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5th Canadian (Armoured) Division

5th Canadian (Armoured) Division
 
Authorized: as 1st Canadian Armoured Division 27 Feb 1941 (General Order 88/41)
Redesignated: 26 June 1941 (General Order 135/41)
Disbanded: 12 December 1945 (General Order 71/46)

The 5th Canadian Division refers to two organizations raised during the 20th Century. This article refers to the division raised as a formation in the Second World War.

  • 5th Canadian Division

  • 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division (Second World War)

The 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division was an armoured division raised during the Second World War. Originally known as the 1st Canadian Armoured Division, this formation saw combat in Italy and NW Europe.

1st Canadian Armoured Division

The 1st Canadian Armoured Division was mobilized on 27 February 1941, as experience in the Western Desert saw an increased understanding of the capabilities of armour in modern warfare. By June 1941, the division had been renamed the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division, and was organized along British lines, with two armoured brigades. The division moved to the UK at the end of 1941, and in 1943 was heavily reorganized, moving to a new organization calling for one brigade of infantry and one of armour.

The 1st Canadian Armoured Division was composed as follows in February 1941:

  • Headquarters Squadron (6th Duke of Connaught's Royal Canadian Hussars)

  • 1st Armoured Car Regiment (The Royal Canadian Dragoons)

  • 1st Armoured Brigade

    • 1st Armoured Brigade Headquarters Squadron (The Prince Edward Island Light Horse)

    • 2nd Armoured Regiment (Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians))

    • 6th Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars)

    • 10th Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse)

    • The Westminster Regiment (Motor)

  • 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 2nd Armoured Brigade Headquarters Squadron (7th/11th Hussars)

    • 3rd Armoured Regiment (The Governor General's Horse Guards)

    • 5th Armoured Regiment (8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars)

    • 9th Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)

    • The Perth Regiment (Motor)

  • 1st Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers

    • 10th Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers

    • 4th Field Park Troop, Royal Canadian Engineers

  • Support Group

    • 17th Field Regiment, RCA (37th, 60th, 76th Field Batteries)

    • 4th Anti-Tank Regiment, RCA (98th, 24th, 82nd A-T Batteries)

    • 5th Light AA Regiment, RCA (41st, 47th, 88th LAA Batteries)

    • The Cape Breton Highlanders

 

5th Canadian (Armoured) Division

In June 1941, the Division was renamed "5th Canadian (Armoured) Division". Many of the units forming this unit had come from the 4th Canadian Infantry Division, still forming in Canada.

Ram tank showing the vehicle markings of the 5th Division, England, Sep 1942, based on a watercolour by W.A. Ogilvie.
Ram tank showing the vehicle markings of the 5th Division, England,
 Sep 1942, based on a watercolour by W.A. Ogilvie.

In January 1943, there were major changes to the order of battle.

  • The 1st Armoured Brigade was renamed "11th Infantry Brigade" and the 2nd Armoured Brigade became 5th Canadian Armoured Brigade.

  •  The 4th Anti-Tank Regiment was changed from a three battery to a four battery establishment, with the 24th Battery being redesignated 49th.1

  • The two armoured brigade headquarters squadrons were disbanded.

  • 1st Armoured Car Regiment (The Royal Canadian Dragoons) went to I Canadian Corps as a corps asset.

  • The Prince Edward Island Light Horse squadron was redesignated II Corps Defence Company

  • Both the 6th and 10th Armoured Regiments went to the 3rd Army Tank Brigade before reforming as the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade (an independent formation).

  • The 3rd Armoured Regiment was redesignated an Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment.

  • The Princess Louise Fusiliers, originally mobilized as an infantry battalion (Motor), was redesignated the 11th Brigade Support Group on 31 January 1943.

