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27th Canadian Brigade

The 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group was a formation raised by Canada in order to meet commitments to NATO. Much information in this article is based on Report No. 51 of the Historical Section (General Staff) at Canadian Army Headquarters, dated 6 May 1952. Some material is quoted verbatim; the report itself is available online as a free download from the DND web server.

Political Background

The text of the North Atlantic Treaty, published on 19 Mar 49, includes a statement in the preamble that the member countries “are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security”. Article three states:

In order more effectively to achieve the objectives of this Treaty, the Parties, separately and jointly, by means of continuous and effective self-help and mutual aid, will maintain and develop their individual and collective capacity to resist armed attack.

The text of the Treaty was formally approved at a meeting in Washington on 2 Apr 49 of the Foreign Ministers of Belgium, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United Kingdom, Canada’s Secretary of State for External Affairs, and the Secretary of State of the United States. Mr L.B. Pearson on behalf of Canada made the point that the Treaty itself did not ensure peace, but signatories must convert the promise of security into performance On 29 Apr the Treaty was unanimously ratified by the House of Commons in Ottawa

In the ensuing months many discussions were held regarding methods of building up the military strength of the NATO members to give effect to this security pact. Significantly, in his broadcast speech of 7 Aug 50 which announced the formation of the Canadian Army Special Force, the Prime Minister (Mr L.S. St. Laurent) stated that it would be “specially trained and equipped to be available for use in carrying out Canada’s obligations under the United Nations charter or the North Atlantic Pact”. It was not until the New York meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Sep 1950, however, that the United States suggested the establishment in Western Europe of an integrated force under a supreme commander. Canada’s Minister of National Defence (Mr Brooke Claxton) subsequently declared that “This proposal for the first time created the possibility of having in Europe forces strong enough to deter aggression”. (Debates, House of Commons, 5 Feb 51, Claxton, p.92) The matter was then referred for technical details to the Defence Committee of NATO, which met in Washington on 28 Oct 50 and agreed on a military plan, agreed to set up an integrated force, and agreed to have a supreme commander.

Following a joint meeting of the Foreign and Defence Ministers of NATO held in Brussels on 19 Dec 50, a statement was issued announcing that arrangements had been completed for the establishment in Europe of an integrated defence force composed of contingents from the participating countries. The announcement also said that General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, at that time President of Columbia University, had been appointed Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) with authority to train the different national units and organize them into an effective defence force; he would establish his headquarters early in 1951 and would be aided by an international staff. On taking up his appointment at the beginning of 1951, the Supreme Commander toured the capitals of all twelve NATO countries, concluding by a visit to Ottawa on 26 Jan for consultations with the Canadian Government and Chiefs of Staff.

5. A formal indication of Canada’s intentions was given in the Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament on 30 Jan 51, which referred to General Eisenhower’s visit and informed the members of both Houses:

You will be asked early in the session to authorize Canadian participation in this integrated force as part of our programme for national defence. You will also be asked to approve substantially increased expenditures for defence.

On 5 Feb 51, in announcing a three-year programme for all three Canadian Services, Mr. Claxton said in the House of Commons:

For obvious reasons, it is important that all the countries concerned in our collective defence should contribute men as well as equipment to the defence of Western Europe. Accordingly we propose, if parliament approves, to place in the integrated force elements of the Canadian Army. The force we propose to send will initially be a brigade group or regimental combat team, and we hope that it may arrive at about the same time as the additional U.S. forces, but this may depend upon events in Korea.

Subsequent developments in Korea resulted in the decision to send the 25th Canadian Brigade there, thus ending public speculation (not without strong foundations at that time) that it might be diverted to Europe. On the very day that 25 Brigade landed at Pusan (4 May 51) Mr Claxton informed the House of Commons that keeping it up to strength would remain the Army’s main priority as long as any of Canada’s troops were engaged in actual combat. To fulfil that task and others, including the provision of a force for Western Europe, the Canadian Army would have to be expanded, he said.

The Minister then disclosed for the first time that there was to be formed an additional Canadian army brigade group with supporting units. Indicating that the provision of such a force was subject to the approval of Parliament and the completion of firm arrangements in that regard with Canada’s NATO associates, he proceeded to detail the novel method of recruiting which was to be followed.


