Chapter 5: Defending the Soil of Canada, 1939–1945
(See Maps 1, 2, 3)
The Nature of the Problem
Many people assumed, during the years before 1939, that in the event of another war Canada would be in greater direct danger than in 1914–18. Even after war began, this assumption continued to be influential. As we have seen, on 3 September 1939 the Prime Minister, sending his first formal cable to Mr. Chamberlain concerning military cooperation, remarked that the primary task for the Canadian Government would naturally be the defence of Canada, “which under present circumstances is a more pressing and urgent undertaking than it was in the last war”.*
Nevertheless, no real menace to Canadian soil developed at any time during the war. There was no invasion; there were no landings from the sea or bombings by aircraft, nor is there any evidence that the Germans or Japanese ever seriously considered such enterprises. It is true that Canada was in peril, and the peril was deadly; but it never took the form of an imminent threat to her territory. This was due to fortunate geographical accidents, and the possession of powerful allies, which made it possible to conduct the war on the further side of great bodies of water; and Canada’s main contributions butions to winning it took the form of active help to those allies in distant theatres. Had the joint Allied effort there failed – in particular, had the Germans overrun the United Kingdom as well as the rest of North-West Europe – the direct danger to Canada would have become infinitely greater. As it was, Canadians, for the second time in the century, were able to defend their interests on foreign soil and defeat their enemies before they came to Canada. No more serious immediate threat to Canada’s own shores developed than a few shells from a Japanese submarine, some ineffective bomb-carrying balloons, and sporadic operations by German U-boats in her coastal waters.
* This chapter deals only with the Army’s share in home defence. For the work of the Navy and Air Force, readers are referred to the histories of those services. Inter-service aspects will be dealt with in the subsequent volume dealing with military policy, as will also the question of cooperation with the United States. On defence measures immediately before the outbreak of war, see Chapter II, above.
All this, as usual, was not so clear at the time as it is in retrospect. To strike a balance between home defence and action abroad was not entirely easy for the Canadian Government. Not only was it impossible to forecast1 the course the war might take, but the Cabinet also had to consider popular fears and pressures which were not necessarily closely related to the actual 1 facts. Thus in the months after Pearl Harbor it was subjected, as we shall “s see, to strong demands for increased defences in British Columbia, and to some extent was obliged to yield to them. Large numbers of men and large 1 quantities of material were thus immobilized on the Pacific Coast. An excited public opinion, in pressing for such exaggerated precautions against menaces which were almost entirely imaginary, was of course simply playing Hitler’s game. In so far as such pressure resulted in keeping at home men and weapons that could have been used in the theatres where the war was decided, it was an advantage to our enemies.
Early Measures for the Defence of Canada
The plans made before 1939 for the defence of Canadian soil are described in Chapter I. They provided for more and stronger coast-defence batteries, and we have seen that much progress had been made before war broke out, although the measures taken had been largely confined to the Pacific Coast. In addition, Defence Scheme No. 3 provided for the mobilization in emergency of considerable forces to man the defences and otherwise provide for the security of coastal areas.
On the night of 25 August 1939, as already related (above, page 41), the Government called out on a voluntary basis the units of the Non-Permanent Active Militia required for the coast defences and the protection of “vulnerable points”. The batteries at Victoria-Esquimalt, Vancouver, Yorke Island and Prince Rupert were manned on the west coast, while on the Atlantic similar action was taken at Halifax, Saint John, N.B., Sydney, Canso, and Quebec. The job was done swiftly and efficiently so far as the limited strength of the NPAM units permitted. Thus at Halifax the 1st (Halifax) Coast Brigade
RCA paraded at 2:30 p.m. on 26 August with a strength of 202 all ranks; and its war diary records that, with the help of the local Permanent Force gunners and the 3rd (New Brunswick) Coast Brigade RCA, who were doing their annual training at Sandwich Battery, “the forts were manned and ready for action by 1830 hrs [6:30 p.m.]”. At Esquimalt on the same day 226 all ranks of the 5th (British Columbia) Coast Brigade RCA and attached units manned the new and old batteries.1
The improved defences in British Columbia included two new “counter-bombardment” batteries* in the Esquimalt area (at Albert Head and Mary Hill, mounting 9.2-inch and 6-inch guns respectively) which had already been armed. The guns, however, were on old mountings permitting an elevation of only 15 degrees, and not until 1943–44 were modem mountings allowing more adequate elevation and range received and installed. At Vancouver, the new batteries (on Point Grey; in Stanley Park; and on the north side of the First Narrows of Burrard Inlet) were ready, or nearly ready, for action on an emergency basis, though at Point Grey the action might not have been very effective. (The guns there, just mounted under the emergency scheme, still had the automatic sights originally provided for them on a much lower battery position at Halifax, and these were useless at Point Grey; while an alternative method of laying the guns was nullified when visibility was poor.) The Yorke Island guns were also “in action”. The Vancouver and Yorke Island defences were manned by the 15th (Vancouver) Coast Brigade RCA.2 At Prince Rupert, where the 102nd (North British Columbia) Heavy Battery RCA was on duty, the two new batteries had not been armed when the crisis came, but this was quickly done and guns of three different calibres had been test-fired here before the end of September.3
On the east coast, Halifax of course had its old batteries, which were in serviceable condition, although here too the mountings were low-angle. Some new anti-motor torpedo boat positions were set up on an emergency basis. At Sydney and the Strait of Canso the 16th Coast Brigade RCA manned guns mounted in accordance with the emergency plan lately authorized; there had previously been no active batteries here. At both places guns were progressively placed in action during September.4 At Saint John, where the 3rd (New Brunswick) Coast Brigade was doing duty, there had similarly been no armament before the emergency, but by Canada’s declaration of war on 10 September two 6-inch guns of 1896 vintage (originally part of the armament of HMCS Niobe) had been mounted in one battery, and other positions were armed later in the month, though only with field guns.5 At Quebec, a position unlikely to be assailed by sea under modem conditions, the 59th Heavy Battery RCA manned the elderly weapons of Fort Martinière, commanding the St. Lawrence below the city, and the 94th Field Battery had guns in position covering the examination anchorage near St. Vallier somewhat lower down.6
* One can distinguish four roles for coast-defence batteries. Counter-bombardment batteries, the heaviest type, were for dealing with enemy battleships or cruisers at long range. Close defence batteries were for defending harbours at shorter ranges. Examination batteries were for supporting the naval examination service for incoming shipping. Anti-motor torpedo-boat batteries were composed of light quick-firers for defending harbours against raiding M.T.Bs., and were often mounted to cover the boom defences of harbour-mouths. Sometimes a battery had more than one role.
Such was the coast artillery picture. Had an attack materialized during the first weeks of war, the defences’ efficiency would scarcely have been high; many of the gun positions were temporary, the equipment was outdated, the units were low in strength and incompletely trained. Yet the guns and crews were there and ready to fire. Surveying what had been accomplished since the Government authorized emergency action on 24 August, one must account it a not unimpressive performance.
Inadequate as the fixed gun defences were, they were in far better condition than the anti-aircraft defences, which were very nearly non-existent. As we have seen, the only efficient anti-aircraft guns in Canada (four 3-inch 20-cwt. pieces, already obsolescent) were sent to Halifax during the precautionary period. The only other A.A. guns in the country were eight 13-pounders, obsolete since 1920, for which a total of 307 rounds of ammunition was available, and two 4-inch naval guns which were useless since there was no fire-control equipment for them. In the early stages of the war, with Japan still neutral, the Atlantic ports naturally got priority; and it is the fact that until Pearl Harbor the Pacific coast’s anti-aircraft defences consisted of two of the ancient 13-pounders – with no ammunition.7 Since the United Kingdom’s own defences were still far from complete, it was next to impossible to obtain equipment from there; however, in November 1939, assisted perhaps by the fact that there had as yet been no air attacks on Britain, the Canadian authorities in London obtained the release of four modem 3.7-inch guns. These reached Canada early in January and were very properly allotted to Halifax, whose importance (and vulnerability) as a convoy assembly point needed no emphasis.8 No further A.A. guns were received for use in Canada for two years, until November and December 1941, when two more 3.7s arrived9 and 40-millimetre Bofors guns began to come out of Canadian factories.
In view of the almost total lack of equipment, certain anti-aircraft and searchlight batteries were intentionally omitted from the list of units called out voluntarily on 25 August. Nevertheless, through a misunderstanding, when mobilization began on 1 September several anti-aircraft units for which there was no equipment were ordered to mobilize. Subsequently the personnel of such units were absorbed into other CASF units in their respective Districts.10 For some time the men of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battery, having no equipment of their own, manned the coast-defence guns at Fort Macaulay, Esquimalt.11
The artillery were of course not the only troops on coast-defence duty. Infantry was also required, and on each coast several battalions were called out for this purpose. Their functions were to support the artillery garrisons of defended ports, to furnish small mobile reserves, to guard certain “vulnerable points” and in general to provide as might be required for internal security. In September 1939 four infantry battalions were mobilized for
* A fifth did guard duty on an NPAM basis until November, when it was relieved by the Mounted Police. It may be noted that after becoming Chief of the General Staff in 1940 General Crerar sought and received authority to move units required for duty in Canada from one part of the country to another at his discretion. One of the arguments used was the contribution such moves would make to the education of young soldiers as Canadians. This particularly appealed to the Prime Minister.
The battalions mobilized on establishments smaller than those for the Mobile Force, and recruiting was suspended before they reached full strength. The result was that during the winter they had too few men for their tasks. In the early summer of 1940 the infantry battalions on duty in British Columbia averaged only about 300 all ranks. Troops of all arms on coast-defence and anti-aircraft duty in Canada on 1 June totalled 9100 all ranks, in addition to 1732 guarding vulnerable points.14
The Guarding of “Vulnerable Points”
A word must be said on the problem of the protection of “vulnerable points”. The question of responsibility in this matter was a difficult one. The principle laid down before the outbreak of war was that the Dominion Government would take responsibility for protecting the following: defence establishments; certain vital and essential spots along the railways and canals; and some other points such as oil depots, drydocks, grain elevators at the Head of the Lakes, cable landing-places, wireless stations, and the Niagara hydro-electric plants. The point was made that, in general, Dominion protection could not be provided for every establishment which might conceivably become a target of attack or sabotage; “except where other arrangements have been specifically made, the authority responsible for protection in time of peace must continue responsible in time of war”.15 The local police authorities, and the owners of factories, etc., were not to be permitted to avoid responsibility.
With respect to those points which were acknowledged as Dominion charges, the question arose of the division of function between the armed forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Before war began arrangements for this division had been made, and lists of Department of National Defence and RCMP responsibilities had been mutually agreed upon.16 The military forces naturally assumed wider obligations on the coasts, where enemy landings were possible, but the Mounted Police in general carried the heaviest responsibilities in inland districts, where the danger was limited to that from saboteurs. The
RCMP planned to enlist special constables to handle the tasks assigned to it, which could usually be carried out by men whose age and medical category would render them unfit for active service. It was agreed in August 1939 that the Police would not be required to take over all the proposed responsibilities until its protective
organization had been completed. This was not yet the case when war broke out, and therefore, as a temporary measure, the Department of National Defence in September assumed the protection of all vulnerable points which were considered Federal obligations. From the first week of October onward the transfer from the Militia to the Police was gradually carried out.17 A certain number of CASF personnel who had been employed on guard duty were now no longer required, and under the provisions of a routine order18 published on 11 October these men were given the alternatives of discharge from the service, reversion to Non-Permanent Active Militia status or continued service in another unit of the CASF, if they could meet the required physical standards.
There was, as might have been expected, a good deal of correspondence with provincial and municipal authorities and private firms and individuals concerning the protection of vulnerable, or supposedly vulnerable, points. The Dominion Government was pressed to widen its own responsibilities in this respect. The matter was reconsidered during October 1939, and as a result the principle was re-affirmed that protection against sabotage was primarily a police rather than an army function, and one in which local authorities properly had large responsibilities.19 The Dominion Government continued to maintain that there were definite limits to its own obligations and declined to extend them to cover the protection of all establishments and communities against menaces which, the result showed, had little real existence.
