First Canadian Army
Overview
 
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.

The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps (World War II)
The unnumbered Canadian Corps was the first corps-level military formation established by the Canadian Army during World War II. A four-division Canadian Corps had existed during the First World War...

, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

. By the end of 1943 Canadian formations in the UK consisted of three infantry divisions, two armoured divisions, and two independent armoured brigades.
Encyclopedia
The First Canadian Army was the senior Canadian operational formation in Europe during the Second World War.

The Army was formed in early 1942, replacing the existing unnumbered Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps (World War II)
The unnumbered Canadian Corps was the first corps-level military formation established by the Canadian Army during World War II. A four-division Canadian Corps had existed during the First World War...

, as the growing number of Canadian forces in the United Kingdom necessitated an expansion to two corps
Corps
A corps is either a large formation, or an administrative grouping of troops within an armed force with a common function such as Artillery or Signals representing an arm of service...

. By the end of 1943 Canadian formations in the UK consisted of three infantry divisions, two armoured divisions, and two independent armoured brigades. The first commander was General A.G.L. "Andy" McNaughton
Andrew McNaughton
General Andrew George Latta McNaughton, CH, CB, CMG, DSO, CD, PC was a Canadian army officer, politician and diplomat.- Early life :...

, who was replaced in 1944 by General H. D. G. "Harry" Crerar. Both had been senior artillery officers in the Canadian Corps
Canadian Corps
The Canadian Corps was a World War I corps formed from the Canadian Expeditionary Force in September 1915 after the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division in France. The corps was expanded by the addition of the 3rd Canadian Division in December 1915 and the 4th Canadian Division in August 1916...

 in the First World War.

Two brigades of the 2nd Division led the ill-fated Dieppe Raid
Dieppe Raid
The Dieppe Raid, also known as the Battle of Dieppe, Operation Rutter or later on Operation Jubilee, during the Second World War, was an Allied attack on the German-occupied port of Dieppe on the northern coast of France on 19 August 1942. The assault began at 5:00 AM and by 10:50 AM the Allied...

 in 1942. Aside from this endeavour, the Army did not see combat until July 1943. In 1943, the 1st Canadian Infantry Division
1st Canadian Infantry Division
The 1st Canadian Infantry Division was a formation mobilized on 1 September 1939 for service in the Second World War. The division was also reactivated twice during the Cold War....

, 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade
1st Canadian Armoured Brigade
1 Canadian Army Tank Brigade, later known as 1 Canadian Armoured Brigade, was composed of the 11th, 12th and 14th Canadian Armoured Regiments and saw service in the Italian campaign and in north-west Europe during the Second World War.-History:...

, and 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division
5th Canadian (Armoured) Division
5th Canadian Division was a Canadian division during World War II. Following its redesignation from '1st Canadian Armoured Division', the bulk proceeded overseas in one main convoy, arriving in the UK at the end of November 1941....

 were detached from the Army for participation in the Italian Campaign
Italian Campaign (World War II)
The Italian Campaign of World War II was the name of Allied operations in and around Italy, from 1943 to the end of the war in Europe. Joint Allied Forces Headquarters AFHQ was operationally responsible for all Allied land forces in the Mediterranean theatre, and it planned and commanded the...

. In early 1944, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
3rd Canadian Infantry Division
The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the Canadian Army from 1940 to c.1945.- History :The formation of the division was authorized on 17 May 1940...

 and 2nd Armoured Brigade were also detached to British I Corps to participate in the assault phase of the Normandy landings. II Canadian Corps
II Canadian Corps
II Canadian Corps was a corps-level formation that, along with I Corps and I Canadian Corps , comprised the First Canadian Army in Northwest Europe during World War II.Authorization for the formation of the Corps headquarters became effective in England on...

 became operational in Normandy in early July 1944, as the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division
2nd Canadian Infantry Division
The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was an infantry division of the First Canadian Army, mobilized on 1 September 1939 at the outset of the Second World War. It was initially composed of volunteers within brigades established along regional lines, though a halt in recruitment in the early months of...

 landed. The First Canadian Army headquarters did not itself arrive in Normandy until mid-July, becoming operational 23 July 1944 just prior to 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
The 4th Canadian Division was created by the conversion of the 4th Canadian Infantry Division at the beginning of 1942 in Canada. The division proceeded overseas in 1942, with its two main convoys reaching the United Kingdom in August and October....

 arriving on the Continent.

