consider the desirability of completing the Canadian Corps, if and when that formation comes into existence, to the normal standard of three divisions. If so, it would no doubt be necessary to make arrangements at once for the formation of a third Canadian division which, it is needless to say, would prove of great military assistance and encouragement in prosecuting our common task.
Lord Caldecote also inquired whether Canada could provide a second battalion for the West Indies, and raised again the question of forestry and transportation units.
The decision to form the Corps and raise the 3rd Division had been taken the day before this letter was sent. The Division’s future role, however, remained unsettled. The Department of External Affairs cabled to .Massey, “For the present it is not contemplated that the Third Division should be included in the Canadian Corps.”23 This was not of immediate importance, for it would be months before the Division was ready for employment of any kind. What mattered was that the organization of another fighting formation was going forward. There was some delay before selection of the infantry units for the 3rd Division was complete (choosing regiments in such a way as to give appropriate representation to the various sections of the
country was always a ticklish matter),*24 but the organization of the Division was well under way by the end of May.25 And even before the administrative arrangements for raising it were complete, a further enlargement of the Active Service Force had been decided upon.
* The last regiment selected was The Royal Winnipeg Rifles, which was mobilized as a 4th Division unit; its transfer to the 3rd Division was authorized by the Minister on 1 August 1940. The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (M.G.) and Le Régiment de la Chaudière (Mit.), two machine-gun units mobilized in September 1939 but not required for the 1st or 2nd Divisions under the new organization which allowed only one machine-gun battalion per division, were incorporated in the 3rd Division, Le Régiment de la Chaudière being converted to an infantry (rifle) battalion.
On 22 May the War Committee considered Lord Caldecote’s suggestions, which had been examined by the Department of National Defence in the meantime. It decided that an infantry brigade would be provided for duty in Iceland (the intention at this moment being that it would be formed from among the units mobilizing for the 3rd Division); that a second infantry battalion would be found for the West Indies and could embark at an early date; that forestry units would be organized and dispatched at once, and that it be agreed in principle that transportation units would be provided, inquiry being made as to what type were most urgently required.26 The military situation in France was going from bad to worse. On 25 May a personal message from London for the Prime Minister concluded, “Position of BEF is now one of utmost gravity”.27 On the 27th the Dunkirk evacuation began (but only about 5000 men were taken off the French shore that day). Before the House of Commons assembled in Ottawa in the afternoon, the members of the Government met and agreed upon additional steps that should now be taken; and the House was told that in addition to the 3rd Division and the corps troops it was intended to recruit other units, including all the nine rifle battalions of a fourth infantry division.28 Four days before, in response to suggestions that more use be made of veterans in domestic security duties, it had been announced that a Veterans Home Guard (later redesignated the Veterans Guard of Canada) was being formed. It was to consist in the first instance of twelve companies of 250 men each.29 The intention to form reserve companies of veterans as well was included in the announcement of the 27th.
The Canadian public had been profoundly moved by the crisis. For a time it appeared that almost the whole of the British Expeditionary Force would be lost; indeed, on 29 May Canadian Military Headquarters cabled, undoubtedly on the strength of information from the War Office, “In spite of their own magnificent resistance and the maximum effort of Navy and Air Force, it must be accepted that the bulk of force now comprising the BEF will not reach shores of the United Kingdom.”30 The Dunkirk deliverance – the successful evacuation of 338,000 British and Allied soldiers – followed;
but the spectres of the imminent collapse of France and the probable invasion of England by the victorious enemy arose at once. The heavens, it seemed, were falling; and in the emergency the manhood of Canada came forward generously, eager to share the honour and the peril of the moment with the men of the 1st Division, standing in the front line in the United Kingdom. There was no difficulty in filling the ranks of the 3rd and 4th Divisions. The summer months of 1940 brought a flood of recruits second only to that of the previous September. Since the new units began recruiting in the last days of May, enlistments for that month amounted only to 6909; but in June there were 29,319 and in July 29,171. Including officer and nursing sister appointments, a total of 85,102 men and women joined the Canadian Active Service Force during the four months of May, June, July and August.31
It is convenient to mention here the completion of the 3rd Division. The formation of the divisional headquarters and those of the infantry brigades and of the artillery, engineers, signals and RCASC were authorized by a General Order dated 5 September 1940. The Division’s first commander was Major General E. W. Sansom, lately Deputy Adjutant General at CMHQ, who returned to Canada for the purpose and was appointed as of 26 October.32 The Division was to be concentrated in the Maritime Provinces, where a big new camp was being built at Debert, N.S. (near Truro) and the existing camp at Sussex, N.B., was being enlarged. The units began moving into these areas in the autumn of 1940.33 This arrangement was considered desirable for two main reasons: it would provide a degree of concentration which would facilitate effective training, and at the same time the Division could form the operational reserve for the newly-formed Atlantic Command (see below, page 163).
There was considerable delay before the organization of the 4th Division was completed. All the infantry battalions had been mobilized during the summer, but the three infantry brigade headquarters were not formed until the following winter (December 1940–February 1941);34 and the divisional headquarters was set up still later. The recruitment of the balance of the Division was authorized by the War Committee of the Cabinet on 9 May 1941, by which time the 3rd Division’s departure for the United Kingdom was imminent. On 10 June the 4th Division’s headquarters was finally formed, with the appointment of Major General L. F. Page as General Officer Commanding.35
The new Divisions’ units were not the only ones raised in the hectic summer of 1940. On 15 July the Minister authorized the mobilization of eight additional infantry rifle battalions for local security purposes.36 Another (The Royal Rifles of Canada) had been mobilized independently late in June.37 In addition, five motorcycle regiments had been authorized early in July – one to operate with each brigade group of the 3rd Division on the East
Coast, one for the West Coast and one for the Niagara district. One of these regiments was a composite unit provided by the two Permanent Force cavalry regiments, The Royal Canadian Dragoons and Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians).38
The expansion of the armed forces led to new arrangements for their administration. An amendment to the Department of National Defence Act which received the Royal Assent on 22 May provided for the appointment of a Minister of National Defence for Air, and Mr. C. G. Power assumed the post. Another amendment, of 12 July, provided for a Minister of National Defence for Naval Services; Mr. Angus L. Macdonald was appointed to this charge.39 Provision was made for an Associate Minister of National Defence “entitled to exercise all the powers of the Minister of National Defence”, and Mr. Power combined this appointment with that of Air Minister. Although, technically, separate departments of government were not set up to control the naval and air services, in effect this is what took place. Following Mr. Rogers’ death on 10 June, Colonel J. L. Ralston was appointed Minister of National Defence (5 July) and administered the Army. In matters affecting the air or naval service and another service, the powers of the Minister of National Defence were exercisable “in consultation with” the Air or Naval Ministers or both, as the case might be. The statute of 12 July 1940 further provided for the powers of one service minister to be exercisable in his absence by another; thus, if the Minister of National Defence and Associate Minister were absent, the Naval Minister would administer the whole Department, and if he too was absent this authority passed to the Air Minister. Thus the ministers became familiar with their colleagues’ functions and duties, with resultant advantages to the public service.40
It is evident that the powers and authority of the respective Ministers were never clearly defined. In other circumstances this might have been awkward, but in practice the excellent personal relations between the service ministers obviated any difficulty. Mr. Power writes, “The three were bound together by ties of intimate friendship and on the part of Macdonald and Power particularly had such admiration and respect for Col. Ralston that they had no difficulty whatsoever in granting him the primacy over both, and by consent if not by law he was looked upon by all as the senior Minister.”41
Colonel Ralston, however, was not a coordinating Minister of Defence as that term was understood in the United Kingdom, where Mr. Churchill combined this office with that of Prime Minister. In Canada the formal coordination of the armed forces on the political level was effected through the Defence Council, which was reorganized by an order in council of 13 September 1940 to consist of the Minister of National Defence as Chairman,
the Associate Minister and the Ministers for Naval Services and Air as Vice-Chairmen, and the three Chiefs of Staff and the Deputy Ministers for the three services as Members. This was an effective organ of inter-service coordination.42 High military policy, on the other hand, was in general the province of the War Committee of the Cabinet, presided over by the Prime Minister. The three service ministers were members of this committee, along with other senior members of the Government.
