3rd Canadian Division

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3rd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Infantry Division Patch (Modern Correct Pantone).png
3rd Canadian Division formation patch
Active
  • 1915–1919
  • 17 May 1940–23 November 1945
  • 1 June 1945–20 June 1946
  • 6 June 2014–present
Country Canada Canada
Branch Canadian Red Ensign 1868-1921.svg Canadian Expeditionary Force
Badge of the Canadian Army (lesser).png Canadian Army
Type Infantry
Nickname The Water Rats
Engagements
Commanders
Current
commander
Brigadier-General W.D. Eyre MSC, CD
Notable
commanders

The 3rd Canadian Division was first created as a formation of the Canadian Corps during the First World War. It was stood down following the war and reactivated as the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during the Second World War. The second iteration served from 1941 to 1945. A duplicate of the 3rd Canadian Division was formed in 1945 to serve on occupation duty in Germany, and was disbanded the following year. In 2013 Land Force Western Area, a peacetime military organization in western Canada, was ordered redesignated as 3rd Canadian Division. On 6 June 2014 the 3rd Canadian Division adopted the insignia, traditions and history of the previous formations.[1] From the middle of 1916 the division has been identified by a distinctive French-Grey patch worn on the uniforms of its soldiers.

History[edit]

First World War[edit]

The 3rd Canadian Division was formed in France in December 1915 under the command of Major-General Malcolm Mercer. Its members served in both France and Flanders until Armistice Day. While with 3rd Division at Ypres, Mercer became the highest-ranking Canadian officer killed in action during the First World War. On the same day, Brigadier V. A. Williams, commanding the 8th Infantry Brigade, became the highest-ranking Canadian officer captured in the First World War, also at the Battle of Mount Sorrel. Mercer was replaced by Louis Lipsett, who commanded the division until September 1918 shortly before he too was killed in action.[2]

Infantry units[edit]

7th Infantry Brigade:

8th Infantry Brigade:

9th Infantry Brigade: (Joined the Division in January 1916)

Pioneers:

  • 3rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion. January 8, 1916 – May 1917 (Disbanded);
  • 123rd Canadian Pioneer Battalion. March 1917 – June 1918. To the 3rd Canadian Engineer Brigade.[3]

Battles and engagements on the Western Front[edit]

1916:

1917:

1918:

Second World War[edit]

The formation of the division was authorized on 17 May 1940. There was then a considerable delay until the brigade and divisional headquarters were formed on 5 September, and the first divisional commander was appointed on 26 October.

While the division’s components were forming, The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa were detached and transferred to Iceland as part of Z Force. The battalion spent the winter of 1940–41 there before moving to the UK. The division's 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade and 9th Canadian Infantry Brigades began embarking as early as 1 July 1941 and arrived in the UK at the end of that month. The 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade embarked in August and arrived at the beginning of September. After its arrival, the division spent three uneventful years in garrison and training duties prior to the assault landing on Juno Beach in Normandy, as part of the British 2nd Army, later joining the newly formed 1st Canadian Army. Battle honours include Caen, Falaise, capturing the Channel ports, the Breskens pocket, and the final offensives of 1945. During the Battle of the Scheldt, the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division had the nickname of "Water Rats" bestowed upon them by General Bernard Montgomery, in recognition of the poor conditions of terrain through which they fought, first in the Normandy landings, and then in the flooded Breskens Pocket.[4]

Formation[edit]

Canadian soldiers headed for Juno Beach aboard LCAs
Canadian Soldiers landing on Juno beach from an LCA
Canadian Troops land at 'Nan White' Beach at Bernières-sur-Mer
Tanks and Régiment de la Chaudière moving along French village road, Normandy Beach head
Formation sign used to identify vehicles of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
  • Divisional Royal Canadian Artillery
    • 12th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA
    • 13th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA
    • 14th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA
    • 3rd Anti-tank Regiment, RCA
    • 4th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, RCA
  • Divisional Royal Canadian Engineers
    • 6th Field Company, RCE
    • 16th Field Company, RCE
    • 18th Field Company, RCE
    • 3rd Canadian Field Park Company, RCE
    • 3rd Canadian Divisional Bridge Platoon, RCE[5]

Juno Beach, D Day[edit]

Main article: Operation Overlord

Juno beach was five miles wide and stretched on either side of Courseulles-sur-Mer.

