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Part Two: The Army in Britain, 1939–1945

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Chapter 6: The Growth of the Army Overseas and Organization in Britain

(See Sketch 1))

The gradual evolution of Canadian military policy, and the expansion of the Army Overseas which it produced, have been dealt with in Chapter III. The present chapter considers the actual process of getting the troops across the ocean and the organization of the Army in the United Kingdom. It is also convenient at this point to examine the roles of certain special corps such as the Canadian Forestry Corps and the Canadian Women’s Army Corps.

Moving the Troops to Britain

The movement of Canadian soldiers to Britain began in earnest on 10 December 1939, when convoy T.C.1, comprising the Aquitania, Duchess of Bedford, Empress of Australia, Empress of Britain, and Monarch of Bermuda, carried 7449 officers and men of the 1st Division out of Halifax harbour. From 4 November 1939 to 8 May 1945 some 368,000 men and women of the Canadian Army crossed the North Atlantic in more than 300 ship sailings,* all but one of which arrived safely in the United Kingdom.1 About one hundred different ships were used in this great undertaking, from the stately Queen Elizabeth, carrying 14,000 men in one crossing, to unknown little cargo vessels, such as the Olaf Fostenes with her quota of eight soldier passengers. The vast majority of Canadian troops, however, were carried in fast passenger ships, some of them old-timers on the North Atlantic run, but others bearing exotic names from distant oceans, In all, some sixty-five liners carried Canadian soldiers at one time or another. The Pasteur made thirteen crossings with large Canadian drafts, the Andes eleven, the Empress of Scotland nine,

* See table, page 191. In addition, 1363 persons were appointed or enlisted in the United Kingdom. There were also some arrivals by air (about 444 between 12 October 1941 and 8 May 1945); but most of these air travellers were only visitors. On the other hand, there were perhaps 2000 duplications, caused by individuals returning to Canada and then going to Britain a second time.

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the Queen Elizabeth, the Aquitania, and the Mauretania six each, and the Duchess of York, the Letitia, and the Batory five each.

There were no armadas of the sort familiar in the First World War when the first Canadian contingent of over 30,000 troops was carried in a great convoy of 31 transports.2 The normal practice until the late autumn of 1942 was to send the large troopships in small fast convoys, but thereafter they sailed singly and unescorted, relying on their speed for protection. In the earlier period some 30 separate convoys, ranging from two to eight ships, crossed the Atlantic with Canadian troops, while from November 1942 to the end of the war there were about 70 separate troop sailings. Besides the regular troop sailings, escorted and unescorted, which carried the great bulk of the Canadian troops, there were also a large number of so-called “berth sailings”, small parties sailing in merchant convoys or on liners that were not troopships. In all some 5669 soldiers were carried in 95 separate sailings of this type. Thirty-nine different ships carried Canadian troops as berth passengers, of which the four most frequently used were the Bayano (twelve crossings), the Duchess of Richmond (ten), the Cavina (seven), and the Beaverhill (six).

Overall statistics are difficult to establish, since many ships were shared with the other services and some with the United States forces (indeed in a few cases Canadian troops formed only a very small fraction of the total personnel on board); but with this reservation the accompanying table3 will give some indication of the magnitude of the operation.

[There is no reference to footnote number 4 in the image PDF ]

The largest troop convoy was T.C. 15, consisting of eight ships carrying 14,023 all ranks, mostly of the 5th Armoured Division, which arrived in the United Kingdom on 22 November 1941, but this figure was surpassed in July 1943, when the Queen Elizabeth crossed with 14,313 Canadian soldiers aboard.5

The annual totals in the table suggest a regular flow of troops in conformity with Canadian policy regarding the disposition of the country’s forces. From month to month, however, there were wide oscillations in the numbers dispatched and during the whole period the amount of shipping space available was a paramount consideration in the “build-up” of the Canadian Army Overseas. Priorities had to be worked out between the three services and, beginning in 1942, with the American forces. Anticipated sailings were, of course, made known months ahead of time, but in a war being fought across the seven seas of the world numerous changes were inevitable. Operations in the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian and Pacific Oceans were constantly competing for ships with the flow of soldiers and airmen across the Atlantic to Europe.

With the beginning of the movement of American forces on a large scale and the abolition of the troop convoy system the Canadian problem became more complicated. National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa, which had no control over shipping, was forced to hold large numbers of troops ready

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Growth of the Canadian Army Overseas 1939–1945

Arrival in the United Kingdom from Canada* Actual Strength of Canadian Army in European Zone†
Officers Other ranks Grand Total
Year Ships Troops Remarks Date Male N/S CWAC Total Male CWAC Total
1939 15 15,908 Advance party CMHQ; 1st Division; Convoys T.C. 1 & 2. 30 Nov 34 34 48 48 82
31 Dec 692 692 15,219 15,219 15,911
1940 57 42,999 2nd Division; ancillary troops; reinforcements; Convoys T.C. 3–8 and 1889 troops from Iceland. 30 Jun 1,514 130 1,644 25,735 25,735 27,379
31 Dec 3,099 228 3,327 53,332 53,332 56,659
1941 72 70,416 3rd and 5th Divisions; 1st Army Tank Brigade; ancillary troops; reinforcements; Convoys T.C. 9–14A and 790 personnel from Iceland. 30 Jun 3,653 322 3,975 63,052 63,052 67,027
31 Dec 6,837 384 7,221 117,251 117,251 124,742
1942 36 63,497 4th Division; ancillary troops; 30 Jun 7,939 576 8,515 139,004 139,004 147,519
31 Dec 10,000 764 22 10,786 165,960 240 166,200 176,986
1943 43 79,564 2nd Army Tank Brigade; ancillary troops; reinforcements; all single sailings except for fice ships in merchant convoys. 30 Jun 12,671 766 24 13,461 189,805 481 190,286 203,747
31 Dec 15,588 1,212 52 16,852 224,829 728 225,557 242,409
1944 59 64,764 13th Infantry Brigade; ancillary troops; reinforcements; single sailings. 30 Jun 18,259 1,887 72 20,218 234,441 990 235,431 255,649
31 Dec 18,115 2,028 85 20,228 249,234 1,414 250,648 270,876
1945 18 31,115 14th and 15th Infantry Brigades 31 Mar 18,654 2,031 70 20,755 265,517 1,441 266,958 ‡287,731
8 May (VE Day) 18,277 2,041 68 20,836 259,938 1,433 261,371 281,757
Total 300 368,263

* Figures for 1943, 1944 and 1945 arrivals include 16 Hospital Ship sailings, which carried 1769 medical troops. The total of ships includes 95 berth sailings. Although the number of troops arriving in the UK from Iceland is included in the Troops column, the number of ships involved is not included in the Ships column. There were ten such sailings in 1940 and eight in 1941. Except for two sailings in Oct 1940 and one in Apr 1941 most of these ships carried only small parties of Canadian personnel proceeding on courses, for medical treatment, etc.

