4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
The 4th Canadian Division refers to two organizations raised during the 20th Century.
The first formation so designated was a fully manned and equipped combat division which went to France with the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War. A second iteration was raised for the Second World War; this article refers to the latter division.
The 4th Canadian Division was authorized by General Orders dated 24 May 1940, in response to the crisis in France. Headquarters mobilized as Serial 900 of the Canadian Active Service Force. The divisional artillery mobilized as the 15th, 16th and 17th Field Regiments, initially with two combined field-batteries per regiment.1
Each infantry brigade initially had an anti-tank company assigned to it. While the authorization for forming the division was officially dated in May, some units did not receive telegrams from Ottawa ordering them to mobilize until June.
A full slate of divisional support units also mobilized in accordance with G.O. 184/40:
The division slowly mobilized and concentrated as follows:
The Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War notes:
Training of the division was hampered by a low priority given to it for resources. A new formation initially referred to as the 1st Canadian Armoured Division was mobilized along with the 1st Army Tank Brigade, and to hasten the mobilization of these units, which had priority, the 17th Field Regiment was withdrawn from the 4th Division and reallocated to the 1st Armoured Brigade Group as part of the armoured division. The 4th Anti-Tank Regiment, RCA, was also transferred, and in February 1941 batteries of the 15th and 16th Field Regiments provided troops for the armoured division's light anti-aircraft unit. The 4th also transferred men and units from the medical, engineer, provost, signals, ordnance and service corps. The 18th Field Regiment, RCA, replaced the 17th in the 4th Division.3
The 18th (Manitoba) Reconnaissance Battalion mobilized as Serial 977 under General Order 160/41, effective 10 May 1941, along with a list of other units intended for service with the 4th Canadian Division. New batteries of artillery were authorized for the divisional artillery.
The 6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Serial 991) also mobilized under General Order 240/41 with effect 5 September 1941.5
Conversion to Armour
In October 1941, the Minister of National Defence, J.L. Ralston, and General H.D.G. Crerar visited the United Kingdom for consultation with British authorities and General McNaughton, then commanding Canadian forces in the U.K. On his return to Canada, Ralston relayed to the War Committee that the British Secretary of State for War had advised that a second armoured division from Canada would be a helpful contribution. Previous discussions in Canada regarding the conversion of the 4th Division to an armoured division were given added impetus.6
A series of reorganizations took place early in 1942 to convert the division into an armoured formation. General Order 132/42 effective 26 January 1942 reorganized the division, to include an armoured car regiment, two armoured brigades, and an armoured division support group (composed of the 15th Field Regiment, 5th Anti-Tank Regiment and 8th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment) plus The Irish Regiment of Canada.7:
The 6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment left the division to eventually become a unit attached directly to 2nd Canadian Corps while 18th Field Regiment became a Medium Regiment. The headquarters of the 11th Infantry Brigade converted to armour to become the 2nd Army Tank Brigade taking with it The Grey and Simcoe Foresters and The 16th/22nd Saskatchewan Horse.
On arrival overseas, the division once again reorganized, from having a two armoured brigade organization to one armoured brigade and one infantry brigade.
The 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade arrived from Canada, comprising the 10th Independent Machine Gun Company (The New Brunswick Rangers), The Lincoln and Welland Regiment, The Algonquin Regiment and The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's).9
deployed to the United Kingdom in the late summer and autumn on
1942 and despite the number of reorganizations, the availability
of armoured vehicles from Canadian sources permitted units to
arrive in an advanced state of training. Universal carriers had
been used as substitutes for tanks, and by October 1942, 255
carriers were on hand "with the result that much useful training
in troop and squadron tactics was
The division deployed to Normandy at the end of July 1944, becoming operational as a formation of 2nd Canadian Corps on 29 July 1944. The formation participated in the breakout from Caen and the closing of the Falaise Gap. For actions during the fighting at St. Lambert-sur-Dives between 18-21 August 1944, Major David V. Currie of the 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment) was awarded the Victoria Cross, the only soldier of the Canadian Armoured Corps to be so honoured.
The division advanced to the River Seine on the right of 2nd Canadian Corps, sending its infantry across above Elbeuf on 26 August 1944, and advancing to the Somme River. The division crossed this next obstacle on 2-3 September as the 2nd Division returned to Dieppe. An administrative pause followed at Abbeville, and the division advanced once more toward Belgium, where spearheads of the British Army were already in Brussels and Antwerp. Organizing into two battle groups, the division reached the Ghent Canal on 8 September, hitting the first of the Scheldt Fortress defences. Fighting for a bridgehead over the Ghent followed, as well as a battle to clear Bruges. More fighting to clear water obstacles south of the Scheldt followed, at Moerkerke and Eecloo.