In spite of all these qualifications, the Army had considerable responsibilities for guarding vulnerable points. In August 1940 the situation was as follows. There were no commitments whatever in Military Districts Nos. 1 (Headquarters, London, Ont.), 4 (Montreal), 12 (Regina, Sask.) and 13 (Calgary, Alta.) In Military District No. 7 (Saint John, N.B.), only 15 all ranks were employed on guard duty, and in No. 10 (Winnipeg) only 47. There was however a large commitment in Military District No. 2 (Toronto), where two battalions of the 13th Infantry Brigade were protecting the hydroelectric installations in the Niagara Peninsula and the Welland Canal locks, and a considerable one in No. 3 (Kingston, Ont.) where 237 all ranks were employed, including 152 guarding public buildings in Ottawa. In Military District No. 5 (Quebec, P.Q.), 307 all ranks were on duty, divided between eight different points, among which the Dominion Arsenal establishments at Quebec and Valcartier, and the Aluminum Company of Canada plants and power units at Arvida and Isle Maligne on the Upper Saguenay, were prominent. In Military District No. 6 (Halifax, N.S.), there were 234 all ranks, including 100 guarding the Joint Services Magazine at Bedford Basin and 70 at the oil depot at Imperoyal, both in the Halifax harbour area. In Military District No. 11 (Victoria, B.C.) 516 all ranks were employed, of whom 105 were guarding the drydock at Prince Rupert, while 74 all ranks
were allotted to each of three RCAF stations.20 This survey includes only troops allotted to definite local tasks. There were in addition infantry battalions in an “internal security role”, i.e. available to support the civil power or act in any other manner required by circumstances. In October there were five such battalions, stationed at Sherbrooke, P.Q.; Ottawa; Chatham, Ont.; Fort William, Ont.; and Edmonton, Alta. Furthermore, the 13th Brigade’s third battalion was considered available for the same role in the Toronto-Hamilton area.21
Another task, which grew much larger during 1940, was guarding internment and prisoner of war camps. From the beginning of the war, guards were required for the camps in which enemy aliens and other persons considered dangerous were interned. After the disaster in France in 1940, when a German attempt at invading Britain seemed likely, the British Government asked Canada to accept custody of 4000 internees and 3000 prisoners of war, whose presence in the United Kingdom might be dangerous in the event of invasion. On 10 June 1940 the War Committee of the Cabinet agreed. Subsequently the numbers increased until at the peak, in October 1944, Canada was holding for the United Kingdom 34,193 prisoners, of whom 254 were civilian internees. Canada held 853 other prisoners on her own responsibility. A total of 5524 all ranks of the Army were employed at this time as staff and guards. A Directorate of Prisoners of War had been set up at the beginning of 1943 to supervise the work.22 Guarding the camps was at first the responsibility of the Canadian Provost Corps, but in May 1941 full responsibility for them was transferred to the Veterans Guard of Canada.23
It may be noted here that the Veterans Guard had greatly expanded since its inception in May 1940. By March 1941 there were 29 active companies with a total strength of 206 officers and 6360 other ranks. Of these, 98 officers and 2848 other ranks were guarding internment camps, the balance of the personnel being employed in guarding vulnerable points and training. There were in addition 43 reserve companies with a total strength of 183 officers and 3765 other ranks.24 The Guard reached its peak of strength in June of 1943, when its Active strength was 451 officers and 9806 other ranks. This included one company in the United Kingdom – the General Duty Company at CMHQ – and one each in the Bahamas, British Guiana and Newfoundland, in addition to 37 companies and 17 internment camp staffs in Canada.25
The Development of Fixed Defences, 1939–1944
The emergency measures taken in August and September 1939 to strengthen the coast defences were only the beginning. Succeeding years
witnessed a steady improvement and by 1943–44 the fortifications were in a highly efficient state. It is convenient at this point to summarize this development.
The first aim, naturally, was to complete the Interim Plan of coast defence. We have seen the arrangements made in August 1939 to do this on an emergency basis. It was now necessary to substitute permanent emplacements for the temporary gun platforms then constructed. This was done in short order. On 15 February 1940 the Chief of the General Staff reported to the Defence Council that the Interim Plan had been “completely implemented”.26
It still remained to carry out the Ultimate Plan, drawn up, not on the basis of the armament that was available, but that which was desirable and necessary. As modern guns and mountings began to arrive (chiefly from the United Kingdom) it was possible to make progress with this final stage; but because the equipment came so slowly the progress was equally slow. The Ultimate Plan – considerably altered by this time – could not be said to be complete until early in 1945. Long before this, as early as the autumn of 1943 in fact, the garrisons of the coast defences were being reduced as a result of Allied victories beyond the seas.
Dealing first with the Atlantic coast, we find naturally that large and energetic measures were required during 1939–40 to make up for the effects of the pre-war policy which had granted such heavy priority to the Pacific. Measures which under ideal conditions would have been carried out as a part of peacetime preparation now had to be put into effect under the threat of attack.
The ancient fortress of Halifax continued to receive much attention. Permanent anti-motor torpedo-boat batteries gradually replaced the temporary ones, and in addition work began in the summer of 1940 on a new 9.2-inch battery near Devils Island, a position farther to seaward than any so far occupied. About the end of the year construction began on a 6-inch battery at Chebucto Head, on the opposite side of the harbour.27 The completion of these batteries was slowed by delays in delivery of armament from the United Kingdom. Canada had ordered in 1936 three high-angle mountings for heavy guns which were intended for Esquimalt.28 After war began it was decided to divert them to Halifax. In November 1939 the British Government found itself faced with the need for assisting South Africa in providing a heavy battery for Cape Town (to replace a monitor, previously stationed there, which now had to be withdrawn). Canada agreed to give up one of her mountings for this purpose, on the understanding that it would be replaced as soon as practicable. Subsequently the Admiralty asked that the replacement should be postponed until after provision had been made for the defences of Freetown (Sierra Leone) and Trinidad. Canada again agreed. Then, in July 1940, Mr. Churchill cabled
Mr. King begging that, in view of the great importance of Freetown to the vital Cape of Good Hope sea-route, Canada should agree to the diversion thither of the two heavy mountings for Halifax, then nearly ready for shipping. On the advice of the Chief of the General Staff (General Crerar), Mr. King accepted this suggestion, it being understood that two others would be made available in November and January.29 However, there was further delay, caused this time by bomb damage to the English factory concerned; the first mounting was not received until the summer of 1941.30 Devils Battery was partially in action “at restricted ranges” in January 1942,31 and its last gun was placed in action in the following March.32 Chebucto Battery was reported ready for action with all its guns in August 1943.33
Second only to Halifax in importance was Sydney, where no less than eight different battery positions were armed during the war. The activity here was closely related to the fact that Sydney shared with Halifax the heavy responsibilities of a convoy assembly point. The batteries were progressively improved and strengthened throughout the war. One 6-inch battery, Lingan, was reported in action in June 1941, although its role was temporarily limited to close defence pending the installation of more adequate range-finding equipment. A still more formidable site, Oxford Battery (9.2-inch guns), was not completed until the war was almost over, the last gun for this position being received from the United Kingdom only in November 1944.34 Saint John, N.B., as a major port required respectable defences. Four different positions were armed here, the most important, the Mispec counter-bombardment battery, being “practically completed” with its guns mounted by 30 June 1940.35 This rapid result had been achieved as a consequence of the availability of 7.5-inch guns for immediate delivery from the United Kingdom. The one remaining item of the original Ultimate Plan was the two small batteries, each armed with two 4-inch guns, covering the northern and southern entrances of the Strait of Canso. These were gradually developed from temporary positions into permanent ones.36
The pre-war plans had not contemplated providing defences at any East Coast points except Halifax, Sydney, the Strait of Canso, Saint John and Quebec. However, after the collapse of France in the summer of 1940, which had the incidental but important effect of greatly increasing the apprehensions of the United States with respect to the Atlantic coastal area, the programme was expanded. The Third Recommendation of the Canadian-American Permanent Joint Board on Defence,* adopted at its Ottawa meeting
* The creation of the Board was agreed upon between Mr. King and President Roosevelt at their meeting at Ogdensburg, N.Y., on 17–18 August 1940. The Board’s work will be dealt with in a later volume. On its inception, see William L. Langer and S. Everett Gleason, The Challenge to Isolation (New York, 1952), 702 ff. Its activities are described in the present writer’s “The Canadian-American Permanent Joint Board on Defence, 1940–1945” (International Journal, Spring 1954).
of 27 August 1940, advised the “early completion” of both underwater defences and harbour defences, not only at Halifax and Sydney, but also at Gaspe and Shelburne. The United States helped by selling to Canada armament, heavy if not of the latest type. Surveys were promptly undertaken, and in August 1941 it was reported that at both Shelburne and Gaspe 10-inch U.S. counter-bombardment guns had been mounted and manned and were “awaiting range-finding equipment and gun stores”.37 At Shelburne four different positions were armed in the course of the war to protect the harbour. At Gaspe there were three, all placed in action in the summer of 1941. The only other new position armed on the east coast of Canada proper (as Canada existed in 1939–45) was Louisburg, N.S., where in 1943 two 18-pounder field guns with searchlights were temporarily emplaced to offer some protection to the port.38
It remains, however, to note the defences provided by Canada in the territory of Newfoundland. Guns for a battery at Bell Island in Conception Bay were made available in the summer of 1940 (below, page 178). Newfoundland, of course, acquired increased importance in American as well as Canadian eyes as a result of the French collapse, and the Second Recommendation of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence (Ottawa, 26 August 1940) expressed the strong opinion that the island was inadequately defended and the security of Canada and the United States “thereby endangered”. One of the measures recommended was “completing, as early as practicable, and not later than the spring of 1941, the installation of appropriate defences for the port of St. John’s, Newfoundland, for Botwood, and for other points as required”. Canada took prompt action along these lines, the United States assisting by providing equipment. However, the work could not be finished by the spring of 1941. In August of that year it was reported that the batteries at Botwood and St. John’s, for both of which 10-inch guns were being purchased from the United States, would be “completed during the coming fall”.39 Canada built and manned three batteries at St. John’s, the 10-inch one in advance for counter-bombardment and two covering the harbour mouth. There were two sites at Botwood, and an additional small position at Lewisporte. The picture of Canadian coast defence installations on Newfoundland territory is completed by a small battery placed in action in June 1942 at Rigolet, on the approaches to Goose Bay in Labrador.40
Coast-defence searchlights were almost as important as coast-defence guns. Fortunately, they were relatively easy to produce in Canada. In October 1940 it was reported that all the new searchlights required by the Ultimate Plan for Halifax, Sydney, Canso and Saint John had been delivered and installation was far advanced. New lights were then being delivered to the Pacific coast at the rate of four or five per week.41
It is apparent that the gun defences of the Canadian Atlantic coastal area, very limited in 1939, were vastly improved and extended before 1945. During the war, no less than thirteen areas on the east coast (including Newfoundland) were defended with coast artillery in some degree; and counting certain positions which were abandoned during hostilities, a total of 45 individual sites were armed with guns. These figures do not include anti-aircraft sites. When the Ultimate Plan, as extended in 1940, had been completed, the artillery defences of the Atlantic coast were on a very adequate scale.
Turning back to the Pacific coast, we find that, thanks to what had been done before the war, rather less needed to be done here during hostilities; nevertheless, the defences were materially extended. Apart from entirely new measures, the completion of the Ultimate Plan as originally conceived was itself a considerable task. Cooperation with the United States was particularly important in the area of Juan de Fuca Strait, where the Canadian defences were coordinated with the heavy batteries on the American shore. Information on the defences here was exchanged between the two countries as early as January 1938.
