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Canadian Machine Gun Corps

Canadian Machine Gun Corps

Initial creation: 1917

Disbanded: 1936

The Canadian Machine Gun Corps was a corps created during the First World War in response to the necessity for greater control over machine guns. A second corps bearing the name was created after the First World War; the successful employment of machine guns, particularly the Vickers Gun by Canadian units was seen as a necessary component of military power to be perpetuated in the postwar period.

In 1936, during sweeping reorganizations of the Militia, the corps was disbanded, though machine guns were still considered a specialist weapon. Many infantry regiments were reorganized as dedicated machine gun battalions, with the "M.G." (or "Mit" in French) designation suffixing their official titles. After the Second World War, machine guns were integrated directly into infantry battalions and the specialized machine gun units were abolished (along with the special designations).

History

Motor Machine Gun Brigades

On 15 Sep 1914, "Sifton's Battery" was formed in Montreal from private funds, a collaboration between lawyer lawyer Clifford Sifton and Militia officer Raymond Brutinel. Sir Sam Hughes accepted the offer of this unit and formed the Automobile Machine Gun Brigade. This Brigade had two batteries, with 10 officers initially authorized, with 124 other ranks, 24 Colt machine guns, 8 armoured cars, 8 trucks and 4 cars.

Many other MG units formed in Canada in 1915. The 86th Battalion recruited in Hamilton as the first and only Machine Gun Battalion in the Commonwealth at that time. The Borden Battery, recruited in Ottawa and the mining areas of Cobalt and the Porcupine, landed in France on 15 Sep 1915 and wintered with the 2nd Canadian Division.

The Eaton Battery arrived in France on 24/25 Feb 1916, operating as divisional troops of the 3rd Canadian Division. The battery had been formed from the original Eaton MG Brigade, most of which had been sent to France as drafts for other MG units.

The unit first known as the Boyle Mounted Machine Gun Detachment was raised in the Yukon Territory, and had been attached to the Eaton MG Brigade but were not on establishment and had no guns or equipment for many months. Through the winter of 1915-16, they remained at Shorncliffe in the UK until 33 of their 50 originals who had not been selected for drafts to France were formed into a battery which later became divisional troops of the 4th Canadian Division in training at Bramshott.

When these independent MG units arrived in the UK, resistance by the British Army led to their delay in sailing for France.

On 19 Aug 1916, the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade was created overseas, by a reorganization of these various MG units.

  • A Battery was a redesignation of the 1st Battery of the Automobile MG Bde

  • B Battery was a redesignation of the 2nd Battery of the Automobile MG Bde

  • C Battery was a redesignation of Borden's Motor MG Battery (raised 1 Jul 1915 at Ottawa)

  • D Battery was a redesignation of Eaton's Motor MG Battery (raised 1 Jul 1915 at Toronto)

  • E Battery was a redesignation of Boyle's Yukon Motor MG Battery (raised 1915 in Yukon Territory)

Each battery was divided into three sections, each section having two Colt machine guns, five motorcycles (three with sidecars), and a car. The battery was led by 4 officers and had 45 other ranks.

In 1917, the Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade transferred to the CMGC. On 10 Oct 1918, a 2nd Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade was formed, with "D" Battery of the 1st being transferred as a cadre. Both brigades were officially disbanded on 15 Nov 1920.

Brigade Machine Gun Companies

The formation of Brigade Machine Gun Companies, an important step in establishing Machine Gunnery as a separate arm with its own tactics, was authorized on 29 Oct 1915. The companies took their names from the Brigades to which they were attached.

The 1st and 2nd Division Brigade companies began forming in Dec 1915, with MG sections from infantry battalions forming the nucleus for the new Companies, which had a strength of 10 officers and 161 other ranks.

Colt Machine Guns were to be in use until 16 Jul, but shortages of guns were rife during the transition, as introduction of the Lewis Gun to the infantry battalions was also slow. Resistance to increasing the number of MGs per battalion in the British Army had also led to delays in procuring guns in 1915 and institutional resistance to the new Machine Gun Corps of the British Army was also problematic.

In Aug 1916, the infantry battalion MG detachments were increased to 14 Lewis guns and 2 Colt machine guns, while the brigade machine gun companies were to be armed with 16 Vickers Guns. The infantry battalions eventually dispensed with the Colt and began issuing the Lewis Gun as a weapon used directly by Infantry Platoons.