† The discrepancy of three between the total of arrivals in 1939 and the strength on 31 December 1939 is due to the latter including three officers who were already in the United Kingdom and two other ranks who were enlisted there; while two other ranks died during 1939.

‡ The peak strength of the Canadian Army Overseas was reached during March, 1945.

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for draft on short notice in order to take advantage of the various “offers” that were made via the British Army Staff in Washington. These offers were often vague as to sailing date and subject to constant change as to amount of space available. In the case of one ship there were at least eight changes in the few weeks between its first announcement and its sailing, ranging from an original offer of space for 2500 air force men to the final allocation of 140 RCAF and 130 Canadian Army personnel.6 In December 1942 Canadian troops were promised priority with monthly accommodation for 10,000, yet in January and February of 1943 Canadian Army drafts totalled less than 30007 for the two months. The situation greatly improved in July and August of that year, however, with the result that by the autumn the Canadian Army’s overseas programme was virtually complete and, as already indicated, it was then able to reduce its demands to a monthly flow of 5000 reinforcements. Shipping space was a less serious problem thereafter. Thus the so-called period of waiting, which many Canadian troops had to endure in England, was only just sufficient for building up the force that fought in the last two years of the war. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the Combined Chiefs of Staff in Washington could have found the necessary shipping if it had been considered necessary to give Canadian Army movement a really high priority at an earlier time.

Most of the Canadian Army troop crossings were made from “an eastern Canadian port” which the public correctly identified as Halifax; but at least two ships* sailed from Sydney with small Army drafts on board.

* The Beaverhill, 6 October 1944, and the Erria, 11 November 1944.8

The 1st and 2nd Divisions came directly to Halifax from various parts of Canada and immediately went on board ship. A Rest Camp established in the Immigration Building, Halifax, in 1939, accommodated only 500 men. The 3rd Division, however, and subsequently the 4th, were concentrated at Debert, N.S., and Sussex, N.B., where they trained prior to embarkation. As the flow of reinforcements developed, transit camps were opened at Debert and Windsor, N.S., which held drafts in readiness until the necessary shipping was available.9

When in the autumn of 1942 it was decided to stop sending troopships in convoy and the great Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary were included among the unescorted troop carriers, Canada was forced to send some of her contingents via New York. The Canadian Government strongly protested this innovation because of the lack of Canadian embarkation facilities at New York and the extra costs involved.10 British authorities at first demurred to the suggestion that the Queens might sail from Halifax, both because of doubts about facilities there and because of the docking space that would be lost to cargo shipping; while the Admiralty felt that to call at Halifax after sailing from New York would entail too great an increase in risk.11 In the end the Queens were not used to carry Canadian troops to the extent

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anticipated and in three cases they did make trips from Halifax. Nevertheless, from the winter of 1942–43 a proportion of Canadian troop sailings were from New York.

By peacetime standards, the ships were always crowded, but some time elapsed before the fullest possible use was made of the space available. Thus in 1939 the 1st Division crossed in relative luxury with the Aquitania, which later took more than 7500 troops, carrying 2638, and the Andes, with a later capacity of about 5000, carrying only 1358.12 As a result, in the early crossings it was possible to keep the men occupied with an organized programme of physical training, marches, military lectures and sports.13 As the demands on shipping became more pressing, however, the transports were shorn of their peacetime trappings and almost every available nook filled with sleeping accommodation; swimming pools, most of the public lounges and even parts of the holds were turned into giant dormitories, while staterooms designed for two or three passengers were filled with bunks for ten or fifteen. Conditions in the holds were such that many men preferred to bring their blankets on deck; later, however, all access to the open decks was cut off during blackout hours. With the great increase in numbers it became necessary to reduce the meals to two a day. The men ate in relays and waited their turn, standing much of their time in long queues.14 Under such conditions organized activities ceased to be a feature of the Atlantic crossing. Fortunately, in most cases the voyage was short.

In the first three years the troop convoys normally left Halifax under the escort of Canadian destroyers while a British battleship accompanied them across the open Atlantic as “ocean escort”. Destroyers based in the United Kingdom met them at the edge of the danger zone around the British Isles, but on at least one occasion the rendezvous was missed and the transports arrived in port unescorted.15 The single sailings in the later years were unescorted by surface craft. but air cover was provided in the danger areas at either end of the voyage. In November 1941 a precedent was created when T.C. 15, carrying part of the 5th Division, was escorted halfway across the Atlantic by United States warships, although the Americans were not yet in the war.16

Not a single Canadian troopship was lost in the Atlantic. One small vessel carrying a Canadian Army draft of 105 all ranks as “berth” passengers was lost by enemy action. The Nerissa, a vessel of 5000 tons built for the Newfoundland service, sailed from Halifax on 21 April 1941, with less than 200 passengers including, besides the army draft, several naval and RAF men. Although her speed was only 13 to 14 knots she sailed alone and unescorted, except for a Coastal Command aircraft which gave cover in the daylight hours of the last two days. On the evening of 30 April, about 80 miles off the coast of Donegal, the ship was struck by two or perhaps three torpedoes and sank within a few minutes. Thirteen officers and 60 other