Following the reorganization of the Defence Council, an “Army Committee”, soon redesignated “Army Council”, was established by the Minister of National Defence to advise him on Army policy and matters of administration and procedure affecting more than one branch of the staff. This was composed of the Minister as Chairman, the Chief of the General Staff and the heads of the other staff branches, and the Deputy Minister for the Army.43
One other measure taken during 1940’s summer crisis has yet to be noted. On 17 June – the day on which Marshal Petain asked Hitler for an armistice – the War Committee agreed that a bill should be drafted providing for the general mobilization of human and material resources. The measure was introduced in the House of Commons next day, and received the Royal Assent on 21 June as the National Resources Mobilization Act.44 It was a brief, highly Generalized statute which had the effect of authorizing the Governor in Council to make orders or regulations “requiring persons to place themselves, their services and their property at the disposal of His Majesty in the right of Canada, as may be deemed necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of Canada, the maintenance of public order, or the efficient prosecution of the war, or for maintaining supplies or services essential to the life of the community”. It may have been based to some extent upon the United Kingdom’s Emergency Powers Act, 1940, assented to on the previous 22 May.45 The powers which the Canadian act conferred upon government were subject to only one reservation: they might not be exercised “for the purpose of requiring persons to serve in the military, naval or air forces outside of Canada and the territorial waters thereof”. It thus authorized compulsory military service, but (in accordance with the Government’s pledges) limited it to home defence. The act’s administration, and its consequences in national manpower policy, are dealt with in Chapter IV.
After Dunkirk the question of equipment for the defence of the British Isles and the further prosecution of the war was one of desperate urgency. Although the bulk of the British Expeditionary Force had reached England safely, it had brought back practically nothing except “personal weapons”; heavy equipment could not be withdrawn. Vast stores of reserve supplies and equipment which had been accumulated on the Continent had been
lost to the enemy, or destroyed to prevent them from falling into his hands. Even rifles and small arms ammunition were very badly needed. In these circumstances, Canada was asked to give what assistance she could from her reserves. Unfortunately, a country which for many years had spent as little money as Canada upon its defence forces could have little in the way of reserves to send; but such material as existed and could be spared was shipped, only enough being kept back to meet the essential needs of training.
France as well as Britain was asking for equipment by the beginning of June, but there was little that Canada could do. A total of 75,000 Ross .303 rifles* had by now been dispatched to the United Kingdom.46 The War Committee was told on 3 June that 60 million rounds of small arms ammunition had been sent thither in answer to earlier appeals. Of this total, 25 million had been shipped in the early winter of 1939–40, and about 34,600,000 in four releases during May.47 Only one million rounds remained in Canada’s general reserve, and rifle practice had had to be curtailed. Accordingly, the Committee, with what regret can be imagined, had to tell the governments of Britain and France that no more rifles or ammunition could be spared. After equipping the Active Service Force units already organized, the remaining stores were in fact inadequate to provide training equipment for the Non-Permanent Active Militia.
Canadian Troops for Iceland
The sending of Canadian troops to Iceland, and their subsequent withdrawal thence, occasioned much cabling and discussion, which can only be briefly summarized here.
The original British suggestion, contained in Lord Caldecote’s letter of 18 May 1940 (above, page 78), was that Canada should garrison Iceland with troops other than those required for her field force. In answer to inquiries from Ottawa, Canadian Military Headquarters reported on 26 May that the War Office considered that the island required for defence four battalions in all, one of which might be a machine-gun battalion. The British authorities were anxious that the troops should arrive as soon as possible; a particularly urgent requirement was one infantry battalion needed at once to reinforce a British infantry brigade already in Iceland.48 This somewhat altered the picture, and led to the abandonment of the scheme for using 3rd Division units, since these were just being formed. The only battalions in Canada in condition for immediate dispatch were those of the 2nd Division. It was decided accordingly to send one of these (The Royal Regiment of Canada); and the
* To replace these, Canada in August purchased from the United States 80,000 Enfield .300 rifles with five million rounds of ammunition.
Chief of the General Staff obtained confirming authority for the assumption by Canada of the responsibility of providing and maintaining the garrison of Iceland, and for the dispatch of the Royal Regiment at the earliest possible moment.49 Brigadier L. F. Page was appointed to command the Canadian force for Iceland, which became known as “Z” Force.
The situation was now changing again. The disaster in North-West Europe led the United Kingdom Government to the conclusion that further measures for Iceland’s security should be taken without delay, and on 6 June the Canadian High Commissioner in London reported that they would now be most grateful if Canada would agree to take responsibility for its defence on an increased scale. It was considered that in addition to the brigade already in the island there would be required two rifle battalions, one machinegun battalion, six flying boats, one heavy anti-aircraft battery, additional coast defences and some ancillary troops; furthermore, another infantry battalion would probably be required in the winter. The United Kingdom Government observed that, if Canada could undertake this whole commitment, they would themselves be prepared to provide the second battalion for the West Indies which she had agreed to send.50
Canadian planning now proceeded on this new basis, and the intention again was to use units of the 3rd Division; but on 14 June a request was made to accelerate the movement. This meant that the 2nd Division must be drawn upon once more.51 On 20 June the High Commissioner’s office reported that the British Government had gone still further, suggesting that the whole of the 2nd Division, less such units as would not be required for garrison duty, should go to Iceland. This, it was indicated, would probably release the British brigade there for the defence of the United Kingdom itself. It was further pointed out that the arrangement need not be permanent; the 2nd Division might in due course be relieved in Iceland by the 3rd, and could then move to England for incorporation in a Canadian Corps.52
This request caused some anxiety in Ottawa, one reason being conditions in the Pacific (where the Japanese were exerting pressure designed to turn Britain’s European embarrassments to their own advantage) * and Canada’s undefended situation if the 2nd Division were withdrawn at an early date. Moreover, the Division’s advance parties had already gone to England in accordance with the earlier arrangement, and its vehicles had largely been shipped thither. The Chief of the General Staff considered that unless the United Kingdom thought sending the 2nd Division to Iceland a matter of immediate and paramount importance, the balance of it should stay in Canada until the 3rd and 4th Divisions were sufficiently trained to meet, at
* On 18 July the British Government found itself obliged to agree to suspend, for the present, the transit of war material and certain other goods to China over the Burma Road. The road was re-opened three months later.
least, any internal security problem such as might be occasioned by the large Japanese population in British Columbia. The Canadian Government communicated with London along these lines, remarking in passing, “we feel that Canadian public opinion would not readily be reconciled to our forces being permanently in garrison abroad”.53
As late as 8 July, however, the High Commissioner in London was reporting continued very earnest representations by the “United Kingdom Government” in favour of sending the whole of the 2nd Division to Iceland.54 On the 11th the Canadian Government replied at length, stating that it “very much” desired that the Division should be concentrated in the United Kingdom, not sent to Iceland or broken up between the two places. It suggested that the United Kingdom should itself relieve the Canadian battalions which were in Iceland or on the way thither, so that the 2nd Division could shortly be assembled in England and the Canadian Corps formed there, “while the force in Iceland would be a homogeneous division of the United Kingdom forces”.55
This proposal was immediately accepted by the United Kingdom authorities, whose change of front was reported by the High Commissioner on 13 July.56 The reason, it is now clear, was a sudden intervention by the British Prime Minister. On 6 July Mr. Churchill, along with Mr. Eden (who had become Secretary of State for War) and General Ironside (C-in-C Home Forces), had visited the 1st Canadian Division south of London and seen a demonstration by the 2nd Brigade. On the 7th he sent a minute57 to Mr. Eden:
You shared my astonishment yesterday at the statement made to us by General McNaughton that the whole of the 2d Canadian Division was destined for Iceland. It would surely be a very great mistake to allow these fine troops to be employed in so distant a theatre. Apparently the first three battalions have already gone there. No one was told anything about this. We require two Canadian divisions to work as a corps as soon as possible. ...
From now on, planning continued on the basis which the Canadian Government had suggested.*
* General McNaughton noted on 6 July that he had suggested to the Secretary of State for War during their interview that the proper solution was “to induce USA to occupy the island”.58 American occupation was, in fact, the ultimate solution.
Thus it turned out that Canadian units stayed in Iceland only a few months. Brigadier Page with part of his brigade headquarters and The Royal Regiment of Canada reached Reykjavik on 16 June 1940.59 The remainder of “Z” Force, comprising Les Fusiliers Mont Royal, The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (M.G.), an infantry brigade signal section and details, arrived on 9 July.60 The Camerons, who had been allotted to the 3rd Division, spent the winter on the island, but the remainder of the Force, including Page and his headquarters, sailed for England on 31 October and rejoined the main body of the 2nd Canadian Division at Aldershot on 4 November.61
It may be noted here that the Divisional Headquarters, with a good part of the Division, had arrived in the Clyde in the Sixth Flight on 1 August. The Division’s last two infantry battalions, however, did not reach the United kingdom until Christmas Day 1940, when they landed from the Eighth Flight.62
The responsibilities undertaken by Canada in Newfoundland and the West Indies in the summer of 1940 are described in Chapter V.
The Formation of the Canadian Corps
At this point a word must be said concerning the implementation of the decision taken on 17 May 1940 to form a Canadian Corps overseas.