The machine gun sections in the infantry battalion had been treated with neglect both in England and in Canada. As the history "Canada's Emma Gees" stated:

...there was remarkably little interest manifested in the machine gun itself. Machine gun officers were not pestered by requests of even the mechanically-minded to see the guns at close range. Platoon officers were pre-occupied with the task of achieving precision in forming fours and if there was any envy of the M.G.O., it was that he was allowed to wear spurs and riding boots, rather than that he commanded concentrated fire power equal to a company of infantry.

The machine gun section, so often left to its own devices in training and outside the regimentation of the battalion, in its turn developed an individuality of its own. When battalion sections were later absorbed into the M.G. Corps, they were to find there the individuality of the section merely expanded as to scale.

On 1 Jan 1916, the Brigade MG Companies were finally mobilized; the 1st Brigade Company near Mont des Cats; the 2nd near Ploegsteert and the 3rd near Meteren (though it had no guns for several months). Six more companies were activated in the line with the 2nd and 3rd Divisions; The 3rd Division companies were organized in Mar and Apr 1916.

The 4th Division arrived in France in the middle of Aug, with a handful of veterans in its three Machine Gun Companies, the 10th, 11th and 12th; by odd coincidence landing in France on dates corresponding to their numbers.

Experience in the Somme battles highlighted the strain on machine gunners when their brigade was in the line, and a fourth company was authorized for each division. These provided not only reliefs to the men in the line but also a Divisional reserve which was a much welcomed tactical advantage.

The new Companies assembled at Floringhem, near Pernes-en-Artois, and began training on 18 Jan 1917, and were numbered 13th (and assigned to the 1st Division), 14th (2nd Division), 15th (3rd Division) and 16th (4th Division).

The personnel of officers and other ranks were drawn from a combination of existing MG Companies, Infantry Battalions in the field, and a newly established Canadian Machine Gun Depot at Crowborough.

The total of machine guns under the Canadian Corps for the Vimy Ridge operation in April 1917 was three hundred and fifty eight:

  • 256 MGs from the sixteen Canadian Machine Gun Companies of the four divisions

  • 64 MGs from four British M.G. Companies of the 5th British Division under command

  • 38 MGs from the 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade

Autocars of the 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade in Ottawa, Sep 1914.
LAC C22813.
Testing a Vickers Gun, 1916.
LAC Photo.
Canadian machine gunners wore distinctive cap and collar badges depicting a pair of crossed machine guns. The sergeant is also wearing an "MG" badge over his 3-bar chevron.

Training

Again, from Canada's Emma Gees:

In the summer of 1916, the Canadian Machine Gun School established at Napier and Riseborough barracks was amalgamated with the 86th (Machine Gun) Battalion to form the Canadian Machine Gun Depot. Before February 1917, 7,000 officers and men were to have received training in the Colt Machine Gun School (started in April, 1915), when Capt. D. J. Johnston, 1st Battalion, the Queen's Own (Royal West Kents), was loaned to the Canadians to instruct in machine gunnery at the Canadian Machine Gun School and finally the Machine Gun Depot.

During this period (1915-16) selected Canadian officers, N.C.O.'s and other ranks were sent to attend machine gun courses conducted by the British authorities at Nisques, near St. Omer, Camiers and in England at the Machine Gun Training Centre at Grantham. There was as yet no Canadian Corps Machine Gun School in the field.

Canadian Machine Gun Corps

In 1917 the Canadian Machine Gun Corps was created in order to administer existing units. These units included:

 Canadian Cavalry Brigade Machine Gun Squadron (formed 1914).
1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade
1st Canadian Machine Gun Company (1st Division)
2nd Canadian Machine Gun Company (1st Division)
3rd Canadian Machine Gun Company (1st Division)
4th Canadian Machine Gun Company (2nd Division)
5th Canadian Machine Gun Company (2nd Division)
6th Canadian Machine Gun Company (2nd Division)
7th Canadian Machine Gun Company (3rd Division)
8th Canadian Machine Gun Company (3rd Division)
9th Canadian Machine Gun Company (3rd Division)
10th Canadian Machine Gun Company (4th Division)
11th Canadian Machine Gun Company (4th Division)
12th Canadian Machine Gun Company (4th Division)
13th Canadian Machine Gun Company (1st Division)
14th Canadian Machine Gun Company (2nd Division)
15th Canadian Machine Gun Company (3rd Division)
16th Canadian Machine Gun Company (4th Division)
A 2nd Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade was created in 1918



Three tank battalions were also brought under command in 1918

  • 1st Tank Battalion [1918-1920]

  • 2nd Tank Battalion [1918-1920]

  • 3rd Tank Battalion [1918-1918]

On 13 Nov 1918, tank battalions formerly under command of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps were separated to form a Canadian Tank Corps.