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ranks of the Canadian Army were lost, 33 of whom were members of the Corps of Military Staff Clerks.17 This was the only occasion in the Second World War on which Canadian soldiers were lost in the Atlantic by enemy action; similar losses in the First World War amounted to 133.18

In the first years of the war most of the troopships went into the Clyde, but as time passed an increasing number ended their voyages at Liverpool. In all, almost two-thirds docked on the Clyde (mostly at Greenock and Gourock, but some in Glasgow itself), while one-third went to Liverpool; the few remaining ships were divided between Avonmouth and Southampton. Small drafts travelling in other ships arrived at a wide variety of ports, including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Newcastle, Leith, Belfast, Oban, Barry (South Wales), and Methil (Firth of Forth).19

Since ship sailings and shipping routes were subject to frequent and sudden changes, Canadian Military Headquarters, London, was often uncertain until almost the last minute of the exact places and times of arrival. The actual movement of the troops from port to billeting area was a British responsibility, but Movement Control, CMHQ, maintained liaison with the War Office and sent an officer to the port of entry whenever a Canadian troopship arrived.20 Most Canadian troops arriving in Britain went first to the Aldershot area, where the main Canadian base installations gradually developed. Over a period of more than five years the Canadian Army built up in the south of England a large and complicated structure, which was the basis of its operations in Europe. The overall growth of the overseas force is shown by the table on page 191.21

It will be readily seen that the organization and control of these large numbers of troops presented formidable problems.

Canadian Military Headquarters

Even during the planning period before 1939 it was clear that a Canadian military headquarters in the United Kingdom, separate from the fighting formations that were gradually concentrated there, was an essential requirement (see above, page 31). Apart from all other aspects, it seemed vital to the maintenance of Canadian autonomy. In 1942 senior staff officers of the Canadian Army Overseas summed up the matter in these terms:22

Experience in the last war showed the necessity for retaining control of our administration. It is unnecessary to argue this principle, which is based on inherent characteristics strong in the minds of all Canadians, and formally expressed as a guide to our existence in the Statute of Westminster. Fundamentally this is a basic reason for the provision of machinery required effectively to conduct our own military business.

Long before the Statute of Westminster, indeed, the Canadian Government had insisted on the administrative control of its own troops when they arrived in Britain in the First World War. From 1914 to 1916 Sir Sam Hughes,

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then Minister of Militia, had used the device of a “special representative” overseas in the person of Major General J. W. Carson. In October 1916 the Canadian Government appointed a Minister, Overseas Military Forces of Canada, with a headquarters in London, which soon became “a miniature War Office” with “an ample establishment of officers”.23 Such a solution, which must have greatly reduced the reference of matters of policy to Canada, was not attempted in the Second World War. Mr. T. A. Crerar, who as a senior member of the Canadian Cabinet led a mission to the United Kingdom in 1939, made this very clear in a telegram to Mr. Mackenzie King when he said, “Anything resembling Argyll House Organization in last war should be wholly avoided”.24 Presumably Mr. King’s government, which throughout the war opposed setting up an Imperial War Cabinet, did not consider that a Minister separated from the rest of the Cabinet could have any more powers than the High Commissioner or the senior military commander.*

Since 1937, we have seen (above, page 62), there had been a military officer (Colonel G. P. Loggie) on the staff of the Canadian High Commissioner in London, but with the outbreak of war the volume of military business at Canada House increased so greatly that new arrangements had to be quickly made. On 26 September 1939 the Minister of National Defence authorized a Canadian Military Headquarters overseas with Brigadier H. D. G. Crerar as Brigadier General Staff, Colonel the Hon. P. J. Montague as Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General, and Lt. Col. E. L. M. Burns as General Staff Officer First Grade (GSO1).25 The responsibilities of this new headquarters were subsequently defined as follows:26

“To prepare for the arrival, quartering and general administration of Canadian Active Service Force units or formations despatched from Canada; to arrange for the completion of their equipment, and the provision of training facilities for them.

To requisition the War Office for equipment required by Canadian divisional and non divisional troops, and to carry out the financial accounting in connection therewith.

To arrange for quartering, maintenance and hospitalisation of Canadian troops in U.K. and for the financial accounting in connection therewith. “(d) To maintain close liaison with the War Office and with the GOC Canadian Forces in the theatre of operations (or in the United Kingdom when separate command is specified).

To command and administer Canadian formations and units in the United Kingdom and at the base in the theatre of operations, as may be specifically detailed.

To furnish the High Commissioner for Canada with information on military questions as necessary.”

* Inquiries indicate that neither the files of the Department of External Affairs nor Mr. King’s private files reveal what was behind the declaration that the Argyll House precedent should not be repeated. The decision was quite consistent with Mr. King’s ideas of cabinet government, but it may be that Mr. Crerar’s message was simply based on the recommendations of his namesake and military adviser Brigadier Crerar, who was opposed to the Argyll House plan on military grounds. (See page 213 below.)

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In addition CMHQ was to be responsible for Canadian establishments on the lines of communication – thus relieving the Canadian GOC in the field of the task of attending to administration far in the rear – and for serving as the link between Canadian formations in the field and the Department of National Defence at Ottawa.

Brigadier Crerar arrived in England at the end of October and went to Canada House, where Lt. Col. Burns, who had been in England at the outbreak of the war, was already at work.27 Sharing one office they formed the small nucleus of a headquarters that was destined to grow with mushroom rapidity. At the outset, however, the Canadian Government was unwilling to approve Crerar’s recommendation that the new establishment should be redesignated “Canadian Army Staff” and modelled on the organization of National Defence Headquarters in Canada.28

The advance party of CMHQ, consisting of Colonel Montague, eight other officers and 14 other ranks, sailed from Montreal in the Antonia on 4 November 1939. On 16 November they reported for duty at Canada House.29 In the meantime Mr. Massey and Brigadier Crerar had arranged, with the somewhat reluctant concurrence of their government, to rent the second floor of the substantial Sun Life Building, next door to Canada House on Cockspur Street.30 During the course of the war, by degrees, almost the whole of this building was taken over, as were other buildings in the vicinity. In December 1939 arrangements were made to house the Pay, Treasury and Records branches of the Headquarters in a large and gloomy “Government Building” on Bromyard Avenue in Acton.31 It was thought that this western suburb would be relatively safe from air attack, but as events turned out this was one of the few buildings housing Canadian offices in the London area to suffer a direct hit.*

