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1st Canadian Infantry Division

1st Canadian Infantry Division
Mobilized: 1 September 1939
Disbanded: September 1945

The 1st Canadian Division refers to four organizations raised during the 20th Century.

  • 1st Canadian Division

  • 1st Canadian Infantry Division (1939-1945)

  • 1st Canadian Division (1954-1958)

  • 1st Canadian Division (1988)

The first formation so designated was a fully manned and equipped combat division which formed the initial contribution of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A second iteration was raised for the Second World War, and served in I Canadian Corps. The last two iterations of the 20th Century were peacetime divisions. This article refers to the Division raised during the Second World War.


On 1 September 1939, the Canadian Government authorized the mobilization of the Canadian Active Service Force, which included a new 1st Canadian Division. Following the precedent of 1914, the Infantry Brigades represented all parts of Canada: the 1st from Ontario, the 2nd from Western Canada and the 3rd from Quebec and the Maritime Provinces. Each of the Brigades contained one of the existing Permanent Force Battalions, and the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery formed one of the three artillery "Brigades" (later "Regiments") of the Division. By the time the Division was ready to be dispatched overseas its strength stood at 12,543. (At the end of the war, as a result of successive reorganizations, the "authorized composition" totalled 18,093.)

On 5 October 1939 Major-General A.G.L. McNaughton became "Inspector-General of Units of the 1st Canadian Division" and formally took command on 17 October. Shortly after Canada's declaration of war on Germany on 10 September, preparations were made to send the Division to the UK. The first convoy arrived on 17 December 1939, and the Division would spend the next three and a half years in the British Isles.

To England

At the outset there seemed to be small justification for expecting a static future. In the spring of 1940 Hitler began combat operations which, in short order, led to the capitulation of Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and finally France. In June, during the last phases of the German invasion, the 1st Brigade Group landed in Brittany but had to withdraw immediately without being committed to active operations. Then began what was termed the "Long Wait" by postwar historians; a protracted period with concentration focused on both the defence of Great Britain and preparations for future invasions of German-held Europe. A minor exception to this static role occurred in the late summer of 1941, when the Division supplied troops for a Canadian-British-Norwegian expedition to Spitsbergen.

The Division was not idle during its sojourn in the UK. During and after the initial crisis of 1940 the men trained incessantly with ever-improving equipment and there was much to learn. From the infantryman's point of view the "battle drill" idea, with its emphasis on realism, was a highlight of the training. The Division also participated in numerous large scale exercises which, after the formation of the Canadian Corps (1940) and 1st Canadian Army (1942), became increasingly significant.

One aspect of this preparatory period deserves special mention. Throughout their long months of training, mainly in south-eastern England, the Canadians came to know and admire the British people. The goodly fellowship of the "pubs," contacts with the "Home Guard" and the common danger of German air raids, engendered a strong feeling of mutual respect and affection in soldiers and civilians. This feeling was not confined to southern England, and Scotland was a favourite objective of many men on leave. It was not surprising that many members of the 1st Division married in the United Kingdom and afterwards brought their wives and families to Canada.

Command of the division rotated from Lieutenant General McNaughton (promoted to take over the Canadian Corps) to Major General G.R. Pearkes, VC for two years until September 1942, when he was succeeded by Major General H.L.N. Salmon.

As Allied strategy developed in the Mediterranean, an opportunity appeared for the active employment of the Division in that theatre. In the spring of 1943 the Division was selected to participate in the invasion of Sicily. It was while preparing for this active role that General Salmon was killed in an air accident. He was succeed by Major General G.G. Simonds who at age 39 was the youngest Canadian General Officer.

Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King visits General Pearkes, GOC of 1st Canadian Division, 26 Aug 1941, Surrey, UK. Library and Archives Canada Photo PAC 132774.


