Military Wiki
1st Canadian Division
1 Canadian Infantry Division patch.png
1st Canadian Infantry Division formation patch
Active 1914–1919
Country Canada
Allegiance Allies
Branch Canadian Expeditionary Force
Canadian Army
Type Infantry
Nickname(s) The Old Red Patch
Engagements Second Battle of Ypres
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Vimy Ridge
Battle of Passchendaele
Invasion of Sicily
Battle of Ortona
Hitler Line
MGen John Collin
Arthur Currie
Archibald Cameron Macdonell
Guy Simonds
Chris Vokes
Roméo Dallaire

The 1st Canadian Division is an operational command and control formation of the Canadian Army, based at CFB Kingston.

Formed in August 1914, the 1st Canadian Division was a formation of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The division was initially made up from provisional battalions that were named after their province of origin but these titles were dropped before the division arrived in Britain on October 14, 1914. Following the war, the division was stood down only to be remobilized as a formation on 1 September 1939 as the 1st Canadian Infantry Division for service in the Second World War. The division was also reactivated twice during the Cold War. In 2010, the unit was reactivated for a third time to serve as headquarters unit of any division-level formation of the Canadian Army.

First World War

Canadian field comforts commission insert found in "With the First Canadian Contingent", Canadian Government publication from 1915

The First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was raised in August 1914, concentrated at Valcartier Camp in Quebec, and set off for England in the largest trans-Atlantic convoy to date two months later. Training and reorganization commenced upon arrival in the United Kingdom in October 1914, and it was not until 26 January 1915 that the division was officially organized, under the command of Lieutenant General E.A.H. Alderson, a British Army officer. Several units under command of the First Contingent were excluded from the divisional organization, including the 17th Battalion (Nova Scotia Highlanders), 18th Battalion, and several companies of Newfoundland soldiers (later formed into the Newfoundland Regiment and assigned to the 29th (British) Division.)

The division consisted originally of a cavalry squadron, cyclist company, four infantry brigades, three artillery brigades (equivalent in terms of numbers to the regiments used in the Second World War and after), and divisional engineers, with supporting troops of the Canadian Army Service Corps and Canadian Army Medical Corps. The strength of the division was placed at 17,873 all ranks, with 4,943 horses. The 4th Brigade was broken up in January 1915, with one battalion (the 10th) going to the 2nd Brigade, and the other three battalions being broken send to the Canadian Training Depot. The 6th Battalion (Fort Garry Horse) left the 2nd Brigade to become a cavalry unit, later serving in the Canadian Cavalry Brigade.

Pioneer units were added later in the war, including the 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion from Mar 1916 to Feb 1917, when they became the 9th Canadian Railway Battalion. The 107th Canadian Pioneer Battalion also came under command between Mar 1917 and May 1918, before being absorbed by the 1st Canadian Engineer Brigade.

Lieutenant General Alderson was selected and appointed in October 1914 to command the new Canadian Division, as it was known at that time, making him the highest ranking divisional commander in the British Army. He was selected — to the relief of many — in lieu of Sir Sam Hughes, who was promoted at this time by the prime minister to the rank of Major-General. It had been Hughes's wish to command the Canadians in action. Alderson, who had commanded Canadian units before, won out over three prospective Canadian appointees, who, while serving with the British Army, were still considered too inexperienced.

Training in the winter of 1914 was rigorous, and conditions on Salisbury Plain were harsh due to cold and rain. Alderson rejected "shoddy" kit that was supplied from Canada including the Ross Rifle which had been adopted due to the slow rate of supply of the Lee-Enfield and which was seen as an example of Canadian nationalism.[1]> A royal inspection of the division early in 1915 foretold a move to France.

After being stationed at Salisbury Plain in England, the 1st Canadian Division embarked for France during February 1915. After a period in reserve near Hazebrouck, the division relieved the 7th (British) Division in the Fleurbaix sector during the first three days of March, taking over 6,400 yards of front line trenches on the left flank of General Sir Douglas Haig's First British Army.

The division moved to the Ypres Salient in April, and faced its first real test during the defence of St. Julien beginning on 22 April. The Canadians withstood German attack—aided, for the first time on the Western Front, by the use of poison gas—and finally retired to secondary positions on 26 April, where they held on until 4 May. The Second Battle of Ypres, as the overall action came to be known, cost the infantry brigades some 5,506 men.