* The incident happened on the night of 20–21 February 1944. It caused only minor damage to the Canadian offices, which were at the other end of the building from the wing that was hit.32

With the decision to send larger Canadian forces to England and the acceptance of the principle that the Canadians would be responsible for their own training, the expansion of Canadian Military Headquarters became inevitable. Moreover, it soon became clear that the Senior Officer should he free from the details of administration in order that he might devote his full attention to questions of policy, liaison and general supervision. Consequently, after much communication with Canada, a reorganization was completed by the early summer of 1940.33

Briefly, the new organization established three separate Branches under the Senior Officer, Canadian Military Headquarters (which office had recently been raised to a major General’s appointment) : the General Staff Branch, the Adjutant General’s Branch, and the Quartermaster General’s Branch.34 In accordance with normal British and Canadian staff practice, the first

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named was responsible for matters relating to operations, intelligence, staff duties (mainly war organization), training and public relations; the second, for organization (reinforcements, statistics, appointments and promotions, etc.), personal services (ceremonial, discipline, records, CASF Overseas Routine Orders), medical services and pay services; and the third, for supplies and transport (accommodation, movement control, postal matters, rations, printing and stationery), ordnance services, assembly of Canadian vehicles in the United Kingdom, and purchasing. Simultaneously the size of the staffs was increased. Early in July Major General Crerar was recalled to Canada, where he became Chief of the General Staff, and was replaced as Senior Officer at CMHQ by Brigadier Montague, who was promoted Major General. General Montague (who was in civil life a Justice of the Court of King’s Bench in Manitoba) also held the appointment of Deputy Judge Advocate General.

The resources of the new headquarters were soon fully extended. In particular, the establishment of Canadian hospitals, the maintenance of Canadian motor transport, and the general administration that would not have been required had the Canadian field force gone to France, imposed a heavy burden upon the Quartermaster General’s branch. At the same time, the concentration of Canadian troops in the south of England brought in its wake an increasing number of courts martial and civilian claims for damages, which similarly burdened the office of the DJAG Moreover the heavy air attacks on London beginning on 7 September 1940 put what was supposed to be a base headquarters into the front line, with resultant extra strain on the staff.35

The main lines along which Canadian Military Headquarters was to develop were well defined by the summer of 1940, although numerous adjustments were made thereafter. As the overseas force grew, CMHQ’s establishment grew likewise. On 31 December 1939 its staff numbered 87 persons – 23 officers, 28 other ranks, and 36 civilians. A year later the strength had increased to 124 officers, 518 other ranks and 258 civilians, a total of 900, which included some personnel outside London. By the end of 1942 the total was 3215, while by 30 April 1945 the figures were 616 officers (including 24 CWAC), 2712 other ranks (including 511 CWAC), and 745 civilians, making a total of 4073.36 This expansion, which was typical of almost all higher headquarters as the war progressed,* caused some alarm, and in February 1944 the Chief of Staff issued orders that the establishment was to be kept under constant review and reduced wherever possible. In the following June he advised CMHQ and all units under its command that except on his specific instructions no more increases in

* On 25 April 1945, 5687 persons (all ranks and civilians) were employed in the Army branches of NDHQ, Ottawa. In addition, 2226 were carried on the strength of miscellaneous units in the Ottawa area closely associated with one or more of the branches.

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establishments would be approved unless compensating decreases were made at the same time.37

Early in 1943 a Special War Establishment Committee in recommending certain increases in the establishment of CMHQ appeared to accept the assumption that the work of the Headquarters increased “in direct ratio to the number of troops in the country”.38 One critic of the committee’s report, however, argued that there was no automatic relationship of the sort postulated and that in fact the headquarters’ responsibilities had increased at a faster rate because of “the enormous number of added functions” that had been tacked on since 1940 and because of “the higher standard of service” that was required. “Speaking generally,” he observed, “the trend has been for this Headquarters to shoulder all items of administration that can properly be taken off HQ of field formations.39 The latter point will be considered in more detail below.

The amount of paper passing through the Central Registry illustrates the expansion of the work of CMHQ The average daily number of pieces of incoming mail increased from 165 in 1940 to 1500 in 1944, while the number of files in Central Registry increased from 2,000 to 200,000 in the same period.40 Physically the headquarters had spread into six main buildings, while small detachments were located at many other places both inside and outside of London.41

Organization of CMHQ, 1945

The complex organization of Canadian Military Headquarters in its final form can best be visualized by reference to the organization chart printed herewith.42 The Senior Officer was replaced in December 1943, we shall see, by a Chief of Staff. The latter, a lieutenant general, was relieved of much detail by the appointment of a Major General in Charge of Administration, who had general supervision of the “A” and “Q” branches. The Brigadier General Staff became a Deputy Chief of the General Staff, directly responsible to the Chief of Staff.43

In the last days of the war in Europe, the General Staff Branch, with an establishment of 85 officers and 90 other ranks, comprised four main sections – Military Intelligence, Staff Duties (which included Training), Historical, and Public Relations.44 After the formation of the First Canadian Army there was no “Operations” section at CMHQ and the Intelligence Section’s functions were limited to liaison with the War Office (chiefly designed to keep NDHQ and the Chief of Staff informed on military operations) and local security. The Historical and Public Relations sections had their own special duties. CMHQ Signals, under General Staff

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Canadian Military 
Headquarters, London, February 1945

Canadian Military Headquarters, London, February 1945

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supervision, had the task of handling the heavy signals traffic that passed in and out of the headquarters.