The fighting to clear the approaches to Antwerp took on added importance as September went on; the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions were withdrawn from the French channel coast and committed to the region as parts of the 4th Armoured was shifted east, north of Antwerp, in early October leaving elements to patrol the Leopold Canal and contain the Breskens Pocket. On 17 October the entire division had been shifted north of Antwerp and came under command of 1st British Corps to assist the 2nd Canadian Division in its attack on the South Beveland Peninsula. In turn, the division took Esschen, on 22 October, then Bergen op Zoom, on 27 October, moving on to Sttenbergen on 4 November and on to Hollandschdiep.
At the conclusion of the Battle of the Scheldt on 8 November 1944, the division joined 1st Canadian Army in the Nijmegen Salient, thought remained under 1st British Corps as it held positions on the south bank of the lower Maas River. It was relieved in place from 26 November 1944 to 5 December by the 52nd (Lowland) Division, and then moved to s'Hertogenbosch where it was itself relieved on 21 December by the 1st Polish Armoured Division, and went into Army reserve, to occupy positions in the area Breda-Tilburg, still under 1st British Corps.
On 26 January 1944, The Lincoln and Welland Regiment made their initial attacks on Kapelsche Veer, a small island on the Maas River, in a battle that lasted until 31 January. The island had been the object of the Polish armoured division as well as Royal Marine Commandos in December and was the largest divisional action of the winter.
Operation VERITABLE, the clearance of the Rhineland and the preparation for the final attack on Germany, began on 8 February 1945. The initial phase of the operation was conducted by infantry divisions of British 30th Corps under 1st Canadian Army; 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division, with the British 11th Armoured Division, was to stand by and renew the momentum of the offensive once the 2nd Canadian Corps entered the battle. On 26 February, divided into five battle groups, the division went into the attack against the Hochwald Forest, clearing the high ground at Calcar and Udem by the next day. The Hochwald Gap proved troublesome and fighting lasted until 4 March. The fighting for Veen, the next objective, lasted until 9 March as the infantry of the 10th Brigade tried to wrest it from German defenders. Winnenthal fell on 10 March, marking the final operations for the division west of the Rhine.
The 2nd Canadian Corps came under operational control of 2nd British Army for Operation PLUNDER, the crossing of the Rhine, which went off on 23 March 1945. The 4th Division's artillery fired in support of the crossing, and 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was the first Canadian formation across. The headquarters of 2nd Canadian Corps followed by the 28th, and the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division landed on the far bank of the Rhine on the 28th and 29th, followed by the 4th Division, who entered the line to the right of both divisions on 1 April 1945 as 1st Canadian Army once again took operational control for 2nd Canadian Corps. The three Canadian divisions began a northward advance, with 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division on the right, with 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade now also supporting the two infantry divisions.
The 4th Armoured crossed the Twente Canal west of Delden on 3 April, cleared Almelo on 4-5 April then set its sights on Germany as the Polish Armoured Division returned to 2nd Canadian Corps to operate on the left of the 4th Armoured. The division crossed the German border and cleared Neuenhaus, Emlichheim and Coevorden, crossed the Ems River, and cleared the area east of the Ems to the Küsten Canal. The 10th Infantry Brigade fought towards Leer while the tanks cleared Sogel, Borger and Friesoythe. On 17 April, the division crossed the Canal at Edewechterdamm, eleven miles from Oldenburg, held in the face of German counter-attacks, then extended the bridgehead two miles to the Aue River by 21 April. The tanks again took the lead as the division advanced on Bad Zwischenahn, which fell on 30 April. The division was 10 miles north of Oldenburg when the cease fire was ordered on 5 May 1945.
General Order 71/46, taking effect 27 December 1945, disbanded the division.
Order of Battle 1944-1945
4th Canadian (Armoured) Division Headquarters
4th Canadian Armoured Brigade
10th Canadian Infantry Brigade
Royal Canadian Artillery
Headquarters, 4th Divisional Artillery, RCA
15th Field Regiment
23rd Field Regiment (Self Propelled)
5th Anti-Tank Regiment
8th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
Canadian Postal Corps
Canadian Provost Corps
Canadian Intelligence Corps
General Officers Commanding
Divisional Chiefs of Staff
Commanding Officers 4th Canadian Armoured Brigade
Commanding Officers 10th Canadian Infantry Brigade
Commanders of the Supporting Arms
Artifacts and photos courtesy Bill Alexander. Note the use of canvas, even for the simple RCAMC title (maroon rectangle on green rectangle).
Tonner, Mark W. On Active Service (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON) ISBN 1-894581-44-X
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), p.80
Falconer, D.W. Battery Flashes of W.W. II (D.W. Falconer, 1985) ISBN 0-9691865-0-9 p.368
Stacey, Ibid, p.93
Falconer, Ibid, p.368
Stacey, Ibid, p.95
Falconer, Ibid, p.369
Stacey, p. 99 Canadian Ram tanks were never actually used in action as gun tanks, though some variants such as observation post (OP) and armoured personnel carriers (Kangaroos) were used.
Falconer, Ibid, pp.369-370
Stacey, Ibid, pp.247-252
Falconer, Ibid, pp.372-374