The Second World War Canadian Rifle Company in Action

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The Second World War Canadian Rifle Company in Action

Christopher Ono
Christopher Ono

August 20th, 2009, 3:49 pm #1

Hello everyone,

With some research in my limited printed library and online resources, I've found a typical Canadian Rifle Company order of battle in the Second World War.

I think most of the readers here are knowledgeable about the formations and equipment involved - my question is more about usage and tasking.

At the Company HQ level, there is a Jeep, a 15-cwt truck and a Universal Carrier attached. I'm familiar with the role of the Jeep and Universal Carrier as a general purpose vehicle and fire support/ammo carrier/general use vehicle respectively, but what was the purpose of the truck at the company level? Generally carrying the Company's HQ/admininstrative equipment and records around? Food? Supplies? I would think that the trucks of the RCASC would take care of supply and motorized transport for most needs - what role/mission did the company truck have?

Up until November of 1944, two snipers were organic to the Company. Did they operate independently, generally, or were they used more directly? For example, if the rifle company was on the advance against fixed defensive positions (hasty or deliberate), what did the snipers do?

Or were they primarily employed between engagements or in defensive situations to harass the enemy?

Late in 1944, the snipers were consolidated in the Battalion as a separate section. This allowed certain administrative and hierarchical changes, but was also apparently as a result of experiences in Normandy. What was happening with the snipers that it was felt that their role was better served at the Battalion level of attachment?

There are three orderlies listed - are these typically used as runners and general go-fers, or did they have more specific roles?

The equipment list allocated three PIAT launchers at the company level. Were they typically allocated to the platoon HQs, to a specific section in the platoon, or on a ad hoc basis?

A lot of questions. Thanks in advance for answers.
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Joined: January 1st, 1970, 12:00 am

August 20th, 2009, 5:20 pm #2

Snipers were trained as scouts in the Canadian Army and organized into a scout & sniper platoon in NW Europe. When not operating as sharpshooters, their role was reconnaissance.

What sources are you consulting re: War Establishment? I'm finalizing a draft of a book that will answer many of these questions in detail and curious whether my research will match yours.

http://www.network54.com/Forum/28173/me ... 6+Jun+1944

Some discussions on WEs have occurred on this forum and Dan Martel has been generous enough to provide me with copies from his collection. I've had correspondence with others also that has unfortunately been lost in a hard drive crash so I hope I'm not leaving any names out; Mark Tonner is also a good resource of primary info, ditto Ken Joyce.
Michael Dorosh
Webmaster
canadiansoldiers.com
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Christopher Ono
Christopher Ono

August 20th, 2009, 6:23 pm #3

My information is from secondary sources in all cases; I don't have the funds or time to access to primary documents. I can't say as to the accuracy of anything I've posted so far, but it seems correct.

The primary online source I was referring to was:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/

Specifically:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/toe ... ompany.htm

He's kind enough to list his sources and actually lists your site in his links page:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/General/Sources.htm

For the personnel and equipment for Commonwealth Infantry Battalions he cites:

An Infantry Battalion, ref II/233/2, notified in Army Council Instructions 19th May 1943, effective date 30th April 1943.

An Infantry Battalion, ref II/233/3, notified in Army Council Instructions 29th November 1944, effective date 12th November 1944.

I then checked it against what's listed in Jean Bouchery, "The Canadian Soldier" Histoire & Collections, 2002. ISBN-13: 978-2913903517

I see that you've written a review of that book at Amazon, so you're well familiar with it - I include the ISBN for the reference of other novice readers like myself who are only beginning their studies of Canadian military history.

In case it interests you, in relation to your research on Parachute units, he does have this page:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/toe ... ompany.htm
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Christopher Ono
Christopher Ono

August 20th, 2009, 6:25 pm #4

Whoops... reading more carefully through that post you link to, other people have already referred to the Bayonet Strength site... so, never mind.
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Michael Dorosh
Michael Dorosh

August 20th, 2009, 9:11 pm #5

One of Dan's pet peeves if I recall correctly was people assuming the British WEs were identical to Canadian ones; I'd have to review the notes he wrote out for me in detail, but I seem to recall Bouchery had it wrong and that most references do - Terry Copp was another who simply parrotted British WE information instead of looking at Canadian WE info. Sorry to be vague; if Dan is around perhaps he can go into more detail as he is definitely the expert here.
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Keith Matthews
Keith Matthews

August 21st, 2009, 10:10 am #6

At the risk of committing the sin of generalising between British and Canadian practice I will comment on allocation of vehicles drawn from Canadian and British sources.

