1st Canadian Division (1954-1958)
The First Canadian Division refers to four organizations raised during the 20th Century.
1st Canadian Division
1st Canadian Infantry Division (1939-1945)
1st Canadian Division (1954-1958)
1st Canadian Division (1988)
The first formation so designated was a fully manned and equipped combat division which formed the initial contribution of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A second iteration was raised for the Second World War, and served in I Canadian Corps. The last two iterations of the 20th Century were peacetime divisions. This article refers to the Division raised after the Second World War.
During the postwar reorganization of the Canadian Army (Reserve), a "Headquarters 1st Infantry Division" was officially authorized on 1 April 1946, but remained dormant until formally disbanded in July 1954, having been renamed "Headquarters 1st Division" in the interim.
Simultaneously, however, a "Headquarters, First Canadian Infantry Division" was authorized as part of the Canadian Army Active Force, on 16 Oct 1953. This, the first peace-time Division in Canadian history, consisted of a brigade, the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, in Germany, a 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade in Edmonton and a 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade at Valcartier. These brigades were fully equipped and contained "normal supporting arms and services." 1 This Division was disbanded on 30 April 1958, with the reduction to nil strength having been announced in the House of Commons on 4 Dec 1957. During its short existence, it wore the same badge - the Old Red Patch - that the 1st Division had worn between 1916 and 1918, and again from 1941-1945. This was a piece of red melton, 3 inches wide by 2 inches tall, worn on each sleeve.
The Division had only one commander in this time, Major General John Rockingham, CB, CBE, DSO & Bar, CD, LLD, who had taken command on 1 Sep 1954. He transferred to command Quebec Command in early 1958 as the division was reduced.
The decision to disband the division was related to the Cold War strategy outlined by John Foster Dulles, the US Secretary of state, in Jan 1954. His doctrine was one of massive nuclear retaliation, to be delivered to the Soviet Union in the wake of any aggressive Communist moves anywhere in the world.
Dulles's strategy was meant to deter aggression, but if the deterrent failed it also meant that the next war would be very much unlike the last. Not only would Europe, the Soviet Union, and North America be subjected to atomic air attack, but the NATO battlefield on the inner German frontier would also see the detonation of hundreds of nuclear warheads. Under the circumstances, World War III was likely to be brutish, nasty, and short, offering little time for national mobilization, Second World War-style (and probably not even the 180 days required to get 1 Canadian Division into the field.) In short, NATO's war seemed increasingly likely to be a 'come-as-you-are' war, a fact that was formally recognized in December 1954 when the Alliance adopted both elements of Dulles's policy and halved its land forces requirement from the sixty-five divisions of the 1952 Lisbon meetings to a tripwire/shield of about thirty. Following from all this, 1 Canadian Division was disbanded as a formation in 1957-1958.2
The "Old Red Patch" of a red cloth rectangle, 3-inches wide by 2-inches tall, was adopted once again as a uniform distinction, in red melton.
The Old Red Patch: The 1st Canadian Division 1915-1988, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1988. ISBN 0662561473 NDID A-JS-000-000/AF-001
Marteinson, John. We Stand On Guard: An Illustrated History of the Canadian Army (Ovale Publications, Montreal, PQ, 1992) p.383