The Duke of Edinburgh is welcomed at the entrance of the Men's Canteen by Lt. Col. G.M.C. Sprung, MC, Officer Commanding the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion. Photo courtesy Ed Storey

Organization

In his announcement in the House of Commons on 4 May 51, Mr Claxton stated that the new formation, to be known as 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group, would be recruited around the framework of many of Canada’s outstanding Reserve Force units. It was to be part of Canada’s regular forces with its officers and men serving under Active Force terms and conditions of service and thus eligible for service anywhere. Supplying further details, he said:

Fifteen reserve force infantry battalions have been selected on a broad geographical basis, each to sponsor the raising of one and later a second company for the new force. Five highland, five rifle and five line battalions will thus be represented in forming a Canadian highland battalion, a Canadian rifle battalion and a Canadian infantry battalion. Companies will be grouped to form battalions of the active force but will retain their own identity and officers and men will continue to wear the insignia of parent reserve force regiments.

Thus, the method of raising the new force was devised to give the widest possible representation to the Reserve Force. In a letter dated 26 Apr 51, the Chief of the General Staff (Lt-Gen G.G. Simonds) wrote that the following factors had been borne in mind:

  • The necessity of linking like types of infantry units (Highland, Rifle and line Battalions);

  • regional representation;

  • current strength and activity of selected units;

  • regional recruiting potential;

  • the fact that all units selected should be well known to the Canadian people.

The same principle as used for the infantry was to be applied to the Royal Canadian Artillery, each of six Reserve Force regiments raising a battery, three of which were to be formed into a field regiment and the remaining three organized as replacements. Personnel of these batteries were permitted to wear the insignia of the parent unit, as in the case of the infantry. Other supporting arms and services were to be represented in a similar manner.

The provision of armoured support for the Brigade presented a special problem, however, as the latest types of tanks and equipment were to be issued. Due to the length of time required to complete the technical training of Armoured Corps personnel, therefore, the Royal Canadian Dragoons were designed were designed to provide the initial armoured squadron. However, then Reserve Force regiments, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, were to provide one troop each for immediate training and later organization into squadrons.

Units and sub-units of other Corps were to be sponsored by Reserve Force units with the exception of those of the royal Canadian Corps of Signals, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, and the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, which were to be formed on a national basis by contribution from all Reserve Force units of those Corps.

In explaining the features of the recruiting plan detailed above, Mr Claxton emphasized to the House that the force to be raised would, in due course, include replacement units to provide for the periodic rotation of officers and men for duty overseas an in Canada. It was intended, he said, that as far as possible individual service abroad would be on the basis of one year for married and two years for single personnel. Those who had completed their period of overseas service and who wished to return to civil life might claim their discharge, if the military situation permitted, although the full period of enlistment was to be for three years.

Continuing, the Minister said:

In addition to the rotation of individuals, it is intended, as a long-term plan, that complete companies or other formations will be exchanged from time to time, not only from the units named but other units, thus giving every major reserve unit a considerable number of additional fully trained officers and men with the experience of service in the integrated forces of the North Atlantic treaty organization.

As a further means of providing experience abroad, Army Headquarters on 21 Feb 52 announced that 74 university undergraduates of the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps would be sent to Europe for the summer of 1952 to be attached to various units of the 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group, thus gaining an opportunity of serving with the forces of NATO there. Never before had training of this type been offered to members of the C.O.T.C.

Recruiting

Until the Minister’s announcement of 4 May 51, planning for the raising of this brigade group was graded “top Secret” and referred to under the code-name “Panda”.

Draft newspaper advertisements were prepared late in April by the Directorate of Organization and a Montreal advertising agency. These received final approval at a conference held in camera between the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence on 1 May. On the morning of 7 May a full-page advertisement appeared in 100 daily newspapers across Canada, both French and English. This was followed by a half-page advertisement calling for men to join the famous regiments contributing to 27 Cdn Inf Bde Gp. In addition, four spot announcements were made on a total of 48 radio stations from coast to coast, supplemented locally by other announcements paid for by the units themselves. These radio “spots” were heard daily from 7 May to 31 May 51. The campaign was linked to a secondary one calling upon students possessing Junior Matriculation certificates to undertake officer training, and both campaigns were featured on the French radio show “Coup de Clairon” and the national radio show “Voice of the Army”.

Reserve Force units contributing to the 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group were:

  • Royal Canadian Armoured Corps - to form ten armoured troops

  • The Governor-General’s Horse Guards Toronto, Ont.

  • The Halifax Rifles Halifax, N.S.

  • 8th Princess Louise’s (New Brunswick) Hussars Sussex, N.B.

  • Le Régiment de Trois-Rivières Three Rivers, P.Q.

  • The Prince Edward Island Regiment Charlottetown, P.E.I.

  • The British Columbia Regiment Vancouver, B.C.

  • The King’s Own Calgary Regiment Calgary, Alta.

  • The British Columbia Dragoons Kelowna, B.C.

  • The Fort Garry Horse Winnipeg, Man.

  • Le Régiment de Hull Hull, P.Q.

