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4th Canadian Armoured Division

Canadian Sherman V

4th Canadian Armoured Division

Canada

By Stuart Elle 

The 4th Canadian Armoured Division began with the mobilization of the 4th Canadian Infantry Division in September 1940. It was not until 26 January 1942 that 4 CAD was officially formed along with 2 Canadian Army Tank Brigade. The division had two armoured brigades, the 3rd and 4th. Major-General F F Worthington was appointed General Officer Commanding, but did not take formal command of the division until 8 March after he returned from England. 

(Worthy, as he was often called, was the driving force behind the establishment of the Canadian Armoured Corps.)

The immediate problem was that not a single member of the division knew anything about tanks, nor did they even possess a tank. The only place that had tanks was the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicle Centre at CFB Borden. A group of division personnel were sent to Borden to train as instructors in February so that they could begin to train the rest of the division.

In the mean time, Worthy returned from England to find 165 Ram II tanks sitting on the docks waiting to be shipped overseas. 

RAM Mark I
RAM Mark OP tank

A trip to Ottawa was made where Worthy persuaded the Master General of the Ordnance to let him have some of the tanks, and arrangements were made to have 65 Rams sent to the division.

These arrived in early May minus their 6-pounder guns, but none of the people sent to Borden to train had returned. It fell to Worthy and one of his staff officers to unload the rail cars. Some time later the division acquired four Ram II with 6-pounders when Worthy spotted them on rail cars headed to Halifax and talked the station master into putting one of the flat cars on a siding.

An intensive training schedule ensued with two shifts until early June to cover driving and maintenance, and to learn to control and fire the 6-pounder.

No regiment had more than fifteen tanks, so each squadron took turns operating an actual tank while the remainder did dismounted drills with wooden H’s made of 2” x 2” lumber. 

The enthusiasm that Worthy created within the division allowed it to complete the transformation from an infantry division to an armoured division in less than five months. The majority of the division sailed for Britain in August and September 1942 to continue training. While the division arrived in Britain with better training than previous Canadian units, there was still a lot of work to do before the division was ready for combat.

4th Canadian Armoured Division Sherman tanks
Firefly in Holland

Britain

On 11 January 1943 the lessons learned by the British about the lack of tank-infantry cooperation in North Africa lead to the reorganisation of the division and assignment to the newly formed II Canadian Corps. 

As part of II Canadian Corps, the division joined the Corps Recce Regiment (12th Manitoba Dragoons), 2nd Infantry Division, 3rd Infantry Division, and the ad hoc 3rd Army Tank Brigade formed from unassigned armoured regiments orphaned by the reorganisation.

Two regiments from the 3rd Canadian Armoured Brigade stayed with the 4th Canadian Armoured Division.

The South Alberta Regiment (SAR) became the division’s Reconnaissance Regiment, and the British Columbia Regiment replaced the Sherbrooke Fusiliers Regiment, which joined the 3rd Army Tank Brigade. The 10 Infantry Brigade was assigned to the division.

By the end of February all the regiments had their full complement of Ram II tanks and Universal Carriers, and by May had reached a level of tactical proficiency sufficient to under- take two major exercises on the South Downs.

The South Albertas were exercised in the role of armoured recce regiment as division advanced guard and rearguard in June and early July.

Exercise Bridoon started on 2 November with the division pitted against the 9th British Armoured Division to practice the meeting engagement. Led by the South Albertas the division would make a rapid advance of 25 kilometres to seize the objective before the ‘enemy’ got there. Worthy even engaged in some deception when the British obtained a fake operation order. When the exercise began the division raced to the objective, and nearly half of the British tanks were ‘destroyed’ within the first 24 hours. Even after the British complained of the Canadian’s methods, and the referees granted a restart, the result was much the same. Oddly enough, this was the last major field exercise conducted by the division.

Canadian Sherman
Divisional Command Sherman V

Training during the period January to March 1944 was directed to focus on tank-infantry cooperation, but this was limited to training conducted by the SAR and 10 Infantry Brigade. February saw the arrival of the first operational Sherman 75mm, so training for most of the division focused on crew conversion to the new tanks. The lack of tank-infantry training would show in Normandy where some hard lessons were learned.

Along with new equipment the division also had a new commanding officer.

Major-General Worthington was relieved of command on 29 February and replaced by Major-General George Kitching, who had recently returned to England from Italy.

March 1944 included a final bit of restructuring when General Montgomery ordered the conversion of all armoured reconnaissance regiments in 21 Army Group to standard armoured regiment organisation. Thus, the South Albertas retained ‘Honey’ Stuarts only in the regimental HQ recce troop. At this time the SAR was also permanently placed under the command of 10 Infantry Brigade. ‘Firefly’ Shermans were also added to each troop, but the division did not receive a full complement until September. A troop of Crusader anti-aircraft tanks also joined the armoured regiments.

The division was ordered to waterproof their vehicles in early May in preparation for the invasion of Normandy. Due to the denial of requests for further field exercises since March the division conducted no training beyond map exercises, small arms range firing and route marches for three months prior to the invasion.

Normandy

The units of 4 Canadian Armoured Division landed on the beaches at Courseulles and Bernières, beginning with the Governor General’s Foot Guards on 24 July. The South Albertas followed on 25 July, the Canadian Grenadier Guards on 26 July, and the British Columbia Regiment on 28 July. Once joined by 10 Infantry Brigade, the division moved into reserve positions south-east of Caen. 

For more about their actions in Normandy see:

Operation Totalize…

Operation Tractable…

4th Canadian Armoured Division, 1943 to 1945

4th Canadian Armoured Brigade
* 21st Canadian Armoured Regiment (Governor General's Foot Guards)
* 22nd Canadian Armoured Regiment (Canadian Grenadier Guards)
* 28th Canadian Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Regiment)
* The Lake Superior Regiment (Motor)

10th Canadian Infantry Brigade
* The Lincoln and Welland Regiment
* The Algonquin Regiment
* The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's)

Other Units
* 29th Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment (The South Alberta Regiment)
* 25th Armoured Delivery Regiment (D Squadron, Elgin Regiment)
* 10th Independent Machine Gun Company (The New Brunswick Rangers) (.303 Vickers with Universal Carriers)
* 15th Field Regiment, RCA (24 x 25 pdr towed)
* 23rd Field Regiment (SP), RCA (24 x Sexton)
* 5th Anti-tank Regiment, RCA (24 x M10C 17 pdr SP; 24 x 17 pdr towed)
* 8th Light Anti-aircraft Regiment, RCA (24 x 40mm SP; 12 x 40mm towed)

Fielding the 4th Canadian Armoured Division in Flames Of War

You can field forces from the 4th Canadian Armoured Division in Overlord.

Sherman Firefly VC


Last Updated On Thursday, July 04, 2013 by Blake at Battlefront