Nickname(s) The Water Rats
17 May 1940 – 23 November 1945
1 June 1945 – 20 June 1946
6 June 2014 – present|
Branch Canadian Expeditionary Force Canadian Army
Engagements Battle of the Somme Battle of Vimy Ridge Battle of Passchendaele D-Day, Juno Beach Battle of Normandy The Scheldt
The 3rd Canadian Division is a formation of the Canadian Army. It was first created as a formation of the Canadian Corps during the First World War. It was stood down following the war and was later reactivated as the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division during the Second World War. The second iteration served with distinction from 1941 to 1945, taking part in the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944. 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 to be redesignated as 3rd Canadian Division. On 6 June 2014, the 3rd Canadian Division adopted the insignia, traditions and history of the previous formations. From the middle of 1916, the division has been identified by a distinctive French-Grey patch worn on the uniforms of its soldiers.
- First World War
- Infantry units
- Battles and engagements on the Western Front
- Second World War
- Juno Beach, D Day
- Fighting in Normandy
- Duplicate division (Canadian Army Occupation Force) 1945–1946
- Land Forces Western Area and reactivation
- 3rd Canadian Division current organization
- 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group
- 3rd Canadian Division Support Group
- 38 Canadian Brigade Group
- 39 Canadian Brigade Group
- 41 Canadian Brigade Group
First World War
The 3rd Canadian Division was formed in France in December 1915 under the command of Major-General Malcolm Mercer. Its members served in France and Flanders until Armistice Day. While with the 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 on 14 October 1918, while commander of British 4th Division. Major-General Frederick Loomis closed out World War I as the commander.
7th Infantry Brigade:
8th Infantry Brigade:
9th Infantry Brigade: (Joined the Division in January 1916)
Battles and engagements on the Western Front
Second World War
The formation of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was authorized during the Second World War 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 was detached and transferred to Iceland as part of Z Force. The battalion spent the winter of 1940–41 there, then moved to the United Kingdom. The division's 8th and 9th Canadian Infantry Brigades began embarking as early as 1 July 1941 and arrived in the United Kingdom 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 on D-Day, 6 June 1944, as part of the British Second Army, later joining the newly formed First Canadian Army. Battle honours include Caen, Falaise, clearing 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 Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery, commanding 21st Army Group, in recognition of the poor conditions of terrain through which they fought, first in the Normandy landings, and then in the flooded Breskens Pocket.
Juno Beach, D Day
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, two artillery field regiments, combat engineer companies and extra units from the British 79th Armoured Division. The 10th Armoured Regiment (The Fort Garry Horse) tanks supported the 7th Brigade landing on the left and the 6th Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars) tanks 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 27th Armoured Regiment (The Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment) provided tank support.
The initial assault was carried out by:
Canadian air, land and sea forces suffered approximately 950 casualties on D-Day, the majority being soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Division. 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. 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. Indeed, The Queen's Own Rifles of the 8th Brigade were the only Allied battalion to capture their D-Day objective.
By the end of the next day, the Canadian forces had linked up with the British forces that had landed at Sword Beach.
Time line Juno Beach
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.
Fighting in Normandy
The 3rd Canadian Infantry Division served extensively in the Battle of Normandy as a component firstly of I British Corps and later under the command of II Canadian Corps. On D-Day+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. 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. The attacks cost the 12th a third of their armoured strength and they were forced to retire in the face of stubborn resistance, Allied naval gunfire and aerial superiority. On 4 July 1944, the 3rd Canadian Division, along with the British 3rd and 59th Infantry Divisions and supported by elements of the 79th Armoured Division launched Operation Windsor, capturing the Carpiquet Airfield and the surrounding areas from the 12th SS after several hours of confused and hard fighting. On 8 July, the 3rd Canadian Division participated in Operation Charnwood, the British 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 that 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 3rd 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 SS troops had created excellent field fortifications and deployed hundreds of field artillery pieces, 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 Royal Air Force from showing up. After the failed attack, troops from both the 2nd and 12th SS Panzer Division counter-attacked; it was only with support from the 3rd Canadian Division's 8th Brigade that they managed to beat the Germans back.
Meanwhile, the British 3rd Infantry Division faced considerable resistance and advanced only with great cost of life. Tiger tanks from the 503rd Schwere Panzer Abteilung (503rd Heavy Armour Battalion) caused ferocious losses among the British armour support. The 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 United States First Army launched Operation Cobra, since there were no German panzer divisions to stop them as nearly 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.
On 5 September 1944, 3rd overran the Fortress of Mimoyecques, revealing the infrastructure for the unknown V-3 cannon destroyed by the Tallboy bombs.
Duplicate division (Canadian Army Occupation Force) 1945–1946
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) Infantry 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.
Land Forces Western Area and reactivation
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 between Lake Superior and 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.
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.
3rd Canadian Division current organization
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 (they do not operate under any of the four brigade groups nor the one area support group). They are:
1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group
1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group is a Regular Force brigade group based out of CFB Edmonton.
3rd Canadian Division Support Group
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.
38 Canadian Brigade Group
38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG) is a Reserve Force brigade group based out of Winnipeg, Manitoba. It is composed of units in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and eastwards into Ontario to Thunder Bay, Ontario.
39 Canadian Brigade Group
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.
41 Canadian Brigade Group
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.
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 (7.6 cm) wide by 2 inches (5.1 cm) 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.
The patch was revived in 1941. The 3rd Canadian Division, CAOF, wore a French grey patch with a 1⁄2-inch (1.3 cm)-wide French grey bar added horizontally underneath the division patch to distinguish it from the war service 3rd Division.
In 2014, the revived 3rd Canadian Division adopted a French grey formation patch. After much debate, Pantone Grey 535C was adopted. The Pantone colour 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.