It was delayed for seven months. One obvious reason was the slowness in concentrating the 2nd Division in England, due in part to the Iceland venture and in part to the Government’s reluctance to move the whole of the Division overseas until the training of the 3rd and 4th Divisions’ units was well advanced. In accordance with this latter policy, the 6th Brigade was kept in Canada; the War Committee was told on 9 July that it would be held at Shilo to deal with any emergencies which might arise on the Pacific Coast. It was two of its battalions which arrived in England only on 25 December – the day the Corps was finally formed.
There were also certain matters of detail to be worked out before the Corps could come into existence. As an anti-invasion measure the 1st Canadian Division and the Canadian ancillary troops in England were incorporated in July into a new British corps, which General McNaughton was appointed to command. The activities of this 7th Corps belong properly to the story of the Canadians in Britain, and an account of them is given in Chapter IX. The prospective change-over from the 7th to a Canadian Corps, however, involved some questions of Anglo-Canadian policy, for many of the Corps Troops of the existing formation were British, and some of them would have to stay in the Canadian Corps until Canada could provide units of the same type. The financial basis for this arrangement was the subject of discussions with the War Office which reflected the effect of the long controversy over responsibility for equipping the Canadian ancillary troops (above, page 67). The War Office would have liked Canada to consent to maintain British units temporarily remaining with the Canadian Corps in the same manner in which the British had maintained the Canadian non-divisional troops. The ultimate agreement, reached in conferences in which the new Minister of National Defence (Colonel Ralston) took part while in England late in 1940, was however founded on the general principle that each government would take responsibility for all charges in
respect of its own units.63 This had the very great advantage of simplicity and obviated accounting difficulties.
The advent of winter had lifted, for the moment, the threat of German invasion of Britain against which the 7th Corps had been formed. The 7th Corps could accordingly be dispensed with; and the administrative questions involved in organizing a Canadian Corps having been settled, that formation could now be set up. Mr. King announced its advent on Christmas Eve; and at one minute past midnight this successor to the famous force of 1915–18 came into official existence, with Lieut. General McNaughton as General Officer Commanding.64
The Army Programme for 1941
Major General T. V. Anderson, who had carried the heavy burden of the office of Chief of the General Staff since November 1938, was in July 1940 appointed Inspector General of the Military Forces in Central Canada, and Major General H. D. G. Crerar, * whose nine months in London had given him valuable experience of the broad problems of the prosecution of the war, was on General McNaughton’s recommendation brought back to Ottawa and appointed CGS with effect from 22 July.65
On the 26th Crerar attended a meeting of the War Committee and presented his estimate of the existing military situation. A German attempt at invading the United Kingdom was possible at any moment. Crerar reviewed the various developments which might take place, emphasizing the point that Canada’s chief concern, in existing circumstances, was the British Isles; they were her best defensive line, and it was in her interest to give every possible assistance in maintaining it against Hitler. This was strategically sounder than building up a great apparatus of local defence within Canada.† With reference to the desirability of sending further troops to England, he said that there would be no object in sending more divisions overseas until the equipment situation had improved. In his view, however, Canada ought to send additional troops to strengthen the British Isles just as soon as there was a reasonable prospect of being able to complete their equipment by the time their training period was over.
Crerar’s first great task was to prepare a formal appreciation of the situation and a Canadian Army Programme to meet it. In September he submitted his detailed proposals to the Minister of National Defence.66 The best information available from the War Office, he wrote, indicated that the
* Brigadier Crerar was promoted Major General effective 15 January 1940. tOn Crerar’s recommendations for home defence measures at this time, see below, Chapter V.
British strategy in 1941 “must be one of attrition”, looking forward (somewhat optimistically, it must be said!) to passing to the offensive with all possible strength “in all spheres and all theatres” in the spring of 1942. The enemy’s most probable action during the winter of 1940–41 was an attack on Egypt from Libya, possibly coupled with offensives through Spain or the Balkans, or against Morocco. An attempt at invading the British Isles was unlikely between October and April. Such were the basic strategic conditions. Crerar summed up his Army Programme to meet them in the following terms
A Canadian Corps of three Divisions should be completed [in the United Kingdom] by the early spring of 1941, and should be joined by an Armoured Brigade Group as soon as possible thereafter.
While the date the 4th Division will be required overseas cannot as yet be determined, we should be prepared for its despatch in the latter part of 1941.
Subsequent additions to the Canadian Forces overseas should be armoured forces rather than Infantry.
Provision should be made for replacing the 3rd and 4th Divisions, and the Armoured Brigade Group by equivalent forces for home defence.
The unmobilized portion of the NPAM will become the Reserve units and formations of the Canadian Army, with as their principal functions, the holding of partially trained personnel and the completion of their individual training.67
This programme’s most striking feature was its emphasis upon armoured formations, a reflection of the experience of the short campaign in France and Belgium. An enlarged foundation for armoured development in Canada had been laid before it was formally submitted. As we have seen (above, pages 19 and 34), a small beginning had been made before the outbreak of war, when a few tank units were organized and an Armoured Fighting Vehicles School was set up. Now, on 13 August 1940, the Minister of _National Defence approved a recommendation of the CGS for instituting a Canadian Armoured Corps and organizing the country’s first armoured formation – the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade– which might later expand into a full armoured division.68 The Brigade actually came into existence at Camp Borden in October, Colonel F. F. Worthington, the commander of the Armoured Fighting Vehicles Training Centre, being appointed to the command.69
This programme was a plan for 1941, and General Crerar made no attempt to forecast precisely what the size or shape of the Canadian Army Overseas might be when it had reached its full development. However, he gave an indication of the direction of his thought in a memorandum to the Minister dated 3 September.70 The great object for the British Empire, this memorandum says, is “to raise land and air forces until our total power is sufficient to over-balance that of Germany, which is attenuated by the necessity of garrisoning conquered countries and diminished by the effect
of our blockade”. At the moment Canada’s efforts in this direction were limited by shortages of equipment; at some future time they might perhaps be limited by the numbers that could be raised by voluntary enlistment to serve overseas. “While it is impossible to calculate exactly, due to the many imponderables affecting the problem, it is estimated that on the voluntary enlistment basis, from five to seven divisions, of which one or more should be armoured, might well be the largest force this country could maintain overseas throughout a war of several years duration”. Crerar’s plan specifically contemplated a total of four infantry divisions overseas; he also made it clear that the armoured brigade group which he proposed to send should be built up into an armoured division in due course; and he recommended that the units of a brigade group of a second armoured division should be selected at once, for future mobilization. The basic procedure was to keep the equivalent of two infantry divisions and an armoured brigade available for home defence, replacing formations sent overseas by new ones mobilized at home.71 He referred to the desirability of forming very shortly a fifth and subsequently a sixth infantry division; his memorandum of 3 September suggested that both of these might be largely filled with trainees called up for compulsory service under the National Resources Mobilization Act, but a later one (24 September) mentioned the possibility that one “might be completed on a purely CASF basis”. Adding the whole together, his plan may be said to have foreshadowed an overseas army of six or seven divisions, two of them armoured, all composed of volunteers; and two divisions for home defence, largely composed of NRMA men.
In one of his submissions,72 the CGS referred to the possibility “at present envisioned” that an army tank brigade (of “infantry” tanks – see below, page 90) might be raised and sent overseas during 1941. He remarked, however, that in some influential quarters in the British Army the opinion was held that infantry tank units should be eliminated.
One special point in the Crerar plan remains to be noticed. “The scale on which formations are to be raised,” he wrote, “and the general reorganization of the military forces, suggests that the time has come to abandon the title ‘Militia’. We have a Royal Canadian Navy and a Royal Canadian Air Force and it would seem logical, and in accord with common speech that we should have a Canadian Army.”73 No one objected, and an order in council of 19 November74 provided, “The Military Forces of Canada shall henceforth be designated and described as ‘The Canadian Army’ “. Units embodied for continuous service were to be designated “Active” and all others (i.e. those of the former Non-Permanent Active Militia) as “Reserve”. A time-honoured term thus passed out of wartime use, and one more appropriate to the conditions of the moment took its place.
The Modification and Approval of the 1941 Programme
At the end of November 1940 Colonel Ralston and General Crerar went to England for an extended visit. As a result of their conferences overseas the Army Programme for 1941 was somewhat modified.
On 17 December Colonel Ralston met Mr. Eden, and was told that the War Office “would like the Canadian Government to provide an armoured division as soon as possible, to be equipped with M.3 tanks ordered by the U.K. in the USA” Some administrative difficulties were seen in having an unattached armoured brigade arrive in advance of the rest of the Division. The War Office considered the provision of an army tank brigade by Canada, to be equipped from Canadian resources, “desirable, but not so desirable as the division”.75 On 2 January 1941 there was a further conference with Captain David Margesson, who had now succeeded Eden as Secretary of State for War. The War Office again urged that the personnel of an armoured division would be a very important contribution. It was explained that the British authorities were faced with the necessity of finding nine such divisions. This was evidently the result of the initiative of Mr. Churchill, who had written to his Cabinet colleagues on 15 October, “At present we are aiming at five armoured divisions, and armoured brigades equivalent to three more. This is not enough. We cannot hope to compete with the enemy in numbers of men, and must therefore rely upon an exceptional proportion of armoured fighting vehicles. Ten armoured divisions is the target to aim for to the end of 1941. ...”76
Canada was being asked to provide one of the new divisions. Margesson summed up the British desires in these terms:77
“The War Office are particularly anxious that the personnel of a complete Canadian Armoured division should be formed ready for despatch to the United Kingdom by the early Autumn of 1941. They anticipate that equipment from British orders (either USA or U.K.) would be available to equip the division, which would thus be completely trained and available for employment during the first quarter of 1942.