  • Royal Canadian Artillery - to form 79th Field Regiment and replacements

    • 6th Field Regiment Levis, P.Q.

    • 11th Field Regiment Guelph, Ont.

    • 14th Field Regiment Yarmouth, N.S.

    • 29th Field Regiment Toronto, Ont.

    • 34th Field Regiment Montreal, P.Q.

    • 39th Field Regiment Winnipeg, Man.

  • Royal Canadian Engineers to form 58th Independent Field Squadron and replacements

    • 56th Independent Field Squadron St. John’s, Nfld.

    • 6th Field Engineer Regiment Winnipeg, Man.

    • 33rd Field Park Squadron Lethbridge, Alta.

  • Royal Canadian Corps of Signals - to form 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Signal Squadron, 79th Field Regiment

    • Signal Troop, and replacements

    • All Military Commands, assembled at Barriefield, Ont.

  • 1 Canadian Rifle Battalion, and replacements

    • The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Toronto, Ont

    • The Victoria Rifles of Canada Montreal, P.Q.

    • The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) Hamilton, Ont.

    • The Royal Winnipeg Rifles Winnipeg, Man.

    • The Regina Rifle Regiment Regina, Sask.

  • 1 Canadian Highland Battalion, and replacements

    • The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada Montreal, P.Q.

    • The North Nova Scotia Highlanders Amherst, N.S.

    • 48th Highlanders of Canada Toronto, Ont.

    • The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada Vancouver, B.C.

    • The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) Victoria, B.C.

  • 1 Canadian Infantry Battalion, and replacements

    • The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment Belleville, Ont.

    • Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal Montreal, P.Q.

    • The Carleton and York Regiment Fredericton, N.B.

    • The Algonquin Regiment Kirkland Lake, Ont.

    • The Loyal Edmonton Regiment Edmonton, Alta.

  • R.C.A.S.C - to form No. 55 Transport Company, and replacements

    • All Military Commands, assembled at Camp Borden, Ont.

  • R.C.A.M.C - to form No. 27 Field Ambulance,1 and replacements (Redesignated No. 79 Field Ambulance with effect 6 Sep 51)

    • No. 7 Field Ambulance Toronto, Ont.

    • No. 9 Field Ambulance Montreal, P.Q.

  • R.C.O.C - to form 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Ordnance Company

    • No. 7 Infantry Divisional Ordnance Field Park Halifax, N.S.

  • Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers - to form No. 194 Infantry Workshop, Nos. 19+ and 197 Light Aid Detachments, and replacements

    • All Military Commands, assembled at Barriefield, Ont.

  • Canadian Provost Corps - to form No. 27 Provost Detachment

    • No. 1 Provost Company London, Ont.

  • Canadian Intelligence Corps - to form No. 2 Field Security Section

    • No. 1 Intelligence Training Company Montreal, P.Q.

Initial establishment tables for the Brigade Group called for 324 officers and 5483 men or 5807 all ranks, those for the replacement units an additional 185 officers and 3861 men or 40046 all ranks. To fill all units, therefore, required 509 officers and 9344 men or a total of 9853 all ranks.

Recruiting for 27 Brigade began on 7 May 51 and at the end of the first month a total of 6671 officers and men had been actually enlisted, or an average of 238 per day for the 28 days of active recruiting. This total represented approximately the basic requirement for the Brigade, but army officials announced that the campaign would continue indefinitely to provide about the same number for the replacement group. Of over 12,000 applicants that month, 3200 had been rejected for medical or other reasons and over 2000 others were still “in process”. Those actually enrolled were 146 officers and 6525 men, the largest numbers coming from Central and eastern Commands. To 7 Jun the figures were:

  • Central 2439

  • Eastern 1954

  • Western 973

  • Quebec 783

  • Prairie 522

With regard to the 6,525 men enlisted, 1681 came from the Reserve Force, 4,844 from the general public; 2,305 were veterans; 4,220 non-veterans; 2,180 were married, 4345 single.

Therefore, approximately two-thirds of the Force were without previous military experience and single men outnumbered married recruits roughly two to one.

Concentration and Administrative Arrangements

Units of 27 Brigade remained in their recruiting areas until 11 Jun 51 or later. Brigade Headquarters then concentrated at Valcartier, P.Q., together with the three infantry battalions, the ground defence platoon, and the field security section. The 79th Field Regiment, R.C.A., concentrated at Camp Shilo, the 58th Independent Field Squadron, R.C.E., at Petawawa, and the balance of the units at corps schools in various camps throughout the country. Five of the R.C.A.C. troops were attached to the Royal Canadian Dragoons at Petawawa, the remaining five to Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) at Wainwright. In Dec 1951 these elements were formed respectively into 1 and 2 Canadian Armoured Squadrons, R.C.A.C., with due provision for the perpetuation of their regimental affiliations (D.H.S. 9-26-0: SD 1 Letter 4381, 6 Dec 51). These squadrons had only a brief existence, however, being reduced to nil strength on the formation, effective 29 Feb 52, of an additional “D” Squadron of each of the following armoured regiments:

  • Royal Canadian Dragoons (1st Armoured Regiment), R.C.A.C.

  • Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) (2nd Armoured Regiment), R.C.A.C.

To provide facilities for the handling of all administrative matters concerning personnel of the Brigade Group, there was formed in Jul 1951 No. 3 Canadian Administrative Unit. Its functions are those generally ascribed to the D.A.G.’s office at the base (2nd Echelon), including duties regarding personnel services, replacements, casualties, records and war diaries. The Commanding Officer is responsible for obtaining necessary personnel policies from army Headquarters and for their transmission to Canadian field formations and administrative units in the theatre.

21. The order of seniority for the three infantry battalions, effective 16 Jul 51, was designated as follows:

  • 1st Canadian Rifle Battalion

  • 1st Canadian Highland Battalion

  • 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion

Each had been allotted a 30-piece band -- a bugle band for the Rifles, a pipe band for the Highlanders, and a brass band for the infantry Battalion. The men of the Highland Battalion have also been issued with the kilt in tartan colours of their parent units, leather pouches or sporrans according to unit custom, hose tops and coloured garter flashes, Highland style doublets of tropical cloth for summer wear, and distinctive headdress.

22. The infantry replacement companies, designated "F” Companies, retained their independent status. Effective 15 May 52, however, they were reduced to nil strength and personnel posted to the following units of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, whose formation was authorized effective 10 Apr 52:

  • 2nd Canadian Rifle Battalion, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

  • 2nd Canadian Highland Battalion, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

  • 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

2 Rifle Battalion and 2 Infantry Battalion were located for the summer at Valcartier, the 2nd Canadian Highland Battalion at Aldershot, N.S.

Effective 3 Aug 51, the 209th, 258th and 284th, Field Batteries, R.C.A., were selected to form the 79th Field Regiment, R.C.A. the remaining three batteries (205, 213, and 216) then were organized and trained as independent batteries to form the replacement units for this Regiment. For the winter months they returned to their home stations -- Valcartier, Winnipeg and London respectively. By 1 Jun 52, however, they were reduced to nil strength. Their personnel are to be posted to the 81st Field Regiment, R.C.A., formed on 10 Apr 52 and located at Wainwright, Alto. Its batteries are numbered 205, 213 and 216 to perpetuate the designations of the three field batteries originally raised.

To train and administer replacement personnel of the Royal Canadian Engineers, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, and Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, the following units were formed effective 1 Aug 51:

  • 59th Independent Field Squadron, R.C.E., at Camp Petawawa

  • No. 56 Transport Company, R.C.A.S.C., at Camp Borden

  • No. 195 Infantry Workshop, R.C.E.M.E., at Barriefield

In accordance with C.A.O. 174-2, which deals with the physical standards or PULHEMS required for various types of units, the organization of the 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group had been designated as follows:

(a) “Battle” Units

  • Headquarters, 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade

  • “C” Squadron, Royal Canadian Dragoons, (1st Armoured Regiment) R.C.A.C.

  • 79th Field Regiment, R.C.A.

  • 58th Independent Field Squadron, R.C.E.

  • 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Signal Squadron, R.C. Sigs

  • 79th Field Regiment Signal Troop, R.C. Sigs

  • 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Ground Defence Platoon, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

  • 1st Canadian Rifle Battalion, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

  • 1st Canadian Highland Battalion, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

  • 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

  • No. 55 Transport Company, R.C.A.S.C.

  • No. 79 Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C.

  • No. 196 Light Aid Detachment, R.C.E.M.E.

  • No. 197 Light Aid Detachment, R.C.E.M.E.

  • No. 2 Field Security Section, C. Int C.

  • No. 27 Provost Detachment, C. Pro C.

  • No. 27 Canadian Public Relations Unit

(b) “Support” Units

  • No. 27 Field Dental Detachment, R.C.D.C.{Redesignated “no. 27 Canadian Field Dental Unit, R.C.D.C.” effective 5 Jan 52.)

  • 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Ordnance Company, R.C.O.C.

  • No. 194 Infantry Workshop, R.C.E.M.E.

  • No. 27 Field Detention Barracks, C. Pro C.

(c) “Base” Units

  • No. 3 Movement Control Group, R.C.A.S.C.