Thus the main functions of the General Staff at CMHQ were Staff Duties and Training, which entailed the employment of 57 officers. In the words of an official memorandum, “Staff Duties at CMHQ involve principally the determination, in proper relation to First Cdn Army, of the organization, establishment, and equipment of the Cdn Army Overseas, and the policy of mobilization of our resources to meet this requirement...”45 This involved decisions regarding the types of units needed and their establishments, decisions regarding the movement of troops and equipment and the mobilization of units in the United Kingdom, the determination of what sorts of equipment were required and on what scale, and finally “the determination of rates of wastage and scales of reserves of personnel and equipment.”46 Owing to the tremendous technical developments of modern warfare a separate and highly specialized section (Staff Duties-Weapons) was built up to deal with the particular problems of technical equipment. Another part of the Staff Duties organization was responsible for sending training information back to Canada and for the training of the many troops under the command of CMHQ in England. It will also be noted that the functions of Staff Duties are very closely related to those of the administrative branches. Briefly the distinction may be made that “the General Staff is responsible for defining what is required by the Army. and the A.G. and QMG Branches are then responsible for taking executive action.”47

The Adjutant General’s Branch. consisting of 208 officers and 415 other ranks under a Deputy Adjutant General with the rank of brigadier, fell into two main divisions, Organization and Personal Services, each under an Assistant Deputy Adjutant General. Personal Services relating to officers, however, were dealt with by a separate Military Secretary section, also under an ADAG; and towards the end of the war a Director of Reorganization and Demobilization was appointed,* who was directly responsible to the

DAC. The Organization division under the ADAG(A) was itself divided into seven main and 26 sub-sections, dealing with organizational matters proper (formation, mobilization and disbandment of units, provision and despatch of reinforcements, etc.). records (a very large section with eight sub-sections), requirements and statistics, personnel selection, pay, education and inspections. The pay arrangements of the Canadian Army Overseas were centralized in a large section under a Chief Paymaster with the rank of brigadier, who had direct access to the Deputy Adjutant General. Personal Services under the ADAG(B) was a much larger division. consisting of 153 officers and 289 other ranks, divided into eight main and 39 sub-sections. Matters dealing with Army personnel generally, such as

* The appointment of Col. D. K. Tow with the acting rank of brigadier was made on 8 September 1944 by the Chief of Staff CMHQ, with the approval of the CGS at NDHQ48

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promotions, enlistments, discharges, prisoners of war, welfare, and Chaplain and Auxiliary Services, were grouped together in a large section known as AAG (Pers), but a separate directorate, the Canadian Wives Bureau, had been formed to deal with the complex problem of sending servicemen’s wives and children to Canada. Four sections dealt with legal matters: AAG (Discipline) being responsible for disciplinary matters in general, including the administration of the Provost Corps and the holding of courts of inquiry; AAG (Claims) dealing with the numerous civilian claims for damages that inevitably resulted from the presence of a large Canadian force in a small area of southeastern England; an Estates section, which looked after the disposal of estates of deceased personnel; and the Judge Advocate General’s Section, which dealt with courts martial, legal relationships with Allied forces, and other legal matters. The last-named section was headed by a Deputy Judge Advocate General, since General Montague remained Judge Advocate General for the Canadian Army Overseas.*

* The reasons why General Montague retained this appointment until the end of the war were thus stated by the DJAG at CMHQ in a letter to General Montague:49 “... the large body of Cdn troops overseas warrants no less than a Judge of the Bench of Canada as the guardian of its legal interests. ... I think it most significant that in five years there has been no case that I recall where a commander, a court or an accused did not accept your decision as final. ... In this connection, I venture to add that our Senior Commanders would probably not be prepared to accept as conclusive an opinion on the law from anyone other than yourself.”

A few weeks before the end of the war in Europe, however, the Office of the Judge Advocate General was separated from the Adjutant General’s Branch and its head given the title of Vice Judge Advocate General with the rank of brigadier.50

Medical and Dental services were also included in ADAG(B)’s division of the Adjutant General’s Branch, but the Director of Medical Services, himself a major general (Major General R. M. Luton), had direct access to the Major General in Charge of Administration.

The Quartermaster General’s Branch, consisting of 138 officers and 389 other ranks, under a Deputy Quartermaster General with the rank of brigadier, was divided into two main parts, Arms and Equipment, and QMG Services, each under an ADQMG, also a brigadier. The Arms and Equipment division consisted of RCOC and RCEME services. The former was divided into three main sections, the Organization, Administration and Financial Section, the Ordnance Stores Section and the Mechanical Transport Section. The Ordnance Stores Section was in turn divided into sub-sections dealing with warlike stores, clothing and general stores, war equipment tables, and Canadian Army Requirements, most of which were broken down into further sub-divisions. The RCEME services fell into two main sections, one dealing with organization and the other with technical matters, each having numerous subdivisions. There was also a civilian Director of Design, Equipment and Mechanization (originally known as Technical Adviser, Mechancial Transport) with a civilian staff, which worked within the framework of the

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QMG branch and also served the Department of Munitions and Supply.51 While the organization of Canadian Military Headquarters outlined in the foregoing pages remained in effect until the end of the war, it should be noted that in 1944 consideration was given to a radical reorganization on the ‘one-stag” principle followed by the United States Army and most European countries. The proposal was first made by Major General E. L. M. Burns, then commanding the 2nd Canadian Division, in a memorandum, dated 10 January 1944,52 which suggested a reorganization throughout the Army but beginning with CMHQ and NDHQ He claimed that the British staff system had never been planned logically, but that rather it was “the result of evolution and compromise”. In consequence there were anomalies and overlapping, particularly with regard to the Staff Duties section of the General Staff. He criticized the preeminence of the General Staff in the field of policy and recommended that the staff as a whole should be reorganized into five branches or divisions – Intelligence, Operations, Personnel, Maintenance and Movement, and Equipment – with necessary changes in nomenclature. The old Staff Duties section dealing with organization would be absorbed into the new Personnel branch (the equivalent of the old “A” Branch) and the Staff Duties-Weapons section would become part of the new Maintenance and Movement branch (the equivalent of the old “Q” Branch). The whole system would be coordinated by a Chief of Staff.