In late 1943, the division moved to the Mediterranean as part of Operation TIMBERWOLF, the relocation of I Canadian Corps to the Mediterranean. The division's equipment did not move to the Mediterranean, and instead only personnel made the move in late 1943, due to shipping concerns, taking over the equipment of the British 7th Armoured Division in Italy. The first General Officer Commanding the division, Major-General E.W. Sansom, had been replaced by Major-General C.R.S. Stein in January 1943, but in mid-October 1943 a medical board found him unfit for employment overseas, and he was replaced by Major-General Guy Simonds. During the move to Italy, the division was commanded temporarily by Brigadier R.O.G. Morton, the Commander, Royal Artillery of the division.2

In January 1944 infantry units of the division saw their first combat action at the Arielli River. As the Canadian Corps became operational, the division's gun supported the assault on the Gustav Line, and the division followed through the breach in the Hitler Line created in May by 1st Canadian Infantry Division, followed by stiff fighting at the Melfa River.

On 1 July 1944, the 11th Brigade Support Group was redesignated the 11th Independent Machine Gun Company (Princess Louise Fusiliers) on 1 July 1944.

12th Canadian Infantry Brigade

The 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division underwent a major reorganization in July 1944. Recognizing the rugged nature of the Italian terrain that favoured the German's style of defensive fighting, delaying tactics and effectiveness at fighting withdrawals, an additional brigade of infantry was created for the division. The 11th Brigade had been especially overworked during the pursuit from the Hitler Line in May, operating in difficult terrain west of the Melfa. On 3 June the commander of I Canadian Corps suggested to Canadian Military Headquarters that it was important for two infantry brigades to work in concert with the armoured brigade. It was further pointed out that 8th Army was able to provide additional infantry brigades for two of its infantry divisions in theatre. (These were the 61st Infantry Brigade, organized from battalions of the Rifle Brigade, and the 24th Independent Guards Brigade, were added to the British 6th Armoured Division and the 6th South African Armoured Division respectively.) The  Chief of the Imperial General Staff in the United Kingdom initially refused the request for an additional infantry brigade, fearing it would be a diversion from Operation OVERLORD, the invasion of Northwest Europe, despite the theatre commander, General Alexander's, support of the recommendation. The commander of the 8th Army, General Leese, suggested using existing Canadian units.

General Leese then proposed that Burns should organize an infantry brigade from existing Canadian units in Italy, suggesting that he use the 5th Armoured Division's motor battalion (The Westminster Regiment) and withdraw from the 1st Canadian Corps Troops, for conversion into infantry, the armoured car regiment (The Royal Canadian Dragoons) and the light antiaircraft regiment. (This last unit was being eliminated from British corps in the Eighth Army since the destruction of the enemy's air power in the Mediterranean had virtually ended the Allied need of anti-aircraft defence forces.)3

Burns submitted a recommendation to CMHQ, though instead of the RCD he proposed using the 1st Division's reconnaissance regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards) as it had more experience fighting dismounted (i.e. as infantry). Canadian military officials were wary of the project due to the probably increase of infantry reinforcements that would be required to keep the unit up to strength, but the project was nonetheless approved on 12 July, after discussions with Generals Alexander and Leese who assured the Canadians that the new brigade was an "operational necessity."

The task of organizing the brigade went ahead rapidly, although it was some time before the many complexities arising from conversion to new establishments were all straightened out. Announcement of the change was received with little enthusiasm by those most affected. Every soldier considers his own arm of the service superior to all others, and in the units which were being converted there was natural disappointment at the prospect of becoming infantry and apparently sacrificing many years of specialized training. The loss of their armoured vehicles was a bitter blow to the men of the 4th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment. "These were our homes for a long time, and no cavalryman ever felt sadder at losing a faithful and tried mount", recorded the unit diarist, and added that when the sad news was broken to the officers of the regiment, "much vino was consumed in an effort to neutralize the pains of frustration, despair and complete loss of morale."4

The 4th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards) deleted the reconnaissance title and became simply 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, replaced in the 1st Division by The Royal Canadian Dragoons. The 1st Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment temporarily used the title 89th/109th Battalion, then 1st Canadian Light Anti-Aircraft Battalion, and in October after much discussion, The Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment after a unit of the Canadian Army (Reserve) in eastern Ontario that had not yet mobilized an active service battalion. The Westminster Regiment (Motor) remained unchanged in name and establishment, serving as an infantry battalion that would also be available as a motor battalion for the division.