 

In early 1918, infantry machine gun companies were consolidated into four Machine Gun Battalions:

  • 1st Canadian Machine Gun Battalion

  • 2nd Canadian Machine Gun Battalion

  • 3rd Canadian Machine Gun Battalion

  • 4th Canadian Machine Gun Battalion

The formation patch design worn by these battalions are shown at right.

The brigade machine gun battalions were assigned one per division. At first the battalions had three companies, and in May 1918 this increased to four, with a total complement of 96 Vickers Guns.

The Canadian Machine Gun Corps of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was officially disbanded on 15 November 1920.

 

Establishment 11 November 1918

  • General Officer Commanding, Canadian Machine Gun Corps

    • Corps staff included Brigade Major, Staff Captain, Reconnaissance Officer

    • 4 officers, 7 other ranks

  • Canadian Corps Machine Gun School

    • Staff: 5 officers, 22 other ranks

    • Students: 25 officers, 100 other ranks

  • Machine Gun Wing, CCRC

    • Staff: 14 officers, 98 other ranks

    • Reinforcements: 88 officer, 1118 other ranks

  • 1st Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps

    • 96 machine guns, 63 officers, 1495 other ranks

  • 2nd Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps

    • 96 machine guns, 63 officers, 1495 other ranks

  • 3rd Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps

    • 96 machine guns, 63 officers, 1495 other ranks

  • 4th Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps

    • 96 machine guns, 63 officers, 1495 other ranks

  • 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade

    • 40 machine guns, 26 officers, 406 other ranks

  • 2nd Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade

    • 40 machine guns, 26 officers, 406 other ranks

  • Canadian Motor machine Gun Mechanical Transport Company

    • 131 Motor Transport vehicles, 7 officers, 312 other ranks

  • Canadian Machine Gun Squadron (attached to cavalry)

    • 12 machine guns, 10 officers, 220 other ranks

  • Canadian Machine Gun Reserve and Base Depot (in England)

    • 223 officers, 4187 other ranks

On the day of the Armistice, the strength of the Corps was

  • Canadian Machine Gun Corps (less MG Squadron): 422 officers, 8349 other ranks, 464 machine guns.

  • Canadian MG Squadron: 10 officers, 220 other ranks.

  • England: 233 officers, 4187 other ranks.

  • Total: 655 officers, 12756 other ranks.

The corps had suffered 5777 battle casualties during the war.

Wartime Insignia

Cap Badges

All cap badges appear to have been in bronze, with some badges having officers' variants in silver. Several cap badges are described by Babin and referenced as follows:

Machine Gun Batteries

Eaton's Battery

Borden's Battery

Boyle's Yukon Battery

Babin 28-1 Babin 28-2 Babin 28-3

Borden's Battery Badge courtesy of Les Fowler, CEF Study Group.

Machine Gun Companies

3rd MG Coy 4th MG Coy 9th MG Coy

Babin 30-3 Babin 30-4 Babin 31-9

Babin mentions that the badge for the 4th Machine Gun Company, 30-4, has "never been seen."

Machine Gun Drafts

  • 30A-1

Machine Gun Battalions

  • 31-1 - variant on general MG badge, no scroll.

  • 31-2 - variant on general MG badge, maple leaf and scroll.

  • 31-3 - variant on general MG badge, partial scroll.

  • 31-4 - variant on general MG badge, full scroll.


Cap and collars, Babin 31-3.

At left, an example of Babin 31-4, an officers' version in silver. The collar badges correspond to Cap Badge 31-2, a button (Smylie C11-b), and at far right an example of Babin 31-1.

Machine Gun Brigades

1st Motor Machine Gun
Brigade
2nd Motor Machine Gun
Brigade

Babin 29-1 Babin 29-2

Collar Badges

Shoulder Titles

Buttons

According to Smylie, two patterns of CMGC buttons were produced; the first type (C11a) from 1915 to 1929, with crossed MGs surmounted by the crown on a large maple leaf, with a CANADA scroll below. The second type (C-11b), used from 1929 to 1936, had just the crossed MGs with a crown above, and the legend MACHINE GUN CORPS across the bottom half of the button.1

Post War

A corps within the NPAM was created on 1 Jun 1919 to administer machine gun units.

