4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group
Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group was a regular organizational formation
stationed in West Germany and later the reunified Germany as part of Canadian
Forces Europe and the Canadian commitment to NATO during the Cold War.
Order of Battle February 1957-1959
Order of Battle 1971
Order of Battle 1984
The following chart appears in First Clash, which was a conjectural account of the brigade in action in a fictional Third World War setting. The publication, by author Kenneth Macksey, was actually a training manual intended to school soldiers in doctrine and tactics.3
Canada maintained a brigade-sized commitment to NATO continually from 1951 to the end of the Cold War. The initial 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade was recruited from 15 Reserve Force infantry regiments. In 1953, Canada's NATO commitment included the revived 1st Canadian Infantry Division, though two of its brigades normally served in Canada. The 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade Group moved to German to replace the 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade in November 1953. They were replaced in turn by the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade Group from 1955-1957.
The system of rotating entire brigades ended after the 4th Brigade completed its move to Germany in November 1957. The armoured component of the NATO commitment also expanded from a squadron to a regiment of three squadrons and a reconnaissance squadron. The Royal Canadian Dragoons moved into Fort Beauséjour at Iserlohn, a pre-war German barracks formerly used by British forces from 1945. The rotation system changed in July 1958, with one third of the brigade's troops rotating annually, and tour lengths increasing from two years to three. While major combat units would continue to rotate as units, support units would begin a man-for-man rotation system.
In 1960, a number of smaller support units were incorporated directly into the brigade headquarters, including the Field Security Section, 1 Cdn Public Relations Detachment, 4 MC Group RCASC, HQ CBUE and 31 Canadian Works Section RCE. Debate raged during the last years of the 1950s as to what the true role of the role should be, and suggestions to convert the brigade to an air portable reserve for the Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR) fell by the wayside. Cabinet increased manning levels by 798 on 7 September 1961, confirming the brigade as a front-line formation, and 3 RCHA was soon augmented by the 1st SSM Battery, armed with nuclear Honest John missiles.
The brigade had been flying its own aircraft since March 1960 when L19 Bird Dogs were assigned to 1 RCHA to form 1 Air Observation Post Troop, and in May 1962 the Armoured Corps Helicopter Troop that had formed in Rivers, Manitoba the previous year brought its nine CH 112 Hillers aircraft to the brigade to become 4 Troop of the 8th Canadian Hussars Reconnaissance Squadron. One helicopter also joined the Brigade Signal Squadron as personal transport for the Brigade Commander. Number 4 Field Workshop received an Aircraft Platoon to provide ongoing maintenance.
Reliefs did not take place until the summer of 1962 due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1963, the new Canadian pattern combat clothing arrived in Europe, and 17 additional Centurion tanks were received for The Fort Garry Horse. After Brigadier Tedlie assumed command on 10 December 1964, the brigade began consolidating Canadian commitment, and exercising control over the administration of Canadians tasked out or loaned to other units, previously a matter handled by CDLS London. In the autumn of 1964, a brigade anti-tank company armed with ENTAC and SS11 missiles as well as the 106mm recoilless rifle had been formed, stationed at Fort Anne and based on "B" Company of 3rd Battalion, Royal 22e Regiment. The company remained in existence until the brigade reorganized in 1970.
In 1965 and 1966, U.S.-built M113 armoured personnel carriers arrived for the brigade's infantry. The mechanized nature of the brigade was reflected by an official name change in 1968 to "4 Canadian Mechanized Infantry Brigade Group", with the word "Infantry" being dropped shortly after adoption. The carriers would be used by the Canadian military for several decades afterwards.4
The reorganization of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army, and Royal Canadian Air Force into a single entity known as the Canadian Armed Forces, or simply Canadian Forces (CF), had profound effects on the brigade in NATO as well. Unification went into effect on 1 February 1968 and at about the same time, CF manpower was cut and new defence priorities were announced. The NATO brigade was reduced in size to 2,800 men (from a peak in the mid-1960s of 6,700). After years of very happy garrison life in the vicinity of Soest, with West Germany a full and equal partner since 1955 and no longer considered an "occupied country", the entire brigade was now to move to southern Germany as part of a centralized Canadian Forces Europe contingent. 1 Canadian Air Group was to locate at CFB Baden-Sollingen and 4 CMBG at CFB Lahr. The reduced brigade was renamed 4 Canadian Mechanized Battle Group to reflect its reduced scale, and it was tasked to Headquarters Central Army Group on 1 December 1970.