The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division with the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade under command landed in two brigade groups, the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade and the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. Each Brigade had three Infantry Battalions and an armoured regiment in support, 2 artillery field regiments, combat engineer companies and extra units from the 79th Armoured Division. The Fort Garry Horse tanks (10th Armoured Regiment) supported the 7th brigade landing on the left and the 1st Hussars tanks (6th Armoured Regiment) supported the landing on the right.

The 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade was kept in reserve and landed later that day and advanced through the lead brigades. The Sherbrooke Fusiliers tanks (27th Armoured Regiment) provided tank support.

The initial assault was carried out by:

North Shore Regiment on the left at St. Aubin (Nan Red beach)
Queen's Own Rifles in the centre at Bernières (Nan White beach)
Regina Rifles at Courseulles (Nan Green beach)
Royal Winnipeg Rifles on the western edge of Courseulles (Mike Red and Mike Green beaches)

Canadian air, land and sea forces suffered approximately 950 casualties on D-Day, the majority being soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Division.[6] By noon, the entire division was ashore and leading elements had pushed several kilometres inland to seize bridges over the Seulles River. By 6:00 pm they had captured the town of Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer. A 1st Hussars armoured troop reached its objective along with men of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada before nightfall, when both units moved 15 km inland and crossed the Caen-Bayeux highway.[7] However, this troop was forced to pull back because they had passed the supporting infantry. By the end of D-Day the division had penetrated farther into France than any other Allied force, though counter-attacks by elements of two German armoured divisions prevented further major gains for four weeks.

None of the assault divisions, including 3rd Canadian Division, had managed to secure their D-Day objectives, which lay inland, although the Canadians came closer than any other Allied formation.[8]

By the end of the next day, the Canadian forces had linked up with the British forces that had landed at Sword Beach.

Members of the 3rd Infantry Division with a starving prisoner liberated from a Nazi concentration camp in 1945.
Time line Juno Beach[edit]
  • 6 June 1944
    • 05:35 German shore batteries open fire; Allied naval forces, now massed along entire Normandy coast, begin bombardment.
    • 06:30 Assault on beaches starts. 3rd Canadian Division landing on Juno made more difficult by strong current. Delay allows Germans to mount strong defence. Objective: advance inland and join troops from British beaches.
    • 07:00 German radio broadcasts first report of landing.
    • 08:30 48 Commando lands at St Aubin, Juno Beach and heads east. Beach clearance difficult due to high tides and rough seas.
    • 09:00 General Eisenhower issues communiqué announcing start of invasion.
    • 09:35 Canadian 8th Brigade liberates Bernières.
    • 11:12 After fierce fire fight, 7th Brigade secures Juno exit at Courseulles. But congestion as Canadian 9th Brigade arrives.
    • 11:20 Canadians capture Tailleville, Banville and St Croix.
    • 12:00 As Winston Churchill reports landings to House of Commons, Further landings on Juno. Langrune captured by Juno troops.
    • 13:35 German 352nd Division wrongly advises HQ that Allied assault repulsed. Message not corrected until 18.00.
    • 14:15 All Canadian 3rd Division now ashore on Juno. Rapid advances start: troops link with those from Gold.
    • 18:00 3rd Canadian Div, North Nova Scotia Highlanders reach three miles inland. 1st Hussar tanks cross Caen-Bayeux railway, 10 miles inland. Canadian Scottish link with 50th Division at Creully.
    • 20:00 Canadians from Juno Beach reach Villons les Buissons, seven miles inland. Attack by 21st Panzers reach coast between Sword and Juno at Luc-sur-Mer.
    • 22:00 Rommel returns to HQ from Germany. Montgomery sails for France.

