I have dug back into the formation of 1 Cdn Corps in Canada because I think to understand this force one must remember that in 1939 the Cdn Militia provided only a cadre from which a future army could be developed. The Polish Corps, on the other hand, had a fine fighting tradition, but were completely unadapted to mechanised overseas warfare. Perhaps I have given too much space to their teething troubles, although I think these also help to an understanding of the force which finally emerged.
It is difficult to keep politics out of the Polish story. The Russian background must be remembered because of its effect on morale, but I imagine this is still dynamite and the less said about it the better! I have therefore confined most of my remarks concerning it to Appdx A.
Source: C.O.H. Vol. I Colonel C.P. Stacey: Six Years of War, Ottawa 1955. Vol II Lt.-Col. G.W.L. Nicholson: The Canadians in Italy, Ottawa 1956.
Pt I - In Canada
Pt II - In the UK
Pt III - In the Mediterranean
Appdx A: Short list of Commanding Officers
Pt I - IN CANADA
Canada, like Great Britain, went through a marked pacifist reaction during the inter-war yers. Anti-war feeling was still strong, and the economy still suffering from the effects of the depression in 1937/38 when the Government started on a modest re-armament programme. Such money as was available was naturally devoted to home defence. The Militia* came a poor
* Before the war, the Canadian Army was divided into the Permanent Active Militia, the regulars, and the Non-Permanent Active Militia, the territorials. On mobilisation in Septe. 1939, the army became known as the Canadian Active Service Force. Only in Nov. 1940 was the term 'Militia' abandoned and a government order passed that the military should be known as 'The Canadian Army'.
third after coastal and air defence and it was only possible to provide a nucleus for getting things going should the emergency arise: a cadre of regular officers NCOs and specialists, backed by a partially trained body of territorials. Thus on 31 July 1939 The Standing Army consisted of 4,261 all told. Of the three regular inf. units (the Royal Cdn Regt, Princess Patricia Cdn Light Inf and the Royal 22e Regiment_ none approcahed full strength; e.g. the Vingtdeuxieme, with an establishment of 773, in March 1939 had a total strength of 184. The territorials reported 5,272 officers and 41,249 men as trained in the year 1938/9, about half of these having had camp training.
As regards reserves of equipment the story can be briefly told, since apart from personl arms there were none. Canada had no armament industry. Successive governments had resisted on the grounds of expense, the CGS's pressure to start manufacture of light arms. Now Britain could spare little and U.S. supplies would be cut off in the event of war. In the summer of 1939 the army held precisely 16 modern light tanks, 5x3-inch mortars, 29 Bren guns, 4x2-pdr anti-tank guns; insufficient equipment even for training. All other equipment, even guns, was obsolescent.
The plan for mobilisation, having been passed by the Prime Minister, was circulated to the Military in Jan. 1938. It provided for the establishment of a Corps HQ, two inf divs and p.1-3
ancillary troops, but only one div was to be concentrated in the first instance. The order for mobilisation of such a force was passed on 1 Sept. 1939. No Corps HQ, however, was set up at this time and the HQ of 2 Cdn Div was only formed early in 1940.
The two formations mobilised in 1939 were intended to represent every part of the country. Thus, 1 Cdn Div was drawn territorially from: Ontraio - 1st Bde, Western States - 2nd Bde, Quebec and Maritime Provinces - 3rd Bde. The three regular inf. units, for reasons of morale, were distributed between the bdes of 1 Div as the first to be mobilised, and this Div also had the RCHA as one of its arty regiments. The NPAM provided nearly all commissioned and warrant officers for units, but only a minority of other ranks. Fifty percent of the newly raised 1 Div had no military experience whatsoever. However there was no difficulty in recruitment and by 30 Sept. the Active Service Force numbered around 61,5000, some 40,500 of these being in the Mobile Force and another 21,000 in coastal and air defence, district depots etc.