Two weeks later, the division was in action again at Festubert. Aiding in a diversionary offensive by the British armies, the Canadians suffered 2,204 casualties for gains of only 600 yards. Another futile attack was launched at Givenchy-en-Gohelle in June 1915, after which the division moved to Ploegsteert.

The Canadians began a long period of static warfare which would last them throughout the winter. In September, the arrival of the 2nd Canadian Division meant that a national corps headquarters could take to the field to command the division. Major-General Arthur Currie took command of the division in September. Active operations resumed again in the spring of 1916, participating in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, and then restoring the situation at Sanctuary Wood.

The legendary Battle of the Somme opened on 1 July 1916, the worst single day in the history of the British Army, with 20,000 men killed and 40,000 wounded. However, the Canadians' part in the great battle, which was to last through to November, did not begin until September at Pozières, and lasted through to October. It was on the Somme that the red patch was first worn as an identifying device—two inches by three inches and worn on both sleeves, this rectangle identified the wearer as belonging to the 1st Division. The insignia was also painted on steel trench helmets, and adorned with geometric shapes of different colours to further identify the soldier's specific battery, brigade, battalion or other subunit.

The division began to prepare for the historic assault on Vimy Ridge, and took the time-honoured position of right of the line on 9 April 1917 when the corps took the ridge. Other gains were made in the days following the successful assault on the ridge, and the division participated in the monumental battle of Hill 70 in August 1917. Passchendaele followed in mid-October, and fighting continued into November. The division served under Major-General Archibald Cameron Macdonell beginning in May; his command persisted until Armistice Day.

Massive German offensives came in the spring of 1918, but the Canadian Corps—now considered crack assault troops—were held in reserve for the inevitable counter-offensives. "Canada's Hundred Days"—the last 100 days of the war—were marked by several Canadian successes, at Amiens, the Drocourt-Quéant Line, and Canal du Nord. On 11 November 1918, the Armistice brought the war to an end. The division formed part of the occupation forces on the right bank of the Rhine, then in early 1919 moved back to England, and the eventual repatriation and demobilization. The infantry battalions of the 1st Division suffered 52,559 casualties during its years in the field, some 15,055 of them fatal—statistically, representing almost the original strength of the entire division. Twenty-four soldiers of the division were awarded the Victoria Cross.

Infantry units

1st Canadian Brigade:

2nd Canadian Brigade:

3rd Canadian Brigade:

4th Canadian Brigade:


  • 1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion. March 1916 – February 1917. Became the 9th Canadian Railway Battalion.
  • 107th Canadian Pioneer Battalion. March 1917 – May 1918. Absorbed by the 1st Canadian Engineer Brigade.

Attached TROOPS:

Battles and engagements on the Western Front





Second World War

The division was remobilized, as the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, before Canada's formal entrance into the Second World War, along with the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division and the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. The division crossed the Atlantic in two main convoys at the end of 1939, with additional troops reaching the UK at the beginning of February 1940. In 1941, the formation adopted the red rectangular battle patch insignia worn by the 1st Canadian Division in the First World War.

All elements of the division were far from completely equipped on mobilization: of the artillery and machine guns on hand, most were obsolete, and the troops lacked steel helmets. Only gradually did a full complement of more modern weapons, equipment, and transport begin reaching the division in 1940.

Nevertheless, in the wake of the Dunkirk evacuation the Canadians were ordered to France in June 1940. Among the Infantry units that landed at Brest, France were the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), The 48th Highlanders of Canada and The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. Members of the RCR were present in France at least until 16 June, after Paris had fallen to German forces, and returned almost immediately after. The 48th withdrawal was not without some excitement. The division trained in England for three years before transferring to the Mediterranean to take part in Operation Husky, the assault landing on Sicily in July 1943 which ended after just 38 days. It then landed in Calabria on the Italian mainland and fought its way up the Italian peninsula and squared off in the seaside town of Ortona with German fallschirmjager – crack air force paratroopers – over Christmas in 1943. Both sides suffered heavy losses in the fight for the town which a New York Times reporter had begun calling a "miniature Stalingrad", based on the ferocity of the street fighting and the casualties.<citation needed> By December 27, what remained of Ortona after days of shelling and aerial bombardment was in 1st Canadian Division hands. It then went on to break out of 8th Army's bridgehead with the second wave in the spring offensive. The 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, the reconnaissance regiment serving with 1st Canadian Division was the first of 8th Army's units to cross the Hitler Line in May 1944, below Pontecorvo in its armoured cars.