In the war’s early days the manner in which the old low-angle mountings limited the range of the counter-bombardment armament of the Esquimalt Victoria fortress caused some anxiety, which extended to the United States; and a meeting of Canadian and U.S. officers at Victoria on 21–22 October 1940 discussed the desirability of making better arrangements to cover Juan de Fuca Strait with fire.42 A meeting of the Permanent Joint Board on Defence in January 1941 was told that the United States was prepared to lend to Canada either four 8-inch railway guns or eight 155-millimetre guns for strengthening the defences in this area. There was some discussion of placing armament at the west end of the Strait, but it was decided that it was sufficient to emplace two of the 8-inch guns at Christopher Point, at the south-eastern angle of Vancouver Island, as a temporary measure pending the arrival of high-angle mountings for the Esquimalt guns. This was done, and the installation of the guns on temporary concrete platforms, with crews and ammunition available, was reported complete three days before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, although range-finding equipment was not yet installed. These guns effectively controlled the Strait.43 As already noted, the change-over of the Albert Head and Mary Hill batteries to high-angle mountings, which greatly increased their range, was carried out during 1943–44. The final stage in these installations’ development was not reached until late in 1944. The anti-motor-torpedo-boat batteries for this area reached completion at the same period. It was reported in August 1944 that all the guns and mountings ordered from the United Kingdom for batteries of this type on both coasts had now been received.44
In the Vancouver area, activity was mainly directed to completing the pre-war Ultimate Plan. The guns on Point Grey were mounted in their permanent emplacements in the autumn of 1940.45 The 6-inch pieces at Stanley Park were exchanged in 1942 with the 4.7s at Yorke Island. In October 1941 an 18-pounder was mounted on Point Atkinson, serving in what was known as a “bring-to” role, in conjunction with the Naval Examination Service. Another small and very rudimentary battery was set up in October 1939, when two field guns were mounted near Steveston to stop unauthorized ships going up the Fraser River to New Westminster.46 All told, and not counting Yorke Island, five sites were occupied in the Vancouver-Fraser River sector.
The only other area on the Pacific coast which was defended with heavy coast artillery was that of Prince Rupert. This community was important as being the only ocean port in northern British Columbia and the terminus of a transcontinental railway line, and it had a special significance for the United States, in relation to Alaska. Seven battery sites were occupied here, including three which had formed part of the pre-war Ultimate Plan. One of these, Barrett Battery, armed with 6-inch guns, although in action from the beginning, received its final armament only in the spring of 1944.47 The others were armed with light quick-firing guns, except that two of the four 8-inch guns lent by the United States (see above) were placed in action here on their own railway mountings.48
There were fewer significant ports on the west coast of Canada than on the Atlantic, and for geographical reasons those that did exist were somewhat easier to defend with coast artillery than was the case in the Maritime Provinces. There was, accordingly, considerably less expansion of the gun defence programme during the war period than was the case on the Atlantic. Only four main areas were defended with coast artillery (Esquimalt-Victoria, Vancouver-Fraser River, Yorke Island and Prince Rupert), and in all 23 individual battery sites were armed. These figures do not allow for the light defences installed at four advanced RCAF stations in 1942.*
As we have already seen, the Pacific coast began to receive its allotment of up-to-date coast-defence searchlights (which totalled 34) in the autumn of 1940. Deliveries were complete by the following February.49 Modern fire-control equipment for the gun batteries came to hand more gradually; on both coasts it built up in efficiency and completeness throughout the war, as the supply position improved and technical progress continued. The National Research Council gave constant advice and assistance in this matter. The prototype CDX radar set for controlling coast-defence fire was first operationally tested in the Halifax area in March 1943, although a set intended primarily to reveal the approach of vessels was in action there as
* In a few cases, both on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, batteries were moved from one site to another. In such cases both sites have been counted.
early as 1941. At the end of hostilities technical apparatus for the control of fire, both by visual methods and by radar, had been provided and installed at all the principal sites.50
On neither coast of Canada did a coast-defence gun fire a single shot in anger during the war. It should not, however, be assumed from this that the guns were useless. An enemy usually prefers to go where defences are not, and the purpose of coast artillery was as much to discourage attack as to defend specific targets if an attack took place.
The Development of Anti-Aircraft Defences
We have noticed the ludicrous inadequacy of Canadian anti-aircraft defences in 1939, and the shortage of equipment which made any important improvement impossible for a long time after war began. It remains to survey the improvements which did take place later.
It has been made clear that early in 1941 there were in Canada still only eight efficient anti-aircraft guns, and that all of these were doing duty in protecting the port of Halifax and the great assembly of shipping normally found there. At this time alarm was felt for the security of the Aluminum Company of Canada’s plant at Arvida, P.Q. The Chiefs of Staff observed on 3 March that the Commonwealth’s aircraft industry was “now about 90,70 dependent on this Plant for the supply of aluminum ingots”, and that air attack upon this “tempting bottleneck in the Empire’s war effort” was a distinct possibility. They recommended that four A.A. guns should be transferred to Arvida from Halifax.51 It was pointed out that at the latter place there were always in harbour a considerable number of vessels with antiaircraft armament.*
* In April the Rear Admiral Third Battle Squadron (RN) placed the A.A. armament of HMS Forth, lying in a berth at Halifax, under the tactical control of the Fortress Commander. Telephone communications were established between the ship and the fortress gun operations room.52
The War Committee approved the transfer on 12 March. On 21 April the Prime Minister told the Committee that during his recent visit to the United States he had ascertained that there was no present possibility of obtaining additional anti-aircraft guns from the United States, which was itself very short of guns. The Americans did, however, make a useful contribution at this time in the shape of .5-inch anti-aircraft machine-guns, of which 16 were loaned for use in Newfoundland, while 12 more were purchased and divided equally between Halifax, Saint John and Arvida.53 These guns were manned by artillerymen.
The four 3-inch guns were duly withdrawn from Halifax and two of them were disposed at Isle Maligne and two at Arvida, the latter also receiving four of the .5-inch machine guns. These dispositions were completed in
June; the 14th Anti-Aircraft Battery RCA placed its guns in action at Arvida on the 12th of that month.54 The remaining guns at Halifax were re-deployed to cover the area to the best advantage. As equipment began to come to hand from Canadian factories, the Arvida area was more completely protected. The plan was to provide for it a total of 12 3.7-inch guns and 16 Bofors. By the autumn of 1942 this programme had been completed, except that the four 3-inch guns remained there in place of four of the proposed 3.7s.55
One other inland area deserves attention. This was Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, which owed its importance to the American and Canadian canals connecting Lake Superior and Lake Huron, which carry far more traffic than those of Panama and Suez combined. There was some possibility, however remote, that they might become a target for long-range air attack, perhaps launched from ships that might penetrate into Hudson Bay; and the Permanent Joint Board on Defence discussed the matter on 20 January 1941. The Board’s Thirteenth Recommendation, adopted that day, advised that each government should “constitute a single authority to be responsible for the safety of navigation through these waters”, these authorities to be clothed with the necessary powers and required to cooperate with each other. In June 1941 there were local discussions at Sault Ste. Marie between Canadian and American officers, and it became apparent that the latter feared sabotage by disaffected elements as well as a possible “sacrifice attack by parachute troops... from the North”. The Americans had large plans for the military protection of the canals. So far, the Canadian canal had been guarded by the RCMP, which had 23 men on duty.56
The Permanent Joint Board on Defence further examined the matter at its meeting of 20 January 1942, at which it was agreed that precautions at Sault Ste. Marie should be reviewed. As a result, the question of antiaircraft protection was carefully considered, and the 26th meeting of the PJBD (25–26 February 1942) was told that the United States intended to augment its forces in the area with an anti-aircraft regiment (less one gun battalion), a squadron of pursuit aircraft, and barrage balloons. The Board’s Twenty-fifth Recommendation, passed at this meeting, was to the effect that the RCAF should undertake further study of the danger to the Sault Ste. Marie area, and the Canadian Army assign a four-gun heavy anti-aircraft battery to protect the Canadian locks. It was recommended that the United States Army lend the necessary guns if Canada could not provide them, and that the Canadian battery should come under the operational command of the Commanding General of the United States Military District of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The battery was formed at once and sent to Halifax for training. The Cabinet War Committee was told on 26 March that while the Canadian Chiefs os staff felt the risk at the
Sault was relatively slight, the concern of the U.S. Army (arising from the importance of the locks to war industry) was appreciated.
Before the Canadian battery was ready, gunsites protecting the canals on the Canadian side were set up and manned by United States artillery in April 1942.57 That autumn the United States, with Canadian permission, established radar units in Northern Ontario to cover Sault Ste. Marie; the 671st Signal Air Warning Reporting Company had its headquarters at Kapuskasing and subordinate stations at Armstrong, Nakina, Hearst, and Cochrane.58 The RCAF had already set up the Central Canada Aircraft Detection Corps, which utilized the staffs of fire towers and other facilities in the area for the same purpose. In August 1942 the 40th Anti-Aircraft Battery RCA had arrived at the Sault and took over a gunsite from American troops, manning U.S. guns in the first instance.59 Nevertheless, nearly 1000 American soldiers continued to be employed on Canadian soil in the area.60 During 1943 the opinion seems to have gained ground that the forces here were unnecessarily large. The Canadian battery was removed at the end of the navigation season, and shortly afterwards the United States troops were withdrawn from Canada and the anti-aircraft equipment guarding the canals was sent elsewhere.61
To return to the coastal areas, the problem of increasing their anti-aircraft defences was entirely one of equipment. In 1940 it had been decided to manufacture both 3.7-inch and 40-mm. guns in Canada, and beginning on 28 June the Department of National Defence placed “contract demands” that summer for 200 of the former and 112 of the latter. These orders were later increased.62 Predictors to control the fire of both types of weapon were made in the United States.*
* The ultimate Canadian production of complete guns for all accounts, Canadian and other, amounted to 1735 3.7-inch and 4352 Bofors, plus much larger numbers of separate barrels.63
As for radar fire-control equipment, the first two sets, ordered from the War Office in October 1939, were delivered in Canada in August 1940. Manufacture was then undertaken in Canada. The first sets were made by the National Research Council laboratories, which achieved production in ten months; thereafter manufacture was turned over to Research Enterprises Limited, a Crown company. In January 1941, 40 “GL Mk IIIC” sets were ordered for use in Canada, and 11 more were ordered a year later.64 However, no operational set was installed on a Canadian gunsite until November 1942, when one arrived at Arvida.65 Searchlights were also required, but changing doctrine concerning such equipment held up action. By the autumn of 1941 it had been decided that a total of 80 anti-aircraft lights were required in Canada; at this time there were on hand only 37 modern and five obsolescent ones, all on the Atlantic Coast.66
Inevitably, there was a long wait for the guns ordered in Canada. The first 3.7-inch gun from Canadian production was not delivered until the end
of March 1942, difficulties in the manufacture of the mounting being responsible for the delay. The first three 40-mm. Bofors guns were reported received during the week ending 13 December 1941 – the week of Pearl Harbor.67
The plan for the anti-aircraft defence of the Atlantic Coast, as it stood in May 1942, provided for fourteen defended areas (including Arvida); the largest being Halifax, which was estimated to require 28 3.7-inch guns and 16 Bofors. All told, at this period, the estimate was that this coast needed 112 heavy guns and 114 light ones. This included armament for six areas in Newfoundland territory, among them the airports at Gander and at Goose Bay in Labrador. Twelve more light guns were allotted to protection of coast-defence batteries.68 This plan was somewhat modified later. The peak of the Atlantic and interior defences was reached in September 1943, when all guns allotted under the amended ultimate scale of defence were reported ready for action: 108 heavy and 138 Bofors guns. There were also 36 mobile Bofors.69 This includes Sault Ste. Marie as well as Arvida. At this time not all the batteries were fully trained, nor was fire-control equipment quite complete.
On the Pacific Coast, to which of course priority was given after Pearl Harbor, there was rapid development from that time onward. The ultimate scale for this coast, as the plan stood in May 1942, called for 48 3.7s and 78 Bofors, plus 14 more Bofors for the coast-defence batteries. At this time there were only eight 3.7s and 12 Bofors actually in British Columbia.70 By November 1943 there were 56 3.7-inch and 142 Bofors guns (including 36 mobile ones) on the coast. Fourteen heavy anti-aircraft sites were manned,six in the area centred on Vancouver, three each at Prince Rupert and Victoria-Esquimalt, and two at the aerodrome at Patricia Bay.71
The Security of the Atlantic Coast After Dunkirk
So far we have been considering the development of static defences, which it was convenient to treat as an independent subject. It is now time to deal with the mobile military defences and relate them to the changing course of the war.
