Support Company

Support Company was a type of company created during the Second World War in which, as its name implied, supporting elements of an Infantry Battalion were assigned.

Support Company was created before the Canadian Army saw extensive combat in Europe, and represent a reorganization of battalion assets. In the words of Major Mark Tennant of The Calgary Highlanders, writing in a souvenir edition of the regimental newsletter after VE-Day:

Support Company of an Infantry Unit is an afterthought of the British Army after two years of unsuccessful fighting in France and in the desert. In these campaigns the infantry officers kept requesting for heavier close support than was then provided in the army. At the beginning a small Mortar Platoon and a Pioneer Platoon were in what was then Headquarters Company. Many trials were made both in combat and in training. In the fall of 1942 what we know as Support Company was added to the strength of an infantry battalion. It contained, in miniature, a replica of all arms, Mortars and Anti-Tank to represent Artillery; Carriers to represent Armoured Cars. Later Brownings were added to give tremendous fire power and Pioneers to cover off the Engineers. Flame throwers were added and did terrible execution. An Ack Ack Platoon only stayed for a short time. Each platoon was made completely self-supporting and self-contained for ammunition and rations. Each platoon works separate and under direct command of the Commanding Officer for fighting and tactical operations.

Description

The anti-aircraft platoon of the early war period was deleted in favour of an Anti-Tank Platoon, originally equipped with 2-pdr guns and later with 6-pdr guns. These guns were used not just for defence against tanks, but could be used offensively against a variety of targets including buildings and strong-points. The Carrier Platoon was equipped with small, fast, lightly armoured and fully tracked vehicles which could be used for a variety of missions including prisoner and casualty evacuation, and reconnaissance. In late 1944, flame-throwing equipment (known as "Wasp" kits) were added to give the platoon more offensive punch. The Mortar Platoon was the Commanding Officer's personal artillery, able to provide high explosive, illumination or smoke protection. The Pioneer Platoon was used for construction and demolition engineering.

Organization

The history of the 48th Highlanders, Dileas, notes that their Scout Platoon had been at one time designated No. 4 Platoon as part of Support Company but was replaced by a carrier-borne Vickers gun platoon as No. 4 Platoon, and left as part of Support Company but without a numerical designation sometime in the summer of 1944.

Postwar

After the Second World War, many of the assets found in an infantry battalion were removed, for example the Universal Carrier. Other support weapons were reorganized, for example, medium anti-tank weaponry such as the Bazooka or Carl Gustav were located within infantry platoons and sections. Support Company was eventually removed from the establishment of Canadian infantry battalions, though a Combat Support Company did eventually get added, which served the same function, i.e., grouping the supporting weapons in a separate company.


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