Dr. Jack Granatstein gives a lengthy description of the division on the eve of Sicily:

The First Division was generally thought to be adequately trained and a good division. The infantry units had had the Battle Drill training designed to develop standard routines and instinctive reactions, as well as substantial combined operations training and a gruelling assault-landing course. The division included the three PF infantry battalions, which ought to have provided a leavening of discipline and professionalism, though they did not always do so. The 2nd Brigade included the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, which, some claimed, was not yet well led by its PF officers; Vancouver's Seaforth Highlanders, led by Lieutenant Colonel Bert Hoffmeister, a regiment considered to have the best officers in the division; and The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, which was recognized for the quality of its rank and file. The brigade commander was the tough-talking but not always tough Chris Vokes, Simond's RMC classmate. The 3rd Brigade, led by a portly, slow-moving regular force officer, Brigadier M.H.S. Penhale, consisted of the Royal 22e Regiment, The Carleton and York Regiment from New Brunswick, and The West Nova Scotia Regiment, and was thought to have been less well trained than the other brigades. This fault was not due to Penhale but to the previous brigade commander, Brigadier Charles Foulkes, or so General Vokes claimed in his memoirs. In the 1st Brigade were The Royal Canadian Regiment, The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment from eastern Ontario, and Toronto's 48th Highlanders under Brigadier Howard Graham, a lawyer, Militia stalwart, and former Hasty P's officer. In the division, the battalions' commanding officers had all been changed frequently in the years since mobilization, and there had also been much moving around of non-commissioned officers and men, with older men returning home, reinforcements coming aboard, and promotions and cross-postings changing the mix.

The division staff was again good, but untried. The GSO I, Lieutenant Colonel George Kitching, was British, an officer who had joined the RCR at the outbreak of war after British Army service. The Commander, Royal Artillery, Brigadier Bruce Matthews, was a Militia gunner of great ability. The administrative side fell under Lieutenant Colonel Preston Gillbride, the wonderfully titled Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General (AA&QMG), another able man and 'great operator'. And the Commander, Royal Engineers, Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey Walsh, was a PF officer, a tough, forceful man.1


Sailing secretly at the end of June, the Division took its place on the left flank of General Bernard Montgomery's famed Eighth Army for the Sicilian landings. The amphibious attack against Pachino peninsula was an unqualified success. The defenders were surprised and overrun with very few Allied casualties, and so began a controversial 38-day campaign. General Simonds' troops advanced inland under difficulties:

The weather was extremely hot, the roads extremely dusty, and there was little transport; the troops were fresh from a temperate climate and a long voyage in crowded ships; and even though for a time there was scarcely any opposition, mere marching was a very exhausting experience under these conditions.

Continuing over the rocky terrain, they had their first fight with the Germans at Grammichele on 15 July. Three days later they captured Valguarnera. Both were rear-guard actions by a withdrawing enemy, and the first real tests came on the July 20 at Assoro and Leonforte. At the former, the 1st Brigade launched a surprise attack at night against an ancient Norman stronghold on the summit of a lofty peak. They seized and held their place in the face of fierce counter attacks, the records for the 15th Panzer Grenadier Division afterwards revealing generous tributes to the fieldcraft (Indianerkrieg) of the Canadians. Leonforte, an equally difficult situation, was captured by the 2nd Brigade after a bitter fight. These three days cost the Division about 275 casualties.

The advance then turned the east towards Adrano, at the base of Mount Etna. In their path stood Agira, "one of the most imposing of Sicily's innumerable hill-towns," and in the neighbouring hills the enemy put up a stubborn resistance. Both the 1st and 2nd Brigades were heavily engaged during the last week of July. The operations were, however, effectively supported by Canadian tanks and by the divisional artillery, reinforced by units of the Royal Artillery. General Simonds also had temporarily under his command the 231st British Infantry Brigade (the Malta Brigade), which threatened German communications from the south. After a bitter struggle Agira was captured on the 28th. Between Agira and Adrano the Hermann Goering Division made a stand at Regalbuto, using tanks as pillboxes in the debris of the town. While part of the 1st Division loosened the enemy's grip on this town, the 3rd Brigade, temporarily under the command of the British 78th Infantry Division, assisted that formation in the Dittaino Valley.

American encircling operations in the western and northern districts of the island, combined with steady British pressure north of the Catania Plain, forced the enemy out of the defences based on Etna, and the campaign ended when the Allies entered Messina on 16-17 Aug. The 1st Division had performed all of its allotted tasks and had acquired valuable battle experience at a total cost of 2,155 casualties. The measure of the achievement was contained in General Montgomery's statement: "I now consider you one of my veteran Divisions."