After heavy fighting through the summer, the 1st Division spent the next several months fighting, as it had the previous fall, for a succession of heavily-defended river crossings surrounded by high ground. By the time the division reached the Senio, as the icy rain began giving way to snow in the Canadian sector, a decision had been reached to transfer the entire 1st Canadian Corps, 1st Infantry Division included, to the Netherlands.[2] By the end of March, 1945 all Canadian Army units serving with Allied Forces Mediterranean had been transferred and Operation Goldflake, the reunion of 1st Infantry and 1st Armoured Brigade and First Canadian Army accomplished.

Formation sign used to identify vehicles of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division during World War II.

Order of battle 1939–1945


  • 1st Canadian Infantry Division Defence and Employment Platoon (Lorne Scots)

Canadian Armoured Corps

Royal Canadian Artillery

  • 1st Field Regiment, R.C.H.A.
  • 2nd Field Regiment
  • 3rd Field Regiment
  • 1st Anti-Tank Regiment
  • 2nd Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment
  • 12th Canadian Meteorological Section

Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

1st Canadian Armoured Brigade

Royal Canadian Corps of Signals

  • 1st Canadian Divisional Signals

Royal Canadian Engineers

  • 1st Canadian Field Company
  • 3rd Canadian Field Company
  • 4th Canadian Field Company
  • 2nd Canadian Field Park Company
  • 1st Canadian Bridging Platoon

Royal Canadian Army Service Corps

  • 1 Canadian Infantry Brigade Company
  • 2 Canadian Infantry Brigade Company
  • 3 Canadian Infantry Brigade Company
  • 1 Canadian Infantry Divisional Troops Company
  • No. 83 Company – originally a part of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, joined in 1943.

Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps

  • 4th Canadian Field Ambulance
  • 5th Canadian Field Ambulance
  • 9th Canadian Field Ambulance
  • 2nd Canadian Field Hygiene Section
  • No. 2 Light Field Ambulance – originally a part of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, joined in 1943.

Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps

  • 1st Canadian Infantry Divisional Ordnance Field Park
  • 1st Canadian Mobile Laundry and Bath Unit
  • No. 1 Army Tank Brigade Sub-Park – originally a part of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, joined in 1943.
  • 1st Tank Brigade Workshop – originally a part of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, joined in 1943.

Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers

  • 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade Workshop
  • 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade Workshop
  • 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade Workshop
  • No. 1 Infantry Troops Workshop

Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps

  • 1st Canadian Field Cash Office

Royal Canadian Postal Corps

  • 1 Canadian Infantry Division Postal Unit

Royal Canadian Dental Corps

  • 1st Canadian Dental Company

Canadian Provost Corps

In July 1944, the divisional reconnaissance battalion, the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, converted to infantry and transferred to 12th Infantry Brigade of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, to be replaced by The Royal Canadian Dragoons. The Princess Louise returned to its original mechanized role in Northwest Europe in March 1945, and The Royal Canadian Dragoons became the armoured car regiment of I Canadian Corps.

Commanding Officers

Date General Officer Commanding
17 Oct 1939 – 19 Jul 1940 Major General A.G.L. McNaughton, CB, CMG, DSO
20 Jul 1940 – 1 Sep 1942 Major General G.R. Pearkes, VC, DSO, MC
8 Sep 1942 – 29 Apr 1943 Major General H.L.N. Salmon, MC
29 Apr 1943 – 31 Oct 1943 Major General G.G. Simonds, CBE, DSO
1 Nov 1943 – 30 Nov 1944 Major General Christopher Vokes CBE, DSO
1 Dec 1944 – 15 Sep 1945 Major General H.W. Foster CBE, DSO



Cold War

A 1st Canadian Division Headquarters was reactivated twice during the Cold War, in 1954 (disbanding in 1958) and in November 1989 (disbanding in 1999).

The reformation in November 1989 followed the Canadian government's decision to end the Canadian Air-Sea Transportable Brigade Group (CAST) commitment to reinforce Northern Norway.[4] 5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, based in Quebec, was thus available for other tasks. The CAST rapid-reinforcement commitment had been encountering problems, most graphically demonstrated during Exercise Brave Lion in 1986, which prompted Canada to start formal consultations with NATO about consolidating the CAST Brigade and 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, based in southern Germany. The two separate forces would have meant critical logistical and medical support needs would have gone unmet in case of real war. The hole thus created by the removal of the CAST Brigade Group was filled, to a degree, by the creation of a NATO Composite Force (NCF) to which Canada promised a battalion group.