While combat units of Force Mobile Command (the designation of what used to be the Canadian Army) retained their historic titles and battle honours, the support corps were redesignated as branches and many units were combined across services. On 15 May 1968, 4 Ordnance Field Park (Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps) was disbanded, its personnel and equipment amalgamated with 1 Transport Company (Royal Canadian Army Service Corps) to form 4 Supply and Transport Company. The Repair Parts Platoon became part of 4 Field Workshop, and eventually 4 Service and Transport Company, 4 Headquarters and Signals Transport Detachment, 4 Post Platoon, 4 Finance Platoon and 4 Military Police Platoon joined it to become 4 Service Battalion on 1 April 1969.
In July 1970, the SSM Battery was disbanded, and The Fort Garry Horse stood down as a Regular Force regiment. The Fort Garries in Calgary rebadged as Lord Strathcona's Horse troopers while Strathcona's in Germany rebadged as Royal Canadian Dragoons, as did the Reconnaissance Squadron from the 8th Canadian Hussars. PPCLI and RCR returned to Canada as the new Airborne Regiment was created, and 3 Mechanized Commando stood up in Germany, again, with many new rebadging soldiers already on the ground.
The brigade in Lahr was now composed of:
Their commander now bore the revived rank of Brigadier General and the battle group moved by rail to Lahr on 1 October 1970 on 11 trains, each with over a score of flatcars, to move dozens of tanks, self-propelled guns, armoured personnel carriers, and bulldozers. The almost 500 wheeled vehicles of the brigade had moved by road in mid-October, in a series of 36-hour, 500-km journeys by convoy.
The move to Lahr brought with it more changes. The aviation elements were consolidated into one unit - 444 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. New tanks, in the form of the Leopard arrived in the early 1970s. Significantly, the years of unit rotation stopped, and all exchanges between Canada and West Germany became man-for-man, and almost all units that arrived in Lahr in 1970 remained there for the duration of the brigade's stay. In 1973, persistent efforts by the 4 CMBG commander resulted in a name change back to 4 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group. The MP Platoon became an independent unit on 22 July 1975, and 4 CMSU reclaimed its pre-unification name of 4 Field Ambulance in October 1976. In 1977, 3 Mechanized Commando was replaced by 3 RCR, though in reality most soldiers simply re-badged.4
The Gulf War
4 CMBG was Canada's best equipped and arguably most combat capable brigade during its existence. Units were provided heavy firepower, and the expectation was that in the event of war with the Warsaw Pact - which planners counted on being provoked by the enemy and fought as a defensive battle in West Germany - Canadian forces would fight against overwhelming numbers, including chemical, biological and possibly nuclear threats. None of that ever came to pass, and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe in the years following diminished the rationale for a Canadian combat capable brigade in Eastern Europe.