The Division passed from XXX Corps to XIII Corps on 10 Aug, and moved to a concentration area in the rear on 11-13 Aug, relieved of operational responsibilities. Divisional headquarters moved to Francofonte. During the battle of Sicily they had travelled 120 miles, over largely rough and mountainous terrain.

Italian Mainland

On 3 September 1943, the 1st Canadian and British 5th Infantry Divisions moved across the Strait of Messina in the vanguard of the Eighth Army. Operations in southern Italy met little opposition and, moving to assist Allied forces at Salerno, the 1st Division took Potenza on 20 September. The main feature of these operations was the delay imposed by enemy demolitions and exceedingly difficult terrain. There was much work for the armoured cars of the 4th Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards); the following extract from their regimental history describes a typical incident and illustrates the cooperation of all arms:

A large railway bridge had had one span blown (near Bianco), although the whole bridge had been prepared for demolition. The engineer recce officer removed 300 pounds of explosive from the bridge, and as the area of the riverbed had also been mined, the Squadron moved forward across the bridge, while a patrol of infantry went ahead to try to contact the enemy, and the tank commander brought up a scissors bridge to take his tanks over the weak place, where the span had been blown.2

At the beginning of October the Division had its first serious engagement on the mainland at Motta Montecorvino where picked troops of the 1st Parachute Division put up fierce resistance. Supported by tanks of the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, General Simonds' troops pressed forward to Campobasso (later a Canadian leave centre), crossed the Biferno and forced the Germans out of Castel di Sangro. Major General Christopher Vokes took command of the division in November.

The Moro River

The winter of 1943-44 brought two focal points of action - the Moro River and Ortona. General Montgomery was determined to allow the enemy no respite and at the end of November launched an offensive to carry the 8th Army from the Sangro to the Moro River. General Vokes was then given the task, under V British Corps, of forcing the Moro and capturing Ortona. Making feints on both flanks, the Division crossed the Moro on the evening of 5 December, though it took four more days to consolidate the bridgehead.

Beyond the Moro was "the Gully" against which repeated attacks were launched, during which Captain Paul Triquet of the Royal 22e Régiment earned a Victoria Cross. Even after the Canadians secured a foothold beyond the Gully, the Germans resisted desperately. Finally, on 18 December, the infantry advanced under the cover of a heavy barrage and evicted the stubborn enemy from this bitterly contested feature.


Operations began immediately against Ortona. This fighting was of a very different nature - hand-to-hand struggles in built-up-areas - but no less fierce. The enemy was the famous 1st German Parachute Division. "High explosive was the master weapon in this battle. Not only did it open the way from house to house, but it was used repeatedly to destroy whole buildings and their occupants." Christmas came and went while the grim struggle continued. General Vokes said afterwards, "Everything before Ortona was a nursery tale." At last, on 27 December, after suffering heavy losses, the paratroopers grudgingly withdrew. The 1st Division had again accomplished its task, but had paid dearly: one month of operations, beginning on the Moro, had resulted in 2,339 casualties, and the Division was more than 1,000 below strength.

The Liri Valley

The year 1944 opened with a lengthy static period in the Ortona Salient. At the end of January I Canadian Corps took over operational control of the Division and, shortly afterwards, the 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division joined the Corps. In the spring the Allies prepared to resume the offensive in Italy, with the objective being Rome. The 1st Division took part in an elaborate "cover plan" conveying the impression that they would make a third amphibious assault north of Rome, then launched the actual attack in the Liri Valley, near Cassino.

After British, French and Polish troops, with the help of Canadian armour, had breached the Gustav Line, the first of three fortified such lines guarding the approach to Rome, I Canadian Corps advanced on 17 May against the Hitler Line. The 1st Division relieved the 8th Indian Division and attacked across the Cassino-Pignataro road. At the end of the first day Forme d'Aquino had been reached; a deep gully running directly across their axis and forming a natural anti-tank defence. Fortunately, Allied pressure on its flanks compelled the enemy to abandon this position and, on the 18th, the 1st Division was probing the outer defences of the Hitler Line. Shell-proof shelters and subterranean bunkers, anti-tank ditches, minefields and strongpoints had been carefully integrated although not, in all instances, completed. Eighteen armoured pillboxes mounted camouflaged 75mm guns in revolving turrets.