The headquarters was established, with both 4 Brigade and 5 Brigade under command, at Kingston, Ontario, with a forward detachment at Lahr in Germany where 4 Brigade was based. The main headquarters was intended to move gradually from Kingston to Lahr over a period of time, though this never, in the event, took place. With the division having only two brigades, it was assumed that in wartime, either a German or US brigade would be assigned to provide the necessary third manoeuvre element. Training and exercises were conducted with this in mind. Some changes were necessary to the two brigades, as 5 Brigade had only three-quarters of 4 Brigade's personnel and equipment.

As finally envisaged, the division would have had two brigades as its fighting formations, with the support organizations held at the divisional level. Once reinforcements had arrived from Canada, each brigade would have had one small armoured regiment (two squadrons, each 20 tanks), and two four-company infantry battalions. Divisional troops would have been a mix of former 4 Brigade and 5 Brigade units along with some troops from 1 Brigade Group in western Canada. 3rd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery was intended to have been re-equipped with the MLRS to provide general support, while a further engineer regiment, 6 Combat Engineer Regiment, was to have been formed. The Fort Garry Horse was also to have been re-formed to provide a divisional reconnaissance capability.

As it became obvious that the Soviet threat was disappearing in the early 1990s, the future options for Canadian forces in Europe were increasingly debated. While a battalion-sized remaining Canadian force was discussed, eventually it was decided that all Canadian land forces would leave Germany by 1994. With units disbanding around them, Division Headquarters (Forward) was repatriated to CFB Kingston on 13 June 1992, and at this time the two-brigade Germany existence of the 1st Division effectively ended.

Back in Kingston the division's aegis was reduced to two units; a new 1st Canadian Division HQ and Signals Regiment (which incorporated Division HQ) and the 1st Canadian Division Intelligence Company (1 Cdn Div Int Coy). Its new role was to be capable of deploying a land-based, Joint Task Force Headquarters at division level or a Joint Force Headquarters consisting of navy, army and air force personnel for territorial defence, contingencies and other missions including complex international scenarios. The Division HQ would train formation HQs, plan for contingencies and command assigned forces in crisis situations. The HQ had in priority, four roles operations, training, support and planning.

Headquarters 1st Canadian Division was transformed on 1 April 2000 into Canadian Forces Joint Headquarters and 1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment was united with 79 Communication Regiment to form the Canadian Forces Joint Signal Regiment. Both units, who remained headquartered in Kingston, were assigned as elements of Canadian Expeditionary Force Command as the deployable command headquarters for all large Canadian overseas deployments.


On 19 May 2010, Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk, announced that the Canadian Forces will once again stand up 1st Canadian Division at Kingston, Ontario. The role of 1st Canadian Division is to provide the Canadian Forces with a rapidly deployable joint command and control capacity in order to allow for a comprehensive approach to operations. Taking the place of the CFJHQ, 1st Cdn Div HQ will absorb those returning staff from the war in Afghanistan to ensure the hard-won lessons there are not lost to future generations of soldiers.

Headquarters 1st Canadian Division is part of the Canadian Army administratively and remains at Canadian Forces Base Kingston using existing infrastructure and base support. It is expected to reach full operational capability by 2012. Major-General David Fraser, former Commandant of the Canadian Forces College in Toronto and the first Canadian commander of the Multi-National Brigade (Regional Command (South)) in Afghanistan, was designated as the first commander of the newly reactivated 1st Canadian Division.

1st Cdn Div HQ officially was stood up on 7 October 2010 at Kingston, with Defence Minister Peter MacKay acting as the reviewing officer.[5]

Order of battle Current

External links


  1. Vimy Ridge: A Canadian Reassessment p38
  2. "Video: Allies Set For Offensive". Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  3. "1st Canadian Infantry Division". Canadian Soldiers. Retrieved August 9, 2012. 
  4. This section is primarily based on Sean M. Maloney, War Without Battles: Canada’s NATO Brigade in Germany 1951–1993, McGraw-Hill Ryerson Ltd, (Toronto,Montreal, and others) 1997.

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