That there was no German activity in Canadian waters during the first two years of the war was due to Adolf Hitler’s desire to avoid trouble with the United States. In a conference on 23 February 1940, Admiral Raeder, Commander-in-Chief of the German Navy, recommended that two submarines be sent to operate off Halifax with mines and torpedoes. He had “cleared” the project with the Foreign Office; but Hitler refused his consent “in view of the psychological effect on the USA” The Admiral was disgusted.72 Nevertheless, Hitler’s decision was a sound one from the German
point of view. Nothing could have been better calculated to excite American public opinion than a sudden burst of submarine activity in North American waters in the midst of the “phony war”. As it was, submarines stayed away from those waters until after Pearl Harbor, and the German surface raiders also kept their distance, although they made several thrusts against Halifax convoys in mid-Atlantic. The Scharnhorst and Gneisenau sank five ships some 500 miles east of Newfoundland in February 1941 and 16 ships in the same general area in March.73
We have already mentioned that an early consequence of the Allied disaster in North-West Europe in the spring of 1940 was decisions taken during May to reinforce the Canadian troops in England and dispatch other units to the West Indies and Iceland. As the situation overseas went from bad to worse, the Canadian Government became increasingly anxious for the security of Canadian soil. A meeting of the Cabinet War Committee on 29 May canvassed the extent to which contributions to the defence of Britain had left Canada undefended (on 23 May the Committee had agreed to send overseas four destroyers of the Royal Canadian Navy, the entire force actually available at that moment; and the RCAF’s only effective fighter squadron was also under orders for the United Kingdom). At this period there was talk of forming a Ministry of Home Defence, and appointing a Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces. These particular steps were not taken; but many emergency measures were put into effect during the summer for the security of Canada and particularly of the Maritime Provinces.
On 14 June, the day on which Paris fell to the Germans, the War Committee discussed the crisis at length, noting that it was necessary to consider the possibility of having to provide bases in Canada for the British Fleet, in case things got still worse. The Chiefs of Staff were accordingly instructed to prepare a full report on the defensive situation on the Atlantic Coast, with special reference to the question of naval bases. The Chiefs referred this requirement to their Joint Planning Sub-Committee, composed of senior staff officers of the three services; and this body shortly produced a first draft of a new “Chiefs of Staff Committee Plan for the Defence of Canada”.74 This proposed, broadly speaking, the following measures: developing the defences of the east and west coasts and of the interior to the extent that the resources of the country permitted; organizing a large mobile force capable of rapidly reinforcing either coast and resisting attacks from the north; steps for maintaining internal security and providing against sabotage; and arrangements for the cooperation of the United States. In connection with this last point, the draft emphasized that American assistance was essential if Canada was to be defended against a first-class power. For such cooperation to be effective, the United States forces would require operational facilities over and above those needed by the Canadian forces, and with this in view it was very desirable that staff conversations between the Canadian
and American services should be undertaken immediately.* On the special question of naval bases on the Atlantic coast, to be available for British and United States forces cooperating in the defence of Canada, the draft proposed that new bases should be set up without delay at Gaspe and Shelburne, plus an advanced base in Newfoundland. The Sub-Committee suggested that the Army’s main role in defence, apart from developing the static defences of the east coast, should be the provision of the Mobile Force, which should be on as large a scale as the manpower and equipment situations permitted. A force of two divisions, plus a considerable number of ancillary units including five motorcycle regiments, was recommended.
This draft plan was submitted to the Minister of National Defence on 9 July,75 but was subsequently considerably altered. General Crerar, who became Chief of the General Staff on 22 July, offered comments on the scheme to the Minister the following day.76 He considered that a large mobile force would be “both a wasteful and also an inadequate answer to our problem”; what was required was adequate defences and garrisons at those points against which the enemy might throw a raiding force, and in rear of these defences a mobile reserve equivalent to three brigade groups available for rapid counter-attacks. Crerar had refused to allow the threatening situation abroad to throw him into a state of panic. “With a very considerable portion of the British fleet and possibly of the British Air Force based on Canada”, he wrote, “I maintain that there is still no probability of an attempt by Germany to invade this country for a period of months if not indeed of years.” He discounted any possibility of Japanese or Russian attack on the west coast “under present or prospective world conditions”; the military organization of the east coast was “the really urgent matter” so far as home defence was concerned. As noted in an earlier chapter, Crerar emphasized that everything else was subordinate in importance to strengthening Canada’s first line of defence – the British Isles.
The new Minister of National Defence (Colonel Ralston) was evidently impressed by these recommendations, and immediately authorized the organization of the three brigade groups which the CGS had indicated as required for a reserve for the Maritime Provinces.77 These would be found from the 3rd Division, whose formation had been approved on 17 May. The draft “Chiefs of Staff Committee Plan for the Defence of Canada” was revised in August along the lines advised by General Crerar.78 The duties of the Mobile Reserve were defined to be to provide means of reinforcing coastal garrisons, dealing with enemy attacks in coastal areas not at present garrisoned, and ensuring the maintenance of internal security. The Mobile Reserve was to consist, for the present, of the 3rd Division, which, less one
* The Americans were not less anxious for this than the Canadians, and after preliminary discussions staff conversations took place in Washington in July. This matter will be dealt with in a later volume.
brigade group, would be concentrated in the Truro area. The remaining brigade group would be at Sussex, N.B. As we have already seen, the units began to move into these areas that autumn.
Crerar’s memorandum to the Minister written on 23 July79 also recommended important changes in command arrangements. Concerning the command of Army forces in the coastal areas, as referred to in the draft plan, he wrote:–
I do not concur in the proposal that operational command of these forces can remain under the District Officer Commanding. I consider that a Command Headquarters (Operational) with adequate staff should be established in the Maritimes with operational control over those Army forces earmarked for the defence of the Maritime Provinces, including the Gulf of St. Lawrence area and Newfoundland, and that following this a similar Command Headquarters (Operational) should be established in British Columbia. The function of the several District Headquarters in the Eastern area and of the one in M.D. 11 under the conditions which Canada now faces should be restricted to administration and to the command and training of those troops not actually allotted to Command Headquarters for operational purposes. It should be noted, incidentally, that such organization would fit in with the Operational Zones established by the Royal Canadian Air Force.
This recommendation also was approved by the Minister in principle on the following day,80 and action followed immediately. On 1 August Major General W. H. P. Elkins, formerly Master General of the Ordnance, was appointed GOC-in-C Atlantic Command with headquarters at Halifax. The Command thus set up comprised the whole of Military Districts Nos. 6 and 7 (that is to say, the Provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island), and those portions of Military District No. 5 lying east of “a line drawn between Cape Chidley (Hudson Strait) and the mouth of the Saguenay River and extending southerly from the St. Lawrence along the Temiscouata Railway from Riviere du Loup to Edmundston, New Brunswick.” It also included Newfoundland and Labrador.81 The responsibilities of the GOC-in-C were defined as requiring him to:
1. Represent the Army as regards all operational matters which affect all three Services in the Atlantic Command and in the closest cooperation with the equivalent commanders of the RCN and RCAF in that area.
2. Control all mobile forces which may be placed under his command for operational purposes in the defence of the Atlantic Area.
3. Exercise operational control through Fortress Commanders, etc., over all units comprising the garrisons of all fortresses, defended ports and defended areas in the Atlantic Command.
4. Be responsible for internal security measures and protection of such vulnerable points in the Atlantic Command as are defined by policy as military responsibilities.
5. Be responsible for the training of the units and formations under his command.82
The GOC Mobile Reserve (who for the moment was the GOC 3rd Canadian Division) was under the command of the GOC-in-C for all operational matters. The District Officers Commanding Military Districts Nos. 5, 6 and 7 were responsible for the training, administration and maintenance
of all units, etc., in their Districts, other than those under the operational control of the GOC-in-C Atlantic Command; and for the maintenance of all units and formations in their Districts, including those under such operational control. The DOC Military District No. 6 was made responsible for the administration and maintenance of Canadian Army forces in Newfoundland.83
So far as relations between the services were concerned, it was provided that in the coastal areas “Command of the Navy, Army and Air Force will be exercised by a joint system of command”, under which the commanders would have “a collective as well as an individual responsibility for the success of the enterprise as a whole”. A joint operations room was to be maintained on each coast.84 Joint Service Committees, composed of the senior officers of the three services in the area, already existed on both coasts. Headquarters of the Eastern Air Command of the RCAF and those of the
RCN for the Atlantic Coast were already established at Halifax, and coordination was thus comparatively easily arranged. As the spring of 1941 approached, the Cabinet War Committee was still anxious about the east coast. In February the Chiefs of Staff made a new appreciation85 which emphasized once more the fact that any attempt at the invasion of Canada “by actual or potential hostile Powers” was not to be feared “so long as the defence of the British Isles successfully continues.” On the other hand, the Chiefs pointed out that it must now be becoming clear to Hitler “that no consideration on his part can deter the United States from pursuing a course aimed at his eventual overwhelming defeat”. In these circumstances, every day increased the chances of “tip-and-run” sea and air raids against the east coast; and it was pointed out that, while existing Army preparations were sufficient to provide against enemy landings, “we continue to find ourselves inadequately furnished with Naval and Air forces, and with anti-aircraft guns and equipment, to ensure that raids by hostile naval or air forces against ports, the shipping in them, and other important objectives, are met with adequate resistance”. The conclusion was that an increase of naval and air forces on the east coast of Canada was necessary, and that the only source of such forces in existing circumstances was the active cooperation of the United States (with which, of course, Canada was now engaged in joint planning through the Permanent Joint Board on Defence). This appreciation was discussed by the Chiefs of Staff with the War Committee on 26 February, and the former pointed out that under existing conditions, with Britain still inadequately armed and under the threat of invasion, it would not be reasonable to expect reinforcements from the United Kingdom. It was agreed, however, that the defensive position of Canada as seen by the Chiefs of Staff should be communicated to the British Government.
Mr. King accordingly, on 2 March, sent to Mr. Churchill two cables86 giving the text of the appreciation and making the point that since the outbreak of war the Canadian Government, on the Chiefs’ advice, had “consistently followed a policy of sending all possible aid to the United Kingdom, desipte the fact that this has necessarily involved the weakening of Canada’s own defences”. Giving details of the inadequacy of the naval and air forces available in the Atlantic coastal area, Mr. King remarked that the situation had been causing the War Committee “a good deal of concern”. He added:
We have, from the beginning, realized the serious implications in regard to home defence of sending you every possible assistance, naval, military and air. Our Chiefs of Staff believe the policy followed has been wise and justified by results. At the same time we cannot be unmindful of our direct responsibility for the defence of Canadian shores, and of the effect upon the common effort and Canadian morale should our coast and harbours be attacked and our defences prove inadequate to an emergency. In particular the importance of adequate protection for the convoy assembly port of Halifax and strategic approaches thereto cannot be too strongly emphasized. We should be very glad to have your views on the situation and to learn whether, having in mind the requirements of various theatres of war, it will be possible to strengthen those features of our home defence position which Chiefs of Staff’s analysis has shown to be inadequate.
The nature of Mr. Churchill’s reply,87 sent on 24 March, might have been anticipated. The enemy, he wrote, was making “an extreme effort both at sea and in the air” against British trade; more bombing of the British Isles had to be provided against; and “a large scale attempt at invasion” was still a likely contingency. The United Kingdom authorities thought tip-and-run raids on the Canadian eastern seaboard unlikely; enemy raiders were more likely to attack the shipping routes in the western Atlantic. In these circumstances, said Mr. Churchill, “The position is bluntly that we have not all the equipment that would enable us to give complete protection on both sides of the Atlantic, and the question is therefore how can we make best use of material we have, having regard to what the enemy is trying to do and probabilities as to his future course of action. ... If we were to divert any substantial part of our forces from their present area of operations to cover wider areas where there is admittedly some risk of enemy action, we should only imperil the whole and play into his hands.”