The Hitler Line

Early on 23 May the Division assaulted the Hitler Line. The attack was supported by a tremendous bombardment fired by 810 Allied guns, more than 300 being employed on the barrage in front of our Infantry. Nevertheless, the 90th Panzer Grenadier and 1st Parachute Divisions reacted quickly and brought down heavy fire on the Canadians. Unexpected minefields slowed the advance and the deadly 75mm guns took heavy toll of supporting British armour. The 2nd Brigade suffered severely, but the 3rd Brigade succeeded in penetrating the Line and, by noon, General Vokes was able to commit his reserve in that sector. Although the Panzer Grenadiers resisted fiercely, they were overcome and the Line was broken. On the left flank the following morning, the 1st Brigade had captured Pontecorvo -- "a heap of stone and mortar, with the mangled corpses of its defenders lying everywhere in the streets." The divisional casualties (879) were very high, but the enemy's were higher and the way was open for the 5th Armoured Division to force the Melfa River in the direction of Ceprano.

General Vokes' troops took part in the pursuit along Highway No. 6, but were not again heavily engaged in the battle for Rome. With spearheads halted less than 30 miles from the capital, the Division passed into reserve with the remainder of the Corps on 4 June, the day that Rome fell. Within 48 hours of this victory the long-awaited Allied invasion of North-West Europe began in Normandy.

The Gothic Line

After recuperating in the Volturno Valley, the Division again played an active role in deceptive manoeuvres at Florence. Then the Red Patch moved secretly to the Adriatic, where the Eighth Army was preparing a massive assault (Operation "Olive") to smash through the Gothic Line to the Lombard Plain. On the evening of 25 August the 1st Division sent four battalions across the historic Metauro River. "It was the first of a score of river crossing for the Canadians in their fight up the northern Adriatic coast, and the ease of it gave little warning of the grim actions ahead." At the end of the month the Division assaulted the Gothic Line proper. This, too, had received the careful attention of the Todt organization and there was heavy fighting before the Canadians forced their way through strong fortifications and established bridgeheads over the Conca.

Once again the weather came to the aid of the enemy: the autumn rains made rough roads almost impassable, while the Germans enjoyed the advantage of good lateral communications. In mid-September the Division had heavy fighting during the Battle of Rimini, on the San Fortunato ridge. The defenders were well supplied with automatic weapons, mortars and anti-tank guns. They resisted fiercely, but after our troops closed in "dozens of badly shaken German infantry scrambled out of the ground, tossing off their helmets and equipment and trotting obediently down towards the Ausa with hands clasped behind their heads." The neighbouring village of San Martino held out for three days against persistent, resolute attacks, but by the 20th the 1st Division had subdued the enemy and was preparing to cross the virtually undefended Marecchia.

The Rivers: Savio, Lamone, Senio

After a short rest the Division returned to the line on 11 October. By that time the rainy weather had ended Allied hopes of "quickly debouching into the valley of the Po", and another difficult winter lay ahead. The immediate problem was to get across the treacherous Savio River in the face of a prepared enemy. The attack was launched on the 20th and succeeded in carving out a narrow bridgehead. Then the Savio suddenly rose and only the superhuman efforts of the engineers saved the bridgehead. The enemy counter-attacked strongly and, before the crisis passed, Pte E.A. "Smokey" Smith of The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada won the Division's second Victoria Cross of the campaign.

In November the troops had another rest from painful operations and, shortly afterwards, Major General H.W. Foster (who had previously commanded the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division in North-West Europe) succeeded Major General Vokes as Commander of the 1st Division. The Red Patch then entered the last phase of its active operations in Italy. At the beginning of December the Division mounted an assault across the River Lamone with the help of the Desert Air Force and Artillery, but the enemy replied with vicious counter-attacks and our troops were repulsed with heavy losses. Later in the month the Division secured the bridgehead, pressing forward against fierce resistance to capture crossings over the Canale Naviglio. The advance ended at the turn of the year with the occupation of the winter line along the Senio River. The Division remained on this line, "with all its discomforts and inconveniences, in some places only ten yards from the enemy, until the end of February."

