5th Canadian Division
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 First World War.
The 5th Canadian Division began assembling in Britain in Jan 1917 from troops in the United Kingdom. The desire had been to create a second Canadian corps, to eventually consist of the 4th, 5th, and 6th divisions. In the event, this never happened; the proposed 6th Division never reaching organizational stage and the while the 5th Division did serve as a local defence force in the UK, increasing casualties on the Continent in 1917 resulted in reorganizations. The British Expeditionary Force (BEF), the main body of the British Army in France, reduced the number of battalions in each infantry brigade from four to three in Jan 1918. These brigades, while easier to reinforce with the temporary surplus of manpower the reduction caused, were weaker. Canada refused to follow suit.
Canadian authorities argued that keeping the larger brigades would give them more offensive punch, and after the spectacular victory at Vimy in Apr 1917, the Canadian Corps was used increasingly as an offensive formation. However, it became increasingly obvious that the second proposed corps was unfeasible, even with the introduction of conscription in early 1918, as not only would more infantry units be needed, but all the associated service and support troops, staff officers, and other logistics required to run a second corps. Finally, the creation of a second corps would have removed one battle tested division from a successful corps headquarters and placed it in an inexperienced formation.
The 5th Division was therefore disbanded in Feb 1918 at the decision of the Overseas Minister, with troops going to bolster formations in France; Canadian thinking was proved correct and the oversized corps with four divisions provided much offensive punch in several battles in 1918, with their relatively over strength infantry brigades. Each infantry battalion also had its establishment increased by 100 men, and 4,800 soldiers of the 5th Division were used to overcome this shortfall. Engineer and machine gun companies were also transplanted into the Canadian Corps; in May 1918 the divisional MG companies of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps were able to add additional companies.
While the shortage of infantry reinforcements had been acute after costly battles in 1917 such as Passchendaele, the situation with respect to artillery was not as acute. The entire divisional artillery of the 5th Division had actually been sent to France as corps troops in Aug 1916, gaining experience and lending their firepower to the Canadian Corps.
Normal supply and transport units had not yet been attached to the division by the time of disbandment.
Order of Battle
13th Canadian Brigade
14th Canadian Brigade
15th Canadian Brigade