The new brigade's support group, consisting of a mortar company (eight 4.2-inch mortars) and a medium machine-gun company (twelve Vickers), was furnished, like that of the 11th Brigade's, from The Princess Louise Fusiliers. It was named the 12th Independent Machine Gun Company (The Princess Louise Fusiliers), the 11th Brigade Support Group being redesignated to conform. Command of the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade was given to Brigadier D.C. Spry, who was transferred from the 1st Brigade; but after a busy month of organizing and directing training, he left for France on 13 August to take over the 3rd Canadian Division. He was succeeded by Brigadier J.S.H. Lind, former commander of The Perth Regiment.5
 

Assault Troop

The 1st Canadian Assault Troop was created in Italy on 1 June 1944 to provide the 1st Canadian Armoured brigade with its own engineers. Its strength was 2 officers and 84 other ranks, all from the Canadian Armoured Corps. They were given special training in methods of keeping tank routes open, which included using demolitions and removing enemy mines and booby-traps. One section from the Troop joined each of the three armoured regiments on 18 July 1944. Concurrently, a 5th Canadian Assault Troop was organized for the 5th Canadian Armoured Brigade.6

Gothic Line

In August 1944, the division returned to action north of Rome, and were the first formation to punch through the Gothic Line. The Rimini Line followed afterwards, and several water barriers were crossed as the division battled north. By January 1945, the division had reached the Senio River, and the Winter Line. The Division was moved out of the theatre at the end of February, to join the First Canadian Army in Holland.

When the division moved to North-West Europe in early 1945, the 12th Infantry Brigade (including the 12th Independent MG Company) was deleted from the order of battle and the division reverted to its former organization, having only existed for 8 months.

 

Order of Battle 1944-1945

Image:5divbatpat.gif Divisional Headquarters

  • 3rd Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The Governor General's Horse Guards)

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif 5th Canadian Armoured Brigade

  • 2nd Armoured Regiment (Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians))

  • 5th Armoured Regiment (8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars)

  • 9th Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)

  • The Westminster Regiment (Motor)

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • 11th Independent Machine Gun Company (The Princess Louise Fusiliers)

  • The Perth Regiment

  • The Cape Breton Highlanders

  • The Irish Regiment of Canada

  • 11th Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade

(Jul 1944-Mar 1945)

  • 12th Independent Machine Gun Company (The Princess Louise Fusiliers)

  • 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards

  • The Westminster Regiment (Motor)

(In a dual role during the period the 12th Canadian Infantry Brigade existed)

  • The Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment

  • 12th Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif Royal Canadian Artillery

Headquarters, Fifth Divisional Artillery, RCA

Image:17fdgif.gif 17th Field Regiment
  • 37th Field Battery

  • 60th Field Battery

  • 76th Field Battery

 
Image:8fdgif.gif 8th Field Regiment (Self Propelled)
  • 61st Field Battery (Self Propelled)

  • 107th Field Battery (Self Propelled)

  • 45th Field Battery (Self Propelled)

 
Image:4atgif.gif 4th Anti-Tank Regiment
  • 98th Anti-Tank Battery

  • 49th Anti-Tank Battery

  • 82nd Anti-Tank Battery

  • 16th Anti-Tank Battery

 
Image:5laagif.gif 5th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
  • 41st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery

  • 47th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery

  • 88th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery

 

Image:5rcegif.gif Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers

  • Headquarters RCE

    • 4th Field Park Squadron, RCE

    • 1st Field Squadron, RCE

    • 10th Field Squadron, RCE

    • One bridge troop

 

Image:5rccsgif.gif Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

  • Fifth Armoured Divisional Signals, RCCS

 