The decision to send troops overseas quickly followed. In answer to an enquiry from the P.M. of Canada, the British Government replied, early in Sept., that while they hoped for 'the eventual despatch of an expeditionary force', they would appreciate the immediate presence of a small token force to take its place alongside their troops. On 16 Sept. the Cdn Cabinet decided that a full division should be sent and the CGS recommended that, since there was no equipment in Canada for advance training, the force should move as soon as the U.K. could equip it. Maj-Gen A.G.L. McNaughton (who had give up the post of CGS in 1953 to be chief of the National Research Council) was appointed to the command of 1 Div.
The Canadian Tank School (or AFV School) was established in 1936, but the Canadian Armoured Corps was not set up until August 1940 and its first armd formation (1 Cdn Armd Bde) not until the following month. The first armd div, which came to be known as 5 Armd, was born in March 1941 out of a cross between 1 Armd and arty and inf units of 4 Inf Div. The amalgamation was partly the result of the Canadians' desite to cut down mounting bills, partly to help the U.K. objective of raising ten armd divs before the end of 1941. Two regular cavalry regts were included in the div: The Royal Cdn Dragoons became 1 Armd Car Regt and Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) the 2nd Armd Regt. At this date an armd div was made up of two armd bdes (three armd regts and an inf motor bn) and a support group. In 1943 the div was reorganised as one armd and one inf bde. p.43
To sum up the potential material for a Canadian army: morale on the whole was very good. Throughout the war all service overseas was voluntary and though men for 1 and 2 Divs had to be re-enlisted before transfer, few took the chance to pull out. Physical fitness was also high, particularly in the early formations, whose men had to be 'perfectly fit…for all active service conditions…in any climate', apart from skilled tradesmen of the L of C. One particular problem which the force had to face, however, was the finding of suitably experienced Staff Officers. Canada had no Staff College but at the start of the war 45 officers had passed a British course and a similar number had taken artillery and ordnanace courses in Britain. The difficult naturally increased as the force expanded. Thus, of 1 Div, the GOC, two senior staff officers and two of its four brigadiers (bde and arty commanders) were regulars. Of 2 div, however, which began to concentrate in May 1940, the GOC and all four brigadiers were from the NPAM. 5 Army Div HQ had on establishment a Canadian GOC with two experienced tank officers, leant by the Britsih Army, as GSO1 and AA and OMG. Under such circumstances the distinction bewtween regular and citizen officers virtually ceased to exist.
Pt II - IN THE UK
Command and Administration
The Canadians felt it to be essential, in the interests of autonomy, to keep control of administration of their forces in the U.K. For this purpose and for liason with the British Government, a Canadian military HQ was set up in London with Brigadier H.D.G. Crerara as its BGS. The senior combatant officers in the U.K., however, was a field officer; originally the commander of 1 Cdn Div, later of 1 Cdn Army. Until he retired in Dec. 1943, the position, in one capacity or another, was held by Gen. McNaughton. It was then take over by Gen. Crerar. As long as they were in the U.K. Canadian troops (under the terms of the Visiting Forces (British Commonwealth) Act 1933) remained under the Cdn Government in all matters of internal administration, training and discipline. When 1 Div, and later 1 Corps, moved to the Mediterranean, Gen McNaughton had to issue a directive putting them under the command of 15 Army Group.
It had been considered for various understandable reasons set out in the COH Vol II p.361, that when Canadian production rose it would be used to equip their overseas army. Before the system was fully working, however, it became obvious that this was not the most economical use of shipping or resources. In June 1943, therefore, after three months of negotiation with the W.O., Gen McNaughton advised CMHQ that p.63
that 1 Cdn Army should be 'organised and equipped in accordance with the War Office pattern for British armies' with the exception of a few items of equipment (vehicles and clothing among them) which would still come from Canada. There were certain disadvantages for the Canadian forces themselves.*
* These are not given but some of them can be imagined. The COH is to discuss them further in a future volume on supply.
but they took the broad view and considered the war effort as a whole.