  • No. 4 Movement Control Group, R.C.A.S.C.

  • No. 2 Medical Liaison Detachment, R.C.A.M.C.

  • No. 2 Base Post Office, C.P.C.

  • No. 3 Canadian Administrative Unit

  • No. 1 Canadian Vehicle Detachment, R.C.O.C.

  • No. 1 Canadian Base Ordnance Unit, R.C.O.C.

  • No. 1 Canadian Base Repair Section, R.C.E.M.E.

  • No. 2 Line of Communication Postal Unit, C.P.C.

Personnel

The appointment of Brigadier Geoffrey Walsh, C.B.E., D.S.O., C.D., as Commander 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group was announced on 25 May 51. Brigadier Walsh graduated from the Royal Military College in 1930 and from McGill University in 1933, later attending the School of military Engineering at Chatham, England. He led the R.C.E. component in the Spitsbergen expedition, served as C.R.E. 1 Cdn Inf Div in the Sicilian and Italian campaigns, and returned to England to be C.R.E. 4 Cdn Armd Div. On 13 Feb 44 he became Chief Engineer 2nd Canadian Corps and on 2nd Sep 44 Chief Engineer First Canadian Army. Following the war he was given the task of organizing the Northwest Highway System in preparation for Canada’s taking over of control, assisted in engineer planning in Nanking, China, attended the National Defence College, and then became Commander, Eastern Ontario Area.

Commanding officers of the four major units of 27 Bde Gp were also named on 25 May 51. These were:

  • 79 Fd Regt, R.C.A. - Lt-Col M.L. Lahaie, D.S.O.

  • 1 Cdn Rifle Bn - Lt-Col E.W. Cutbill, D.S.O., E.D.

  • 1 Cdn Highland Bn -Lt-Col R.L. Rutherford, O.B.E.

  • 1 Cdn Inf Bn -Lt-Col J.K. Mahoney, V.C.

Appointment of Lt-Col R.D. Barron, M.C., to command the 27th (then 79th) Field Ambulance, R.C.A.M.C., was announced on 9 Jun 51. Lt-Col H.A. Phillips, O.B.E., commanded 3 Canadian Administrative Unit.

During July 1951 Lt-Col Mahoney was forced by ill health to relinquish his command, being succeeded by Lt-Col J.E.L. Castonguay. Cutbill was succeeded by Lt-Col J.M. Delamere, M.B.E., E.D. Maj J.D.M. Gillan held the appointment of brigade major until 23 Jan 52, when he was succeeded by Maj R.S. Graham.

Training and Equipment Policy

To assist units on their formation, it was necessary to provide them with a training cadre and an administrative increment. The training cadres were furnished by field units of the Active Force and attached on a temporary loan basis. They carried out basic training within the unit until its own officers and N.C.Os. could take over and also conducted refresher courses for them. 1 Lt Bty, RCA, 1 RCR, 1 PPCLI and 1 R22eR were designated to provide such cadres for units concentrating at Shilo and Valcartier; Commands were to supply any further personnel required. The administrative increments, also composed of Active Force personnel on loan, acted as advance parties at the unit headquarters or camps. The requirement varied within each unit, however, depending on the availability of trained personnel who enlisted from the Reserve Force. In the case of the Armoured Corps, no increment was provided but one Active Force officer was posted to each troop.

Accommodation for this force took priority over Reserve Force summer training; in the main huts were used, supplemented by canvas where necessary.

Officers Commanding Commands were made responsible for the training of units of 27 Cdn Inf Bde Gp and replacement units within their Commands. The working week was based on a minimum of 48 hours instruction. Target dates for the completion of each phase of training were set as follows:

  • Basic training completed 15 Jul 51

  • Individual training completed 30 Sep 51

  • Sub-unit (platoon and company or equivalent) training completed 31 Oct 51

Officers and NCOs were to take short refresher courses, as required, locally, but were also to assist as much as possible in the training and administration of their troops. These refresher courses were to be conducted by the training cadres. It should be noted that the training syllabi specified that instruction in current affairs would include the following:

  • Meaning and scope of the North Atlantic Treaty

  • Meaning of Communism and its objectives

  • Purpose of the Integrated Force in Europe

  • Principles of the United Nations

Initial plans for 27 Brigade specified that the Force would train on US type equipment, as and when it became available. Since none was at hand on formation, however, the intention was to begin training on existing type equipment and issue US type weapons without indent as early as possible. By 4 Jul 51 all available US type weapons, ammunition, pamphlets and charts had been distributed to units and Corps Schools, and units of 27 Bde Gp were ordered to commence training on these weapons at once. U.S. weapons intended for use included the 9 mm pistol, .30 rifle, .45 sub-machine gun, .30 Browning automatic rifle, .30 Browning machine gun, 60 mm mortar, 81 mm mortar, 3.5 in. rocket launcher, 75 mm recoilless rifle, and 105 mm howitzer.