“If in addition to the above, and without slowing up its formation, a Canadian Army Tank Brigade, for inclusion in the Canadian Corps, could also be raised, equipped with Mark III Tanks now being made in Canada, and despatched to the United Kingdom in the Summer of 1941, this would be most welcome to the War Office. For this purpose the United Kingdom Government were entirely agreeable to Canada having priority on Canadian production of Mark III tanks and to assist if necessary by provision of I tanks* from United Kingdom production.”
* Infantry tanks, heavier and slower than the cruisers with which armoured divisions were equipped. The Mark III infantry tank was later called the Valentine.
Colonel Ralston inquired about further infantry formations; and the British representatives made it clear that for the moment these were considered less important than armour:78
General Macready [Assistant Chief of the Imperial General Staff] said that so far as can be foreseen at present, it was not considered necessary or desirable that a 4th Canadian Infantry division should be sent to England during 1941, but the War Office would be glad if the possibility of its despatch by the Summer of 1942 could be borne in mind.
The minutes of this meeting conclude, “There was general agreement that if Canada could provide three infantry divisions, with the necessary Corps troops and A.A. units, an Armoured division and an Army Tank Brigade by the end of 1941, it would be a most valuable and whole-hearted contribution to the Empire war effort.”79
Ralston promised to place the views of the War Office before the Canadian Government. Three days later he did so by cable,80 recommending changes in the Army Programme along the lines of the British requests. He now suggested that Canada send overseas successively, during 1941, the remaining Corps Troops for the existing two-division Corps; the 3rd Division and its complement of Corps Troops; an army tank brigade; and a complete armoured division. The dispatch of the 4th Division could be postponed until, probably, the summer of 1942.
The Cabinet War Committee considered this telegram on 8 January 1941. In view of the large expenditures involved, and the desirability of dealing with the programmes of the Navy and the Air Force simultaneously, it was agreed to defer decision until the Minister’s return. Colonel Ralston arrived back in Ottawa on 24 January, and reported to the Committee the same day. He said that an early attempt at invading the British Isles was still regarded as the enemy’s most likely move, and added that he had not realized before visiting the United Kingdom how great was the present need for men. The British authorities were greatly embarrassed by the necessity of providing simultaneously for the protection of Britain, the security of the Middle East, and the war industries. Ralston reported that it was important to provide an army tank brigade, and observed that a Canadian Corps of three divisions, this brigade and ancillary troops would represent useful immediate assistance for the defence of Britain during 1941.
The programme was carefully reviewed by the War Committee, and its essential features (particularly the formation of the army tank brigade, and the organization and dispatch overseas in due course of the armoured division) were approved on 28 January.* General Crerar wrote to General McNaughton subsequently in a personal letter, “I must give full
* The authority for the armoured division had been granted in principle, it appears, on 13 August 1940, although the record is rather obscure. Ralston’s cable of 5 January 1941 refers to the division as “already authorized”.
credit to the Minister who backed the Programme 100% and needed to use fairly strong arguments with some of his colleagues”.81
The implementation of the programme now went forward. The existing armoured brigade was not directly converted into an army tank brigade, but two of its three regiments (The Ontario Regiment and The Three Rivers Regiment) were turned into army tank battalions and transferred to the new formation, and its commander, Brigadier Worthington, was also transferred. The 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade was formally organized in February 1941. Its third battalion (The Calgary Regiment) joined it at Camp Borden in March. The Brigade trained there until it went overseas in the following June.82 It had been given priority over the 3rd Division, but the latter was sent to the United Kingdom later in the summer, the greater part of it arriving at the end of July. It was virtually complete in England early in September.83 Various units of Corps Troops, etc., were arriving (or being formed in Britain) throughout the period. It was possible, as we shall see, for the whole Canadian Corps, now consisting of the three infantry divisions, the army tank brigade and large numbers of ancillary troops, to be concentrated in Sussex before the end of 1941.
The 1st Armoured Brigade continued to exist as a formation of the armoured division which was now raised and which was designated, in the beginning, the 1st Canadian Armoured Division. Divisional Headquarters was formed at Camp Borden in March. Major General E. W. Sansom was appointed to the command, being succeeded at the 3rd Division by Major General C. B. Price.84 Two experienced tank officers, Lt. Cols. E. L. Fanshawe and J. R. Farrington, were lent by the British Army to take the appointments of GSO1 and AA&QMG,* respectively, during the period of mobilization.85 The two Permanent Force cavalry regiments were both included in the Division’s original order of battle, The Royal Canadian Dragoons as the 1st Armoured Car Regiment and Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) as the 2nd Armoured Regiment. At this time the organization of an armoured division comprehended two armoured brigades (each consisting of three armoured regiments and a motor battalion of infantry) and a “support group” including one field regiment, one light anti-aircraft regiment and one anti-tank regiment of artillery and an infantry battalion.
To hasten the mobilization of the 1st Army Tank Brigade and the 1st Armoured Division, the 4th Division was “robbed” of units and men. The 17th Field Regiment RCA had already been withdrawn from it for incorporation in the 1st Armoured Brigade Group, and now became part of the Armoured Division. The 4th Division’s anti-tank unit (the 4th Anti-Tank
* The two senior staff appointments at a divisional headquarters. The General Staff Officer, First Grade, headed the General Staff Branch (concerned with operations, intelligence and training) and coordinated the divisional staff generally; the Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General headed the administrative branches of the staff.
Regiment RCA) was similarly transferred, and the Armoured Division’s light antiaircraft regiment (the 5th) was formed by converting 4th Division field batteries. Medical, Engineer, and Provost units of the 4th Division were transferred to the new brigade and division, and Signals, Ordnance and Army Service Corps personnel were moved over wholesale. The Armoured Division’s infantry and armour came mainly from units already mobilized. The armoured regiments of its 2nd Armoured Brigade were provided by converting three of the motorcycle regiments formed during the summer of 1940.86
Utilizing 4th Division units for the Armoured Division was not merely a means of speeding the organization of the latter; it also served as an economy measure. The size of the proposed budget for 1941–42 had caused alarm at the Department of Finance, and on 28 January the Cabinet War Committee agreed that the service departments and the Department of Munitions and Supply should so adjust their programmes as to reduce their total requirements from $1500 million to $1300 million. In these circumstances General Crerar, taking into account General Wavell’s recent successes in the Middle East, felt that it was safe both to take 4th Division men and units for the Armoured Division and to delay reconstituting the 4th Division until later in the financial year, as well as deleting provision which had been proposed for mobilizing a fifth infantry division and taking preliminary steps towards mobilizing a sixth. It was only in May 1941 (after disasters had befallen the Allied cause in Africa and Greece) that reconstitution of the 4th Division was ordered and Crerar asked for authority to mobilize another infantry division for home defence.87
In July 1941 the 1st Armoured Division was redesignated the “5th Canadian (Armoured) Division”.88 (This designation was never officially altered afterwards; but the simpler form “5th Canadian Armoured Division” soon came into common use.) The Division moved overseas, as planned, that autumn, its main flight (Convoy T.C. 15) reaching the United Kingdom on 22 November. This convoy, which included the divisional headquarters, was the largest single troop movement from Canada up to that time,*89 totalling nearly 14,000 all ranks.90 As a result of the build-up during 1941, the strength of the Canadian Army Overseas at the end of the calendar year was 124,472 all ranks.91
The Development of the Army Programme for 1942
During 1941 and the early part of 1942 there was much official discussion, at home and in England, of the further expansion of the Canadian
* The largest of the war was “A.T. 56”, of July 1943; see below, page 190.
overseas army. It was increasingly clear that the arrangements now to be made would represent, to all intents and purposes, the final stage.