The Army proper first went into action in the Battle of Normandy
Operation Overlord
Operation Overlord was the code name for the Battle of Normandy, the operation that launched the invasion of German-occupied western Europe during World War II by Allied forces. The operation commenced on 6 June 1944 with the Normandy landings...

 and conducted operations at Falaise
Falaise, Calvados
Falaise is a commune in the Calvados department in the Basse-Normandie region in northwestern France.-History:The town was the birthplace of William I the Conqueror, first of the Norman Kings of England. The Château de Falaise , which overlooks the town from a high crag, was formerly the seat of...

 (e.g. Operation Totalize, Operation Tractable
Operation Tractable
Operation Tractable was the final offensive conducted by Canadian and Polish Army troops as part of the Battle of Normandy. The goal of this operation was to capture the strategically important French town of Falaise, and following that, the smaller towns of Trun and Chambois...

) and helping close the Falaise pocket
Falaise pocket
The battle of the Falaise Pocket, fought during the Second World War from 12 to 21 August 1944, was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy...

. After reaching the Seine, the objective of the first phase of Operation Overlord, the Army moved along the coast towards Belgium
Belgium
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

, with the Canadian 2nd Division entering Dieppe at the beginning of September. The critical Battle of the Scheldt
Battle of the Scheldt
The Battle of the Scheldt was a series of military operations of the Canadian 1st Army, led by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds. The battle took place in northern Belgium and southwestern Netherlands during World War II from 2 October-8 November 1944...

 in October and November opened Antwerp to Allied shipping.

The First Canadian Army held a static line along the river Meuse (Maas) from December through February, then launched Operation Veritable
Operation Veritable
Operation Veritable was a Second World War pincer movement conducted by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group to clear and occupy the land between the Rhine and Maas rivers. It took place between 8 February and 11 March 1945. It was a part of General Dwight Eisenhower's "broad front"...

 in early February, cracking the Siegfried Line and reaching the banks of the Rhine in early March.

In the final weeks of the war in Europe, the First Army cleared the Netherlands
Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...

 of German forces. By this time the First Division and Fifth (Armoured) Division as well as First Armoured Brigade had returned to the Army during Operation Goldflake
Operation Goldflake
Operation Goldflake was the administrative move of I Canadian Corps from Italy to North-West Europe during the Second World War. British-led forces had been fighting in Italy since the invasion of Sicily in July 1943...

 and for the first time, both the I Canadian Corps
I Canadian Corps
I Canadian Corps was one of the two corps fielded by the Canadian Army during World War II. From December 24, 1940 until the formation of the First Canadian Army in April 1942, there was a single unnumbered Canadian Corps...

 and II Canadian Corps fought under the same Army commander.

Makeup

The First Canadian Army was international in character. The size of Canada's military contribution on its own would likely not have justified the creation of a separate army-level command in North-West Europe, especially over the period when I Canadian Corps was away gaining valuable combat experience in Italy. However, both McNaughton and Crerar, backed up by the Canadian government, were successful in their lobbying to create a Canadian-led army enlarged with contributions from other Allied countries. In addition to II Canadian Corps (which included the Canadian formations under command described above), other formations under command included the British I Corps, and the 1st Polish Armoured Division, as well as, at various times, American, Belgian
1st Belgian Infantry Brigade
The Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade, also known as the "Brigade Piron", after its commander, Jean-Baptiste Piron, was a Belgian and Luxembourger army unit which fought in World War II...

, Dutch
Royal Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade
During the Second World War the Royal Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade was a military unit initially formed from approximately 1500 Dutch troops, including a small group guarding German POWs, who arrived in the United Kingdom in May 1940 following the collapse of the Netherlands...

 and Czechoslovak troops. The First Canadian Army in North-West Europe during the final phases of the war comprised the largest field army ever under the control of a Canadian general. Ration strength of the army ranged from approximately 105,000 to 175,000 Canadian soldiers to anywhere from 200,000 to over 450,000 when including the soldiers from other nations.

The 'Maple Leaf Route' was the designation of the army's Main Supply Route
Main Supply Route
A Main Supply Route is the route or routes designated within an area of operations upon which the bulk of traffic flows in support of military operations....