The Security of the Pacific Coast After Pearl Harbor
The problem which faced the Canadian Government and Chiefs of Staff in their own sphere was similar to Mr. Churchill’s. There was not enough equipment – not nearly enough – to afford complete protection to all parts of Canada, and as long as Japan remained neutral and the Pacific Ocean remained in some degree true to its name, it was obviously necessary to give priority to the Atlantic coastal area. It was the easier to do so in that the Pacific Coast, having itself received a comparable priority for some years
before the outbreak of war, was already moderately well defended. All this changed abruptly on 7 December 1941 when the Japanese launched their tremendous attack. During the months that followed, although the German menace to the Atlantic Coast had not diminished – indeed, it grew more serious, as the U-boats now for the first time appeared in North American waters – the security of British Columbia became the first domestic concern of the national government.
The west coast had not, of course, been wholly neglected since September 1939. On the contrary, it had received all the consideration which shortage of equipment permitted. The Government’s anxieties concerning the attitude of Japan in the summer of 1940 have been noted, as has the retention of the 6th Brigade at Shill as a precautionary measure (see above, page 86). As we have also seen, General Crerar in July 1940 had recommended setting up a Pacific Command as well as one on the Atlantic. This was done in the following October, when Major General R. O. Alexander was appointed GOC-in-C Pacific Command. His command comprised the whole of Military Districts Nos. 11 and 13 – that is, the Provinces of British Columbia and Alberta, the Yukon Territory and the District of Mackenzie. General Alexander assumed operational command throughout this area, but while retaining full responsibility for administrative policy he delegated his authority in administrative matters to the District Officers Commanding.88 (In the first instance, General Alexander was appointed to perform the duties of DOC Military District No. 11 as well as those of GOC-in-C. The two appointments were separated for a time in 1942, but after June of that year no DOC was appointed.)
Since the beginning of the war, the three main defended areas in British Columbia had been organized as separate subordinate commands. The Victoria-Esquimalt fortress, the Vancouver area (including Yorke Island), and the Prince Rupert area were all under specific defence commanders. Upon taking command on the Pacific Coast, General Alexander recommended that, with a view to providing a mobile reserve, an infantry brigade group (less artillery) should be stationed in the Nanaimo area of Vancouver Island.89 This arrangement was carried out in February 1941, when the headquarters of the 10th Infantry Brigade was set up at Nanaimo.90 This brigade moved east in the following May, and its place at Nanaimo was taken by the 13th, an independent brigade formerly stationed in the Niagara Peninsula.91 In July 1941 the Cabinet War Committee (as noted in Chapter III) authorized the formation of the three brigade groups of the 6th Division for home defence purposes;* the 13th Brigade was now incorporated in this division and remained in its position of readiness at Nanaimo. The other
* In this connection, reference was made to an understanding with the United States that Canada would maintain a general reserve of not less than two divisions. This understanding, often mentioned,92 was apparently never reduced to the shape of a formal agreement.
two brigades were to be concentrated in the Niagara Peninsula and at Valcartier; the 15th Brigade, at the latter station, would be considered a potential reserve for Pacific Command. As for the Maritimes, their security was provided for by the 4th Division, which moved into Debert and Sussex when the 3rd went overseas.93
On 18 November 1941, when the Allied governments had begun to worry seriously about Japanese intentions, the Chief of the General Staff (General Crerar) reported to the Minister of National Defence that the dispositions which had been made on the west coast were, with certain exceptions, “adequate for the purpose of meeting the anticipated forms and scales of attack” in the event of war with Japan.94 The exceptions were the absence of antiaircraft units, for which there was still no equipment, and the fact that four platoons of the Veterans Guard of Canada, required for the protection of certain RCAF stations, had not yet been provided. These platoons had however been authorized and organization was being pushed. One other deficiency was the inadequacy of the coast artillery defences to deal with long-range bombardment, the guns being still on low-angle mountings.
At this time a very considerable force was already deployed on the Coast. An infantry battalion of the Active Force was stationed in each of the three main defended areas mentioned above: Victoria-Esquimalt, Vancouver-New Westminster, and Prince Rupert. The Prince Rupert battalion had a company detached at the RCAF station at Alliford Bay in the Queen Charlotte Islands. The 13th Infantry Brigade with its own three battalions remained at Nanaimo as a general reserve for Pacific Command; and platoons of the Veterans Guard were on duty at the RCAF stations at Ucluelet (two, to be increased to four), Coal Harbour (two, to be increased to three), and Bella Bella (one, to be increased to two).95
General Crerar’s memorandum continued:–
While the present dispositions are considered adequate to meet any situation that might arise, it must be anticipated that on the outbreak of war strong pressure may be brought upon the Government to increase the Active forces in British Columbia. In that event, it might become necessary to move additional troops from Eastern Canada to the Pacific Coast.
It was to appear in due course that this was a very accurate appreciation.
On the evening of Sunday, 7 December 1941, the Chiefs of Staff met with the War Committee to discuss the new situation created by the Japanese attack which had taken place that day. Canada had already declared war on Japan. Crerar reported again that he considered Army dispositions on the Pacific Coast reasonably satisfactory except for the absence of anti-air craft artillery. Everything possible to provide against air attack was done immediately. When the War Committee met again on 10 December it was reported that
RCAF strength on the coast was being built up and some anti-aircraft guns were being sent to British Columbia. The
point was made that it would be playing into the enemy’s hands to shift a disproportionate amount of force from east to west; in particular, there was mention of the importance of anti-aircraft protection at Halifax and at Newfoundland Airport. The Vice Chief of the General Staff (Major General Stuart) was able to report however that the guns being dispatched were the first three Bofors coming direct from the factory, and the four A.A. Machine-guns from Arvida. Subsequently, early in January, two 3.7-inch guns, manned by a section of No. 1 Anti-Aircraft Battery RCA from Halifax, were also sent from eastern Canada. These appear to have been the two guns lately received from England (see above, page 148), which had been used for training purposes. Six anti-aircraft searchlights, previously destined for the east coast, were diverted to Esquimalt in December.96
Within a few weeks of Pearl Harbor, everything that circumstances permitted had been done to strengthen the anti-aircraft defences of the Pacific Coast. It was little enough. At Esquimalt were two Bofors guns protecting the naval dockyard and the great drydock; the third Bofors was at the RCAF station at Patricia Bay, where also were the two 3.7s. At Patricia Bay too the machine-guns and crews from Arvida were kept until late in February, when two more Bofors arrived there and the machine-guns were released – two to the Sea Island air station near Vancouver, the others to Esquimalt.97 It was an unimpressive array, and it was lucky that the enemy attempted nothing against the Pacific Coast in these early weeks, for it offered targets worthy of his attention. On 25 February 1942 the diary of the 2nd Anti-Aircraft Battery at Esquimalt recorded that the liner Queen Elizabeth had entered the drydock, and remarked, “$80,000,000 more in property for us to protect with our two guns.” The period of worst anxiety ended with the arrival on the Coast, in April 1942, of the first 3.7-inch guns from Canadian production.98 From this time the situation steadily improved (see above, page 160).
While doing what it could to strengthen British Columbia’s anti-aircraft defences, National Defence Headquarters was also moving more troops into the province. On 12 December the 18th (Manitoba) Reconnaissance Battalion,* then at Camp Borden, was ordered to Vancouver Island, and arrived there on the 19th. It was placed under Headquarters Victoria and Esquimalt Fortress as a local mobile reserve.99 Simultaneously, in accordance with orders issued earlier, three field batteries of artillery were moved from stations on the Prairies to New Westminster and organized into the 21st Field Regiment
RCA. It moved to Nanaimo in March.100 A field company of Engineers for the 13th Brigade was concentrated at North Vancouver early in January,101 and a field ambulance was moved from Edmonton to Nanaimo.102 The 13th Brigade was thus provided with artillery, engineers
* Later the 18th Armoured Car Regiment (12th Manitoba Dragoons).
and services to enable it to function as an independent brigade group. At the same time, steps were taken to protect the advanced RCAF bases on the coast. Orders had been issued on 3 December to prepare to move the required Veterans Guard platoons on short notice – two to Ucluelet, one to Coal Harbour103 and this was done between 11 and 15 December, Alliford Bay being reinforced simultaneously.104 In the absence of Bofors guns, Ucluelet, Alliford Bay, Bella Bella and subsequently Coal Harbour were strengthened by the provision at each of a “Special Section” of two 75-mm. field guns (one at Coal Harbour) manned by crews provided from the Artillery Training Centres at Brandon and Shilo.105
The first days of the war with Japan were anxious ones on the Pacific Coast, and the air buzzed with remarkable and alarming rumours (one of the best was the report, received on 11 December from the United States Army at Seattle, that the “main Japanese fleet” was “154 miles west of San Francisco ... headed north-east”).106 Nevertheless, General Alexander was able to report to Ottawa on 12 December, “The emergency has caused a very noticeable uplift in the morale of the troops and the civilian population while remaining calm have become considerably more war minded.107 The civilians, however, became less calm as time passed; and many of them were afraid of the large Japanese population of British Columbia. Alexander reported on 30 December that this situation was “assuming a serious aspect”. “Letters are being written continually to the press,” he wrote, “and I am being bombarded by individuals, both calm and hysterical, demanding that something should be done.” The GOC-in-C felt that there was definite danger of “inter-racial riots and bloodshed.” He had made preliminary arrangements for the use of troops in certain areas (“for the protection of the Japanese against those who wish to do them violence”) if this proved necessary. He recommended removing the Japanese from the coast.108 A policy of partial evacuation was announced on 14 January, and on 26 February the evacuation was made general.109
Fanned by the agitation about the Japanese population, anxiety in British Columbia grew steadily. The Japanese armies were sweeping forth resistlessly in Asia, one Allied stronghold after another falling before them. Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas Day; British forces failed to check the invader at any point in Malaya for more than a moment, and Singapore, with a great force of troops, was lost on 15 February; in the Philippines, General MacArthur’s forces continued to fight on in Bataan, but it was clear that there could be only one end. By February public opinion on Canada’s Pacific coast was in a state approaching panic.
British Columbia’s representatives in Parliament were now bringing heavy pressure upon the Government. On 9 February a government member speaking in the House of Commons urged the Ministry to see that the coast
was “supplied with everything with which it is possible to supply it – with guns and tanks, and not with a company of men, but with divisions of men.”110 The Province’s representative in the Cabinet took a similar, line. The day before Singapore fell Mr. Ian Mackenzie (Minister of Pensions and National Health, and a former Minister of National Defence) wrote to the Prime Minister:111
I am receiving repeated representations from British Columbia in regard to our Pacific Coast defences. I feel, not being a member of the War Committee, I am not exactly sufficiently conversant with what is transpiring, although the Ministers separately have been very courteous in giving me the necessary information. ...
My definite impressions are, after having information in regard to what has been done, that the preparations on the Pacific Coast are entirely inadequate. ...
I feel, in regard to the military situation, that we should have at least two mobile divisions on the Pacific Coast. ...
It is my considered judgment, after the events of the last few days, that we should not send any more troops overseas until we have adequate defence for our own coast.
I feel that as the Minister from British Columbia I must share some of this responsibility in a very definite way and that is why I am troubling you with this personal letter.