The Inf Bn. vehicle allocation was a pool to be used flexibly as the tactical situation allowed, however the allocation was not that generous and tended to result in a set pattern. Don't be shocked though if you find evidence of, for example, Officer's favouring a motorbike as their personal transport rather than a jeep, etc.

The Company 15cwt truck carried the personal kit - bedding, greatcoats, etc, of the Coy HQ personnel in the way the Platoon 15cwt would, and include the Officers 'Bat and baggage' as well as Company admin materiel. It may also carry Coy. stores not needed for an immediate op - picks and shovels for example. It may be up with the troops but usually with Bn. rear HQ. As it belonged to the sub-unit and driven by a comrade it was considered part of the unit rather than CRASC or similar. Accounts show the appearance of the unit's 15cwt, often following an action to be a real personal comfort - rather than the more functional supply role of the A & B Echelon.

The Carrier would be the forward supply vehicle with ammo, and whatever else may be needed to hand but not carried on the soldier - e.g. picks and shovels could therefore be here. It was likely to be somewhere between the Coy HQ, Platoons and possibly the Bn. forward HQ.

Remember that M3 Scout cars, US half-track variants, C15's, etc were technically classed as 'trucks 15cwt(armoured)' and (if they could be obtained) might replace a truck or two in an Infantry Bn. - Bn. HQ getting first call of course (e.g. signals M14FFR). However this is not usual and it is best to use direct evidence for this.

The Company PIATs were a unit asset (not a personal weapon) to be allocated as required for the operation. They could be allocated to Platoon Commanders, carried at Coy HQ, transported in the Carrier or left in the Coy 15cwt truck as required (see how it works?).

Sorry to be lengthy. I trust that this helps. Good luck with the reasearch.

And Mike, I am really looking forward to your book!

Keith Matthews
York Castle Museum (England)




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Christopher Ono
Christopher Ono

August 21st, 2009, 2:07 pm #7

Thanks Keith and Mike.

I know that it's a "sin" to assume that Canadian WE always follows British WE, but they often seem to be very close. I'm actually surprised that there weren't more differences, all things considered.

As Mike points out, the Scout/Sniper Platoon vs. the Battalion sniper section appears to be an exception.

Keith, thanks for the info on the 15cwt truck. Based on your feedback (and general common sense) I think it's safe to assume (as I have to this point) it would stay out of the frontline activities of a forward-deployed company (i.e. no running about evacuating casualties, resupplying ammo, etc.).

The PIAT usage/deployment also seems to be as I expected.

Another, follow-on question related to duties and tasking in the company - I seem to recall reading/hearing that the Company Sergeant Major has responsibilities for ensuring prompt ammunition resupply, overseeing guarding and processing of prisoners and evacuation of friendly casualties. Is that correct, or am I mentally confusing the duties of the CSM with another warrant officer or position?

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Joined: February 1st, 2006, 6:13 pm

August 21st, 2009, 11:53 pm #8

My information is from secondary sources in all cases; I don't have the funds or time to access to primary documents. I can't say as to the accuracy of anything I've posted so far, but it seems correct.

The primary online source I was referring to was:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/

Specifically:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/toe ... ompany.htm

He's kind enough to list his sources and actually lists your site in his links page:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/General/Sources.htm

For the personnel and equipment for Commonwealth Infantry Battalions he cites:

An Infantry Battalion, ref II/233/2, notified in Army Council Instructions 19th May 1943, effective date 30th April 1943.

An Infantry Battalion, ref II/233/3, notified in Army Council Instructions 29th November 1944, effective date 12th November 1944.

I then checked it against what's listed in Jean Bouchery, "The Canadian Soldier" Histoire & Collections, 2002. ISBN-13: 978-2913903517

I see that you've written a review of that book at Amazon, so you're well familiar with it - I include the ISBN for the reference of other novice readers like myself who are only beginning their studies of Canadian military history.

In case it interests you, in relation to your research on Parachute units, he does have this page:

http://www.bayonetstrength.150m.com/toe ... ompany.htm
Hi Christopher (and all others);

I didn't know where exactly in your thread to post the following, so ...

... it is rather long ...

Some notes on War Establishments - "A Canadian Infantry (Rifle) Battalion - 1939 to 1945:

1. - Upon mobilization in 1939 Canadian infantry (rifle) battalions adopted the British - War Establishment II/1931/12B/3 which provided for 22 officers and 642 other ranks (paymaster and his batman included) (664 total).

