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8th Canadian Division

8th Canadian Division
 
Authorized: 15 June 1942
Disbanded: 15 October 1943

The 8th Canadian Division was an active formation of the Canadian Army that served as a home defence organization in the Second World War.

Mobilization

In July 1941 the Cabinet War Committee authorized the formation of three brigade groups into a 6th Division for the purposes of home defence. By November 1941, while planning for the upcoming year, the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Crerar, did not feel any "factor in the existing situation warranting the mobilization of an additional division", but noted in his recommendations for the 1942 Army Programme that if conditions worsened, he would recommend the completion of the 6th Division and mobilization of the brigade groups of a 7th. By February 1942, after the attack on Pearl Harbor and British possessions in the Far East, Canadian entry into the war against Japan, and the disaster at Hong Kong, it was felt that the situation warranted mobilization and on 16 March 1942, Lieutenant General Stuart, the new CGS, recommended formally that the Minister of National Defence proceed. On 20 March 1942, in light of the fact that the Combined Chiefs of Staff had revised estimates of scales of scales of attack on the Pacific Coast to include what they believed was a possible raid by as many as two Japanese brigades, the Chief of the General Staff recommended the completion of the 7th Division and formation of the brigade groups of an 8th.1

As early as 11 March, even before the mobilization of the new divisions had been authorized, a decision had been taken to dispose three brigade groups in Pacific Command, against the possibility of raids on an increased scale; and in the course of the spring troops moved west until at the end of May there were 13 infantry battalions in the Command. Six more arrived in June. The original plan was to use the 6th Division on the Atlantic Coast, where it would replace the 4th when the latter went overseas; but almost immediately this arrangement was changed, and the 7th Division was sent to Debert and Sussex as general reserve for the Atlantic Command. The 6th and two brigade groups of the 8th were now to be general reserve for Pacific Command and Western Canada. The 8th's third brigade group would go to Valcartier as mobile reserve for Eastern Canada. On 17 June 1942, in the midst of a further flurry of excitement in British Columbia resulting from the Japanese invasion of the Aleutian Islands, the War Committee authorized the completion of the order of battle of the 8th Division. When the two new divisional headquarters were formed, the 6th Division (commanded by Major- General A. E. Potts) took responsibility for Vancouver Island, with its headquarters at Esquimalt. The northern section of British Columbia - north of a line running from Bella Bella on the coast inland by way of Chilko Lake to Ashcroft, west of Kamloops, and on along the main line of the Canadian National Railways to the Alberta border west of Jasper - was the responsibility of Major-General H. N. Ganong, G.O.C. 8th Division, with headquarters at Prince George. He was responsible for the Queen Charlotte Islands and the U.S. aerodrome at Annette Island, but not for the R.C.A.F. aerodrome at Bella Bella.2

Once the decision had been made to complete the 8th Division, the 19th, 20th and 21st Infantry Brigades were mobilized along with the 25th, 26th and 27th Field Regiments. Also, engineer, signals, service, and medical troops mobilized in addition to nine infantry battalions and a machine gun battalion, all under the auspices of General Order 309/42, which was dated as taking effect 12 May 1942. General Order 301/42, issued on 22 July 1942 and effective 15 June 1942, mobilized divisional units and the divisional headquarters.3

Called out under General Order 301/42were:4

Serial Unit
1600 Headquarters, 8th Canadian Division
1601 8th Divisional Intelligence Section
1602 No. 8 Field Security Section
1603 No. 8 Defence and Employment Platoon
1605 Headquarters, 8th Divisional Artillery, R.C.A.
1615 Headquarters, 8th Divisional Engineers, R.C.E.
1660 Commander, 8th Divisional R.C.A.S.C.

Called out under General Order 309/42 (dated 30 July 1942) were:5

Serial Unit
1607 Headquarters, 19th Infantry Brigade
1608 Headquarters, 20th Infantry Brigade
1609 Headquarters, 21st Infantry Brigade
1610 25th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
1610A Headquarters, 25th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
1610B 114th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1610C 115th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1610D 116th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1611 26th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
1611A Headquarters, 26th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
1611B 117th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1611C 118th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1611D 119th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1612 27th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
1612A Headquarters, 27th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
1612B 120th Field Battery, R.C.A.
1612C 121st Field Battery, R.C.A.
1612D 122nd Field Battery, R.C.A.
1616 26th Field Company, R.C.E.
1617 27th Field Company, R.C.E.
1618 28th Field Company, R.C.E.
1626H "E" Section, No. 2 Company, 8th Divisional Signals, R.C.C.S.
1626J "F" Section, No. 2 Company, 8th Divisional Signals, R.C.C.S.
1626K "G" Section, No. 2 Company, 8th Divisional Signals, R.C.C.S.
1626N "J" Section, No. 3 Company, 8th Divisional Signals, R.C.C.S.
1626P "K" Section, No. 3 Company, 8th Divisional Signals, R.C.C.S.
1626Q "L" Section, No. 3 Company, 8th Divisional Signals, R.C.C.S.
1072 3rd Battalion, Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment)
1073 3rd Battalion, The Regina Rifle Regiment
1074 3rd Battalion, The Edmonton Fusiliers
1075 3rd Battalion, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles
1076 3rd Battalion, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
1077 2nd/10th Dragoons
1078 Le Regiment de Levis
1079 3rd Battalion, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal
1080 3rd Battalion, Le Regiment de Maisonneuve
1661 21st Brigade Group Company (No. 24 Company), R.C.A.S.C.
1662 14th Brigade Group Company (No. 25 Company), R.C.A.S.C.
1663 16th Brigade Group Company (No. 26 Company), R.C.A.S.C.
1666 No. 26 Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C.
1667 No. 27 Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C.
1668 No. 28 Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C.
1122 No. 112 Light Aid Detachment (Type A), R.C.O.C.
1123 No. 113 Light Aid Detachment (Type A), R.C.O.C.
1124 No. 114 Light Aid Detachment (Type A), R.C.O.C.
1125 No. 115 Light Aid Detachment (Type B), R.C.O.C.
1126 No. 116 Light Aid Detachment (Type B), R.C.O.C.
1127

No. 117 Light Aid Detachment (Type B), R.C.O.C.