Feeling continued to mount all along the Pacific Coast of North America. On 23 February a Japanese submarine fired a score of shells “in the general direction” of an oil refinery near Ellwood, California.112 On the 25th took place the “Battle of Los Angeles”, when the anti-aircraft defences of that area fired 1440 rounds against Japanese raiders which appear to have existed only in the defenders’ imagination.113 There were no such actual incidents in British Columbia, but the same feverish anxiety existed there, and a section of the press, far from trying to exercise a steadying influence, did the opposite. From 13 to 16 March the Vancouver Sun published a series of articles entitled “The Derelict Defense”, which complained that the General Staff was devoting far too much energy and thought to intervention in Europe, and not nearly enough to the defence of the west coast. The writer remarked, “Our present defense is based on the assumption that we must surrender, and might as well do it first, rather than last.”*
On 16 March Premier Hart of British Columbia discussed the situation with the senior officers of the three services in his province. General Alexander pointed out to him the undesirability of piling up troops and weapons, in numbers exceeding those required to meet any probable scale of attack, in areas like British Columbia which were not directly threatened,
* This quotation is from the article of 14 March. This and other passages were deleted from later editions by the Press Censor, who had not seen the original one. The damage done to public morale by articles such as this needed no demonstration. Legal action was taken against the newspaper by the Crown. It pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 16, Defence of Canada Regulations (other charges being withdrawn) and was fined $300. On 23 April the Sun published an editorial on the fine, claiming that its criticisms, by inducing the Government to provide more defences, had “actually damaged the enemy”. This, however well meant, would seem to be difficult to justify. Accumulating men and equipment uselessly on the B.C. coast could give the enemy nothing but satisfaction.114
and explained that the risk of minor “nuisance” attacks was one that must be accepted. The Premier replied that he appreciated these facts, but the people of the province were alarmed and were “obsessed with the necessity of the adequate protection of British Columbia from any possible eventuality and until this can be assured did not appreciate the necessity of sending weapons and equipment abroad”.115 Alexander faced an unpleasant situation. On 19 March he reported to Ottawa, “The morale of the public in British Columbia is undoubtedly at a very low ebb”, adding that “the wildest statements and rumours” were in circulation.116
All this pressure had its due effect. It may be recalled that in November 1941 General Crerar, in his final submission concerning the 1942 Army Programme, had noted that while there was no factor in the existing situation warranting the mobilization of an additional division, if conditions changed for the worse he might be obliged to recommend the completion of the 6th Division and the mobilization of the brigade groups of a 7th (see above, page 96). By February 1942 it had been decided that this action was necessary,117 and on 16 March the new Chief of the General Staff (Lieut.General Stuart) formally recommended it to the Minister.118 On 18 March this great expansion of the Army was approved by the War Committee, which at the same time authorized a very large increase in the Home War Establishment of the RCAF, estimated to cost $206 million. (The actual strength of the RCAF in Canada increased during 1942 from 16 squadrons to 36.)119 The Committee was told that General McNaughton, in conversation with the Prime Minister, had recognized the need of measures to allay public apprehension and favoured a large mobile force on the West Coast. Even this action, however, was now considered inadequate, and a project for mobilizing still another home defence division suddenly emerged. On 20 March the CGS, remarking that the Combined Chiefs of Staff had recently revised their estimate of scales of attack on the Pacific Coast to include the possibility of a raid by an enemy force of up to two brigades, recommended the completion of the 7th Division and formation of the brigade groups of an 8th.120 The War Committee approved this the same evening. That the expenditure on the armed services for the fiscal year 1942–43 was nearly double that for 1941–42 was due in no small part to the excitement in British Columbia.
The measures we have described were not the whole story. On 7 March authority had been given for mobilizing five unbrigaded infantry battalions to be used for airport defences in British Columbia and as local reserves at Vancouver, Kamloops and Terrace.121 In addition, on 17 February the Cabinet had approved the mobilization of anti-aircraft units (four batteries, six troops and five sections) “to cover all anti-aircraft equipment likely to be available to Pacific Command in 1942”, as well as similar provision for Atlantic Command. In April most of these units were converted into batteries of double or treble the size originally planned, and at the same time the
formation of three additional batteries and one more troop was authorized. Again Atlantic Command was similarly treated.122
As early as 11 March, even before the mobilization of the new divisions had been authorized, a decision had been taken to dispose three brigade groups in Pacific Command, against the possibility of raids on an increased scale;123 and in the course of the spring troops moved west until at the end of May there were 13 infantry battalions in the Command. Six more arrived in June. The original plan was to use the 6th Division on the Atlantic Coast, where it would replace the 4th when the latter went overseas; but almost immediately this arrangement was changed, and the 7th Division was sent to Debert and Sussex as general reserve for the Atlantic Command. The 6th and two brigade groups of the 8th were now to be general reserve for Pacific Command and Western Canada. The 8th’s third brigade group would go to Valcartier as mobile reserve for Eastern Canada.124 On 17 June 1942, in the midst of a further flurry of excitement in British Columbia resulting from the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, the War Committee authorized the completion of the order of battle of the 8th Division. When the two new divisional headquarters were formed, the 6th Division (commanded by Major General A. E. Potts) took responsibility for Vancouver Island, with its headquarters at Esquimalt. The northern section of British Columbia – north of a line running from Bella Bella on the coast inland by way of Chilko Lake to Ashcroft, west of Kamloops, and on along the main line of the Canadian National Railways to the Alberta border west of Jasper – was the responsibility of Major General H. N. Ganong, GOC 8th Division, with headquarters at Prince George. He was responsible for the Queen Charlotte Islands and the U.S. aerodrome at Annette Island, but not for the RCAF aerodrome at Bella Bella.125 (The 7th Division was commanded by Major General P. E. Leclerc, with headquarters at Debert.) All three divisional commanders had formerly commanded brigades overseas.
The March excitement produced a change in command arrangements on both coasts. The matter had been discussed by the War Committee on 18 and 20 February, the Chiefs of Staff being present on the latter occasion. The Chiefs argued that the existing arrangements – coordination through a Joint Service Committee on each coast – amounted in fact to unified command and that cooperation was preferable to complete unification. However, they produced on 10 March a new formula under which the senior member of the Joint Service Committee on each coast would be designated Commander-in-Chief of the defences on that coast, and would exercise, in emergency, strategic direction of the other two services as well as tactical command of his own. This arrangement the War Committee approved on 18 March.* Under it General Alexander became Commander-in-Chief, West Coast Defences.126
* This matter will be dealt with in greater detail in a later volume.
The Aleutian flurry began late in May of 1942. The United States naval authorities received information that the Japanese were planning a thrust at Midway Island combined with a secondary operation against the Aleutians.127 This information was in General Alexander’s hands by 20 May and he passed it on to his senior commanders, pointing out that the enemy might attempt something against Prince Rupert.128 In the last days of the month the developing threat caused alarm in Ottawa, and on 30 May the Chief of the General Staff, Lieut. General Stuart, arrived on the Pacific Coast to take personal control.129 Throughout the summer Stuart combined the appointment of CGS with that of GOC-in-C Pacific Command.130 General Alexander was appointed Inspector General for Central Canada with effect from 1 July. Major General G. R. Pearkes, VC (who had commanded the 1st Division overseas since July 1940) was subsequently brought back to become GOC-in-C Pacific Command, and took over on 2 September.
The Japanese occupied the two Aleutian islands of Kiska and Attu on 6 and 7 June, and when this became known it inevitably caused further anxiety in British Columbia. This was heightened when on 20 June enemy shells fell upon Canadian soil for the only time in either World War. Japanese sources indicate that as part of the Midway–Aleutian operations two submarines, I-25 and I-26, had been stationed off Seattle for reconnaissance purposes but were subsequently ordered to move to the Aleutian area. During this move they seized the opportunity of spreading alarm and despondency on the Pacific Coast; I-25 shelled Fort Stevens, Oregon, and I-26 the isolated wireless station and lighthouse at Estevan Point, Vancouver Island. The shelling at Estevan was very ineffective, causing no casualties and virtually no damage.131
As we shall see (below, page 493), the enemy’s Aleutian enterprise was not the beginning of an offensive move against the American continent. He had no plan for an invasion of the mainland. The situation was pretty clear at the time to the U.S. Army Commander in Alaska, Major General Simon B. Buckner, who said of the possibility of a Japanese invasion of the United States by way of Alaska, “They might make it, but it would be their grandchildren who finally got there; and by then they would all be American citizens anyway!”132 But ordinary Americans and Canadians did not have Buckner’s professional knowledge and cool military judgement, and the new Japanese activity produced widespread alarm.
This emergency caused efforts to accelerate the large defence measures already under way in the Pacific, and led to a reinforcement of the Prince Rupert area. We have already noted that orders were given at this time to complete the organization of the 8th Division. The approach of the crisis had occasioned an extension of RCAF activities into Alaska, which led in turn to the presence of some Canadian Army units there. Two RCAF squadrons were stationed at the American airfield on Annette Island in the
southern tip of the Alaska panhandle, a position of great importance to the defence of Prince Rupert; and General Stuart arranged to send Canadian anti-aircraft gunners to protect the field. The first detachment arrived on 1 June.133 At the same time the antiaircraft defences of Prince Rupert were further strengthened by dispatching six Bofors guns from the Artillery Training Centre at Petawawa; Victoria got six others, from Debert.134 Shortly afterwards mobile defence for the line of the Canadian National Railways along the Skeena between Terrace and Prince Rupert was provided in the form of an armoured train. The train, mounting two 75-mm. guns, four Bofors and two searchlights, had accommodation for artillerymen to man the guns plus an infantry company. It made its first trip between Terrace and Prince Rupert on 29 July, and during the rest of the summer it covered the 90 miles between the two places almost every day.135
Another measure of local defence, authorized during the February excitement, was the organization of the auxiliary corps subsequently named the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers. This force soon grew to a strength of 14,000 men,*136 with 115 companies organized from the Queen Charlotte Islands to the American border.137
* Its peak strength (31 August 1943) was 14,849 all ranks.
The fundamental idea behind it was to utilize the local knowledge of fishermen, trappers, farmers and other residents of the coastal region, who would provide information for the regular forces and report subversive activities or sabotage, in addition to resisting minor enemy’ attacks. Training was limited to preparations for these tasks; there was, special emphasis on rifle practice, usually carried out on ranges constructed by the men themselves. The PCMR wore khaki denim uniforms with a distinctive arm-band. Had there been any active operations on the coast, this force would certainly have played a useful part.
The most northerly post occupied by the Canadian Army during the war on a long-term basis was Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The aerodrome here was an important link in the Northwest Staging Route, which had been developed to provide the United States with an airway to Alaska.138 An aerodrome defence platoon was sent to protect it in the autumn of 1942. In the early summer of 1943 an anti-aircraft battery with Bofors guns was sent in. Both units were withdrawn in August of the same year after the Japanese had been driven from the Aleutians.139
Home Defence at its Peak
The numerical strength of Pacific Command reached its peak in the spring and early summer of 1943; on 12 June, 34,316 all ranks of the Active
Army* were stationed within its boundaries.140 Headquarters Pacific Command was located at Vancouver, having moved from Esquimalt on 30 November 1942. The Command was organized in four main subordinate areas, as follows. The Vancouver Island area was commanded by the GOC 6th Canadian Division, who in March had under his command the 13th Infantry Brigade at Nanaimo and the 18th Infantry Brigade at Port Alberni, while the troops of the Victoria-Esquimalt fortress, including three infantry battalions and a reconnaissance regiment, provided, with the fixed defences, .rather more than the equivalent of a third brigade group. The Northern British Columbia area was commanded by the GOC 8th Division, who had the 14th Infantry Brigade at Terrace and the 16th Infantry Brigade at Prince George, in addition to the Prince Rupert Defences, which included two infantry battalions. The third area was Vancouver Defences, which had two infantry battalions under command in addition to its artillery units. The fourth subordinate command was the Command reserve, consisting of the 19th Infantry Brigade, at Vernon. This location, well back in the interior, with good communications both north and south, would allow the brigade to move rapidly to any threatened point on the coast. All told, there were 21 infantry battalions in the Command. One of these, the 3rd Battalion, Regina Rifle Regiment, became during the summer the 2nd Airfield Defence Battalion and absorbed the Aerodrome Defence Companies protecting the various RCAF stations.141
The Atlantic Command reached its peak strength at about the same period, on 17 April 1943, when the number of troops in the Command was 24,784 all ranks.142 Its operational strength consisted largely of the 7th Division, whose headquarters was still at Debert. With it at that station were the 15th and 20th Infantry Brigade Groups. At Sussex, N.B., was the 17th Infantry Brigade Group. The GOC 7th Canadian Division had no fortress or defended port garrison under his command; his formation’s role was purely that of mobile reserve. In all, there were 18 infantry battalions in Atlantic Command in April 1943 (not including two which were being prepared for dispatch overseas) : ten (counting a machine-gun battalion) were in the order of battle of the 7th Division, three were included in the garrisons of fortresses or other defended areas, and five (including one in process of relief) were in Newfoundland and Labrador.143 An Airfield Defence Battalion was subsequently organized on this coast also.