The bulk of 1 Div reached the UK in Dec 1939, 2 Div followedv it late in 1940 and 1 Cdn Corps came into being on Christmas Day 1940 with Lieut-Gen McNaughton as GOC. Canadian strength built up steadily. Of other formations which were to come out to the Mediterranean theatre, 1 Army Tank Bde (the first Canadian armd formation to go abroad and 5 Army Div bothv reached the U.K. in 1942. The Force reached its peak by the middle of 1943, before 1 Div and 1 Army Tank Bde left for Sicily. At that time, under command of an Army HQ and two Corps HQ were two armd and three inf divs, two independent armd bdes and two Army Corps of arty.
When it arrived in the U.K., 1 Div had only made a small start with individual training. The reasons for this have already been given and no other div was to come so unprepared. This Div's training was further dealyed not only by such things as the butter winter of 1939/40 and by lack of equipment*, but also because the Div had not finished training
* Even such relatively small matters as wet boots and clothing wasted much training time; a second issue could not be given out until March 1940.
for its eagerly await continental role, when France collapsed, and it was broken into bde groups to practise mobile counterattack. The anti-invasion theme continued through 1941 and into 1942. At the first two div exercises early in 1941 'monumental traffic jams occured'. No comment is made on the first Corps exercise in June but progress in 'motorized movement' was reported after army maneouvres in the autumn. Finally, after a large eleven-day exercise directed by Gen Montgomery as COG-in-C SE Comd in May 1942, both he and McNaughton declared themselves satisfied with the 'tactical training and endurance' reached by the Cdn formations employed*
* 1 Cdn Corps (2 Div replaced by 3 Brit Div) operated under Gen Crerar. Some inf units marched as much as 38 miles in 18 hours.
This had been an 'encounter battle', for training had by now taken an offensive turn. The Cdn Training School set up in the UK was working fully, and the much more realistic 'Battle Drill' training it gave had been extended it gave had been extended to the whole of the
1 Cdn Corps before the end of the year. In addition combined ops training was started before the end of 1942 (1 Bde of 1 Div went up to Inverary in Dec. and the othr two bdes completed their training by March 1943). Although the equipment position was on the whole much easier in 1942, there were still not enough cuisers tanks to go round. In June 1942 5 Armd Div (which was to be equipped with the Cdn built Ram) had only 112 tanks and a mixed lot at that. Consequently the training of its armd units was considerably delayed and was not completed before the end of the year.
March 1943 saw the largest exercise, as far as Canadian numbers went, in which their troops were to take part in during the war. Under GHQ Home Forces, ten divs, including a Cdn Army and two Corps HQ were involved. 5 Armd Div operated as a formation for the first time under the newly formed HQ of 2 Corps and perhaps not surprisingly the performance of both was disappointing. The Div moved to Norfolk for six weeks of 'large-scale exercises' which much improved its performance but, according to the COH, it 'still had something to learn about armour in battle' when it moved to the Mediterranean in October.
Pt III - IN THE MEDITERRANEAN
Desire to get Troops in action
The particular difficult faced by the Canadian forces, of finding competent senior officers, had grown along with the expansion of their army. And the problem became more acute when leaders were never tested in battle. Efforts were made to remedy this. Early in 1943 200 officers and 147 ORs served attachments to British units in N. Africa. Among senior officers, Gen Crerar attended a course run by Montgomery at Tripoli and Brig GG Simonds, as a visitor to 8 Army, watched the Wadi Akarit battle. Such schemes, however, could not make up for actual battle and it is easy to imagine the difficult positions of General Crerar vis-vis his seasoned opposite number in 8 Army. For although he had served as a Regimental and Staff Officer in the First World War he had taken command of a Corps at the end of 1941 without ever having commanded any lower formation in the Second.
Another problem was that of morale of the troops. Here was a volunteer force, raised in expectation of earlu action, who, to take the example of 1 Div, were then kept waiting 3½ years before meeting the enemy. All this while, they were separated from their families and in uncomfortable billets (the winter of 1939-/40 was particularly bitter and it did not matter much to the Canadians that they were in rather better barracks than the average Tommy).* Indeed in the
* The Postal Censor reported in Feb 1940: 'Boredom, homesickness and a feeling of not being really needed appeared to be the main reasons why nearly all three Canadian soldiers grumble.