NPAM Units

  • 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade [1919-1935, Quebec]

  • 1st Armoured Car Regiment [1935-1936, Quebec]

  • 2nd Motor Machine Gun Brigade [1919-1936, Manitoba]

  • 2nd Armoured Car Regiment [1936-1946, Manitoba]

  • 1st Cavalry Machine Gun Squadron [1919-1936, Manitoba]

  • 1st Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Ontario]

  • 2nd Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Ontario]

  • 3rd Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Ontario]

  • 4th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Ontario]

  • 5th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Quebec]

  • 6th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Nova Scotia]

  • 7th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, New Brunswick]

  • 8th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Quebec]

  • 9th Machine Gun Battalion [not formed]

  • 10th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Manitoba]

  • 11th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, British Columbia]

  • 12th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Saskatchewan]

  • 13th Machine Gun Battalion [1919-1936, Alberta]

The corps was disbanded in 1936 and Machine Gun Battalions were instead created within the infantry.

CEF Perpetuations

Captain Michael O'Leary of the RCR, on his "Regimental Rogue" website, compiled a table of perpetuations of the CEF Machine Gun units. His sources included

  • Defence Forces of the Dominion of Canada, Part 1, July 1932

  • Defence Forces of the Dominion of Canada, Part 1, Nov, 1939

  • Regiments and Corps of the Canadian Army, published 1964

Some perpetuations died out as units were amalgamated or disbanded in the years following the Second World War.

  • 1st Canadian Motor Machine Gun Bde, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 1st Motor Machine Gun Brigade after 1920.

      • Perpetuated 6th Duke of Connaught's Royal Canadian Hussars (Armoured Car) after 1936.

        • Pepetuated by The Royal Canadian Hussars after the Second World War.

  • 2nd Canadian Motor Machine Gun Bde, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 2nd Motor Machine Gun Brigade after 1920.

      • Perpetuated by 2nd Armoured Car Regiment after 1936.

  • 1st Canadian Machine Gun Squadron, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 2nd Armoured Car Regiment after 1936.

  • 1st Canadian Machine Gun Bn, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 1st Machine Gun Battalion after 1920.

      • Perpetuated by The Toronto Scottish Regiment (MG) and The Irish Regiment of Canada (MG) after 1936.

        • Perpetuated by The Irish Regiment of Canada after the Second World War.

  • 2nd Canadian Machine Gun Bn, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 2nd Machine Gun Battalion after 1920.

      • Perpetuated by The Canadian Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) (MG) after 1936.

        • Perpetuated by The Royal Canadian Regiment after the Second World War.

  • 3rd Canadian Machine Gun Bn, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 3rd Machine Gun Battalion after 1920.

      • Perpetuated by The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's) (MG) after 1936.

        • Perpetuated by The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's) after the second World War.

  • 4th Canadian Machine Gun Bn, CEF

    • Perpetuated by 4th Machine Gun Battalion after 1920.

      • Perpetuated by The Prince of Wales Rangers (Peterborough Regiment) (MG) after 1936.

Postwar Insignia

Cap Badge

Mazeas Reference Number S.11 shows a badge appearing identical to the wartime Babin 31-1 (crossed MGs and Crown without a scroll).

Collar Badges

Mirrored collar dogs of identical pattern to the cap badge, but smaller, are also shown by Mazeas.

Shoulder Badges

A variety of shoulder badges are shown in Mazeas; a common corps badge as shown at right, and a number of specific unit titles, with the unit identifier overtop of the CMGC letters. These include:

  • 1 MOTORS/CMGC (Armoured Car Regiment)

  • 2 MOTORS/CMGC (Armoured Car Regiment)

  • 1 SQDN/CMGC (Armoured Car Regiment)

Brigade shoulder title numbers correspond to the Military Districts.

  • 1 BDE/CMGC

  • 2 BDE/CMGC

  • 3 BDE/CMGC

  • 4 BDE/CMGC

  • 7 BDE/CMGC

  • 8 BDE/CMGC

  • 10 BDE/CMGC

  • 11 BDE/CMGC

  • 12 BDE/CMGC

  • 13 BDE/CMGC

Two additional titles existed:

  • RCMGB (Royal Canadian (Permanent) Machine Gun Brigade

  • MGS (Machine Gun School)

Notes

1. Smylie

 


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