The First Contingent of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was raised in August 1914, shortly after the outbreak of World War I, 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 Edwin 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 British 29th 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 used to form the Canadian Training Depot, ultimately being re-designated as "Reserve" Battalions. The 10th Battalion replaced the 6th Battalion (Fort Garrys), which 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. 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 Lieutenant-General Sir Douglas Haig's British First 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 over 19,000 British soldiers killed and 38,000 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. The Battle of 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. The Armistice of 11 November 1918 finally brought the Great 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.
1st Canadian Brigade:1st Canadian Battalion (Ontario Regiment), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;
2nd Canadian Battalion (Eastern Ontario Regiment), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;
3rd Canadian Battalion (Toronto Regiment), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;
4th (Central Ontario) Battalion, CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918.
2nd Canadian Brigade:5th Battalion (Western Cavalry), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;
6th Battalion (Fort Garrys), CEF. August 1914 – December 1914 (Became Canadian Cavalry Depot);
7th Canadian Battalion (1st British Columbia), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;
8th Canadian Infantry Battalion (90th Regiment), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918;
10th Battalion (Canadians), CEF. January 1915 – November 11, 1918.
3rd Canadian Brigade:13th Battalion (Royal Highlanders of Canada), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918.
14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918.
15th Battalion (48th Highlanders of Canada), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918.
16th Canadian Battalion (The Canadian Scottish), CEF. August 1914 – November 11, 1918.
4th Canadian Brigade:The brigade was dispersed in January 1915.
9th Battalion, CEF. August 1914 – January 1915. To the Canadian Training Depot.
10th Battalion (Canadians), CEF. August 1914 – January 1915. To the 2nd Canadian Brigade.
11th Battalion, CEF. August 1914 – January 1915. To the Canadian Training Depot.
12th Battalion, CEF. August 1914 – January 1915. To the Canadian Training Depot.
Pioneers: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:17th Battalion, CEF. August 1914 – January 1915. To the Canadian Training Depot.
18th Battalion Canadian Infantry. August 1914 – September 1914. Disbanded.
Newfoundland Companies. October 1914 – December 1914. Left the division and was made up to battalion strength. The Newfoundland Regiment then joined the British 29th Division in September 1915.
Second Battle of Ypres
Battle of Gravenstafel—April 22–23
Battle of St. Julien—April 24 – May 4 (see also Saint Julien Memorial)
Battle of Festubert—May 15–25
Second Battle of Givenchy—June 15–16
1916:Battle of Mount Sorrel—June 2–13
Battle of the Somme
Battle of Flers-Courcelette—September 15–22
Battle of Thiepval—September 26–28
Battle of Le Transloy—October 1–18
Battle of the Ancre Heights—October 1 – November 11
1917:Battle of Vimy Ridge—April 9–14
Battle of Arleux—April 28–29
Third Battle of the Scarpe—May 3–4 (including the capture of Fresnoy)
Battle of Hill 70—August 15–25
Second Battle of Passchendaele—October 26 – November 10
1918:Battle of Amiens—August 8–11
Actions round Damery—August 15–17
Battle of the Scarpe—August 26–30
Battle of Drocourt-Quéant—September 2–3
Battle of the Canal du Nord—September 27 – October 1
Battle of Cambrai—October 8–9
The division was remobilized in September 1939, now designated as the 1st Canadian Infantry Division, before Canada's formal entrance into the Second World War, alongside both the 2nd and 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisions. The division, under the command of Major General Andrew McNaughton, left Halifax from Pier 21 in two heavily escorted convoys, the first departing on December 10, three months after the declaration of war, and the second on December 22, 1939, with additional troops reaching England in 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 disastrous Battle of France and the withdrawal of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) during the Dunkirk evacuation in May 1940, the 1st Canadian Division was ordered to France the following month. Among the infantry units that landed at Brest were The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), The 48th Highlanders of Canada and The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment, all part of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade. Members of the RCR were present in France at least until 16 June, after the French capital of Paris had fallen to German forces, and returned almost immediately after. The 48th's withdrawal was not without some excitement.