Reunion with First Canadian Army

Early in 1945 the Corps, including the 1st Division, began a long journey from Italy, through France, Belgium and the Netherlands to join General H.D.G. Crerar's First Canadian Army in North-West Europe for the last Final Phase of the campaign.

Operation GOLDFLAKE had brought General Foster's troops to the final stages of the war against Germany. Committed in the western Netherlands, they attacked across the Ijsselmeer in mid-April and speedily cleared the enemy out of Apeldoorn. In the last days of the war the Division was halted on the Grebbe Line, some miles east of Utrecht, to facilitate Allied arrangements with the Germans for feeding the starving Dutch population.

Order of Battle 1943-1945

1st Canadian Division Headquarters
  • The Saskatoon Light Infantry (MG) (First Canadian Division Support Battalion)

  • 4th Recce Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards) (Except Jul 1944 - Mar 1945)

  • 1st Canadian Armoured Car Regiment (Jul 1944 - Mar 1945)

1st Canadian Infantry Brigade
  • The Royal Canadian Regiment

  • The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment

  • 48th Highlanders of Canada

  • 1st Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)

2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade
  • Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

  • The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada

  • The Edmonton Regiment/The Loyal Edmonton Regiment

  • 2nd Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)

3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade
  • Royal 22e Regiment

  • The Carleton and York Regiment

  • The West Nova Scotia Regiment

  • 3rd Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)

Royal Canadian Artillery
Headquarters, 1st Divisional Artillery, RCA
1st Field Regiment (RCHA)
  • "A" Battery RCHA

  • "B" Battery RCHA

  • "C" Battery RCHA

2nd Field Regiment
  • 10th (St. Catharines) Field Battery

  • 7th Field Battery

  • 8th Field Battery

3rd Field Regiment
  • 19th Field Battery

  • 77th Field Battery

  • 92nd Field Battery

1st Anti-Tank Regiment
  • 51st Anti-Tank Battery

  • 57th Anti-Tank Battery

  • 27th Anti-Tank Battery

  • 90th Anti-Tank Battery

2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
  • 2nd (Yorkton) Light Anti-Aircraft Battery

  • 5th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery

  • 54th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery

Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers
  • Headquarters RCE

    • 2nd Field Park Company, RCE

    • 1st Field Company, RCE

    • 3rd Field Company, RCE

    • 4th Field Company, RCE

    • 1st Canadian Division Bridging Platoon, RCE

Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
  • 1st Infantry Divisional Signals, RCCS

Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
  • Headquarters RCASC

    • 1st Infantry Brigade Company, RCASC

    • 2nd Infantry Brigade Company, RCASC

    • 3rd Infantry Brigade Company, RCASC

    • 1st Infantry Divisional Troops Company, RCASC

Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
  • No. 4 Field Ambulance, RCAMC

  • No. 5 Field Ambulance, RCAMC

  • No. 9 Field Ambulance, RCAMC

  • 2nd Canadian Field Hygiene Section, RCAMC

  • 1st Canadian Field Dressing Station

  • 2nd Canadian Field Dressing Station

Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
  • 1st Infantry Division Ordnance Field Park, RCOC

Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
  • Headquarters RCEME

    • 1st Infantry Brigade Workshop, RCEME

    • 2nd Infantry Brigade Workshop, RCEME

    • 3rd Infantry Brigade Workshop, RCEME

    • One LAA workshop

    • Eleven light aid detachments.

Canadian Postal Corps
  • One divisional postal unit.

Canadian Provost Corps

One provost company.

Canadian Intelligence Corps

One field security section.

General Officers Commanding

Name Dates in Command Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Major General A.G.L. McNaughton, CB, CMG, DSO 17 Oct 1939 - 19 Jul 1940

(Promoted Lt Gen on 10 Jul 1940 in anticipation of appointment to command I Cdn Corps)

Major General G.R. Pearkes, VC, DSO, MC 20 Jul 1940 - 1 Sep 1942

Major General George Pearkes, VC - George Pearkes enlisted in the CEF in 1915, and as a Major of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, was awarded the Victoria Cross for an action in October 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele. He became a career officer between the wars, and from 1938 to 1940 he was the District Officer Commanding Military District 13, which encompassed all Militia units in Alberta. He commanded the 2nd Canadian Brigade in 1939 and 1940, and was appointed divisional commander in July 1940.