Indeed in the entire Army, there had been only one major engagement with the enemy, the Dieppe raid of 19 August 1940. The men felt themselves to be 'a sort of adjunct to the British Home Guard' reported one Canadian journalist in Nov 1942. It was only sensible, urged another, that a division at least should be given battle experience before the whole army was committed. As a result of public pressure, representations were made by the Cdn Government, with the result that 1 Cdn Inf Div and 1 Cdn Army Tank Bde were inserted in the OB for Operation 'Husky' in place of 3 British Div.* Spirits
* Equipment changes and training for the assault on Sicily have already been dealt with an separate Note, 17.11.1964.
in these formations immediately rose. Montgomery found morale 'at the peak' during his May visit to the UK, and the McNaughton who travelled out to the Mediterranean and saw every Cdn unit in Sicily, reported, 'everywhere morale is excellent, the troops are in fine condition and full of confidence.'
Much the same reasons lay behind the Canadian pressure to get a Corps to the Mediterranean (Operation 'Timberwolf'). As given to the British Government by their Minister of National Defence in August 1941, the objects were:
The proposal was at first turned down, in the belief that it would be impossible to find the necessary shipping, but later agreed to on the understanding that it would be an exchange of personnel only. 30 Corps HQ, Corps Troops and 7 Armd Div were to be brough back to the UK and the same ships could carry out a similar number of Cdn troops.
General McNaughton nominated HQ 1 Corps, commanded by Lieut-Gen Crerar and 5 Cdn Armd Div (which travelled out under its Artillery Commander). He and the CIGS had apparently selected an armd div in order to provide a better balance for the 2 Cdn Corps left in the UK.
Reaction in the Med'n
General Alexander, however commented to the CIGS, 'We already have as much armour in the Mediterranean as we can usefully employ.' He added, 'I do not want another Corps Headquarters at this stage.' In fact neiter he nor General Eisenhower welcomed the arrival of new formations but, 'appreciating the political considerations' involved, accepted them. Eisenhower's chief concern was 'the pressure I anticipate will be put upon me to get these troops into action at an early date'. This he considered would be
difficult as the equipment which 5 Armd was supposed to take over was 'already heavily depleted and almost fully mortgaged as reserves for the British forces now engage…' Moreover the equipment of 7 Armd Div did 'not correspond with that of Canadian Armoued Divisions' so that a period of training would be necessary.* This was not an easy atmosphere for
* Eisenhower referred in particular to wireless equipment. Some adjustment would presumably also been necessary for tank crews who were exchanging the Ram for Shermans and for their supply units, since the latter required 'a greater bulk of ammunition and petrol' than the Ram. The Div did not hold some Shermans, probably for training, while in the UK.
the new arrivals, who could not but be aware of the general feeling. Eisenhower's forebodings quickly proved to be correct. There was indeed to be difficulty in getting 5 Armd Div re-equipped. Not only because of the differences in scales and types of equipment but also because of the hard use which the available equipment had already had; e.g. the first move caused so many vehicle breakdowns that the Ordnanace recovery services were completey 'swamped'. Time dragged on. Thus Adv Corps HQ reached Algiers by air 24 Oct. and the troops began to disembark in Sicily early in Nov., but it was late Dec. before Shermans for the tank regts began to arrive from the M.E. (It is true that the GOC, Gen. Simonds, had chosen to wait for new tanks rather than take over 7 Armd's old ones.) The three medium arty regts were equipped in late February, including a certain number of 4.5-inch gun-hows,* and the anti-tank regt received its W.10 SP guns on April. By contrast
* Introduced as a stop-gap measure, the 4.5 was retained to supplement the 5.5 for the sake of 'its greater range and accuracy.'
Corps Troops were well served as it had been agreed that they should be equipped with new Cdn vehicles (3350 of them) sent out from England.