From the files consulted, however, it is not clear what U.S. weapons were actually issued. Difficulties in supply soon appeared, and by 3 Oct 51 a decision had been taken to equip 27 Brigade Group and replacement units with the following types of weapons:

  • U.K. Types:

    • .303 rifles No. 4

    • .303 Bren machine guns

    • .303 Vickers machine guns

    • 9 mm Browning pistols

    • 9 mm Sten machine carbines

    • 17 pr A Tk guns (until suitable recoilless rifles became available)

  • U.S.A. Types:

    • 60 mm mortars

    • 81 mm mortars

    • 75 mm or 105 mm recoilless rifles (when available)

    • 105 mm guns

    • 5.5 in rocket launchers

After the arrival of 27 Brigade overseas, however, adequate operational stocks of ammunition for certain U.S.-type pieces were found to be unavailable, and it was necessary to ship from Canada 25-pounder guns as well as 2-in and 3-in mortars. Temporarily, the 105 mm howitzers, 60 mm mortars and 81 mm mortars already held had to be withdrawn, together with their ammunition, and placed in maintenance.

Considerable delay was experienced in ordering suitable medium tanks from the united States, and several technical difficulties arose. Therefore it was decided in October 1951 to equip “C” Squadron Royal Canadian Dragoons with Centurion Tanks.

Command Arrangements

Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe (SHAPE) was established on 2 Apr 51 at Versailles, France, responsible for the defence of the Allied countries of continental Europe against invasion, and the Supreme Allied Commander Europe would, in time of war, control all land, sea and air operations in Europe to that end. His functions are defined as:

  • The organization and training of the various units of the armed forces of the North Atlantic countries which have been allotted to his command so as to ensure that they are knit together into one unified force.

  • The preparation of defence plans.

  • Making recommendation to the Standing Group about such matters as the Standing Group is responsible for the higher strategic direction throughout the North Atlantic Treaty area and is authorized to issue instructions and guidance on military matters to the various NATO commands. It also provides policy guidance and military information to other bodies of the organization as necessary, coordinates regional defence plans and makes appropriate recommendations to the Military Committee.

Authority to station Canadian forces in Europe, an unprecedented move in peacetime, was given by Order in Council P.C. 5598 of 18 Apr 51, which read:

In furtherance of Canada’s undertakings under the North Atlantic treaty, authority is hereby given for the maintenance on active service of officers and men of the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force, not exceeding 12,000 in number as part of, or in the united Kingdom in readiness to form part of, the integrated force under the supreme allied commander.

Mr Claxton that same day informed the House of Commons that arrangements had been made to group the Canadian brigade with the British, Belgian and Netherlands forces and that it would be stationed in the Hanover area. He also said that No. 410 Squadron of the R.C.A.F., and others to follow later, would be based at North Luffenham airfields in the English Midlands pending the provision of airfields and other accommodation in Western Europe. In response to a question by Mr. H.C. Green (Vancouver-Quadra), he said:

We do not expect to have an army in peacetime in Europe, and consequently it would be necessary to group our air force either with the Royal Air Force or with the United States air force. In view of the fact that air force will be completely equipped with F-86E Sabre aircraft of United States design, and for other reasons, it was considered desirable for us to group it with the United States. That was also the advice of the supreme command.

On 22 and 23 Oct 51 the members of the House of Commons debated a motion of the Prime Minister (Mr St Laurent) which read as follows:

That this house approves the continuation of Canada’s participation in the efforts being made through the United Nations to establish international peace, and in particular to defeat aggression and restore peace in Korea, and by the North Atlantic treaty nations to deter aggression and promote stability and well-being in the no-Atlantic area.

In explanation, Mr St Laurent emphasized that there was nothing specifically new in the programme but that the key word was “continuation”. His government felt, however, that there should be some opportunity for parliament to discuss these plans, and that if the house affirmed its wholehearted support “it would be a source of encouragement to our forces in Korea and to the forces we are about to despatch to Europe, as well as strengthening the position of those who will represent Canada at these international meetings”.