British General Montgomery, whose opinions of Canadian officers shaped the overseas Army during the period he commanded South Eastern Army in England, had a low opinion of Pearkes, dismissing him as a gallant soldier with little brains. First World War veterans were slowly combed out of the overseas formations, and in 1942 left 1st Division to become GOC-in- Chief of Pacific Command in Canada, which he did until 1945 when the command was disbanded, and he retired. After the war, Pearkes served as Minister of National Defence in the late 1950s, and as Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. He died in his 90s in 1984.

Major General H.L.N. Salmon, MC 8 Sep 1942 - 29 Apr 1943

Major General Harry Salmon had been a prewar regular. He was killed in an air crash shortly before the 1st Division was scheduled to participate in Operation HUSKY, the invasion of Sicily, in the summer of 1943.

Major General G.G. Simonds, CBE, DSO 29 Apr 1943 - 31 Oct 1943

Major General Guy 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. In Sicily, he was the first Canadian formation commander to lead a division in a sustained campaign in the Second World War. He became renowned for staying close to the fighting troops, at one point an officer wondered jokingly when Simonds was under mortar fire what the people of Canada would think if they knew that he was getting 24 dollars a day to be in his position (a private soldier at that time received less than 2 dollars a day in pay).

After he left the 1st Division, he commanded 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division before returning to NW Europe to command II Canadian Corps. At times, he commanded First Canadian Army in the absence of General Crerar. Simonds was be regarded by British and Canadian officers, and historians, alike, as the greatest commander Canada produced in the Second World War. Simonds continued his service after 1945, and as Chief of the General Staff laid the blueprints for a strong and capable Regular Army - the largest peacetime army Canada ever had.

Major General Christopher Vokes, CBE, DSO 1 Nov 1943 - 30 Nov 1944

Major General Christopher Vokes was born in Ireland in 1904 to a British military officer. He was was educated at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, and graduated in 1925. He was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Engineers, and earned a BSc 1927, and graduated Camberley Staff College in 1934-35. Vokes served as a staff officer of the 1st Division, as well as commanding the PPCLI, and in Jun 1942 assumed command of the 2nd Brigade. He led the Brigade through Sicily and the early months of the Italian campaign, taking command of the division just before the Moro River campaign. His handling of the division was criticized in some circles, but he retained command through the Hitler and Gothic Line fighting. A clerical error led to his being reassigned to the 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division in Dec 1944.

Major General H.W. Foster, CBE, DSO 1 Dec 1944 - 15 Sep 1945

Major General "Harry" Foster commanded a brigade of the 3rd Division in Normandy before his transfer to Italy, where he commanded the 1st Division until it was returned to North-West Europe, where it disbanded at the end of the fighting.

Senior Commanders and Staff Appointments

Divisional Chiefs of Staff

Name Dates Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Lieutenant Colonel Murdock

9 Dec 1944 -


Commanding Officers 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade

Name Dates in Command Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Brigadier A.A. Smith, MC, ED - June 1940

Brigadier Armand A. Smith, MC, ED took the First Brigade to France in June 1940, but was forced to relinquish command as the result of injuries sustained in a motor accident, from which he did not recover sufficiently to permit of his return to active military life. The accident took place in the autumn of 1940, and while Brigadier Smith was in hospital the brigade was commanded by a series of acting commanders. When it was realized that he could not return to duty he was replaced by Brigadier Roberts, Commander, Royal Artillery of 1st Canadian Division.

Brigadier J.H. Roberts, MC  

Brigadier J. Hamilton Roberts took part in the move to France in June 1940 as commander of the 1st Field Regiment (RCHA), and distinguished himself by insisting on being allowed to re-embark his guns in spite of orders to destroy them. The move was seen as meritorious given the shortage of military equipment in England after the fall of France. The appointment of an artillery officer to command an infantry brigade caused some comment at that early stage of the war, but in time, realization was made among Canadian senior commanders (many of whom were gunners themselves) that modern infantry brigades and divisions were really combined-arms forces - and the experience of the British in the Western Desert would create a firmly artillery-based battle doctrine which the Canadians would use as a model from 1943 on.