Juno Beach: 21,400 troops landed, with fewer than 1,000 casualties. Aim of capturing Carpiquet airfield not achieved. No link yet with Sword forces.[9]

Fighting in Normandy[edit]

The 3rd Division served extensively in the Battle of Normandy as a component firstly of the I British Corps and later under the command of II Canadian Corps. On D+1 units of the division became the first among the Allies to secure their D-Day objectives. The villages of Authie and Carpiquet both saw heavy fighting between the Canadians and German defenders of the 12th SS Panzer Division Hitlerjugend. Over the course of five days the 12th SS launched a series of counter-attacks in an attempt to crush the Canadian bridgehead and throw them back into the sea. After five days the 12th SS had lost a third of their armoured strength and were forced to retire in the face of stubborn resistance, Allied naval gunfire and aerial superiority. On 4 July the 3rd Canadian Division, along with the British 3rd and 59th Divisions supported by the 79th Armoured Division launched Operation Windsor, and captured the Carpiquet Airfield and the surrounding areas from the 12th SS after several hours of confused and hard fighting. On 8 July the Division participated in Operation Charnwood, the Second Army's final advance on the northern parts of Caen. Once again the Canadians excelled and captured all their objectives after suffering, once again, heavy casualties.

On 18 July Operation Atlantic was launched, the Canadian advance which would coincide with Operation Goodwood, happening further east by British forces in the area south of Caen. The 2nd and 3rd Canadian Divisions supported by integral armour support advanced towards Caen, one of the objectives being the village of Colombelles and the surrounding hills. This village and the surrounding area was defended by the battle-proven 21st Panzer Division. After several hours of confused fighting on the 18th and the 19th the Germans were forced back from the outskirts of the town and pushed back over the river Orne. The 3rd Canadian Division continued the advance on the 20th and the lead units came under heavy machine-gun and small arms fire from a chateau close to Colombelles. The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, with support from the 17th Duke of York's Royal Canadian Hussars pushed forward once again despite heavy casualties and captured the heavily fortified village of Gibberville. The rest of the Division captured Colombelles through the course of the day. The Canadians were then faced with the formidable German defensive positions on the Verrières Ridge, were the German SS troops had created excellent field fortifications and deployed hundreds of field artillery, Nebelwerfers and dug numbers of trenches and foxholes for defence. The 2nd Canadian Division's 4th and 6th Brigades assaulted the ridge, but suffered heavy losses and were forced to fall back. The attack went in during heavy rain which turned the ground to mud and bogged down the Canadian armoured support and kept the Hawker Typhoon fighter-bomber support from the RAF from showing up. After the failed attack, troops from both the 2nd and 12th SS Panzer Division counter-attacked, and only with support from the 3rd Canadian Division's 8th Brigade did they manage to beat the Germans back.

The original Cross erected for religious services in the New Forest, Southern England, by men of the 3rd Canadian Division. It is now maintained as a war memorial by local people and the UK Forestry Commission. The bronze plate at the foot of the Cross is inscribed "ON THIS SITE A CROSS WAS ERECTED TO THE GLORY OF GOD ON 14th APRIL 1944. SERVICES WERE HELD HERE UNTIL D-DAY BY MEN OF THE 3rd CANADIAN DIVISION RCASC." Its location is shown here by WikiMapia [1]
The bronze plate is shown here [2] and here [3]

Meanwhile the British 3rd Division faced considerable resistance and advanced only with great cost of life. Tiger tanks from the 503rd Scwhere Panzer Abteilung (503rd Heavy Armour Battalion) caused ferocious losses among the British armour support. The British 7th Armoured Division, 11th Armoured Division and Guards Armoured Division faced opposition from the 1st and 12th SS Panzer Divisions and suffered heavy losses.

The offensive continued for two more days before the Allied offensive ground to a halt in face of stiffening German resistance. The German Panzer Divisions in the area had been bled completely dry, losing a staggering amount of tanks and men, which could not be easily replaced. Two days later, on 25 July, the American First Army launched Operation Cobra, since there were no German panzer divisions to stop them, all of the available panzer units being sent to stop the British/Canadian advance. The 3rd Canadian Division and the other units involved in the offensive were allowed to catch their breath and they dug in, expecting a German counter-attack which never came.