At Valcartier, P.Q., outside the boundaries of Atlantic Command, was the 21st Infantry Brigade Group, originally formed as part of the 8th Division. Its strength on 17th April 1943 was 3668 all ranks .144 This brigade
* This is the highest total shown in any Army Weekly Progress Report; but Pacific Command’s own Weekly Strength Return for 27 March, obviously compiled on a different basis and including certain attached personnel, gives a total of 37,800 all ranks.
group was under the District Officer Commanding Military District No. 5, and was available as a reserve for the Atlantic Command and for Eastern Canada generally.*
Security Measures Against the Submarine Menace in the Lower St. Lawrence
We have already noted that there was no enemy submarine activity in Canadian waters until after Pearl Harbor. Thereafter, however, the Germans launched an offensive along the Atlantic Coast. The attack began in the second week of January 1942, off New England, and in the spring it was extended to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the lower river. The first sinkings here took place on the night of 12–13 May, and there was further enemy activity beginning in July. During the whole shipping season of 1942, a total of 23 ships were torpedoed and 22 were sunk in the Strait of Belle Isle, the Gulf and the river.145 Inevitably, the population of the adjacent shores was alarmed and this occasioned certain protective measures on the part of the Army as well as the other services.
On 16 May, on orders of Headquarters Atlantic Command, one infantry company moved into the defended port of Gaspe to supplement the artillery garrison; this precaution seems to have been ordered just before the first sinkings.146 After them, General Elkins visited the Gaspe area and reported that he was satisfied with the naval and air dispositions which had been or were being made. However, he arranged for a small reconnaissance detachment from the 4th Division to stand by to move to Mont Joli for patrol duty, should the situation deteriorate.147 This move actually took place after the sinkings in July, a motor platoon from The Lake Superior Regiment being used to patrol between Bic and Cap Chat. At the same time a platoon of the Gaspe garrison was used for a similar motorized patrol along the more easterly section of the coast.148
What the local population would most have liked was to have large numbers of Active Army troops deployed along the coast as protection against raids by or from submarines. However, to have allowed a mere threat by one or two U-boats to tie up thousands of soldiers in this manner would have been very poor policy. National Defence Headquarters accordingly made it clear that static protection for the communities along the lower St. Lawrence should be provided by the citizens themselves through the medium of the Reserve Army.149 An intensive recruiting campaign for the Reserve Army in the Gaspe Peninsula was launched in September 1942, and with the cooperation of the clergy and other local leaders good
* Units in Canada and adjacent areas in April 1943 are listed in Appendix E.
progress was made. By 18 November Brigadier G. P. Vanier, DOC Military District No. 5, was able to report that some 1500 recruits had been enrolled in four supernumerary companies of the local reserve infantry unit, the 2nd (Reserve) Battalion, the Fusiliers du St. Laurent. As a result, authority was granted to organize these four companies into an additional reserve battalion (the 3rd) of this regiment, and 1000 rifles and 200 Sten guns were provided for it. Special teams of Active Army instructors trained the companies during the winter months.150
By February 1943 the strength of the 2nd Battalion of the Fusiliers du St. Laurent was over 1000 all ranks, and that of the 3rd over 1600. By the autumn the 2nd Battalion’s strength stood at 38 officers and 1213 other ranks, and the 3rd’s had risen to 49 officers and 1877 other ranks. The 3rd Battalion was redesignated in 1944 Le Regiment de Gaspe-Bonaventure. These battalions must have been by far the largest in the Canadian Army. Each had 15 full-time telephonists to man telephones at detachments where there were no civil telephone facilities. Wireless was also used. During the 1943 shipping season and the rest of the war they made a useful contribution to the maintenance of security and of public confidence in the lower St. Lawrence area. In particular, they manned road-blocks on the roads adjacent to the river, and enforced the “dimout” regulations upon motorists using these roads. Both battalions were trained for coast watching and local defence roles.151
Needless to say, these Army measures were of secondary importance in protecting the lower St. Lawrence against submarines. The best security was provided by the highly mobile units of the Navy and the Air Force. Measures taken on an inter-service basis for the protection of this region will be dealt with in a later volume. It may be noted here that there were no enemy attacks against shipping in the river and Gulf in 1943. There was a small revival of activity in the autumn of 1944, when three ships were torpedoed, though only one was lost. The Reserve Army units continued their protective activities along the Gaspe shore until after the end of hostilities in Europe.152
The Japanese Balloon Enterprise
One ingenious but ineffective Japanese project deserves brief notice: the attempt to strike at the United States and Canada with free unmanned balloons.
This campaign began in November 1944 and ended about 20 April 1945. The balloons were made of mulberry bark paper (in a few cases, of rubberized silk) and were filled with hydrogen. They carried a bomb-load varying between 25 and 65 pounds, frequently consisting of one high-explosive and
four incendiary bombs, which were released by automatic devices. They were sent off from the Kanto district of the island of Honshu, the Japanese relying on the prevailing winds over the Pacific to carry them to North America. Their calculations were not entirely unsound. Of some 9300 balloons believed to have been released, approximately 300 are known to have reached North America, and 90 of these came to Canada. Doubtless some landed in wild country and were never reported. Balloons came as far east in Canada as Manitoba, “incidents” being reported in that province at Trout Lake, Southern Indian Lake and Nelson House.
This strange scheme with its aim of blind random destruction did no harm whatever in Canada. In the United States it killed a woman and five children, all in one incident near Bly, Oregon, in May 1945, when a balloon was found and tampered with. Such were the results of a plan on which the Japanese expended much money and energy. It had been feared that they might use the ballons as agents of chemical or biological warfare; but apparently no such attempts were made.153
Such counter-measures as could be taken were carefully organized. The spotting and reporting of balloons was arranged for. Army bomb-disposal squads transported by the RCAF had the task of dealing with unexploded bombs when found, and the Army’s Directorate of Military Operations and Planning, Ottawa, was made responsible for coordinating anti-balloon measures as between the various police, service and research authorities concerned.154 The Air Force was responsible for destroying balloons in flight; and there are three authenticated instances of such destruction by RCAF aircraft.155
The Canadian Army in Newfoundland
In 1939 the island of Newfoundland was not a part of Canada, nor was it to become such for a decade. Nevertheless, the significance of Newfoundland for Canadian security needed no emphasis. Military cooperation between the two communities was clearly of the first importance. It is true that there was no effective joint planning before the actual crisis; but cooperation began even before the Canadian declaration of war and continued throughout the conflict. In the first week of September 1939 Canada asked and received permission for RCAF aircraft to fly over Newfoundland and use the colony’s airport facilities.156 Shortly thereafter steps were taken to provide the Newfoundland Government with arms and equipment, some on loan, some on repayment. The items shipped included rifles, Lewis guns and small-arms ammunition.157 In the spring of 1940 Canada agreed to provide two coast-defence guns to protect Bell Island in Conception Bay, an
important source of iron ore. In June a Canadian engineer officer went to Newfoundland to supervise the construction of the Bell Island battery.158
The disasters in Europe in the early summer emphasized the importance of Newfoundland, and on 14 June the Canadian Chiefs of Staff Committee recommended that one flight of bomber-reconnaissance aircraft be stationed at Newfoundland Airport at Gander* (to be reinforced by one flight of fighters when suitable aircraft became available), and that an infantry battalion with detachments of other arms be dispatched for ground protection as soon as possible. The Newfoundland Government’s consent was sought and obtained and action taken at once.159 The 2nd Division, as already noted, was the only source of trained troops at this moment, and the unit selected was the 1st Battalion of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada. It landed at Botwood on 22 June, and assumed the task of defending Newfoundland Airport and the Botwood seaplane base. It remained in Newfoundland, however, only until August, when it was relieved by The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, a 3rd Division unit, and returned to Canada for embarkation for England.160 As things turned out, the forces sent to Newfoundland in June 1940 were but the vanguard of larger bodies, and Canadian troops garrisoned the island throughout the war.
In August 1940 a Canadian delegation headed by the Air Minister (Mr. C. G. Power) visited Newfoundland and made an agreement161 with its government under which Canada took wide responsibilities for the defence of the neighbour island, and the Newfoundland forces were placed under Canadian command. In accordance with this agreement, Newfoundland was included within the Atlantic Command when the latter was set up in the same month. Under the new command arrangements authorized in March 1942 (above, page 172), Newfoundland became in effect “a sub-command of the East Coast”, organized in the same manner as the coast at large; that is to say, the senior Canadian service officer in Newfoundland functioned as “Commanding Newfoundland Defences” and exercised “strategic direction” over all three services under “the general direction of the Commander-in-chief, East Coast Defences”.162 United States bases had been set up in the island as part of the Anglo-American arrangement announced in August 1940. The first U.S. troops arrived in January 1941, and the force was increased in April. One of the responsibilities of the Canadian commanders in Newfoundland, accordingly, was cooperation with the American forces. This will be dealt with in a later volume.
The Canadian Government, and particularly the Prime Minister, attached the greatest importance to Newfoundland and to the protection of Canada’s
* This great establishment was built before the war by the Newfoundland Government in cooperation with the British Air Ministry. It was in use for experimental flying as early as 1937.
permanent interests there. Accordingly, large and increasing Canadian forces were stationed on Newfoundland territory as the war progressed and enemy activity in North American waters increased. We have already noted the measures taken to develop the island’s coast and anti-aircraft defences. Strong forces of artillery and ancillary troops were required for this duty, and in addition infantry was needed for security against possible raids. The Canadian Army force in Newfoundland (“W” Force) reached its peak of strength on 15 December 1943, when it was 5692 all ranks.* It had been a majorgeneral’s command since 25 December 1941, when Major General L. F. Page† took over the command of “Combined Newfoundland and Canadian Military Forces in Newfoundland”.163
At the time of its greatest expansion “W” Force included the following major units: two infantry battalions (with headquarters at St. John’s and Botwood), plus two companies of the 1st Airfield Defence Battalion (Le Regiment de Chateauguay) and one of the Veterans Guard; two anti-aircraft regiments RCA (with headquarters at St. John’s and Gander) and three coast batteries RCA (at St. John’s, Botwood and Lewisporte); a fortress company RCE and a company of Atlantic Command Signals; and the numerous administrative and service units required to maintain the force.164 The active component of Newfoundland’s own forces was called until March 1943 the “Newfoundland Militia”. In that month Newfoundland acts were passed changing the name of the active force to “Newfoundland Regiment” and applying the term “Newfoundland Militia” to the former Auxiliary Militia or Home Guard.165 The Newfoundland Regiment assumed various local protective functions and in addition manned the Bell Island battery.166 Its strength on 15 December 1943 was 26 officers and 543 other ranks.167 The activities of Newfoundland units overseas are described in Appendix I.
Canadian soldiers were also stationed on Newfoundland territory in Labrador. In the autumn of 1941 work began there on a tremendous new trans-Atlantic airport at Goose Bay. In the following summer a Canadian infantry battalion (The New Brunswick Rangers) and other troops were sent there for protection, and the Goose Bay garrison became a permanent Canadian responsibility. On 13 March 1943 it amounted to 1300 all ranks, and included both coast and anti-aircraft artillerymen in considerable numbers.168 It was under the operational control of the GOC-in-C Atlantic Command, but was under the District Officer Commanding Military District No. 6 for administration.169
* This is from a strength return submitted by “W” Force itself. Figures for this date compiled at Ottawa are considerably higher; they may have included certain attached personnel and troops in transit.
† Commanders in Newfoundland are listed in Appendix F.
Canadian Troops in the West Indies and the Caribbean
We have mentioned in Chapter III the suggestion of the British Government in May 1940 that Canadian troops should be sent to the West Indies, and the Canadian Government’s assent. As a result of these arrangements, The Winnipeg Grenadiers sailed from Halifax in two flights on 24 May and 13 June 1940. One company of the battalion was sent to Bermuda, where it relieved a company of the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, while the main body went to Jamaica. The Bermuda detachment stayed there only until 27 August, when it was relieved in its turn by British troops and embarked for Jamaica to join the main body.170 We have also seen that the Canadian Government was asked, and agreed, to send a second infantry battalion to the West Indies. This arrangement, however, was not carried out; the British authorities suggested that if Canada would undertake larger responsibilities in Iceland the United Kingdom would find the additional troops required for the West Indies (above, page 84). It would appear that the proposal to send a second unit was dropped at this time and not revived. One Canadian infantry battalion, however, remained in Jamaica until the end of the war.*
Late in 1941 the British Government again asked Canada to provide a company for Bermuda. On 7 January 1942 the Cabinet War Committee agreed to send thither a company of the battalion in Jamaica. On further consideration, however, this was not considered desirable. On 4 September the War Committee approved sending troops from the mainland, and a company of The Pictou Highlanders arrived in Bermuda on 12 November.171 With appropriate reliefs, “B” Force, as it was known, remained there until after the end of hostilities.