Image:5rcasc.gif Royal Canadian Army Service Corps

  • Headquarters RCASC

    • 5th Armoured Brigade Company, RCASC

    • 11th Infantry Brigade Company, RCASC

    • Fifth Armoured Divisional Troops Company, RCASC

    • Fifth Armoured Division Transport Company, RCASC

 

Image:5rcamc.gif Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps

  • No. 7 Light Field Ambulance, RCAMC

  • No. 24 Field Ambulance, RCAMC

  • No. 12 Field Hygiene Section, RCAMC

  • No. 13 Field dressing station

 

Image:5rcoc.gif Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps

  • No. 5 Armoured Division Ordnance Field Park, RCOC

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

  • Headquarters RCEME

    • 5th Armoured Brigade Workshop, RCEME

    • 11th Infantry Brigade Workshop, RCEME

    • One LAA workshop

    • Twelve light aid detachments.

 

Image:5cpcgif.gif Canadian Postal Corps

  • One divisional postal unit

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif Canadian Provost Corps

  • One provost company.

 

Image:5divbatpat.gif Canadian Intelligence Corps

  • One field security section.

 

Senior Personnel

General Officers Commanding

Name Dates in Command Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Major General E.W. Sansom, DSO 14 Mar 1941 - 14 Jan 1943

Major General Ernest W. Sansom was born in 1890, and when he couldn't afford to go to Royal Military College instead worked on farms and surveyed land in Western Canada. He joined the Militia upon his return to New Brunswick, and in 1914 he was a lieutenant. He went overseas as a machine gun instructor, but did not get to France until August 1916. By war's end he was a lieutenant colonel who had won the Distinguished Service Order.

Staying in the army, he was a colonel at the outbreak of the Second World War, and went overseas in December 1939 as the AA&QMG of the 1st Division. Colonel Sansom was a member of General McNaugton's staff. In March 1940, Sansom took over a brigade from Brigadier Pearkes, who became ill with meningitis. He was lucky to impress General Montgomery at a TEWT. He then commanded two battalions that embarked for Trondheim, an attack that was called off. Pearkes returned to the brigade in May, and Sansom resumed his duties at divisional headquarters. In July, he went to Canadian Military Headquarters in London as a brigadier, and then in October 1940 promoted Major General and given command of the 3rd Division. Sansom left the Division to take command of the 5th Armoured in 1941, where he stayed until 1943 when appointed commander of II Canadian Corps.

Major General C.R.S. Stein 15 Jan 1943 - 18 Oct 1943

Major General Charles Ramsay Stirling Stein was born in 1897 and served as Assistant Adjutant General at Canadian Military Headquarters in the UK, as well as AA&QMG of 5th Canadian Armoured Division and Brigadier General Staff of the 1st Canadian Army before assuming command of the 5th Division.

Major General G.G. Simonds, CBE, DSO 1 Nov 1943 - 29 Jan 1944

Major General Guy Granville Simonds was born to a Major of the Royal Artillery in 1903, and upon graduation from Royal Military College elected to join the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery. After he left the Second Division, he went to Italy to command the Fifth Division and gain battle experience with an armoured division. He later returned to NW Europe to command II Canadian Corps for the rest of the war, including some periods as acting commander of First Canadian Army. Simonds would be regarded, by British officers, Canadian officers, and historians alike, as the greatest commander Canada produced in the Second World War.

Major General E.L.M. Burns, OBE, MC 30 Jan 1944 - 19 Mar 1944

Major General Edson Louis Millard "Tommy" Burns was a veteran of the Great War who had served in signals units, being decorated for bravery under fire. In 1939 he assumed the first of a string of senior staff positions, but was reduced from Brigadier to Colonel in 1941 when a letter to a married woman in Montreal - with whom he was having an affair - was found to contain many frank opinions of senior war leadership in Britain. He assumed an administrative post with the new Canadian Armoured Corps, commanded a brigade in the 4th Division (which he helped create), and eventually was given command of the 2nd Canadian Division. He would leave the division for a brief period commanding the Fifth Armoured Division after which we was promotoed to command I Canadian Corps.