In the course of the debate spokesmen for all parties endorsed the despatch of Canadian troops to Europe. On behalf of the Progressive-Conservative opposition, Maj-Gen G.R. Pearkes, V.C., made reference tot he prospective admission of Turkey and Greece into NATO and enquired whether 27 Brigade was being placed unreservedly at the disposal of the Supreme Commander, or were there some limitations imposed on where and how he may employ these troops. The Secretary of State for External Affairs (Mr. L.B. Pearson), in closing the debate, replied that the Canadian brigade could be used only in the integrated force under General Eisenhower. Within that limitation it could be moved from Germany to the Netherlands, to France, or to any other area under his command. As Turkey and Greece were then not members of NATO, the Brigade could not be used there. Mr Pearson said he had no doubt, however, that “if the situation changes and it is desired at some future date to extend the limits within which this brigade might operate, that will be done after this House of Commons has been given an opportunity to approve or disapprove that course”.

Movement to Europe

Prior to these discussions, Army Headquarters issued on 19 Sep 51 a warning order that 27 Cdn Inf Bde Gp would move to the British Occupied Zone of Germany and there come under command of the British Army of the Rhine. This warning order advised that there would be no move before 1 Nov, except for advance parties to be ready in October. The move was designated by the code word “MIGRAINE”

The order of battle for the Brigade Group at that time indicated that its establishment strength totalled 309 officers and 5588 other ranks. These figures included 9 officers and 39 other ranks of the following units which were to remain in Canada:

  • No. 3 Movement Control Group, R.C.A.S.C.

  • No. 2 Base Post Office, C.P.C.

Preparations for the arrival were made by an Army Headquarters Liaison Team under command of Brigadier A.E. Wrinch (D.Q.M.G.) and consisting of three Directors (D.W.A., D.O.S., and D.E.M.E.) and five other officers representing D.S.T., A.G., D.G.M.S., D.S.D., and 27 Cdn Inf Bde. On 26 Sep 51 this liaison team was despatched by air to the united Kingdom and B.A.O.R. for necessary discussions, mainly concerning “Q” matters.

Part of NO. 3 Movement Control Group, R.C.A.S.C., was flown over by aircraft, the balance sailed on the “Empress of Scotland” on 28 Sep 51. Its headquarters was established in Whitehall and movement control officers were located at the Hook of Holland, Hanover, and Hamburg. A Canadian movement control officer was also established for liaison purposes at Headquarters British Army of the Rhine.

Finally, an air advance party flew to London on 3 Oct 51 and proceeded to Hanover in advance of the parties travelling by sea. It consisted of 13 officers of Brigade Headquarters under command Maj R.E. Noble (D.A.A. & Q.M.G.).

The first group to move by sea was a base advance party of 8 officers and 1330 O.R. It included a works section, R.C.E., (required overseas for a limited time only), 50 drivers, R.C.A.S.C., a port workshops detachment, R.C.E.M.E., and detachments of R.C.O.C. personnel to handle stores, ammunition and vehicles. This base advance party embarked at Quebec on the T.S.S. “Canberra”, a Greek Line vessel, and sailed on 4 Oct 51 for Hamburg, arriving there on 14 Oct.

The advance party for the Brigade Group totalled 35 officers and 293 O.R. Embarkation took place at both Montreal and Quebec on 20 Oct 51 aboard the S.S. “Columbia”, also of the Greek Line. This ship sailed directly to Rotterdam. The barracks at Hohne Camp to be occupied by “C” Sqn R.C.D. and 79 Fd Regt, R.C.A., were still under construction.The group included representatives of all units of the Brigade Group except 79 Fd Regt, R.C.A., whose advance party did not leave Canada until 12 Nov 51.

The main body of the Brigade Group sailed to Rotterdam in six serials at approximately weekly intervals, each being a out ten day s at sea. Serial One, which included H.Q. 27 Cdn Inf Bde Gp, sailed from Quebec on 5 Nov 51 aboard the T.S.S. “Canberra”, reaching Rotterdam on 15 Nov. The largest group was Serial Two, which left Quebec on 12 Nov aboard an Italian ship, the M/V “Fairsea”, and docked at Rotterdam on 21 Nov. It included 1 Cdn Inf Bn and 58 Indep Fd Sqn, R.C.E., both of which paraded before General Eisenhower and Mr Claxton at the Town Square in Rotterdam. Serial Three, including 1 Cdn Rifle Bn, sailed from Quebec aboard the S.S. “Columbia” on 19 Nov and reached Rotterdam on 29 Nov. Serial Four sailed on 2 Dec from Quebec aboard the T.S.S. “Columbia” and docked at Rotterdam on 13 Dec; it included 1 Cdn Highland Bn. No further sailings from Quebec were possible due to winter conditions. Serial Five sailed from Halifax on 8 Dec with 55 Tpt Coy, R.C.A.S.C., and a number of smaller units aboard; it docked at Rotterdam on 17 Dec. Last of all, Serial Six sailed from Halifax on 6 Dec and arrived in Rotterdam two days before Christmas; the principal unit aboard was 79 Fd Regt, R.C.A. Subsequently, reinforcement drafts have been sent over by regular transatlantic liners. To the end of 1951 the total numbers transferred to Europe were 294 officers and 5303 other ranks.