1081 The Princess of Wales' Own Regiment (M.G.)

The Headquarters assembled at Ottawa on 25 June 1942 and moved to Jasper, Alberta in September.

Order of Battle June 1942

  • Headquarters, 8th Division

    • 8th Division Intelligence Section

    • No. 8 Field Security Section

    • No. 8 Defence and Employment Platoon

  • Machine Gun Battalion - The Princess of Wales Own Regiment (MG)

  • 19th Brigade

    • 3rd Battalion, Irish Fusiliers of Canada

    • Winnipeg Light Infantry

    • Prince Albert Volunteers

    • No. 19 Defence Platoon

  • 20th Brigade

    • 3rd Battalion, The Queen's Own Rifles

    • 3rd Battalion, The Royal Winnipeg Rifles

    • 2nd/10th Dragoons

    • No. 20 Defence Platoon

  • 21st Brigade

    • 3rd Battalion, Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal

    • 3rd Battalion, Le Regiment de Maisonneuve

    • Le Regiment de Levis

    • No. 21 Defence Platoon

Units of the supporting arms included:

  • Royal Canadian Artillery:

    • Headquarters, Eighth Divisional Artillery, RCA

    • 25th Field Regiment

      • 114th Field Battery

      • 115th Field Battery

      • 116th Field Battery

    • 26th Field Regiment

      • 117th Field Battery

      • 118th Field Battery

      • 119th Field Battery

    • 27th Field Regiment

      • 120th Field Battery

      • 121st Field Battery

      • 122nd Field Battery

  • Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers:

    • Headquarters 8th Divisional Engineers, RCE

      • 21st Field Company, RCE

      • 24th Field Company, RCE

  • Royal Canadian Corps of Signals:

    • Headquarters 8th Divisional Signals RCCS

     

  • Canadian Provost Corps:

    • Provost Company

Plus units of the RCASC, RCAMC, RCOC, CPC, etc.

The three home defence divisions, the 6th, 7th and 8th, were never complete in all arms and services. They did not need to be, for they were designed to operate within the framework of a static organization already existing. This meant that the services of the Commands and Military Districts were available to assist them; it also meant that the artillery of the fixed defences, and other permanent installations, could support them in operations. Thus their establishments were never as complete as those of field divisions. Nor were the establishments ever quite full. On 17 April 1943, the 7th Division was deficient 97 officers and 3738 other ranks; the 6th and 8th Divisions were short approximately 1200 and 1100 all ranks respectively.6

On 1 October 1942, 14th and 16th Brigades came under command of the 8th Division, followed by the Prince Rupert Defences on the 9th of the month.

In November 1942, 19th Field Regiment departed for overseas and was replaced by 22nd Field Regiment.

Headquarters 8th Division, and Headquarters 16th Brigade, became situated at Prince George, BC, with the 14th Brigade at Terrace, BC, along with 22nd Field Regiment (less one battery detached to the Prince Rupert Defences).

The Division operated an armoured train between Terrace and Prince Rupert, manning the train with both infantry and artillerymen.7

In June 1943, the remainder of 22nd Field Regiment was detached to the Prince Rupert Defences, and the entire regiment then returned to the Division on 24 July 1943. Five days later, two batteries of 22nd Field, along with the 16th Infantry Brigade, moved to the 6th Division. The artillery batteries later returned to the 8th Division in October.

In September 1943, the 18th Brigade Group came under command of the Prince Rupert Defences, and the Division consisted of 14th and 18th Brigade Groups until disbandment of the Division on 15 October 1943. Various units disbanding at that time included the Headquarters of 19th, 20th and 21st Infantry Brigades, No. 8 Field Security Section, No. 8 Defence and Employment Platoon, Headquarters Divisional Artillery, Divisional Engineers, Divisional RCASC, No. 19, 20 and 21 Defence Platoons, and the 22nd, 27th and 28th Field Regiments.

The 25th Field Regiment returned to 6th Division.8

Commanders

The Division had only one General Officers Commanding during its existence:

Name Dates in Command Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Major General H.N. Ganong, CBE 11 Jul 1942 - 15 Oct 1943

Commanded 8th Canadian Division until it disbanded, then transferred to command 6th Canadian Division until that formation was also disbanded. Had commanded a brigade overseas prior to commanding a division in Canada.

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 8th Canadian Division also utilized previously used colours, this time combining the colours of the 4th and 5th Divisions. The wide end of the green triangle was always worn facing the wearer's front.

Artifacts and photos courtesy of Bill Alexander.

Notes

  1. Stacey, C.P. Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War: Volume I: Six Years Of War (Queen's Printer, Ottawa, ON, 1956), pp.166-171

  2. Ibid, p.172

  3. Falconer, D.W. Battery Flashes of W.W. II (D.W. Falconer, 1985) ISBN 0-9691865-0-9 p.388

  4. Tonner, Mark W. On Active Service (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON) ISBN 1-894581-44-X

  5. Ibid

  6. Stacey, Ibid, pp.183-184

  7. For more detail, see Lucy, Roger V. The Armoured Train in Canadian Service (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2005) ISBN 1-894581-25-3

  8. Falconer, Ibid, pp.388-389


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