In April 1942 the United Kingdom asked that Canada give further assistance by providing a company for Nassau in the Bahamas, so that a British company on duty there might rejoin its battalion in the United Kingdom. Protection was particularly important at this point as a member of the Royal Family, HRH the Duke of Windsor, was Governor of the Bahamas. The War Committee agreed on 9 April to provide the troops. A new company of the Veterans Guard of Canada (No. 33) was organized for the purpose and arrived at Nassau in June. This was “N” Force. The Veterans were relieved in the autumn of 1943 by a company of The Pictou Highlanders. The Canadian garrison left Nassau only in the spring of 1946, simultaneously with the relief of the troops in Jamaica and Bermuda.172
* No attempt is made here to describe the defences of the Caribbean area generally. Large United States army and air forces were stationed there, in great part as a result of the leasing from Britain of bases in Bermuda, the Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Trinidad, Antigua and British Guiana.
In March 1942 there was some anxiety for the ships carrying bauxite to Canadian aluminium plants from the mines in British Guiana; it was feared that they might be sabotaged in the Demerara River between the mines and the sea. A local coloured guard was provided for their security, but the British Government now inquired whether Canada could send white NCOs. to stiffen this force. On 22 May the Cabinet War Committee approved the mobilization of No. 34 Company of the Veterans Guard for this purpose. The company (which except for its officers was entirely composed of NCOs.) reached Georgetown in June. Thereafter they performed the routine of directing the coloured detachments guarding the ships while the latter lay in the river or moved up or down it. The ships were filthy and the weather sweltering; the duty in general was unpleasant in the extreme. As the war situation improved, the withdrawal of the detachment became practicable, and it returned to Canada in January 1945.173
The Role of the Reserve Army
Only a word can be said here of the part played by the Reserve Army (formerly the Non-Permanent Active Militia) in maintaining the security of Canada.
During the first period of mobilization the NPAM made a useful contribution by providing details to guard vulnerable points until the Mounted Police could take over. Thereafter there was increasing emphasis upon the force’s function of producing reinforcements for the Active Army. Second (Reserve) battalions of mobilized units were organized and it was hoped that they would provide a good many recruits for their Active battalions. After the outbreak of war with Japan in December 1941, more attention was directed to the Reserve Army’s functions in connection wish home defence. On 31 December a directive174 was issued affecting both its composition and its role. Eight Reserve Brigade Groups were to be organized across the country and given accelerated training for the defence of Canada. A more detailed instruction issued in February 1942175 provided that there would be one Brigade Group in each of the eleven Military Districts. The total number finally organized was twelve,176 as Military District No. 6 (Nova Scotia) had two. These Reserve Brigade Groups (numbered from 31 to 42) had full-time commanders and staffs. As the equipment situation improved, they were given weapons and transport on an increasing scale. As for personnel, the new policy required that future enlistments would be restricted to men not eligible for the Active Force – i.e., those between 17 and 19 years of age or over 35; those granted or entitled to postponement of compulsory service; those between 19 and 35 with a medical category lower than “B”; and personnel of the Canadian Officers Training Corps in all categories, until their graduation.177
To ensure proper direction and coordination of the Reserve Army programme, the office of Director General of the Reserve Army was instituted at this same period. Major General B. W. Browne, formerly Adjutant General, was the first Director General, and was later succeeded by Major General F. R. Phelan.178
The Reserve Army continued to produce a proportion of recruits for the Active force by training young men of pre-enlistment age. Its function in the direct defence of Canada, as defined in the latter part of the war, was threefold:– to support the civil authorities if required; to constitute a trained reserve ready to support the Active forces available for the defence of the country, if the military situation should deteriorate; and to form a basis for expansion of the Active Army in case of need.179 We have already seen, in the case of the Fusiliers du St. Laurent along the lower St. Lawrence, an instance of the practical and useful contribution which the Reserve Army could and did make to the security of a threatened area.
The Reserve Army was larger during this war than the Non-Permanent Active Militia had ever been in peacetime. It actually reached its peak of numbers in the week ending 7 December 1940. Its strength at that date was 111,579 all ranks, not counting 13,604 30day NRMA men carried “supernumerary to establishment”, or 28,299 others who were undergoing training. The great strength in 1940 was certainly due in part to the patriotic impulses of that moment. Undoubtedly, however, it also owed something to the fact that men enrolled in the Non-Permanent Active Militia at the time of the National Registration were exempt from the 30-day compulsory training under the National Resources Mobilization Act unless the Department of National Defence reported that they had not received equivalent training. Many men preferred service with a local militia unit to thirty days in a training centre. The strength of the force decreased after December 1940 until February 1942, when it was 69,660 all ranks plus 63,299 NRMA men. It climbed again thereafter until it reached a total of 105,000 all ranks (plus 5313 “Non-Effectives”) in June 1943. Then, as the war situation improved and the danger lessened, it gradually fell off until at 30 April 1945 it was 82,163.180
Disbandment of the Home Defence Divisions, 1943–1944
The three home defence divisions, the 6th, 7th and 8th, were never complete in all arms and services. They did not need to be, for they were designed to operate within the framework of a static organization already existing. This meant that the services of the Commands and Military Districts were available to assist them; it also meant that the artillery of the fixed defences,
and other permanent installations, could support them in operations. Thus their establishments were never as complete as those of field divisions. Nor were the establishments ever quite full. On 17 April 1943, the 7th Division was deficient 97 officers and 3738 other ranks; the 6th and 8th Divisions were short approximately 1200 and 1100 all ranks respectively.181
These three divisions had been composed in great part of men called up for compulsory home-defence service under the National Resources Mobilization Act. Thus on 10 April 1943 the “other rank” strength of the Active Army in Canada, in its major components, was as follows:182
|Formation||Total Strength||NRMA Strength|
|Units on Garrison Duty||31,989||17,342|
It will be seen that, although a very high proportion of the troops on home defence duty were NRMA men, the formations and units thus employed also absorbed many General Service volunteers. Nevertheless, age or medical category made a considerable proportion of the latter ineligible for overseas service.
In the course of 1943 the threat to Canada’s shores, never really very great, receded further. The summer saw the expulsion of the Japanese from the Aleutian Islands (below, Chapter XV; while on the other coast the submarine threat, serious in the early months of 1942, had also become considerably less important. This situation permitted, and common sense dictated, a reduction in the number of men tied up in protective duties in Canada. As early as 13 May the Cabinet War Committee approved a prospective reduction in home war establishments, to take effect on 1 September, which would involve disbanding “five or six” infantry battalions in Canada. On 30 August the Chief of the General Staff reported that “substantial reductions” in the forces on both coasts were now practicable, and he recommended the disbandment of the 7th and 8th Divisions, plus reductions in coast and antiaircraft defences and other economies. The total cut in establishment was 20,873 all ranks. It would be carried out by transferring volunteers of suitable age and category to the “reinforcement stream”; Home Defence men of suitable age and category for overseas service would be transferred to other units in Canada, in order to release General Service personnel (for overseas duty) and lower category personnel (for return to civilian occupations).183 Since operational troops in Canada were so far below authorized establishments, the actual reduction in strength would be about 14,000. These proposals were approved by the War Committee on 31 August.
On 13 September the Minister of National Defence announced the decision, explaining that the plan was to disband the 7th and 8th Divisions completely
and the 6th Division in part. Three brigade groups were to be retained, “each capable of operating independently”, and to be “administered and trained under a modified Divisional Headquarters.” The formation of the Training Brigade Group in Eastern Canada (see above, page 135) was announced at the same time.184
This announcement’s timing was bad, as it coincided with a setback at Salerno and the United States Congress was debating a bill to draft fathers of children; and the press release, though long, had not made explanations particularly desirable for American consumption. Perhaps through fear of domestic misunderstandings, the important point that disbanding the divisions would release men for employment abroad was not clearly made, although the continuing need for General Service recruits was emphasized. The result was considerable criticism in the United States, where it was made to appear that Canada was simply taking advantage of a favourable turn in the war to disband a considerable proportion of her army and send thousands of her soldiers home.185 A supplementary release, issued on 14 September,186 explained that the changes meant no modification of the Army’s overseas programme, and that “every man of category suitable for operational duties” would be retained; but it is doubtful if this undid the damage.
Under the new arrangement the reorganized 6th Division was to consist of three brigade groups, each of four (not three) battalions. The model was the American organization used in the Aleutian campaign, and the 13th Infantry Brigade Group, then at Kiska (see below, Chapter XV), was to be one of the three. Divisional headquarters moved from Esquimalt to Prince George in October. Its primary purpose was now defined as coordinating the training and administration of the three brigade groups, which themselves were directly under Headquarters Pacific Command but dealt with Headquarters 6th Division in matters of training and local administration. The new organization was designed to permit the use of one or more of the brigade groups in “further operations against the Japanese in the North Pacific Area” in cooperation with United States forces;187 but these operations never came to pass (below, page 507).
There were more changes in the 6th Division in 1944. The 13th Brigade returned from Kiska in January. In May, it was sent overseas, its units completed with General Service men. An energetic but only partially successful effort had been made to prevail upon NRMA personnel of the battalions to “go Active” on the basis of their units going overseas as such. In the United Kingdom it was converted into a training brigade.188 In August, the Division was reorganized on a basis of three infantry brigades, each of three battalions, a new 16th Brigade being formed to replace the 13th.189
In the autumn came the “reinforcement crisis”. On 16 November the Chief of the General Staff (Lieut. General J. C. Murchie) informed the Minister that, having reviewed the matter in the light of the urgent need to
free fit men for overseas, he now recommended reorganizing the 6th Division as one infantry brigade group and two infantry brigades. The divisional headquarters would be disbanded. The Cabinet approved these proposals on 21 November, and the divisional headquarters ceased to exist on 2 December.190 The circumstances, however, were now changing very rapidly. The Government’s decision of 22 November to send 16,000
NRMA soldiers overseas altered the whole situation. The units in which these men, long regarded as a potential reserve for the overseas army, were serving, were now no longer required from this point of view, and any menace to Canadian territory had ceased to exist. Under the new policy, there was no reason why the units that had composed the Division (less men not physically fit) should not be sent overseas as units, and this was done. The disbanded Division and unbrigaded infantry battalions provided two brigade headquarters, nine infantry battalions and a reconnaissance regiment from Western Canada, and four infantry battalions from Eastern Canada, to go overseas. In the United Kingdom they were broken up and the personnel used as reinforcements. Only eight infantry battalions were now retained for duty in Canada, Newfoundland and the West Indies.191 At the same time when the 7th and 8th Divisions were disbanded, very large reductions were made in coast and anti-aircraft defences.* At the beginning of October 1943 certain coast-defence batteries were “placed in maintenance” and at others crews were reduced so that only a proportion of the guns were manned.192 Simultaneously various static anti-aircraft units were “relieved of their operational role”, among them that at Arvida. This was only the beginning of a long process which went forward steadily through 1944. By the end of that year of victories the great structure of coast and antiaircraft defence built up in the earlier part of the war had been largely dismantled.193 Thus, for example, it was decided in the autumn that all coast artillery in Newfoundland, and the infantry garrisons at Botwood and Lewisporte, would be withdrawn permanently from their operational roles “on freeze-up”.194
During November of 1944 authority was also given for the disbandment of Headquarters Atlantic Command, and the Military Districts in the Maritime Provinces resumed their normal functions, with Newfoundland retained as a separate command similar to a District. This was carried into effect on 14–15 December.195 Headquarters Pacific Command continued to exist somewhat longer; it was “redesignated” as Headquarters Military District No. 11 only on 23 January 1946, when the Army’s peacetime Western Command came into existence.196
* These Canadian reductions of 1943 proceeded pari passu with similar measures in the United States.