The root cause of the trouble was that the whole Mediterranean theatre was beginning to feel the priority then given to the North West front. The Canadians, however, had come out to fight. Already in mid Jan. Gen Crerar had felt bound to write to Alexander to protest that the effect of slow re-equipment, combined with the large-scale use of fighting units on L of C duties threatened 'to produce very undesirable reactions among his troops.' The first formation (11 Inf Bde) was in fact in action before the end of the month.*
* An interesting sidelight is thrown on the Cdn's wish to get more battle experience for their troops by Kesselring's comment when he heard that 1 Cdn was being relived by 5 Armd Div.: 'We need not be afraid that anything will happen there; they are unseasoned troops and we can easily cope with them.
In a directive issued on 20 Oct. 1943 Gen McNaughton placed all Cdn forces in the Mediterranean under command of
GOC-in-C 15 Army Group. General Crerar, as 1 Cdn Corps Commander however, retained the power to withdraw his force if he received orders which did not seem to 'represent a practicable operation of war or are otherwise at variance with the policy of the Government of Canada on any matter; provided always that by doing so an opportunity is not lost nor any part of the Allied force endangered.' He also had the right to refer matters involving his forces to the Cdn Government, but only after representation to GOC-in-C 15 Army Group had failed.
Very large numbers of Cdn troops had by now reached the Mediterranean - over 26,000 in Operation 'Husky' and about another 34,000 in Operation 'Timberwolf'. 1 Cdn Corps brought with it:-
When 1 Cdn Div travelled out to Sicily it had to take with it every item of equipment to keep the force in action for three weeks. After that time, administration was changed to 8 Army channels. In the same way 1 Corps RCASC was to draw bulk, ammunition, pol, engineering and medical stores, and other supples (including rations) from 8 Army. The personnel side, however, was kept in Cdn hands. A base reinforcement depot with four reinfocement bns* travelled out after 1 Div and a hospital service and convalescent depot were also provided for it in N. Africa. Similar
* One bn of 1500 men was sent ahead in an early follow-up convoy. The idea proved so successful that it was copied by all assault divs of 8 Army in the invasion of Italy.
services, as shown above, accompanied 1 Corps.
Administrative matters were as much as possible dealt with through ordinary Army channels, but for exceptional circumstances and for liason with Cdn authorities in the UK a 'Canadian Section, GHQ First Echelon' was attached to 15 Army Group in Sicily. For some while the admin services were widely dispersed between N. Africa, Sicily and later Italy. With the arrival of 1 Corps they were concentrated under the Officer in Charge, Cdn Section GHQ 1 Ech (Brig A.W. Beament) and the main body was set up alongside AFHQ Adv Admin Echelon (FLAMBO), which had just
been established at Naples, The new base for reinforcements was established nearby in order to avoid the long move forward from Philippeville.
1 Corps leaves Italy
The Canadians fought their last action in Italy towards the end of Feb 1945. They were then withdrawn in order to join their 1 Army in Europe. Except for the last two months of the war, the Canadians had been engaged in every major phase of the campaign and 1 Div had had longer service in that theatre than any other div than in 8 Army. Of 92,757 Canadians who served there (including some 1,200 men of 1 Special Service Bn) more than one quarter became casualties. 'It is with great sorrow and regret' wrote Gen Alexander to the Corps Commadner, Gen Foulkes, 'that I see your famous Canadian Corps leaving my command.' Vol. II p.351
|GOC 1 Cdn
|GOC 1 Cdn
|Lt Gen Crerar
|Lt Gen C
|GOC 1 Cdn
||17.10.39 - 19.7.40|
|Maj Gen G.G.
|GOC 5 Cnd
Some steps in the career of Gen Simonds, as the Canadian General Officer who servied longest in the Med., may be of interest. They also serve as an example of the rapidity of promotion in the Cnd. Army:-
A regular army officer, he came to the UK as a major on the Staff of 1 Inf Div. As BGS Cnd Corps he earned high commendation from Montgomery. In April 1939, aged 39, he was promoted to Major-General and commander of 2 Inf Div but was quickly to be switched to the command of 1 Div, taking up his post on the very day of Gen Salmon's death. When GOC 5 Armd Div was found unfit to go to Italy, Simonds took over the div on the advice of Montgomery who again spoke 'highly of his handling of operations' and of his possible future use as a Corps Commander. He was promoted to command 2 Corps in Jan 1944. Vol. II p.30