. The route was usually divided, into MAPLE LEAF UP and MAPLE LEAF DOWN, designating traffic to and away from the front, respectively.

Order of battle

  • Army Troops
    • Headquarters
      • First Canadian Army Defence Battalion (The Royal Montreal Regiment)
        The Royal Montreal Regiment
        The Royal Montreal Regiment is a Primary Reserve Infantry regiment of the Canadian Forces based in Westmount, Montréal, Québec.-History:The Royal Montreal Regiment traces its origins to the creation of the 14th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force on August 27, 1914...

      • No. 1 Army Headquarters Car Company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
        Royal Canadian Army Service Corps
        For successor see Logistics BranchThe Royal Canadian Army Service Corps was an administrative and transport corps of the Canadian Army....

         (RCASC)
    • Royal Canadian Artillery
      • No. 1 Army Group, R.C.A.
        • 11th Army Field Regiment
        • 1st Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          1st Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          The 1st Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery was one of six Canadian medium artillery regiments which served in England, Italy, and northwest Europe during World War II.-History:...

        • 2nd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
        • 5th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          5th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          The 5th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, was one of six Canadian medium regiments that saw service in Britain and continental Europe in the Second World War, the others being the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 7th Medium Regiments...

      • No. 2 Army Group, R.C.A.
        • 19th Army Field Regiment
        • 3rd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          3rd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          The 3rd Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery was raised as a medium artillery regiment of the Canadian Army on January 26, 1942. Formed in Petawawa, Ontario, it was made up of two former coastal batteries, the 5th from the west coast and the 87th, from the east coast.-History:The regiment was...

        • 4th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
        • 7th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          7th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery
          The 7th Medium Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, was one of six Canadian medium regiments that sawservice in Britain and continental Europe in the Second World War, the othersbeing the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th Medium Regiments....

        • 2nd Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Mobile)
        • 1st Rocket Battery
        • 1st Radar Battery
    • "F" Squadron, 25th Armoured Delivery Regiment (The Elgin Regiment)
      31 Combat Engineer Regiment (The Elgins)
      31 Combat Engineer Regiment , is currently a combat engineer regiment of the Canadian Forces, supporting 31 Canadian Brigade Group. It consists of two squadrons: 48 Engineer Squadron in Waterloo, Ontario, and 7 Engineer Squadron in St. Thomas, Ontario. The Elgins existed before the Confederation of...

      , Canadian Armoured Corps (CAC)
    • 1st Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment, CAC
    • No. 6 Casualty Clearing Station
      Casualty Clearing Station
      A Casualty Clearing Station is the name used by the British Army and the armies of other Commonwealth nations to describe a medical facility behind the front lines that is used to treat wounded soldiers. A CCS would usually be located just outside of the range of enemy artillery and often near...

      , Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
      Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps
      The Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps was an administrative corps of the Canadian Army. The Militia Medical Service was established in 1899. The Militia Medical Service was redesignated the Canadian Army Medical Corps in 1904. The Canadian Army Medical Corps was redesignated The Royal Canadian...

       (RCAMC)
    • Nos. 4, 5, 6 & 7 Field Transfusion Units, RCAMC
    • Nos. 9, 10 & 11 Field Dressing Stations, RCAMC
    • No. 14 Field Hygiene Section, RCAMC
    • units of the Canadian Dental Corps (CDC)
    • Nos. 81 & 82 Artillery Companies, RCASC
    • Nos. 35 & 36 Army Troops Composite Companies, RCASC
    • Nos. 41, 45, 47, 63 & 64 Army Transport Companies, RCASC
    • Nos. 1 & 2 Motor Ambulance Convoys, RCASC
    • Royal Canadian Engineers
      • 1st Canadian Army Troops Engineers
        • 10th Field Park Company
        • 5th, 20th & 23rd Field Companies
      • 2nd Canadian Army Troops Engineers
        • 11th Field Park Company
        • 32nd, 33rd & 34th Field Companies
      • No. 1 Workshop and Park Company
      • 1st Field (Air) Survey Company
      • 2nd Field Survey Company
      • 3rd Field (Reproduction) Company
    • First Army Signals, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
      Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
      The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals was a corps of the Canadian Army. Major Wallace Bruce Matthews Carruthers established the corps in 1903, making it the first independent Signal Corps in the British Empire...