On 11 August 1941 General Crerar, writing confidentially from Ottawa to General McNaughton,92 said that a programme was being prepared but that he proposed to submit it to the Government as tentative only, subject to discussion with the Corps Commander and the War Office. He anticipated that the Minister and himself would have to take another trip to the United Kingdom in the autumn to discuss the matter. In the meantime, he presented some thoughts for McNaughton’s consideration:
To commence with, our departmental studies of man-power available do not indicate that numbers will be a restrictive factor for some time yet in respect to an expansion of the Canadian Army. Perhaps the A.G. has already spoken to you on this subject, but, if not, I might say that our departmental appreciation indicates that man-power is available to maintain a Canadian Army of eight Divisions, of which two will be in Canada, for a war period of over six years from now. An Inter-departmental Committee on Man-Power has now been formed and is considering the calculations submitted by this and other departments such as Labour and Munitions and Supply. It may be that the results of this Committee’s considerations will be somewhat at variance from the estimates we have separately reached. On the other hand, our own calculations certainly do not suffer from optimism and I believe that the numbers for the Army are there, without interfering with essential industry and other home activities, providing the Government takes the steps required to get those numbers into the Services.
All the above leads me to the conclusion that, providing the Government are prepared to face up to the financial and other strain, we should be able to reinforce the Corps during 1942 with not only the 4th Division but another Armoured Division as well. This would result in too large a Corps, but have you ever considered the pros and cons of a Canadian Army comprising 2 Corps each of 2 Divisions and an Armoured Division? I fully admit that this is a pretty ambitious proposal because the necessary increase in Corps, etc., troops will be fairly heavy. At the same time, I do not think that the picture is an impossible one.
Crerar explained that these suggestions had not yet been put before the Minister “even in a tentative way”. McNaughton did not reply directly to this letter, explaining later that he had put off doing so as the result of understanding that an official “proposition for 1942” might be expected shortly.93
It is worth noting that Colonel Ralston had mentioned to the War Committee on 29 July the fact that the Adjutant General’s survey of manpower had suggested that there was manpower available in Canada to permit of the mobilization of eight divisions – six overseas and two for home defence – and their maintenance for a period of five years from the end of December 1942. This meeting of the War Committee accepted Crerar’s proposal to mobilize a new infantry division, numbered the 6th, for home defence (see below, page 166). It was further agreed that Canada should maintain overseas four divisions, plus the army tank brigade, with two divisions at home. Beyond this, no commitments were authorized for the present.
In September Crerar put his tentative plan before the Minister.94 It was important, he wrote, that plans for the army should be “such as can be
implemented with our present system of voluntary enlistment for overseas service”; it was also essential that Canada should provide “the maximum force overseas that it is possible to organize and maintain”. Having given thought to the various possibilities (including a suggestion received from the Corps Commander through his chief administrative officer, Brigadier G. R. Turner, that the best way to create Canadian armoured formations was by the conversion of infantry units already in the United Kingdom),95 Crerar suggested for preliminary consideration “the following Canadian Army Programme for 1941–42”:
“Conversion of the 4th Canadian Division to an armoured division for service overseas.
“Eventual formation overseas of a Canadian Armoured Corps of two divisions.
“Creation of a Canadian Army Headquarters overseas to command and administer the Canadian Corps of three Divisions and the Canadian Armoured Corps of two Armoured Divisions.”
Final consideration of this programme would have to be postponed until after the discussions overseas.
Ralston and Crerar arrived in the United Kingdom on 13 October 1941. This visit gave the Minister ample opportunities for conversations with the British authorities and General McNaughton.96 On 6 November, following his return to Ottawa, Ralston reported to the War Committee that the Secretary of State of War (Captain Margesson) had told him that another armoured division from Canada would be a most helpful contribution. What was in mind, Ralston remarked, was converting the existing 4th Division; however, no commitment to do this had been made. He mentioned that it might be desirable to set up a new command, apart from the Corps, to include the Lines of Communication troops, now numbering some 30,000; but he seems to have made no specific mention of an army headquarters, and any discussions on this subject which may have taken place overseas between him, McNaughton and Crerar appear to have gone unrecorded. In a cable97 sent on 14 November, General McNaughton, in addition to providing a long list of the ancillary troops which were required, mentioned that a second army tank brigade and a second armoured division would be “most useful further additions” to the force overseas. This cable also contained no reference to an army headquarters.
On 18 November General Crerar submitted to the Minister a definite Army Programme “for the balance of this year and for 1942”.98 The army headquarters element was omitted. The chief items were the organization for service overseas, first, of nineteen Corps and Army units, with a total strength of 378 officers and 3893 other ranks, already authorized but not yet provided; secondly, of twenty-five additional Corps and Army units now required, with a total strength of 172 officers and 3136 other ranks; and
finally, of an armoured division (to be formed by converting the 4th Division), an army tank brigade, and the Corps and Army units required to support and serve these new formations, amounting to thirty-nine units with a total strength of 255 officers and 6011 other ranks. The CGS remarked, “Provision of these units will permit the constitution of a Canadian Armoured Corps of two armoured divisions.” He added that he saw “no military factors in the present strategic situation” that would warrant the mobilization of an additional division for home defence, but this might become necessary if conditions changed for the worse.
Before this programme was finally approved, it underwent alterations which included the reinstatement of the army headquarters mentioned in Crerar’s early draft. On Christmas Day 1941 General McNaughton had a conference on organization matters with General Sir Bernard Paget, who had now been appointed C-in-C Home Forces. Crerar, who had given up the appointment of CGS and was to command the Canadian Corps in an acting capacity while McNaughton was on leave,* was also present. To a query by Paget on higher organization, McNaughton replied that he “would prefer an Army HQ with two Corps”. Next day McNaughton cabled the Minister of National Defence as follows:99
In out discussions yesterday General Paget C-in-C Home Forces reiterated views previously expressed to me by his predecessor Brooke now CIGS that on account of the size of Canadian Forces in the United Kingdom we should now provide an Army Headquarters. It is my view that implementation of Army Programme which I discussed with you on your visit and which is given in some detail in my GS 2512 dated 14th November 1941 will require the formation of a second corps headquarters and some small additions to ancillary units.
Ralston replied: “This involves a somewhat imposing expansion in overhead and did not understand that it had been advocated by you. Understood you proposed to put forward recommendations for increases of Corps staff to permit of more attention being paid to L. of C. and Ancillary units. It was in Crerar’s recommendation for Army Programme that the possibility of this expansion was indicated as a possible corollary if another armoured division was approved and if and when it was sent to the U,K.” He went on to suggest that it might be well not to discuss the matter with the War Office until it had been explored in Ottawa during a visit which the Corps Commander was shortly to make to Canada.100
Before McNaughton left for Canada, he had received a personal note101 from the new Chief of the Imperial General Staff saying that he would welcome a chance of discussing the future Canadian organization. General Brooke wrote:
The force seems to me to be growing too big to be handled by one Corps Commander.
* McNaughton had been on sick leave since 14 November. Major General G. R. Pearkes commanded the Corps until Crerar’s arrival.
I feel that you require a Force or Army Headquarters which will take over the running of all the rear services, workshops, base organization, etc., and thus free the Corps Commander’s hands for the job of commanding & training the fighting formations. That in itself is a full time job!
This was rather less than enthusiastic support for the formation of an operational Army Headquarters. It was, however, full recognition of the fact that some change in higher organization was required.
The War Committee examined the Army Programme for 1942 carefully. During this consideration, the war situation was fundamentally altered by the sudden attack by Japan (7 December 1941), which immediately brought the United States into the conflict. This may have had some influence on the final decision. The Labour Supply Investigation Committee, which appears to be the Inter-Departmental Committee referred to in General Crerar’s letter to General McNaughton of 11 August, had made its report on 16 October. It expressed the opinion that “609,000 men between the ages of 17 and 40 years in August, 1941, are potentially available for the armed forces”; but it added with great emphasis, “these 609,000 men will be available only if the most drastic measures are adopted”.102 The Government’s commitments against compulsory overseas service were of course still in effect. At a meeting of the War Committee on 3 December the new Chief of the General Staff (Lieut. General Kenneth Stuart) said in reply to questions that in his opinion the programme could be carried out on the voluntary basis, and that he considered that the number of reinforcements in sight would be adequate tinder foreseeable circumstances. He also said that the programme represented the visible ceiling of army expansion; it would make possible an excellent, well-balanced and adequate contribution by the Canadian Army in the European theatre.
Before the programme was approved, the Canadian Government was able to obtain the advice of Mr. Churchill, who said that armoured divisions were the highest form of army requirement, and that another from Canada would certainly be most welcome. The programme was in fact authorized before General McNaughton arrived in Canada. Along with those for the Navy and the Air Force, it was approved by the full Cabinet on 6 January 1942. On 26 January, while McNaughton was on the ocean, the Prime Minister announced in the House of Commons that “a Canadian army of two army corps” would be created overseas during 1942.
It will be noted that during these discussions in Ottawa the current manpower anxieties had given General Crerar’s idea of a six-division overseas Army its quietus. It was now quite clear that not more than five divisions would be authorized.