Brigadier J.D.B. Smith 9 Dec 1944 -

Brigadier J. Desmond B. Smith was born in 1911. He held a variety of posts overseas in the Second World War, including GSO I of 5th Canadian Armoured Division, commander of the 4th Armoured Brigade, and commander of the 5th Armoured Brigade, prior to commanding the 1st Infantry Brigade.

Commanding Officers 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade

Name Dates in Command Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Brigadier BM Hoffmeister, DSO Oct 1943 - Mar 1944 Promoted to Major-General commanding 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division
Brigadier TG Gibson, CBE, DSO Mar 1944 - Thomas Gibson joined the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada in 1925 and was later commissioned, later joining the Permanent Force. He joined The Royal Canadian Regiment and in September 1939 was a captain. He went overseas as Liaison Officer at 2nd Canadian Infantry Division headquarters in August 1940. He held several staff appointments and commanded The Royal Winnipeg Rifles in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1942. In April 1943 he was promoted Brigadier, and went on to command three infantry brigades in succession. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work at Rimini while commanding the 2nd Brigade and Mentioned in Despatches. He later served in Northwest Europe and commanded a composite brigade in the Canadian Army of Occupation.
Brigadier M. Pat Bogert

7 Oct 1944 -


Commanding Officers 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade

Name Dates in Command Bio and Destination on Leaving Appointment
Brigadier CB Price, DSO, DCM, VD - Mar 1941

Promoted to Major-General commanding 3rd Canadian Infantry Division

Brigadier HN Ganong 14 Mar 1941 -

Brigadier HN Ganong formerly commanded the Carleton and York Regiment, one of the units of the brigade, before commanding the 3rd Brigade itself.

Brigadier MHS Penhale, CBE Summer 1943 - Nov 1943 Described as a "portly regular force officer" by J.L. Granatstein, Penhale was made a Companion to the Order of the British Empire for his handling of the Brigade in Sicily and southern Italy. He was replaced just before the Moro River campaign.
Brigadier TG Gibson, CBE, DSO Nov 1943 - Mar 1944

Thomas Gibson joined the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada in 1925 and was later commissioned, later joining the Permanent Force. He joined The Royal Canadian Regiment and in September 1939 was a captain. He went overseas as Liaison Officer at 2nd Canadian Infantry Division headquarters in August 1940. He held several staff appointments and commanded The Royal Winnipeg Rifles in the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in January 1942. In April 1943 he was promoted Brigadier, and went on to command three infantry brigades in succession. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his work at Rimini while commanding the 2nd Brigade and Mentioned in Despatches. He later served in Northwest Europe and commanded a composite brigade in the Canadian Army of Occupation.

Brigader J.P.E. Bernatchez 13 Apr 1944 -

Brigadier Joseph Paul Emile Bernatchez commanded the Royal 22e Regiment prior to promotion to Brigadier in 1944. After the war he commanded Prairie Command from 1948.

Commanders of the Supporting Arms

Commander Name Dates in Command
Royal Canadian Artillery Colonel C.V. Stockwell, DSO  
Royal Canadian Artillery Brigadier J.C. Stewart, DSO  
Royal Canadian Artillery Brigadier J.H. Roberts, MC  
Royal Canadian Artillery Brigadier A.E.D. Tremain, ED  
Royal Canadian Artillery Brigadier A.B. Matthews, DSO  
Royal Canadian Artillery Brigadier W.S. Ziegler 4 Mar 1944 - 1945
Royal Canadian Engineers Lieutenant Colonel E.H. Webb May 1944 - 1945
Royal Canadian Signals Lieutenant Colonel B.W.G. Grover 23 Dec 1943 -

Brigadier William Smith Ziegler was assigned to the 1st Canadian Division as Commander, Royal Artillery on 4 March 1944, after several key staff appointments with First Canadian Army and was recommended for the DSO in June, for carrying out personal reconnaissance of enemy positions well forward, heedless of enemy fire. The fire plan for the massive attack on the Hitler Line on 23 May 1944 was done personally by Brigadier Ziegler, and the recommendation for his DSO noted that "Brigadier Ziegler's handling of the supporting artillery was worthy of the highest praise. Throughout, he was calm and collected, and looking ahead, was often times prepared to swing the full weight of the guns on opportunity targets the moment need arose. The personal behaviour of this officer throughout the recent period of fighting, both as regards personal courage under fire and his technical ability, was an inspiration to all with whom he came in contact, and worthy of the highest traditions of the service."

