Formation Signs

Formation Signs

Formation signs measured 6-1/2 inches high by 9 inches wide and were painted on the left front and right rear fenders of vehicles, or the corresponding position if the vehicle did not have fenders.

In May 1940, orders appeared in the overseas forces that stated the following:

The sign selected for the 1 Cdn. Div is a gold maple leaf on a red rectangle....This sign will be stencilled on the near side fender...on all types of vehicles which have mudguards. In the case of vehicles without mudguards the divisional sign will be painted in a position corresponding as nearly as possible to the near side front mudguard.

Corps Troops will, until further instructions, use the sign as for 1 Cdn. Div., with painted horizontally above the sign a white bar 2 inches wide. A space of 1/2 inch will be left between the top of the divisional sign and the bottom of the white bar.1

By May 1942, formation signs came to include Division, Corps and Army signs, as additional formations arrived in England. Some independent brigades and units had their own formation signs as well.

First Canadian Army 1st Canadian Infantry Division
The map symbol for an army - a rectangle composed of red/black/red stripes - was used as a vehicle marking, with a gold maple leaf superimposed.

The famous "Old Red Patch" adopted by the division in 1916 as a shoulder badge was emulated by the unit's vehicle marking, a red rectangle with gold maple leaf added.

Canadian Corps 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

One source shows this vehicle marking, with the map symbol for a corps - horizontal red/white/red stripes, superimposed with a gold maple leaf, used until the creation of the 2nd Canadian Corps.2

The 2nd Canadian Division had adopted a royal blue rectangle as its shoulder patch in 1916 and adopted the device in 1941 in a conscious effort to associate itself with the CEF division.

1st Canadian Corps 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

During the mid war period, the Second Division used the "CII" device on their formation sign; photos in Normandy suggest it may have been phased out by July 1944.

The map symbol for a corps - horizontal red/white/red stripes - was used as a vehicle marking, with the geometric uniform patch of 1st Canadian Corps (a red diamond) superimposed and a gold maple leaf placed centrally.

Officers of the division had worn a gold "C-II" device on their patches in the First World War and continued the practice on Service Dress in the Second World War. The "See-Too" device was seen on various divisional literature.

2nd Canadian Corps 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
The map symbol for a corps - horizontal red/white/red stripes - was used as a vehicle marking, with the geometric uniform patch of 2nd Canadian Corps (a royal blue diamond) superimposed and a gold maple leaf placed centrally.

French-grey patches were worn by the original 3rd Division from 1916-1918.

1st Army Tank Brigade
adopted 16 August 19413
3rd Canadian Infantry Division

Photos in Normandy show the maple leaf commonly missing.

The Ram device was the original shoulder patch of the 1st Army Tank Brigade, and consequently also appeared on the vehicle marking, as a black silhouette superimposed on a gold maple leaf on a black background. The Ram featured prominently on the Worthington family Arms; Major General Frank Worthington commanded the Canadian AFV School.4

 

1st Army Tank Brigade
adopted 16 October 19423
1st Canadian Armoured Brigade

4th Canadian (Armoured) Division

After Dieppe, a new system of differentiating the independent tank brigades was adopted, with coloured bars corresponding to the colour sequence of the divisional flashes (red senior, blue second, French-grey third).

The original 4th Division wore green formation patches from 1916-1918 and the armoured division of the Second World War emulated that formation by adopting the same formation patch, and vehicle markings in the same colour.

2nd Army Tank Brigade
2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade

5th Canadian (Armoured) Division

After Dieppe, a new system of differentiating the independent tank brigades was adopted, with coloured bars corresponding to the colour sequence of the divisional flashes (red senior, blue second, French-grey third).

A 5th Division had been raised for the First World War but did not see action; it was commanded by Garnet Hughes, who chose a shade of purple known as  garnet for the formation patch. The 5th Division of the Second World War continued the tradition, though the shade was referred to as maroon, the division becoming "The Mighty Maroon Machine".5

3rd Army Tank Brigade

5th Canadian (Armoured) Division

After Dieppe, a new system of differentiating the independent tank brigades was adopted, with coloured bars corresponding to the colour sequence of the divisional flashes (red senior, blue second, French-grey third).

In England, the Division added a "spur" device to the maple leaf on their formation signs and attempted to have this added as a uniform distinction in the same manner as the "C-II". The request was rejected, and the spur was not made an official vehicle marking.

According to an Army pamphlet published in September 1944, the formation signs below were authorized for the home defence divisions. While the source does specify background colours (which like the overseas vehicle signs, were based on the colour of their uniform formation patches), the colour of the "7C" device is not specified. One also assumes that like the overseas formations, the maple leaf is in gold. However, vehicle collector Colin Macgregor Stevens notes that on a jeep he owned (MB155796, DND 61-261) he found original markings on which the maple leaf may have been green, with the 7 and C in gold (with the "7" inside the "C" in the manner of a C-broad-arrow).

 
6th Canadian Division


 7th Canadian Division


8th Canadian Division

At least one photo exists showing an Otter armoured car of the 31st Reconnaissance Regiment with a divisional sign of the 6th Division bearing a maple leaf (and a "41" unit sign as was standard for infantry division reconnaissance regiments).7

Dimensions and Colours

Instructions in June 1944 forwarded instructions on dimensions and colours of the formation signs as follows:6

Overall dimensions: 9" wide and 6-1/2" tall

Coloured bars:  from top to bottom, 2-3/16", 2-1/8", and 2-3/16".

Corps Diamonds: The diamond was to be 7" at its widest point, and the side corners were to be 3-1/4" from the top of the sign.

Colours:

Formation Colours
First Canadian Army Signal Red, Black
I Canadian Corps Signal Red, White
II Canadian Corps Signal Red, White, Royal Blue
1 Canadian Division Signal Red
2 Canadian Division Blue
3 Canadian Division French Blue
4 Canadian Division Green
5 Canadian Division Maroon
1 Cdn Army Tk Bde Black, Signal Red
2 Cdn Army Tk Bde Black, Royal Blue
3 Cdn Army Tk Bde Black, French Blue

References

  1. Letter, Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster General, 1 Canadian Division, dated 28 May 1940, reproduced in Dingwall, Don Canadian Vehicle Markings: A Comprehensive Guide to the Colours and Markings of the Canadian Army Overseas During WWII (Canadian Tracks Publishing, Carp, ON).

  2. Hodges, Peter and Michael D. Taylor British Military Markings (Cannon Publications, Retford, UK, 1994) ISBN 1-899695-00-1

  3. Tonner, Mark W. The Churchill Tank and the Canadian Armoured Corps (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2011) ISBN 978-1-894581-66-00 p.97 Tonner lists the dimensions as being 8 inches by 10 inches. Instructions from 1st Cdn Army dated 10 June 1944 specify the dimensions as 6-1/2 inches by 9 inches, including the markings for the armoured brigades. (Letter from Captain F.J. Jones for Chief of Staff, 1 Cdn Army, reproduced in Dingwall, Ibid).

  4. Law, Clive M. Distinguishing Patches: Formation Patches of the Canadian Army (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2008) ISBN 978-1-894581-50-9 p.29

  5. Ibid, p.10

  6. Letter from Captain F.J. Jones for Chief of Staff, 1 Cdn Army, 10 Jun 1944, reproduced in Dingwall, Ibid. The source refers to "French Blue" rather than French Grey.

  7. Graves, Donald E. Century of Service: The History of The South Alberta Light Horse (Robin Brass Studio Inc., Toronto, ON, 2005) ISBN 1-896941-43-5


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