Commanders[edit]

Duplicate division (Canadian Army Occupation Force) 1945-1946[edit]

In 1945 the 3rd Canadian Division, Canadian Army Occupation Force (CAOF) was created, based on the organization of the 3rd Infantry Division. The component units of the new division were named after the units of the existing 3rd Infantry Division. The formation was formed on the organizational structure of a standard infantry division and supplied units as part of Canada's commitment to postwar European reconstruction. The occupation force served in Germany until relieved by the 52nd (Lowland) Division of the British Army on 15 May 1946. Authorization for units to disband came under General Order 162/46 and 201/46, and headquarters was disbanded by General Order 283/46, effective 20 June 1946.[10]

Land Forces Western Area and reactivation[edit]

Land Forces Western Area was created on 1 September 1991, taking command of what was previously Prairie Militia Area, Pacific Militia Area, and the Regular Force Army units and formations in western Canada from the northern lakehead region of Ontario to the Pacific Ocean. At that point in time, the Militia Areas ceased to exist, and the seven subordinate Militia Districts were reorganised into four: British Columbia District, Alberta District, Saskatchewan District, and Manitoba-Lakehead District.[11]

Later that decade, the four reserve force districts were again reorganized into three Canadian Brigade Groups.

In 2013, LFWA received instructions to redesignate itself as 3rd Canadian Division. The change officially took place on 6 June 2014, the 70th anniversary of the division's landing in Normandy. With this change of name, the formation was also granted the identifying patch and historical lineage of the division that fought in the two world wars.[12]

3rd Canadian Division Current Organization[edit]

Structure of the 3rd Canadian Division

3rd Canadian Division comprises one Regular Force Mechanized Brigade Group, three Reserve Force Brigade Groups, one Division Support Group, one Division Training Centre, a Canadian Ranger Patrol Group, an Intelligence Company and a Military Police Regiment:

There are also five units that are under direct command of 3rd Canadian Division that do not operate under the four brigade groups and the one area support group. They are:

1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group[edit]

1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group is a Regular Force brigade group based out of CFB Edmonton.

1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group CFB Edmonton
1 CMBG Headquarters & Signal Squadron CFB Edmonton
1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery Artillery CFB Shilo
Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) Armoured CFB Edmonton
1 Combat Engineer Regiment Combat engineers CFB Edmonton
1st Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Mechanized infantry CFB Edmonton
2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Mechanized infantry CFB Shilo
3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Light infantry CFB Edmonton
1 Service Battalion Logistic Service and Support CFB Edmonton

3rd Canadian Division Support Group[edit]

3rd Division Support Group is headquartered out of CFB Edmonton. The Support Group is responsible for providing service and support to the units of 3rd Canadian Division.

3rd Canadian Division Support Group Headquarters CFB Edmonton
CFB/ASU Edmonton
CFB/ASU Shilo
CFB Suffield
CFB/ASU Wainwright
Royal Canadian Artillery Band

38 Canadian Brigade Group[edit]

38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG) is a Reserve Force brigade group based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It's composed of units in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and eastwards into Ontario to Thunder Bay, Ontario.

38 Canadian Brigade Group Winnipeg
38 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters Winnipeg
The Saskatchewan Dragoons Armoured reconnaissance Moose Jaw
The Fort Garry Horse Armoured reconnaissance Winnipeg
10th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA Artillery Regina and Yorkton
26th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA Artillery Brandon and Portage la Prairie
116th Independent Field Battery, RCA Artillery Kenora
38 Combat Engineer Regiment Combat engineers Saskatoon, Winnipeg
38 Signals Regiment Communications Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Light infantry Winnipeg
The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment Light infantry Thunder Bay
The North Saskatchewan Regiment Light infantry Saskatoon and Prince Albert
The Royal Regina Rifles Light infantry Regina
The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada Light infantry Winnipeg
38 Service Battalion Service and support Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Thunder Bay

39 Canadian Brigade Group[edit]

39 Canadian Brigade Group (39 CBG) is a Primary Reserve brigade group based out of Vancouver, BC. All of the units of the brigade are from the province of British Columbia.

39 Canadian Brigade Group Vancouver
39 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters Vancouver
The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own) Armoured reconnaissance Vancouver
The British Columbia Dragoons Armoured reconnaissance Kelowna and Vernon
5th (British Columbia) Field Artillery Regiment, RCA Artillery Victoria and Nanaimo
15th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA Artillery Vancouver and Aldergrove
39 Combat Engineer Regiment Combat engineers Vancouver, Chilliwack and Trail
39 Signal Regiment Communications Vancouver, Victoria and Nanaimo
The Rocky Mountain Rangers Light infantry Kamloops
The Royal Westminster Regiment Light infantry New Westminster and Aldergrove
The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Light infantry Vancouver
The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) Light infantry Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox
39 Service Battalion Service and support Richmond and Victoria

41 Canadian Brigade Group[edit]

41 Canadian Brigade Group (41 CBG) is a Reserve Force brigade group based out of Calgary, Alberta. The units forming the brigade group are from the province of Alberta, as well as a company based out of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories.