These ideas found favour with some senior officers and the matter came to a head a few months later when Major General J. V. Young, Master General of the Ordnance, arrived with several staff officers from NDHQ to discuss the organization of Research and Development in the Canadian Army. General Stuart, suggesting that this might involve a drastic reorganization of the whole staff system, became interested and directed his staff to explore Bums’ suggestion.53

General Burns’ original memorandum was circulated at CMHQ and at Army Headquarters54 and was the subject of much discussion at both. An outline plan submitted by the DCGS at CMHQ was considered by the heads of the other branches,55 and the whole matter was gone into with the War Office, where similar changes were being considered. On his return to Canada General Young reported that there was general agreement among the senior officers consulted on the need for radical staff reorganization. He then submitted proposals for an organization along the lines proposed by Bums, writing:56

It is the considered recommendation of C of S at CMHQ that the appended proposal be urgently considered by higher authority in this Department, and that the reorganization so envisaged be implemented in Canada at the earliest feasible date and without waiting until the conclusion of hostilities. C of S at CMHQ is proposing to initiate a similar reorganization of his own staff almost immediately, subject to the concurrence of the Minister.

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In September General Stuart wrote to the Department of National Defence urging early consideration of these proposals,57 but shortly thereafter, following the departure of Colonel Ralston from the Government, Stuart ceased to be Chief of Staff and the matter lapsed. Appropriately enough, the last item on the file is a memorandum of 2 December 1944 from General Burns in which he suggested that General Young’s project had gone too far. He proceeded to make other proposals for a considerably modified version of the reorganization. No further action appears to have been taken. CMHQ, like the rest of the Army, continued to be organized on the British staff system, which throughout the war gave service generally considered pretty satisfactory.

Canadian Reinforcement Units and Other Units Under CMHQ Command

Canadian Military Headquarters had under its command in the United Kingdom towards the end of hostilities with Germany numerous miscellaneous units, whose establishments – (not including the reinforcements held in the reinforcement units, but including temporary units or “increments”) totalled 34,777 all ranks.58

The most important group were the Reinforcement Units, the organization of which underwent six major revisions in the course of the war. Originally known as Holding Units, they were first organized in the summer of 1940 in two groups.59 Although they were primarily reinforcement pools it was found from the outset that they had to undertake the task of training the drafts arriving from Canada.60 This and the great growth of the Canadian overseas army were among the causes of the various changes; the reorganization of the army in 1943 to conform with British war establishments was another factor. The principle of affiliation of Infantry Holding Units with field units was also a matter of discussion and experimentation.

They were originally organized on a territorial basis, but in 1941 this was replaced by a divisional one; that is, each infantry division had its own Infantry Holding Unit.61 In 1943, however, the divisional principle was abandoned and the territorial one revived.62 Thus for example all reinforcements for western Canadian infantry units of any division would

* The organization of CMHQ may be compared with that of the Army branches at NDHQ, Ottawa, a chart of which appears as Appendix J.

† On 30 November 1944 the actual strength in Britain was 73,006 all ranks. Of these only 25,816 covered permanent establishment vacancies; 26,621 were reinforcements, 4568 were employed in the temporary units or “increments”, while 16,001 listed as “non-effectives” (unfit personnel, personnel employed outside the United Kingdom, etc.) did not count against unit establishments. By 30 April 1945 the strength had risen to 94,569, of whom 39,380 were reinforcements.

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come from the same reinforcement unit. The term “Reinforcement Unit” had been adopted because it was considered that the name “Holding Unit” was liable to have a bad psychological effect on the troops concerned.63

By the spring of 1944 the Canadian Reinforcement Units were organized in six groups64 in the Bordon–Aldershot area under a Headquarters, CRU.* “A” and “D” Groups embraced five Infantry Reinforcement Units and No. 1 Canadian General Reinforcement Unit, which served Intelligence, Medical, Dental, Provost, Educational, and Auxiliary Service units, as well as the Chaplain Service and the Pay Corps. “B” Group consisted of Engineer, Signals and Army Service Corps Reinforcement Units; “C” Group, one Ordnance and two Artillery Reinforcement Units; “E” Group, three Armoured Corps Reinforcement Units, and “F” Group miscellaneous static units. The decision made early in 1944 to hold some 19,000 reinforcements in the two theatres of war on the Continent had led to the elimination of “G” Group and the disbandment of one Artillery and two Infantry Reinforcement Units.65

Each Reinforcement Unit was organized in a headquarters, an instructional wing, an administrative wing and holding wings. The last named were subdivided into wing headquarters and training companies, etc. The whole system in England was designed to hold approximately 23,000 reinforcements at one time.66

Early in 1944, in order to stimulate the flow of infantry reinforcements, the policy of sending formed units overseas from Canada was adopted and the arrival of the 13th Infantry Brigade in the summer of that year led to another change in the organization of the Infantry reinforcement units. “A” and “D” Groups and the 13th Infantry Brigade were all disbanded and a new organization known as the 13th Canadian Infantry Training Brigade was formed. This consisted of four and subsequently five training regiments, each made up of one and subsequently two training battalions and one depot battalion. The latter was responsible for all administration in connection with the reception, holding and dispatch of drafts, while the training battalion carried out refresher and collective training up to company level.67 In January 1945, preparatory to the arrival of the 14th and 15th Infantry Brigades, a 14th Canadian Infantry Training Brigade was also set up, consisting of four infantry training regiments, with the same distribution of depot and training battalions as in the 13th Brigade.68

The training done by the reinforcement units is mentioned in another chapter, but the operational role taken by them at one stage of the war may be mentioned here. When England was bracing herself to face invasion in the summer of 1940 the British command at Aldershot asked that the

* Until October 1941 it was known as Headquarters Canadian Base Units. The successive officers in command were Brigadier L. F. Page, November 1940; Brigadier F. R. Phelan, July 1941; Major General J. H. Roberts, April 1943; Major General D. C. Spry, March 1945.

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Sketch 1: The British 

Sketch 1: The British Isles

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Canadian troops should participate in the local defence scheme. The Canadian military authorities naturally agreed and undertook to take the necessary legal action to place the holding units under the command of the senior British officer in the area should an emergency arise.69 The task assigned to the Canadians was essentially local in character and consisted chiefly in providing mobile columns to combat parachutists, and special patrols and platoons for the defence of various barracks.70 On two occasions subsequently during major exercises (TIGER and SPARTAN) CRU organized ad hoc forces to relieve Canadian field formations from their protective duties on the south coast and so enable them to take part.71

Apart from the reinforcement units there were a great variety of Canadian units in the United Kingdom. It may be sufficient to describe the situation as it existed in the last winter of the war.