First Canadian Army Comes Into Existence
The basic decisions on the Army Programme having been reached before his arrival, General McNaughton was able to devote himself while in Ottawa to discussing broad policies and various points of detail. On 6 March he attended a meeting of the War Committee and spoke of the problems of the overseas army. He said that the relationship of the Army Commander to the Department of National Defence had been settled satisfactorily, the general principle being that the former should have direct and adequate authority in the details of administration of the Canadian Army Overseas, subject to control by the Government where principles were involved. The Minister of National Defence had agreed that this degree of freedom was necessary. Canadian Military Headquarters in the United Kingdom, McNaughton observed, had two primary sets of responsibilities – as a forward echelon of the Department of National Defence and as an agent of the Army Commander. He said that after the completion of the new programme the Canadian Army Overseas would constitute a self-contained, well-balanced force, suitable for its present role in the defence of the United Kingdom, and for future employment on the Continent. He stated that the 1942 programme represented in his opinion the upper limit of the force which Canada could deploy and maintain in a war of long duration; no major, increase would or should be made beyond it.
The Army Commander emphasized the importance of the security of the British Isles. The enemy, he said, was continuing invasion preparations, and invasion of those islands was still the most dangerous of all contingencies. In these circumstances, the first and most important task for the Canadian Army continued to be the defence of the United Kingdom; its secondary role was that of eventual operations upon the Continent. At this period, the Canadian Government, as a result of the Japanese successes in Asia, was being pressed for increased defences in British Columbia (below, page 170). McNaughton expressed the opinion that under existing conditions the Japanese could attempt no serious attack upon Canada; the present probable limit of their enterprises was nuisance raids. Canada’s best general policy, he suggested, was to concentrate upon the protection of the United Kingdom; to increase war production to the limit; and to find some method of bringing Canadian engineering skill and methods to bear upon the design and development of weapons.
During a visit to Washington on 8–11 March, General McNaughton had conversations with President Roosevelt and various American military officers. In these he expressed the same opinions which he had submitted to the Canadian Government, emphasizing the importance of the security of
the United Kingdom and the likelihood that the war would ultimately be won by an offensive launched from that country “across the narrow seas”.103 He returned to England late in March to carry out the programme which had been approved. Authority for the formation of Army Headquarters and units to work in affiliation with it had been given by the War Committee on 11 March. In consequence, Headquarters First Canadian Army came into existence on Easter Monday, 6 April 1942, with McNaughton as GOC-in-C. Crerar retained command of the Canadian Corps, which now became the 1st Canadian Corps.
The development of the new Army was to proceed by stages. The first phase would be the formation of a nucleus staff and a beginning on mobilizing the several units required to work with Army Headquarters (Army Signals, etc.) In the second phase, Army Headquarters would be gradually completed to about half its final establishment – this being achieved, it was anticipated, by about the middle of June 1942 – and the related ancillary units would be brought up to strength as required. The third phase was thus outlined:104
HQ 2 Cdn Corps would be organized on an establishment which is to be provided for the purpose to be completed about 1 Jul 42. On the completion of this HQ it would be exchanged with HQ 1 Cdn Corps in an operational role and the latter brought out of the Order of Battle and reorganized also on the lower establishment.
It proved impossible in practice to carry out this programme as planned, particularly with respect to the new Corps Headquarters. The main difficulty here was the shortage of trained staff officers.105 Headquarters 2nd Canadian Corps was not actually set up until 14 January 1943, some six months later than originally planned. Major General E. W. Sansom was promoted Lieut. General and appointed to command the Corps, being succeeded at the 5th Canadian Armoured Division by Major General C. R. S. Stein.106
During the early months of 1942, the complicated process of converting the 4th Infantry Division into the 4th Armoured Division was going forward in Canada. Brigadier Worthington became a Major General and was appointed to the command. His task was somewhat eased by improvements in the equipment situation; Canadian “Ram” tanks were now coming off the production line, and thus the units were able to train in Canada with the equipment which, in the first instance, they would use overseas. The Division moved across the Atlantic in the late summer and early autumn of 1942, the two main convoys reaching the Clyde on 31 August and 6 October. The last units arrived in the Queen Elizabeth on 4 November.,107 The 2nd Army Tank Brigade was organized in Canada in January 1942 (its headquarters being provided by redesignating that of the 11th Infantry Brigade, a 4th Division formation now no longer required);108 but it did not go overseas until the summer of 1943.
The Final Composition of the Field Force
During 1942, there was intense discussion of the composition of the Canadian Army Overseas. The problem was extraordinarily complicated, and can be considered here only in its broadest aspects.
The increasing stringency of the manpower situation was a basic factor, the more so as the limits of Canadian capacity had not yet been defined. In June 1942 General McNaughton asked NDHQ to fix the total establishment which might be used as a basis for planning the field army,109 but this information could not be provided at once. After his conferences with Ralston and Stuart in October, he recorded that it had become apparent that there were still “difficulties in reaching a conclusion as to the proper balance between allocations to War Industry and between the Sea, Land and Air Forces”, but that it was hoped that these things could be clarified in December.110 Apart from manpower, other complicating factors were the chronic shortage of shipping for moving troops from Canada to England; certain important alterations in organization which were in progress, or under discussion, within the British Army; and the unsettled state of planning for future operations, which compelled the Canadian staffs to allow for the possibility of the Army having to take part in major battles on the Continent, at some uncertain date in 1943, before the limited shipping available could bring the whole of the authorized force in from Canada.
The fundamental problem was that of providing the great number of ancillary units (Army, GHQ and L. of C. Troops) required for the support of a modem army in the field. These actually represented a larger manpower commitment than the fighting formations. It was considered that the overall strength of troops in a theatre of war could be calculated on a rough basis of 40,000 all ranks per infantry division, 35,000 per armoured division and 5000 per army tank brigade. (The actual strengths of these formations themselves were, respectively, approximately 18,000, 15,000 and 3500 all ranks.) On 19 January 1942 the Director of Staff Duties, War Office (Major General D. G. Watson) pointed out that Canadian planning for ancillary troops so far fell considerably short of this standard.111 The question of what ancillary troops Canada could and should provide was the main one grappled with by the Canadian Army Planning Committee which General McNaughton set up in the summer. By August there had emerged what was known as the “Third Proposal” for the composition of the Canadian Army Overseas. The only formations included were the three infantry divisions, two armoured divisions and two army tank brigades already authorized, but it allowed for ancillary units which would have raised the total establishment of the field force and units in England to 209,920 all ranks, apart from reinforcements .112 This represented at least an approximation
to a self-contained Canadian Army, though the total suggested for the field force (178,091 all ranks) was still short of the standard indicated by General Watson, which would have called for 200,000.*
* General Brooke told General McNaughton on 19 November 1942 that he considered the quota of 40,000 per infantry division and 35,000 per armoured division “altogether too generous under the conditions in which an attack on the Continent would be contemplated”.113
By the late autumn it was clear that the “Third Proposal” was beyond attainment. On 15 November the Chief of the General Staff cabled McNaughton, “...without waiting to end of year we have to accept the conclusion that it is not feasible to plan for a composition of the First Canadian Army such that it could operate wholly independently with all Canadian Base L. of C. and Army troops which after all would seem to be envisaging the ideal”.114 At the same time the shipping situation remained bad, the allotment being based on a monthly movement overseas of only 5000 Canadian troops. Stuart’s cable went on:
Based upon above considerations I have recommended and A.G. [Adjutant General] agrees that our objective as to the strength of the First Canadian Army overseas should be limited first to presently authorized formed and forming units overseas. Second to presently authorized units designated for overseas service formed or forming in Canada. Third to personnel for establishment increases .. . Fourth to units that we might be able to make available directly or by conversion from home defence formations. Fifth reinforcements at proposed new battle casualty rate.
Ten days later, in answer to a request from McNaughton for specific figures on available manpower, Stuart calculated that it should be possible, assuming that shipping space could be found, to send 64,000 men to England during the first eight months of 1943. Thereafter it was hoped to maintain the flow at “about 5000 per month”, which it was estimated would be required for reinforcement purposes when the Army went into action.115
On receiving the cable of 15 November, McNaughton replied accepting the situation and remarking, “Under these circumstances I recognize... that it may not be possible to operate as a Cdn Army”. He proposed, he said, to place the situation before the Chief of the Imperial General Staff “and obtain his views as to the best form our contribution can take”.116 A few days later he reported117 the result of his consultations:
Late Thursday 19 Nov 42 1 had long talks with CIGS and DMO† in respect to plans for employment Cdn Army. I want you to know that in accordance policy enunciated your CGS 615 dated 15 Nov 42 I made it clear at the start that I was only concerned with making the best contribution possible to winning the war and that I was prepared to recommend the abandoning of the possibility of operating as an army if it were more advantageous to supply individual formations to separate theatres or to break up divisions if this were the proper and best solution.
It is very definitely General Brooke’s opinion that the project for a Cdn Army should be maintained and he hoped that our 2nd Army Tk Bde would be sent over in due course ...