41 Canadian Brigade Group Calgary
41 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters Calgary
The South Alberta Light Horse Armoured reconnaissance Edmonton and Medicine Hat
The King's Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) Armoured reconnaissance Calgary
20th Field Artillery Regiment, RCA Artillery Edmonton and Red Deer
20th Independent Field Battery, RCA Artillery Lethbridge
41 Combat Engineer Regiment Combat engineers Calgary and Edmonton
41 Signal Regiment Communications Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (4th Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry) Light infantry Edmonton and Yellowknife
The Calgary Highlanders Light infantry Calgary
41 Service Battalion Service and support Calgary and Edmonton

Insignia[edit]

Major General Louis Lipsett, General Officer Commanding 3rd Canadian Division, photographed in 1918. The "battle patch" of the 3rd Division is clearly visible on the sleeve of his uniform.

In August 1916 individual battalions of the Canadian Corps were ordered to wear a distinguishing patch to better provide command and control in battle. Battalions were represented by a series of coloured geometric patches that corresponded to their seniority within the brigades of the overseas divisions of the Corps. These shapes were sewn over top of a rectangle 3-inches wide by 2-inches tall which was also colour coded by division, and worn on the upper rear of each soldier's uniform jacket and greatcoat, just below the collar. The location was quickly moved from the collar to the sleeve. The 3rd Division was originally ordered to wear white patches, followed ten days later by an order changing the colour to black and the location. In May 1917 the commander of the 3rd Division published a Routine Order stating that because the black patches were too difficult to see, French Grey was to be worn instead.[13]

During the Second World War, the patch was revived in 1941.[14] The 3rd Canadian Division, CAOF wore a French-Grey patch with a 1/2-inch wide French-Grey bar added horizontally underneath the division patch to distinguish it from the war service 3rd Division.[15]

In 2014 the revived 3rd Canadian Division adopted a French-Grey formation patch. After much debate, Pantone Grey 535C was adopted. [16] The colour of the Pantone is actually "Blue Fog" and was arrived at by comparison to artifacts in various historical exhibits. The colour was approved by the Directorate of History and Heritage, a sub-group of the Department of National Defence.[17]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Cox, Elise "Small patch carries huge honour for 3 Cdn Div" The Western Sentinel 19 June 2014
  2. ^ 3rd Canadian Division page at canadiansoldiers.com
  3. ^ a b c d e f g 3rd Canadian Division retrieved November 20, 2007
  4. ^ canadiansoldiers.com page on 3rd Canadian Infantry Division
  5. ^ [Tonner, Mark W. On Active Service (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON) ISBN 1-894581-44-X]
  6. ^ canadiansoldiers.com page on the Normandy Landings
  7. ^ Martin, CC Battle Diary, p.16
  8. ^ Graves, Donald E. Century of Service
  9. ^ "The longest day". The Independent (London). 6 June 2004. Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  10. ^ Falconer, D.W. Battery Flashes of W.W. II (D.W. Falconer, 1985) ISBN 0-9691865-0-9 pp.365-367
  11. ^ "Domestic Military Organization 1900-1999". Canadian Soldiers.com. 22 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Cox, Elise "Small patch carries huge honour for 3 Cdn Div" The Western Sentinel 19 June 2014
  13. ^ Law, Clive M. Distinguishing Patches (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2nd ed. 2008.) ISBN 978-1-894581-50-9 pp.5-6
  14. ^ Dorosh, Michael A. Dressed to Kill (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2001. ISBN 1-894581-07-5) pp.53-54
  15. ^ Law, Clive M. Distinguishing Patches (Service Publications, Ottawa, ON, 2nd ed. 2008.) ISBN 978-1-894581-50-9 p.46
  16. ^ "Restoring Canadian Army Identity SITREP 04 - 28 April 2014"
  17. ^ Western Sentinel article accessed online 11 Sep 2014

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]