He remained CRA of 1st Canadian Division even after Operation GOLDFLAKE moved the division from Italy to the Netherlands in early 1945. During the crossing of the Ijssel River on 11 April, Ziegler had three field regiments and a medium regiment under his command, as well as operational control of three more field regiments, two medium regiments, and an heavy anti-aircraft regiment. His job was to co-ordinate fire support by all these units for the division's crossing of the river. Due to the efficiency of his planning, which was handicapped by a need to spare civilian life and property, the 2nd Brigade made a successful crossing, and the rapid advance afterwards necessitated Ziegler's going forward to select new gun positions, often under shell and mortar fire. The moving of the guns was necessary to ensure the infantry always had adequate fire support. For these actions, Ziegler was made a Commander, Order of the British Empire in September 1945. In December 1945, he was also made a Commander of the Order of Orange-Nassau, with Swords, a Dutch honour, for his success in not only keeping the infantry adequately supported, but by his personal courage in performing his duties while under fire, his ability to liase with infantry units, and the success he had in adhering to the division's policy of consideration first to civilians and civilian property while in western Holland.

Brigadier Edward Howard Webb
assumed his duties as Commander, Royal Engineers of First Canadian Division in May 1944, while the division was heavily engaged at the Melfa River. Even when the division was at rest, the divisional engineers were attached to other units of the British Eighth Army that were still engaged in offensive operations. Lieutenant Colonel Webb conducted personal reconnaissance often, under fire, in the days leading up to the Gothic Line fighting in order to assure the existence of proper river crossings. Blown bridges and culverts demanded constant attention from the divisional engineers.

The citation for Webb's Distinguished Service Order states that by showing "great initiative, skill and utter disregard for personal safety Lieutenant-Colonel Webb so directed and assisted those under his command that never once during these operations was the division delayed by lack of engineer effort." In addition to his DSO, Lieutenant Colonel Webb also received a Mention in Despatches in October 1945.

Brigadier Basil William George Grover
went overseas with 1st Canadian Divisional Signals in December 1939; after a period as a company officer he was appointed adjutant, and in January 1941 became Assistant Chief Signals Officer for I Canadian Corps. In April 1942 he was appointed C.1 Signals, First Canadian Army. The citation for his OBE, awarded in June 1943, reads:

Lieutenant Colonel Grover possesses outstanding organizing and directive ability. Perhaps more than any other officer in Riyal Canadian Signals he has been responsible for the successful expansion of Canadian signals from the small organization of a divisional signals to the present communication service of the army. He has given long hours of tedious and arduous work without showing the least sign of fatigue or loss of keenness. All commanding officers and all staff officers with whom he woks express their confidence in him and value his advice. It is true to say that he has made an outstanding contribution to the work of his Corps and the Canadian Army as a whole.

After being made Officer of the Order of the British Empire, he was appointed Commander of 1 Canadian Infantry Division Signals, where he remained for the rest of the war. He received a Mention in Despatches in October 1945.


Uniform Insignia

At the start of the Second World War, it was felt that colourful unit and formation insignia 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.

Soldiers of the 1st Canadian Division readopted the divisional Formation Patches ("The Old Red Patch") that had been worn in the First World War. Soldiers at Brigade Headquarters wore coloured strips half an inch wide by three inches long above the Division patch. The 1st Brigade was designated by green, the 2nd by red and the 3rd by blue. This system of designating Brigade staff officers was also a readoption of Great War practice. Supporting arms were also differentiated by the use of initials on the division patch; towards the middle of the war, these patches began to be phased out in favour of plain divisional patches worn in conjunction with embroidered (or printed) shoulder titles worn on the upper sleeves of the battle dress.


Images and artifacts above courtesy Bill Alexander.

Gold wire officers RCOC version, courtesy Dwayne Hordij.

  1. Granatstein, Jack Canada's Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace (University of Toronto Press, Toronto, ON, 2002) ISBN 0802046916)

  2. Jackson, Harold McGill 'The Princess Louise Dragoon Guards: A History' 1951

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