In May 1952 Brigade Headquarters and most of its units under command were located in the vicinity of Hanover, about an hour’s train journey east of headquarters British Army of the Rhine at Bad Oeynhausen. “C” Squadron Royal Canadian Dragoons and the 79th Field Regiment, R.C.A., were stationed at the Royal Armoured Corps Training Centre at Hohne Camp, former site of the notorious Belsen concentration camp.

H.Q. 27 Cdn Inf Bde assumed command of all units of the Brigade Group on their arrival in the European theatre, and was authorized to command all Canadian troops there less troops in the United Kingdom under command Canadian Joint Staff (London) and less Canadian Army officers and men serving at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers in Europe or attached to other NATO forces under exchange arrangements.

During 1952 various small parties of reinforcements were sent to join the Brigade. In addition, No. 2 Base Signal Troop, R.C. Sigs, was formed in Canada in January and sent overseas in March. Its functions are to provide signal communications, in conjunction with those of British formations, for intercommunication between 27 Cdn Inf Bde Gp, Canadian Base units in Europe, and Canada.

Also formed effective 26 Feb was No. 31 Canadian Works Section, R.C.E., located in North-West Europe and under command H.Q. 27 Cdn Inf Bde.

Shortly after its arrival in Germany, 1 Canadian Base Ordnance Unit sent back to the United Kingdom a detachment to be located with the Base Ordnance Depot at Bicester, Oxfordshire. This BOD is a unit of the British Army. It therefore became necessary to place the Canadian detachment under command of the BOD Bicester for operations, and under command Canadian Army Liaison Establishment (London) for local administration

Service in Europe

The Canadian troops of the CAOF which left Germany in 1946 were occupation troops: the Canadian Brigade that moved to Germany in 1951 was part of the North Atlantic integrated force - a unique situation for a formation of the Canadian Army.

The Brigade served only briefly in Germany; from Nov 1951 to Nov 1953 the brigade served near Hanover as part of the British Army of the Rhine. The second battalions of the infantry regiments served at Camp Borden in early summer 1952, then Valcartier, and to Ipperwash in the fall, and finally at Wainwright, Alberta where they remained until 1953.

The Brigade was not comfortable in Hannover, which had a mix of extreme leftist and extreme right-wing politics; General Simonds moved the brigade to Soest as soon as he could, as the population there interacted well with Canadians whenever the latter trained there.

Deficiencies in equipment and administration affected morale in the brigade.

However, the most basic problem of all was that the composite battalion idea had not really worked. For one thing, there was great difficulty building up any institutional focus or loyalty to the generic battalions. For another, when the first of the married men took leave for home in early 1953, it was found that three or four of the contributing Militia regiments could not generate enough recruits to keep their companies up to strength. That cut to the heart of the whole philosophy of the composite regiments as they now existed. It made little sense to perpetuate the Algonquins, Regina Rifles, and Seaforths in the Regular Army, for example, if vacancies in these companies had to be filled with surplus volunteers provided by the Carleton and Yorks, Queen's Own, or Black Watch.1

In 1953, as part of the reorganizations of the Regular Force and expansion from three regular infantry regiments to six, the composite infantry battalions were redesignated as Regular Force regiments. The Highland Battalions became the regular component of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, and the two Rifle Battalions became the regular component of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. Both battalions of the composite infantry regiment became The Canadian Guards.

In late 1953, the 27th Canadian Brigade Group was redesignated 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, and the original infantry battalions of the 25th Canadian Brigade (2 RCR, 2PPCLI and 2R22eR) rotated in to replace the infantry units in Europe.2

Field Security

No. 1 Reserve Force Intelligence Training Company of the Canadian Intelligence Corps was mobilized to form No. 2 FSS for service in Europe with the 27th Brigade. This Field Security Section was the forerunner of the FSS in HQ 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group and later 1st Canadian Division.

Uniform Insignia

Formation Patches for the brigade were shield shaped, similar to that worn by the 25th Canadian Brigade in Korea. Brigade headquarters and support troops wore a plain grey patch, while the three battalions wore a symbol designating their affiliations: a bayonet (line infantry), bugle horn (Rifles) or Scottish thistle (Highland). These patches were worn on battledress, bush dress and service dress.

 

 

Artifacts and photos courtesy Bill Alexander.

Notes

  1. Marteinson, John. We Stand On Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army (Ovale Publications, Montreal, PQ, 1992) p. 376

  2. Ibid, pp.378-379


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