The division returned to England, where it became the only fully equipped and trained force for the defense of England in the case of a German invasion. Soon afterwards Major General McNaughton was promoted to command of the British VII Corps (later designated the Canadian Corps) and was succeeded by Major General George Pearkes.
The division transferred to the Mediterranean theatre in June 1943 where the division, now under the command of Major General Guy Simonds after Major General Harry Salmon (who had taken command in September 1942) was killed in an air crash, took part in Operation Husky, codename for the Allied assault landing on Sicily on 10 July 1943, which ended after just 38 days. The division came under command of the British XXX Corps, serving alongside the veteran 51st (Highland) Division, part of the British Eighth Army, commanded by General Sir Bernard Montgomery. The campaign cost the division over 2,100 casualties.
Soon after the conquest of Sicily, the division transferred to the British XIII Corps, but now serving alongside the British 5th Infantry Division (which had also fought in Husky), then landed in Calabria as part of Operation Baytown on the Italian mainland and fought its way up the Italian peninsula, participating in the Moro River Campaign and the division, now under Major General Chris Vokes, supported by tanks of the 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, took part in the Battle of Ortona, fighting against German Fallschirmjäger–crack air force paratroops of the 1st Parachute Division–over Christmas 1943. Both sides suffered heavy losses in the fight for the town which a reporter for The New York Times had begun calling a "miniature Stalingrad", based on the ferocity of the street fighting and the heavy losses on both sides, with the Canadians suffering 650 casualties, mainly in the 3rd Brigade. By December 27, what remained of Ortona, after days of shelling and aerial bombardment, was in Canadian hands.
After this the division was rested and many months of static warfare ensued, the division then went on to break out of the Eighth Army's bridgehead with the second wave in the spring offensive, Operation Diadem, the Fourth Battle of Monte Cassino. The 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, the reconnaissance (or 'recce') regiment serving with the 1st Canadian Division, was the first of the Eighth Army's units to cross the Hitler Line in May 1944, below Pontecorvo in its armoured cars.
After heavy fighting in front of the Gothic Line throughout the summer, the 1st Canadian Infantry 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. By the end of March 1945 all Canadian Army units serving with Allied Forces Mediterranean (formerly the Allied Armies in Italy) had been transferred to the Western Front and Operation Goldflake, the reunion of the 1st Infantry Division and 1st Armoured Brigade and First Canadian Army, commanded by Lieutenant-General Harry Crerar, was accomplished. The division, now under Major General Harry Foster, went on to take part in the Western Allied invasion of Germany, and the liberation of Arnhem, and the war in Europe came to an end soon after, on 8 May 1945, Victory in Europe Day.
Two members of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division were awarded the Victoria Cross during the Second World War. They were Captain Paul Triquet of the Royal 22e Régiment and Private Ernest Smith of the Seaforth Highlanders of Canada.
HQ1st Canadian Infantry Division Defence and Employment Platoon (Lorne Scots)
Royal Canadian Armoured Corps4th Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards)
Royal Canadian Artillery1st 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 CorpsThe Saskatoon Light Infantry (M.G.) – Machine gun battalion
1st Canadian Infantry Brigade:
The Royal Canadian Regiment
The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment
48th Highlanders of Canada
1st Canadian Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)
2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade:
Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada
The Loyal Edmonton Regiment
2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)
3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade:
Royal 22e Régiment
The Carleton and York Regiment
The West Nova Scotia Regiment
3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon (Lorne Scots)
1st Canadian Armoured Brigade11th Armoured Regiment (The Ontario Regiment)
12th Armoured Regiment (Three Rivers Regiment)
14th Armoured Regiment (The Calgary Regiment)
Royal Canadian Corps of Signals1st Canadian Divisional Signals
Royal Canadian Engineers1st Canadian Field Company
3rd Canadian Field Company
4th Canadian Field Company
2nd Canadian Field Park Company
1st Canadian Bridging Platoon
Royal Canadian Army Service Corps1 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 CorpsNo. 4 Canadian Field Ambulance
No. 5 Canadian Field Ambulance
No. 9 Canadian Field Ambulance
No. 2 Canadian Field Hygiene Section
No. 2 Canadian Light Field Ambulance – originally a part of 1st Canadian Armoured Brigade, joined in 1943.
Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps1st 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 Engineers1st Canadian Infantry Brigade Workshop
2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade Workshop
3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade Workshop
No. 1 Infantry Troops Workshop
Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps1st Canadian Field Cash Office
Royal Canadian Postal Corps1 Canadian Infantry Division Postal Unit
Royal Canadian Dental Corps1st Canadian Dental Company
Canadian Provost CorpsNo. 1 Provost Company
In July 1944, the divisional reconnaissance battalion, the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, converted to infantry and transferred to the 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.Italian Campaign
Allied invasion of Sicily
Allied invasion of Italy
The Moro River
The Western Front
Liberation of the Netherlands
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. 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. Although during NATO command post exercises a divisional order of battle was used that nominally included the 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group as the third Maneuver brigade, field training and exercises were conducted with this notion in mind. Some changes were necessary to the two brigades, as 5 Brigade had only three-quarters of 4 Brigade’s personnel and equipment 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 Canadian Mechanized 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 finally envisaged CENTAG wartime structure in 1989, the division was assigned to the Central Army Group Commander's tactical reserve, performing operations in support of either II (German) Corps or VII US Corps.
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 presence of the 1st Division in Germany 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.1 Canadian Division (Forward), Canadian Forces Base Lahr, FRG1st Canadian Division Headquarters and Signal Regiment, CFB Lahr
1st Canadian Division Intelligence Company, CFB Lahr
4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, CFB Lahr
4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron, CFB Lahr
8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's), CFB Lahr (77× Leopard C1, 20× Lynx, 36× M113, 2× M577, 6× Bergepanzer)
1st Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, CFB Lahr (2× M577, 65× M113, 11× Lynx, 18× M113 TUA with TOW, 24× M125 with a 81mm mortar)
3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, CFB Baden-Söllingen (2× M577, 65× M113, 11× Lynx, 18× M113 TUA with TOW, 24× M125 with a 81mm mortar)
1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, CFB Lahr, (2× M577, 26× M109A4, 46× M113, 24× M548
4 Combat Engineer Regiment, CFB Lahr (2× M577, 9× Badger AEV, 14× M113, 6× M548, 6× Biber bridgelayer)
444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (detached from 1 Canadian Air Division), CFB Lahr (CH136 Kiowa, UH1N)
4 Service Battalion, CFB Lahr (4× M113, 2× Bergepanzer, 6× MTV-R)
4 Field Ambulance, CFB Lahr
4 Military Police Platoon, CFB Lahr
127th Air Defence Battery (detached from 4th Air Defence Regiment, Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery), CFB Lahr (12× ADATS, 15× Javelin, 5× M113)
5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, CFB Valcartier
5 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group Headquarters and Signal Squadron
12e Régiment blindé du Canada, (38× Cougar, 23× Lynx)
2nd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, (48× Grizzly, 11× Lynx)
2nd Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment, (48× Grizzly, 11× Lynx)
3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment, (48× Grizzly, 11× Lynx)
5e Régiment d'artillerie légère du Canada, (2× M577, 25× M109A4, 46× M113, 24× M548)
5 Combat Engineer Regiment
430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron, (CH136 Kiowa, UH1N)
5 Service Battalion
5 Field Ambulance
5 Military Police Platoon
On 19 May 2010, Chief of the Defence Staff, General Walt Natynczyk, announced that the Canadian Forces would once again stand up the 1st Canadian Division at Kingston, Ontario. The role of 1st Canadian Division upon reactivation was 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 was reactivated by absorbing personnel returning from the war in Afghanistan to ensure the retention of operational experience and lessons.
1st Cdn Div HQ officially was stood up on 7 October 2010 at Kingston, with Defence Minister Peter MacKay acting as the reviewing officer. Headquarters 1st Canadian Division is part of the Canadian Army administratively and remains at Canadian Forces Base Kingston using existing infrastructure and base support. Upon reactivation, it was 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.
On 1 April 2015, 1st Canadian Division was transferred from the Canadian Army to Canadian Joint Operations Command.1st Canadian Division Headquarters
4 Engineer Support Regiment
4th Air Defence Regiment, RCA
21 Electronic Warfare Regiment