Major General B.M. Hoffmeister, CB, CBE, DSO, ED 20 Mar 1944 - 6 Jun 1945

Major General Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister was born in 1907 and arrived in England with the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, where he became a company commander before assuming command of the battalion. He led the 2nd Brigade in action in Italy before assuming command of the 5th Division, where he was rated as among the best of the Canadian divisional commanders, and probably the best general to come from the prewar Non-Permanent Active Militia. He went on to command the Canadian Army Pacific Force and retired from military life in 1945. He passed away in 1999.

 

Uniform Insignia

At the start of the Second World War, it was felt that colourful unit and Formation Patches would be too easily seen, and a very austere set of insignia was designed for the new Battle Dress uniform, consisting solely of rank badges and drab worsted Slip-on Shoulder Titles. In 1941, however, the trend was reversed, and a new system of Formation Patches, based on the battle patches of the First World War, was introduced. However, the use of lettered unit titles (at first won as Slip-on Shoulder Titles and later, as more colourful designs worn directly above the divisional patches) was also introduced - a privilege previously extended only to the Brigade of Guards in England, and in the Canadian Army to just four units: Governor General's Foot Guards, Canadian Grenadier Guards, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Canadian Provost Corps.

The new formation patches were made from three materials mainly; felt and wool being most common, and canvas patches were adopted in the late war period as an economy measure.

Members of various corps serving in support units originally wore formation patches with letters added directly to the patch (or in some cases a plain coloured shape, such as the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC))

The hexagonal patch of the Canadian Army Pacific Force applied overtop of the formation patch indicated a volunteer for the CAPF.

The 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division readopted the divisional battle patch that had been worn in the First World War, being of a colour known as "maroon." Shoulder patches were made from three materials mainly (canvas, felt and wool) and were first issued in 1941.

The Division adopted divisional titles for all units that incorporated the initials of their names ("battle patches"); while other divisions wore these types of patches for units of the supporting arms only, the 5th Division extended this practice to its armoured and infantry battalions as well. This practice appears to have been in use throughout the Italian campaign.

All units eventually moved away from the distinctive unit insignia on the formation patch (most likely after the move to Northwest Europe in the spring of 1945), adopting their own shoulder titles worn in conjunction with the "plain" division patch. Both styles of unit/formation identification were in use by the end of the war.
RCD patch courtesy of Dwayne Hordij, others webmaster's collection.
Image:5patldsh.jpg Image:5patstrath1.jpg

Battle patches for Lord Strathcona's Horse in both melton and canvas, showing the early and the late type. For a full description of why the late pattern was added, see the book DISTINGUISHING PATCHES by Service Publications. The other badge visible is listed in the cloth shoulder titles section of this website. Artifacts and photo far left courtesy Dwayne Hordij.

At far left; four main variants of the Perth Regiment formation patch. The top two are distinguished by the number of periods. Another main variant is a badge with very light coloured lettering. These are not faded examples, as the thread is as light on the back of the badge as on the front. Finally, there is the canvas variant. Artifacts and photo courtesy Dwayne Hordij. To their right, Divisional Patches, showing the variety of construction and colour, ranging from wine to dark purple. Like the French Grey of Third Division patches, the colour "Maroon" was open to wide latitude. Artifacts and photo courtesy Bill Alexander.

Below - artifacts and scans courtesy Bill Alexander

Notes

  1. Information provided by Richard Gingras, Burlington, Ontario, using D.W. Falconer's BATTERY FLASHES as a reference. Richard's father was Bombardier Edmond A. Gingras of the 49th Anti-Tank Battery (pictured at right).
  2. Nicholson, Gerald The Canadians in Italy, 1943-1945 (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1957), p.346
  3. Ibid, pp.478-479
  4. Ibid
  5. Ibid
  6. Ibid, p.474
 

 

 

 

 


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