† Director of Military Operations, War Office (Major General J. N. Kennedy).
These conversations reflected the uncertain state of Allied operational planning at this period. Apart from Operation “Tonic” (the occupation of the Canary Islands), the possible enterprises envisaged were “large-scale raids of limited scope and duration” upon the German submarine bases in the Bay of Biscay in the spring of 1943, while it was considered that by August the Canadians should be ready “to go on the continent in strength” if circumstances warranted, playing their part in securing and holding a permanent bridgehead of limited depth. By October they should be “ready to operate as a Cdn Army on the continent with all essential rearward services”. No other possible operations were mentioned at this time.
On this basis McNaughton, in consultation with the CGS in Ottawa and the various branches of the War Office, proceeded to work out a programme. On 21 December he reported118 that the War Office had undertaken to contribute “up to 9000 [men] per Division as a permanent commitment to complete our rearward services and more if necessary until our own quota is fully available”. On 28 December he stated the priorities in which he proposed to use the manpower available, and added that he now intended as far as possible to organize the Army on British war establishments. (While Canadian establishments had in general been based upon British models, they had not followed them in detail.) This would facilitate incorporating Canadian corps or divisions in a British force if necessary.119
At this time the organization of armoured divisions was being materially altered. The War Office had decided to abandon that based on two armoured brigades and a support group in favour of a single armoured brigade, an infantry brigade, and two field regiments of artillery; and General McNaughton advised conforming to this change. This involved disbanding one armoured brigade from each of the two Canadian armoured divisions, and although three of the armoured regiments of these brigades were needed for other tasks in the new organization three others were left surplus. More infantry and artillery would be required. McNaughton desired to utilize the surplus armour to form a third army tank brigade, and in his cable of 21 December he wrote, “As a long term objective I propose that Cdn Army should comprise two corps with three Infantry Divs (three Inf Bdes), two Armd Divs (one Inf and one Armd Bde) and three Army Tank Bdes.”120 This objective, however, was never attained. The Chief of the General Staff queried the suggestion of a third tank brigade, in view of a current shortage of Armoured Corps reinforcements.121 General McNaughton replied that completing this formation was a matter for later discussion; the extra armoured regiments would be made available for reinforcement purposes unless and until adequate reinforcements were in sight.122 As it turned out, by
March 1943 it was apparent that the formation of the third tank brigade would not be practicable, and in any case experience in Exercise “Spartan” (below, pages 249–51) convinced the Army Commander that two such brigades would be enough.123
On 6 January 1943 General Stuart sent to the Minister his final submission124 for the Army Programme for 1943, which was based on McNaughton’s recommendations. Its main elements, apart from the reorganization of the overseas divisions on British establishments, were the dispatch overseas of two infantry battalions, already mobilized, to complete the reorganization of the armoured divisions; the completion of “Basic Corps Troops, already authorized” by sending forward units in existence in Canada; the conversion of one of the surplus armoured regiments to a “tank delivery regiment” (whose function was to provide armoured units with replacement tanks and crews fit for immediate action) and the retention of two armoured car regiments as Army Troops; and the organization of the headquarters of the third army tank brigade to administer the three surplus armoured regiments “which are to be considered as a potential reinforcement reserve”. The programme also included: In principle only, the provision of such units as may be required by the Army Commander, together with their proper proportion of reinforcements, to complete the overseas programme, to a total of 18,369, being the unencumbered balance of the 64,000 proposed to be despatched abroad [see above, page 101]; the foregoing additions to include such changes in establishments or reorganizations as may be required abroad.
The provision overseas of a pool of reinforcements based on 3 months (casualties] at the intense rates, and the provision of one additional month’s reinforcements in Canada at the same rate.
This programme had the effect of fixing for the army overseas a “manpower ceiling” of approximately 226,000 men.125 This covered all existing establishments, including the base units in England, plus the reinforcements calculated as required for three months’ fighting at the “intense” rate of activity. In addition, an undertaking was made, as already forecast, to send forward 5000 men per month from Canada as replacements for casualties subsequent to 1 September 1943.
The programme was approved by the War Committee on 6 January, the same day on which it was submitted in its final form, subject to review if it was found to conflict with the manpower or financial requirements of the Navy or Air Force. On 11 March, following further discussions with General McNaughton and minor modifications, the Committee approved a figure of 232,100 as the manpower ceiling for the Canadian Army Overseas to 1 September 1943.
* The ceiling was subsequently raised to include the 1st Parachute Battalion and its quota of reinforcements. In August 1944 a final adjustment to cover the 1st Special Service Battalion and some minor units fixed the total at 234,500 all ranks.126
The 2nd Army Tank Brigade arrived in the United Kingdom from Canada in June 1943. A 3rd Army Tank Brigade had been formed overseas on a temporary basis, out of the surplus armoured regiments, in January 1943. As both brigades could not be retained, and the units which had been overseas longest were reported as the most efficient, those from Canada, and the brigade headquarters which had come with them, were in due course disbanded; but since the authorized army tank brigade was designated by order in council as the 2nd, this number was used for the formation which continued to exist and which fought in the North-West Europe campaign.127 In June 1943 the decision was taken to reorganize the Canadian army tank brigades as independent armoured brigades. The reason given was the desirability of being able to “replace” them in the armoured divisions if required128 (presumably, in the event of a return to the older establishment of armoured divisions, on a basis of two armoured brigades, or if temporary operational conditions called for such an arrangement). The brigades, however, remained without an important part of the armoured brigade in an armoured division – the motor battalion of infantry.
The addition of one special unit to the Canadian Army Overseas may be noted here. On 1 July 1942 the Cabinet War Committee approved the organization of a Canadian Parachute Battalion. Its purpose as explained at this time was primarily one of home defence: to provide means for recapturing aerodromes or reinforcing remote localities. A number of officers and other ranks were returned from overseas during the late summer to join the battalion, which subsequently moved to the United States for four months’ parachute training at Fort Benning, Georgia.129 By the time this was completed, the battalion no longer seemed required in Canada, and on 7 April 1943 the War Committee authorized incorporating it in a new British airborne division being formed in the United Kingdom. It arrived in Britain on 28 July, and shortly moved to Salisbury Plain, where it joined the 6th Airborne Division and became a unit of the 3rd Parachute Brigade.130 A small Canadian element was added to the Division’s headquarters to look after administrative matters for the battalion. The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion fought with the 6th Airborne Division through the North-West Europe campaign.
The First Special Service Force
Another special unit must be mentioned. This is the 1st Canadian Special Service Battalion, the Canadian component of the First Special Service Force, a unique international organization whose personnel was drawn partly from the Canadian and partly from the United States Army.
Early in 1942 Allied strategists were considering a highly novel scheme known as Operation “Plough” (originated apparently by an Englishman named Geoffrey Pyke) which had caught the imagination of both Mr. Churchill and Lord Louis Mountbatten. It envisioned operations with special vehicles, sent in by air, to be conducted during the winter of 1942–43 in the snow-covered areas of Europe, the objectives being the Romanian oilfields and hydro-electric plants in Northern Italy and Norway. The scheme’s realization involved raising a special force and developing special equipment; and it had sufficient appeal to British and American leaders to lead them to put both matters in hand.131 In Canada the Department of Munitions and Supply was asked to develop a snowmobile, and did produce an effective vehicle, the “Penguin”, which, with modifications, has since given good service in the Army’s Arctic exercises. United States agencies on their side, with help from the National Research Council in Ottawa and from other Allied countries, developed a vehicle which, under the name of “Weasel”, later did well in many theatres. In its amphibious form (M 29 C) it was familiar to the Canadian Army.132
The original scheme for the raiding force contemplated a unit composed of Canadians, Americans and Norwegians. It soon became clear that no Norwegians except a few instructors would be available. On 26 June 1942, however, the Canadian Prime Minister approved Canadian participation (possibly because of the extreme secrecy of the project, it does not appear to have been put before the Cabinet War Committee at this stage), and on 14 July the Minister of National Defence authorized the movement of 47 officers and 650 other ranks to the United States in connection with the project.133 For security reasons, the Canadian part of the force was designated “2nd Canadian Parachute Battalion” until May 1943, when the name was changed to “1st Canadian Special Service Battalion”. The senior Canadian officer was Lt. Col. J. G. McQueen, who was brought back from the army overseas to take the appointment; the junior officers were chiefly recent graduates of the Officers Training Centre at Brockville; while the other ranks were selected from among men in Canada volunteering for duty as paratroopers.134
The First Special Service Force consisted of a Combat Force of three small “regiments” (two battalions each) and a Base Echelon or Service Battalion. Canada provided no men for the latter except a paymaster and two NCOs. Under the original “table of organization” the strength of the Combat Force would have been 108 officers and 1167 other ranks, and Canada’s contribution would have been half of it.135 However, “The regiments’ enlisted strength was later raised by 50 per cent”,136 and since the Canadian quota was not increased in proportion the Canadian component usually amounted to a little more than one-third of the Combat Force and
about one-quarter of the Force as a whole.137 The American element thus predominated. Canadians liked to think of the Force as a Canadian-American venture on a basis of equal partnership. A press release issued by the U.S. Secretary of War on 6 August 1942, which included the phrase “the first time in history that Canadian troops have served as part of a United States Army unit”,138 aroused some feeling in Ottawa but perhaps was not entirely at variance with practical facts. The Minister of National Defence had contemplated the Force’s wearing “a uniform of its own”, neither Canadian nor American;139 in practice, it wore U.S. uniform with special badges, and the Minister, rather reluctantly, authorized Canadians to wear U.S. badges of rank.140
The Commander of the First Special Service Force was Colonel Robert T. Frederick, USA.* Lt. Col. McQueen acted as his executive officer until injured in a parachute jump; Lt. Col. D. D. Williamson then became Canadian senior officer, though he did not succeed McQueen as executive officer. The initial arrangement was that two of the three regiments were commanded by Americans with Canadian “executives”, and the third by a Canadian with an American “executive”.141 Canadian and American soldiers of all ranks were distributed throughout the regiments, not segregated in separate units. Thus the “1st Canadian Special Service Battalion” was never a tactical unit; this was simply a convenient administrative label for the Canadian part of the Force.