       (RCCS)
    • 1st Air Support Signals Unit
    • Nos. 1, 2 & 3 Special Wireless Sections
    • First Army Troops Workshop, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers
    • No. 11 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps
      Canadian Provost Corps
      The Canadian Provost Corps was the military police corps of the Canadian Army. The Canadian Provost Corps was authorized on 15 Jun 1940. The Canadian Provost Corps was amalgamated into the Canadian Forces in 1968.-Canadian Military Police Corps:...

    • No. 1 Canadian Forestry Group, Canadian Forestry Corps
      Canadian Forestry Corps
      The Canadian Forestry Corps was an administrative corps of the Canadian Army with its own cap badge, and other insignia and traditions.The Canadian Forestry Corps was created 14 Nov 1916. The crest of the Canadian Forestry Corps consists of a circle, with a beaver on top, superimposed on a pair of...

    • No. 1 Army Base Post Office, Canadian Postal Corps
      Royal Canadian Postal Corps
      For successor see Logistics BranchThe Royal Canadian Postal Corps was an administrative corps of the Canadian Army. The Canadian Postal Corps was redesignated the Royal Canadian Postal Corps on 20 Jun 1961. The crest of the Royal Canadian Postal Corps consists of a horn, with a Queen's Crown on...

  • I Canadian Corps
    I Canadian Corps
    I Canadian Corps was one of the two corps fielded by the Canadian Army during World War II. From December 24, 1940 until the formation of the First Canadian Army in April 1942, there was a single unnumbered Canadian Corps...

     (April 1942 to November 1943; February 1945 to July 1945)
    • (attached to the British Eighth Army in Italy from November 1943 to February 1945)
    • 1st Canadian Infantry Division
      1st Canadian Infantry Division
      The 1st Canadian Infantry Division was a formation mobilized on 1 September 1939 for service in the Second World War. The division was also reactivated twice during the Cold War....

       (in Italy from July 1943 to February 1945)
    • 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division
      5th Canadian (Armoured) Division
      5th Canadian Division was a Canadian division during World War II. Following its redesignation from '1st Canadian Armoured Division', the bulk proceeded overseas in one main convoy, arriving in the UK at the end of November 1941....

    • 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade
      1st Canadian Armoured Brigade
      1 Canadian Army Tank Brigade, later known as 1 Canadian Armoured Brigade, was composed of the 11th, 12th and 14th Canadian Armoured Regiments and saw service in the Italian campaign and in north-west Europe during the Second World War.-History:...

    • 1st Canadian Corps Defence Company (Lorne Scots)
    • Other Corps Troops
  • II Canadian Corps
    II Canadian Corps
    II Canadian Corps was a corps-level formation that, along with I Corps and I Canadian Corps , comprised the First Canadian Army in Northwest Europe during World War II.Authorization for the formation of the Corps headquarters became effective in England on...

     (January 15, 1943 to June 25, 1945)
    • 2nd Canadian Infantry Division
      2nd Canadian Infantry Division
      The 2nd Canadian Infantry Division was an infantry division of the First Canadian Army, mobilized on 1 September 1939 at the outset of the Second World War. It was initially composed of volunteers within brigades established along regional lines, though a halt in recruitment in the early months of...

    • 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
      3rd Canadian Infantry Division
      The Canadian 3rd Infantry Division was an infantry division of the Canadian Army from 1940 to c.1945.- History :The formation of the division was authorized on 17 May 1940...

    • 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
      4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
      The 4th Canadian Division was created by the conversion of the 4th Canadian Infantry Division at the beginning of 1942 in Canada. The division proceeded overseas in 1942, with its two main convoys reaching the United Kingdom in August and October....

    • Polish 1st Armoured Division
      Polish 1st Armoured Division
      The Polish 1st Armoured Division was an Allied military unit during World War II, created in February 1942 at Duns in Scotland. At its peak it numbered approximately 16,000 soldiers...