Medical installations included at the end of November 1944 ten general hospitals with a total capacity of over 7000 beds: No. 4 General Hospital at Farnborough, No. 9 at Horsham, No. 11 at Taplow, No. 13 at Cuckfield, No. 17 at Crowthorne, No. 18 at Colchester, No. 19 at Birmingham, No. 22 at Bramshott, No. 23 at Watford, and No. 24 at Horley. The remaining twelve Canadian General Hospitals overseas were on the Continent at this time. There were also the Basingstoke Neurological and Plastic Surgery Hospital, a 2000-bed convalescent depot, one convalescent hospital (though two were authorized) and a number of miscellaneous units, the total authorized establishment being 1390 officers and 3413 other ranks.72 Canadian Dental Corps units, serving the RCN and RCAF as well as the Army, included seven Base Dental Companies and totalled 257 officers and 693 other ranks.73

The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps establishment in the United Kingdom included 2804 personnel in static units, of whom the vast majority belonged to No. 1 Central Ordnance Depot.74 Originally the Canadian Army Overseas had been largely dependent on the United Kingdom’s Royal Army Ordnance Corps, but on the urgent recommendation of Generals McNaughton and Crerar the authorities in Canada agreed, after considerable discussion, to the principle of an RCOC system of supply. The result was the establishment early in 1942 of the Canadian Base Ordnance Depot, which was reorganized as Central Ordnance Depot in January 1944.75

The Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, an offshoot of the RCOC, were set. up early in 1944, in imitation of British organization, to undertake “the inspection, maintenance, and repair of electrical and mechanical equipment”.

RCEME units in Britain had an establishment of 3547 all ranks, chiefly in No. 1 Base Workshop (originally Base Ordnance Workshop).76 The Canadian Army Overseas had found British repair facilities unable to cope with the amount of work to be done.

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Consequently, on the recommendation of General McNaughton, and after a detailed investigation by a representative of the Master General of the Ordnance, the Canadian Government approved the establishment of a Canadian Base Workshop, which was especially recruited in Canada in the winter of 1941–42. Accommodation was built at Bordon, Hants, by the Royal Canadian Engineers and in May 1942 the unit took possession and immediately began work on a great backlog of repairs that had been piling up.77

Other CMHQ units in the last months of the war included three Artisan Works Companies (RCE), a Printing Detachment (RCASC), two Provost Companies, a Detention Barracks, three Field Security Sections, a Postal Depot, a Tobacco Depot (which was also part of the Canadian Postal Corps), three General Pioneer Companies, two Kit Storage units, the Canadian Wives Bureau, six detachments of the Canadian Army Show (actually on the Continent), two bands, and various Public Relations, Auxiliary Services, Educational and other units.78 As already noted, at the end of November 1944 about 4500 of the troops in the United Kingdom were on the strength of temporary units or “increments”.* These consisted mostly of increments to the Canadian Reinforcement Units and schools and other static establishments in the United Kingdom, and theoretically they were available for the reinforcement stream.79

The Canadian Forestry Corps

A very specialized element of the Army in the United Kingdom was the Canadian Forestry Corps, which at its peak numbered nearly 7000 all ranks. Such a corps had existed and done important work in the United Kingdom and on the Continent during the First World War. In this matter history repeated itself in the Second.

We have already mentioned that the British Government proposed the provision of Canadian forestry units as early as October 1939, and that the decision to form the new Canadian Forestry Corps was taken in May 1940 after the recommendation had been renewed (see above, pages 65 and 79). At this time the United Kingdom suggested that 80 companies might ultimately be provided for service in Britain and France. The situation was soon materially altered by the French collapse, but there was still an urgent need for foresters in the United Kingdom, for with supplies from Scandinavia and Russia cut off a great gap existed between local supplies of lumber and essential requirements. An initial force of twenty companies was asked for, and it was pointed out late in June that the military

* These were set up under authority of Telegram GSD 602. See page 217 below.

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situation in Britain now made it important that these companies “should have received appropriate scale of military training before they arrive here”.80

The required twenty companies, each about 200 strong, were accordingly mobilized and trained in Canada. The Corps was first commanded by Brigadier General J. B. White, who had been in charge of timber operations in France in 1918.* Under a financial agreement between the two Governments, modelled on the practice in the previous war, Canada was to bear the cost of pay, allowances and pensions of officers and men, all initial personal equipment, transport to and from the United Kingdom, and some minor matters, while the British Government paid for “all other services connected with equipment, work or maintenance” and certain others including medical services.81 Canada provided and paid medical officers for the Forestry Corps, but the British authorities paid the cost of “hospitalization”.82

An advance party arrived in Scotland in October 1940. This was followed two months later by the Corps Headquarters and No. 5 Forestry Company, and during the winter and spring by additional units; by May 1941 there were thirteen forestry companies overseas, organized in five “forestry districts” each of which had a small headquarters, and located in the counties of Inverness, Ross, Aberdeen, Nairn and Perth. The remaining seven companies had arrived by July. Under the pattern of operation which developed companies worked in two sections, one cutting “in the bush” and bringing out the timber, the other sawing it into lumber in the company mill, and both using mostly Canadian mechanical equipment. Each unit was a self-contained community, including men capable of turning their hands to almost any task; and the Corps performed in fact an endless variety of undertakings, from miscellaneous building to snow clearance on the Highland roads. A regular proportion of the units’ time was devoted to military training, each company preparing for the defence of its area and cooperation with the troops of Scottish Command in the event of invasion.83

The control of the Canadian Forestry Corps naturally presented some unusual problems, since it was, essentially, a Canadian organization working for the British Government under a special agreement. None of these problems proved serious, however. The system of control may be briefly summarized as follows. Military administration was through Canadian channels, the Corps being under the orders of Canadian Military Headquarters, London. Timber operations were directed by the British authorities, through the Home Grown Timber Production Department of the Ministry of Supply, which arranged the areas where the Canadians were to work and the disposal of the product. Control of military operations of the CFC was never surrendered by the Canadian authorities to the United Kingdom.84 General McNaughton’s view of the case was thus stated in May

* When ill-health forced General White to relinquish the command in the autumn of 1943, he was succeeded by Colonel C. E. F. Jones.