On 2 August 1990, the small Persian Gulf state of Kuwait was annexed by Iraq. The act had economic impacts in the Western world out of proportion to the size and location of the country, and the invasion was seen as a direct threat to Canadian interests, in addition to the moral questions raised by the violent nature of the event and the character of the Iraqi regime, which had just concluded a brutal eight-year war against another of its neighbours, Iran. The failure of United Nations sanctions to compel Iraq to withdraw led the passing of Resolution 665, permitting the use of military force to back up economic sanctions on Iraq to pressure them to withdraw. Canada's response to the crisis had been to deploy aircraft and naval vessels, and a small number of security forces on the ground at bases in Qatar, where the threat level was rated as high after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein vowed to unleash terrorists abroad against his enemies. The United States began airlifting large numbers of forces to the Gulf area, and assembling a multi-national military coalition, for what was known as Operation DESERT SHIELD, in Saudi Arabia, on the border of both Iraq and Kuwait. On 14 September the United Kingdom, Canada's traditional ally, deployed the 7th Armoured Brigade to the theatre as part of Operation GRANBY, and France sent an armoured force as well. On 22 November, Britain deployed a second armoured brigade. In the meantime, on 14 September, officers of the British Army of the Rhine (BAOR) had contacted Canada to informally ask if Canada would be willing to supply a brigade to "form a Commonwealth Division along the same lines as the Korea conflict in 1951".
Force Mobile Command Headquarters, in conjunction with the subordinate 1st Canadian Division headquarters, studied the feasibility of deploying Canadian ground troops. The conjectural deployment of a brigade to the Gulf was dubbed Operation BROADSWORD. FMC established that Canadians sent to the Gulf would be required to fight in an NBC environment, in full-scale war operations, subordinate to an Allied force headquarters.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General de Chastelain, ordered a second staff check to analyze factors of employment and sustainability, and issues such as augmentation by reservists (and lack of job protection legislation) and equipment shortages were returned to the CDS. Glaringly, the Leopard I and M113 equipment of the brigade was known to be vulnerable to long range direct fire and would relegate a Canadian brigade to a reserve role in the open spaces of the desert, leaving the Canadians to mop up bypassed elements at close range, or if on the defensive, to do what they had trained to do in Germany for literally decades - fight defensive battles against Soviet equipment in armour-heavy engagements. Other potential missions envisioned by the staff checks were flank and screen duties, or even rear area security. When unit commanders were solicited for advice on what their actual needs would be in the event they were mobilized for duty, many started to provide optimistic assessments with regard to equipment, attempting to recoup shortages from lean decades previous, adding a number of luxuries such as the new ADATS (air defence anti-tank system) as "requirements" rather than desired equipment. American sources consulted by Canadian planners gave pessimistic casualty estimates, some predicting Canadian battlefield deaths in the thousands.
On 29 November 1990, UN Security Council Resolution 678 gave a final deadline for the withdrawal of forces from Kuwait. On 7 December 1990, a Canadian planner felt that Operation BROADSWORD was feasible, save for the replacement of expected battlefield casualties. Three days before the deadline imposed on Saddam Hussein to withdraw his forces, news of BROADSWORD leaked to the press. Inaccurate information flooded the news, and a day before the deadline, the Right Honourable Bill McKnight, Minister of National Defence, announced that the Canadian Government had no intention of sending a Canadian combat brigade to fight in the Persian Gulf. Two days later, the air war over Iraq started. DESERT SHIELD became DESERT STORM, and by 28 February 1991, the liberation of Kuwait was complete. Canada's contribution to the ground war had been limited to security elements far to the rear.
End of the Cold War
While there had been alarm over the Soviet aggression in Afghanistan in 1979, and Canadian mechanized equipment had been used to intervene in the former Yugoslavia beginning in 1992, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the rise of perestroika and glasnost put paid to NATO's defensive military posture in Germany. The final close-out of 4 CMBG occurred in August of 1993; a total of 100,000 Canadian troops had served in Europe during the Cold War.
In 1983, the brigade group the brigade adopted a distinctive patch for wear on the DEU and Garrison Dress. The Formation Patches were worn on the right sleeve only; the raw edged melton badges on the DEU and the swiss-embroidered edged badges on the Garrison Dress Jacket. The badge had the NATO four pointed star superimposed over the Canadian maple leaf. Artifacts and photos at right courtesy Bill Alexander, showing both the DEU patch and the patch in subdued colours as worn on the short-lived Garrison Dress.