    • 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade
    • 15th (Scottish) Infantry Division (January to March, 1945)
    • 2nd Canadian Corps Defence Company (Lorne Scots)
    • Other Corps Troops
  • I (British) Corps (August 1, 1944 to April 1, 1945)
    • 6th Airborne Division (to 3 September 1944)
      • 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade
        1st Belgian Infantry Brigade
        The Belgian 1st Infantry Brigade, also known as the "Brigade Piron", after its commander, Jean-Baptiste Piron, was a Belgian and Luxembourger army unit which fought in World War II...

         (August 10, 1944 to September 10, 1944)
    • 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division
    • 51st (Highland) Infantry Division (to 19 December 1944)
    • 33rd Armoured Brigade
      33rd Armoured Brigade (United Kingdom)
      The 33rd Armoured Brigade was a British Army brigade active in 1944-45, in the 1970s, and in 1980-92.- Normandy :The brigade was formed in the UK on 17 March 1944 by re-designating of the 33rd Tank Brigade. The brigade took part in the Normandy campaign and landed on Gold Beach on 6 June 1944...

       (to September 1944)
    • U.S. 104th "Timberwolf" Infantry Division (mid October to early November, 1944)
  • XXX (British) Corps (January to March, 1945 for Operation Veritable
    Operation Veritable
    Operation Veritable was a Second World War pincer movement conducted by Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's 21st Army Group to clear and occupy the land between the Rhine and Maas rivers. It took place between 8 February and 11 March 1945. It was a part of General Dwight Eisenhower's "broad front"...

    )
    • Guards Armoured Division
    • 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division
      British 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division
      The 43rd Infantry Division was a British Territorial Army division first formed in 1908. It was reformed in 1920 as part of the rebuilding of the Territorial Army, and raised a second line duplicate, 45th Infantry Division, on the doubling of the Territorial Army in 1939.-History:The Division was...

    • 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
      British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division
      The 50th Infantry Division was a 1st Line Territorial Army division during the Second World War. The two Ts in its insignia represent the two boundaries to its recruitment area, the rivers Tyne and Tees...

    • 52nd (Lowland) Infantry Division
    • 53rd (Welsh) Infantry Division
    • elements of 79th Armoured Division
    • 4th Armoured Brigade
    • 6th Guards Armoured Brigade
      6th Guards Tank Brigade (United Kingdom)
      The 6th Guards Tank Brigade was formed in 1941 as the 6th Guards Armoured Brigade when Great Britain was under the threat of invasion and more armoured formations were required, permission was granted from King George VI and the Colonels of the Regiments involved and over the summer of 1941, the...

    • 8th Armoured Brigade
    • 34th Armoured Brigade

Commanders

  • Andrew McNaughton
    Andrew McNaughton
    General Andrew George Latta McNaughton, CH, CB, CMG, DSO, CD, PC was a Canadian army officer, politician and diplomat.- Early life :...

     (Commander, early 1942 - 21 December 1943)
  • Kenneth Stuart
    Kenneth Stuart
    Lieutenant-General Kenneth Stuart CB DSO MC was a Canadian soldier and Chief of the General Staff, the head of the Canadian Army from 24 December 1941 until 27 December 1943.-Military career:...

     (Acting Commander, 21 December 1943 - 20 March 1944)
  • Harry Crerar
    Harry Crerar
    Henry Duncan Graham "Harry" Crerar CH, CB, DSO, KStJ, CD, PC was a Canadian general and the country's "leading field commander" in World War II.-Early years:...

     (Commander, 20 March 1944 - summer 1945)
  • Guy Simonds
    Guy Simonds
    Lieutenant General Guy Granville Simonds, CC, CB, CBE, DSO, CD was a Canadian Army officer who commanded the II Canadian Corps during World War II. He served as acting commander of the First Canadian Army, leading the Allied forces to victory in the Battle of the Scheldt in 1944...

     (Acting Commander in 28 September 1944 to 7 November 1944)

Further reading

  • Terry Copp
    Terry Copp
    Terry Copp is a Canadian military historian and Professor Emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University and is Director of the Laurier Centre for Military and Strategic Disarmament Studies....

    , Maple Leaf Route: Caen
  • Terry Copp
    Terry Copp
    Terry Copp is a Canadian military historian and Professor Emeritus at Wilfrid Laurier University and is Director of the Laurier Centre for Military and Strategic Disarmament Studies....

    , Maple Leaf Route: Falaise

External links

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