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1942: “It is agreed that the War Office is to direct the forestry operations performed by these Coys; but military operations are reserved for control by Canadian authorities... personnel of the Cdn Forestry Corps in the United Kingdom might, as an extreme measure, have to be used as reinforcements for field formations and units of First Cdn Army.”85 However, special, arrangements were made to enable the Corps to act immediately under the orders of the GOC-in-C Scottish Command in an emergency,86 although it was never formally placed “in combination” with the British troops under the Visiting Forces Act (see below, pages 255–6).

The United Kingdom authorities estimated that the timber output of each forestry company was “roughly equivalent to the timber carried by a ship of six thousand tons plying regularly from Canada under war-time conditions”.87 Naturally, therefore, they were anxious to get as many Canadian foresters as they could. In July 1941, in view of the “effect of the Battle of the Atlantic and the heavy demands for shipping for the Near East and other theatres of war”, the British Government asked for twenty more Canadian forestry companies, to be provided if possible before the end of the year. Considering the other present and prospective claims upon Canadian manpower, this one had to be carefully examined; but on 9 October the War Committee of the Cabinet agreed to provide 1000 more Forestry personnel (equivalent to five companies) and on 23 January 1942 it approved five more companies, as a final contribution. The last of the ten new companies reached the United Kingdom in October 1942. The overseas strength of the Corps reached its peak in February 1943, when it was 220 officers and 6771 other ranks.88

Increasing manpower stringency produced in the spring of 1943 a proposal to contract the CFC. In any case, the Scottish timber stands were being depleted. During the summer several hundred men of the Corps suitable for other employment were posted to other overseas units; and in October ten companies, consisting of close to 2000 all ranks, were repatriated for forestry work in Canada.89 By May 1944 the Corps’ overseas strength was down to 4055 all ranks.90

The remaining twenty forestry companies continued to work overseas until the end of hostilities. Ten stayed in Scotland; the other ten were ultimately employed on the Continent, and their story will be outlined in the volume of this history dealing with the North-West Europe campaign. Canadian forestry operations in Scotland ended only in June 1945, and the Corps Headquarters there ceased to function on 1 September.91 The production figures for four-and-a-half years of work in Scottish forests are impressive evidence of the value of the Corps’ work; they are headed by 394,467,161 FBM of sawn lumber, and production in other categories was in proportion.92

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It should be noted that Newfoundland, like Canada, contributed foresters to work in the Scottish Highlands. The Newfoundland Overseas Forestry Unit was formed in November 1939 at the expense of the United Kingdom. It was a civilian organization whose members signed an engagement to serve for a stated period (at first, six months; later, the duration of the war). Its strength in December 1942 was 1497 men. Except for its non-military nature its operations were basically similar to those of its Canadian counterpart.93

The Canadian Women’s Army Corps Overseas

The organization of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps has been described in Chapter IV, where it is mentioned that detachments of the Corps served overseas. Although these detachments were not large, their work merits brief separate notice here.

All told, 1984 all ranks of the CWAC served overseas in the European zone to 8 May 1945.94 This includes 313 women – Canadians resident in Britain, or wives of Canadian servicemen – who were appointed or enlisted in the United Kingdom. Between 8 May 1945 and 31 October 1945, 988 more women arrived overseas, and nine more were enlisted, making a grand total of 2981.95 The first draft arrived in Britain on 5 November 1942. By the end of 1943 there were three CWAC companies in London with their personnel attached for duty to various branches of CMHQ, while a fourth served Headquarters, Canadian Reinforcement Units, in the Aldershot area. In addition, 173 women not organized as a company were serving in an Ordnance unit, No. 1 Static Base Laundry.96 As in Canada, the usefulness of the Corps widened steadily as the war progressed, and its members took on an increasing variety of tasks. Its strength in the United Kingdom on 30 April 1945 was 62 officers and 1268 other ranks.97

Early in 1944 the employment of women in the rear areas of theatres of war came under consideration, and by mid-April it had been decided that this would be proper.98 Almost all the earlier thinking in this connection seems to have been in terms of clerks, etc., for North-West Europe; but as it turned out the first CWAC women to enter a theatre of war were four girls of the Canadian Army Show, who went not to France, but to Italy, arriving there on 16 May 1944.99 (On 6 June the diarist of the Westminster f Regiment recorded a brigade concert as “A huge success, largely due to the 11 efforts of four very charming CWACs”.) However, not many CWAC personnel served in Italy; in January 1945 the total there was only one officer and 42 other ranks. Twenty-five of the latter were in the Army Show; all I, the rest were at “Canadian Section 1st Echelon, Allied Force Headquarters”,

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the Canadian static headquarters, then in Rome. A larger group, eight officers and 148 other ranks, were in North-West Europe. The great majority of these were at “2nd Echelon” (“the Deputy Adjutant General’s office at the Base”),* then located at Alost, Belgium. A smaller number were at Canadian 1st Echelon, 21st Army Group, at Brussels, and a few were in other establishments.100 CWAC women on the Continent were not organized in Companies.

More CWAC women would have been sent overseas had it not been that after the long static period so many men of low medical category were available there for noncombatant duties; to return these to Canada and replace them by women would have been uneconomical, particularly with respect to shipping space. However, after the German surrender women were sent abroad in increasing numbers for administrative duties, both from Canada to the United Kingdom and from the United Kingdom to the Continent. Now for the first time CWAC personnel were employed at Headquarters First Canadian Army (it would have been difficult to ensure adequate accommodation for them during active operations). At the end of August 1945, when the overseas strength of the CWAC had reached its peak, 1833 all ranks were serving in Britain and 450 in the Netherlands.101

* Primarily a Canadian personnel records office for the theatre.