The First Special Service Force was organized at Fort William Henry Harrison, Helena, Montana, in the summer of 1942. Parachute training began at once; then came ground tactics and, as cold weather came on, winter warfare training under Norwegian instructors. Already, however, Operation “Plough” had been cancelled, as a result of, among other things, Norwegian doubts; the possibility of attacking the objectives in Norway in a much simpler manner with small airborne parties; and the natural reluctance of the RAF to divert a huge number of aircraft from the bombing of Germany.142 However, the American military authorities wished to keep the Force in existence with a view to its employment in the Mediterranean area, and requested Canadian concurrence.143 The Cabinet War Committee agreed on 18 November.
The story of the First Special Service Force in action is outlined elsewhere in this history.† After undergoing amphibious training, it took part in the abortive expedition to Kiska in August 1943. Thereafter it was moved to Italy, and beginning in November was engaged in hard mountain fighting on the approaches to Cassino. Early in 1944 it was put into the Anzio
* Succeeded (24 June 1944) by Colonel Edwin A. Walker, USA, who commanded until the Force was disbanded.
† Below page 501 and see Volume Two The Canadians in Italy.
bridgehead and saw further bitter action there, being rewarded by taking part in the liberation of Rome. In August of the same year the Force fought in a commando role in the landings on the south coast of France, and subsequently covered the Allies’ right flank along the Franco-Italian boundary. In December it was disbanded. It had had a splendid fighting record, the result of a magnificent regimental spirit. Canadians and Americans had taken equal pride in their unique organization, and had served together in a comradeship which had no place for international jealousies.
Something must be said here of the administration of the Canadian battalion and the peculiar problems which it raised.
The division of costs between Canada and the United States was on the following basis.144 Canada was responsible for pensions, pay and allowances of Canadian personnel, including Canadian parachute pay of $2.00 per day for officers and 75 cents per day for other ranks; for repayment to the United States in U.S. funds of the cost of rations for the Canadians; and for exchange on Canadian funds to cover the men’s pay. The United States was responsible for quarters and equipment; clothing, except items issued to Canadians by the Canadian Government; all transportation costs with the exception of the original transportation of Canadian personnel to Helena; and hospital, medical and dental services except any rendered Canadians after return to Canada as unfit for service. The American authorities were thus allowed to bear a considerable portion of the cost of the Canadian part of the Force – not a very satisfactory arrangement.
The Canadian soldiers of the Force were paid at Canadian rates, which were lower than those of the U.S. Army. The authority, obtained in October 1942, for parachute pay for all ranks, did not entirely meet the case, as the Americans of the Force had already been receiving parachute pay at a higher rate – $50 per month for “enlisted men”. The Canadian battalion’s war diary, recording the grant of parachute pay, noted, “We now have Canadian staff sergeants drawing less money than the American privates under them.” Calculations made at Ottawa, which allowed for the fact that the Americans paid income tax and the Canadians did not, indicate that this was only a slight exaggeration: on this basis a Canadian staff sergeant got $99 per month and an American private $93. A Canadian private got $63. These rates are all for unmarried men.145 Colonel Frederick urged that the Canadian Government pay its troops in the Force at American rates.146 The CGS had already recommended this, but the proposal had been rejected, on the ground that it would be improper to discriminate between the men of the Special Service Force and other Canadian soldiers.147 The inequality of pay continued throughout the existence of the Force.
Awards for gallantry also caused difficulty after the Force got into action. The Canadians of the Force resented the fact that, although they
were eligible for U.S. awards, no machinery existed by which they could receive decorations from their own country. The first four British Commonwealth awards were promulgated only in November 1944, when the unit was about to be disbanded. By that time 43 U.S. gallantry awards had been made to Canadians in the Force.148
Special provision was of course required for the enforcement of discipline. It was agreed in the beginning that Canadian members of the Force would be subject to Canadian military law and would be disciplined by Canadian officers for offences under the Army Act.149 A Canadian order in council150 gave every Canadian officer of the Force the legal powers of a detachment commander (subject to the authority of the senior Canadian officer). It also provided that American members of the Force should “for the purposes of command only (but not discipline and/or punishment)” be deemed to be members of the Canadian forces of equivalent rank – an interesting device. Serious military offences by Canadians were dealt with by Field General Courts-Martial composed of Canadian officers and convened by the Commanding Officer of the Canadian battalion as provided in the Army Act.151 This system seems to have worked smoothly.
Organization of the Canadian Army Overseas at its Peak
By midsummer of 1943, when the 1st Canadian Infantry Division and the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade left the United Kingdom for Sicily to engage in the first protracted campaign in which a formation of the Army participated in this war, the Canadian Army Overseas may be said to have reached its full development. Thereafter, it was subject only to minor alterations resulting from those changes in war organization which are always taking place as the result of experience, and the necessary special adjustments resulting from the division of the force during 1943 between the United Kingdom and the Mediterranean theatre.
The “fighting” portion of the force consisted, as has been made clear, of two armoured divisions, three infantry divisions, and two independent armoured brigades, plus two “army groups” of artillery. An Army Headquarters and two Corps Headquarters existed to direct the force in the field.
In addition to the fighting formations, the Canadian Army Overseas contained, as the reader will have gathered, a very large number of Corps, Army, GHQ, L. of C. and Base units. The War Office had, we have seen, agreed to provide, for the support of the First Canadian Army, rearward units amounting to 9000 men for each division. Nevertheless, the number of ancillary units provided by Canada herself was very large indeed. For the sake of simplicity and convenience, let us merely outline the situation as it
existed at the end of hostilities in Europe in May 1945, when the 1st Corps had returned from Italy and the whole Canadian field army was reunited in North-West Europe. At this time the “authorized” composition of the Canadian Army Overseas represented a total personnel of 217,371 all ranks. This figure was exclusive of the holding of reinforcements, which was included, as already noted, in the manpower ceiling. Of this total establishment, 25,786 all ranks were in units, or “increments” to units, organized on a “temporary” basis, and of these 9567 were in North-West Europe. Apart from this, the total establishment of the Canadian component of the 21st Army Group in North-West Europe amounted to 160,850 all ranks. Canada of course provided all her own Corps Troops, which totalled at this time 7875 all ranks for each of the two Corps. First Canadian Army Troops provided by Canada numbered 28,350 all ranks, while GHQ and L. of C. Troops and Base Units amounted to 24,287 more. In addition, various special units in North-West Europe accounted for 644 all ranks.152
In the United Kingdom, the establishment of the various Canadian units amounted in May 1945 to 30,735 all ranks on a permanent basis, plus a total of 16,219 all ranks (including the staffs of schools and reinforcement units) organized on a “temporary” basis.153 Of the total authorized establishment of the Canadian Army Overseas at this period, only approximately 44 per cent (a total of 97,546) was accounted for by the strength of the fighting formations – the five divisions, the two armoured brigades and the artillery units of the two army groups RCA If reinforcement holdings were added to the establishment figures, the percentage would be still lower. Even within the formations, of course, a considerable number of men were employed on purely administrative tasks. All this does not mean that Canadian use of manpower was necessarily improvident; it merely emphasizes that in war as waged by the Western Allies in 1939–45 more manpower went to supporting and maintaining the fighting formations than was used by those formations themselves. To maintain 100 men in contact with the enemy and provide them with what they needed to fight and win, considerably more than 100 other men had to work in the rear areas of the theatre of operations, and many more again were required at the home base.