2. - War Establishment - II/1931/12B/3 was superseded by War Establishment - II/1931/12F/1 "An Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)" under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 84/3896 of 14th August 1940, effective 15th March 1940. (Re: General Orders 1940 - G.O. 169/40 of 21st August 1940) and provided for 22 officers and 775 other ranks (797 total) (three men per rifle sec and three cooks per battalion added for an addition of 111 other ranks).

3. - Under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 29/2370 of 4th June 1940, effective 1st May 1940 (and A.C.I. 804), all Warrant Officers Class III were replaced by subalterns, changing the authorized strength to 33 officers and 753 other ranks (786 total).

4. - War Establishment II/1931/12F/1 - "An Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)" was superceded by "A Canadian Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)" Cdn. II/1940/12F/1 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 77/7841 of 9th October 1941, effective 1st August 1941 (Re: General Orders 1941 - G.O. 228/41of 17th October 1941) and provided for 32 officers and 767 other ranks (799 total).

5. - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)" Cdn. II/1940/12F/1 was superseded by "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/1940/12F/2 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 44/3723 of 4th May 1942, effective 3rd September 1942 (Re: Part "A" General Orders 1942 - G.O. 472/42 of 14th December 1942) and provided for 37 officers and 782 other ranks (819 total). War Establishment - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/1940/12F/2 conformed to the introduction of 2-pounder anti-tank guns and 20-mm anti-aircraft guns into the infantry battalion, and the elimination of Headquarters Company and the addition of a Support Company (of four platoons - carrier, mortar, anti-tank, and pioneer)

6. - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/1940/12F/2 was superseded by "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/12F/3 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 2339 of 23rd March 1943, effective 1st January 1943 (Re: Part "A" General Orders 1943 - G.O. 144/43 of 3rd April 1943) and provided for 32 officers and 741 other ranks (773 total). War Establishment - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/12F/3 conformed with a reduction from four to three rifle companies, but re-introduced the Headquarters Company and it also provided for the elimination of the 20-mm anti-aircraft guns from the infantry battalion and the later replacement of 2-pounder anti-tank guns with 6-pounder anti-tank guns in the infantry battalion. Under Canadian Military Headquarters Administrative Order No. 18 of 27th January 1943, war establishment Cdn. II/12F/3 was authorized to be adopted by the Canadian Infantry Battalions in the United Kingdom effective 31st January 1943. Effective 15th March 1943, the reference number of this new war establishment was changed from Cdn. II/12F/3 to Cdn. II/233/1 (Re: War Diary, C.M.H.Q. (G.S.) March 1943, Appendix 75)

7. - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/1 was superseded by "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/2 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 44/3723 of 4th May 1942, effective 27th April 1943 (Re: Part "B" General Orders 1943 - G.O. 466/43 of 20th November 1943) and provided for 37 officers and 811 other ranks (848 total). War Establishment "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/2 provided the re-introduction of the fourth rifle company. The infantry battalions of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division were immediately authorized to adopt the new war establishment of Cdn. II/233/2 since they had just received their mobilization orders for the Sicilian invasion (Re: C.M.H.Q. Mobilization Order No. 1, of 17th April 1943, as amended). Owing to manpower shortages, however, the remaining Canadian infantry battalions in the United Kingdom temporarily retained the lower establishment of Cdn II/233/1 and were eventually placed upon Cdn II/233/2 effective 1st August 1943 (Re: C.M.H.Q. Administrative Order No. 107, of 20th July 1943).

8. - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/2 was superseded by "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/3 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 44/3723 of 4th May 1942, effective 5th August 1943 (Re: Part "B" General Orders 1943 - G.O. 466/43 of 20th November 1943) and provided for 37 officers and 811 other ranks (but provided for all four rifle company commanders to be Majors). Canadian battalions in the Central Mediterranean Force did not convert to this new war establishment Cdn. II/233/3 until February 1944 and were allowed to adopt the same effective date (5th August 1943) as for the others and thus protect the seniority and pensions of personnel affected (Re: C.M.H.Q. Administrative Order No. 29, of 26th February 1944).

9. - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/3 was superseded by "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/4 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 44/3723 of 4th May 1942, effective 15th August 1944 (Re: Part "B" General Orders 1944 - G.O. 553/44 of 22nd December 1944) and provided for 37 officers and 811other ranks (it brought no change in basic organization nor in strength, but provided for an additional four Privates (one driver I.C. per rifle company) when the battalion formed part of an armoured division).

10 . - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/4 - Amendment No. 4 under the authority pursuant to Order-in-Council P.C. 44/3723 of 4th May 1942, effective 30th September 1944 (Re: Part "B" General Orders 1945 - G.O. 19/45 of 20th January 1945) added a Scout Officer and his batman increasing the strength to 38 officers and 812 other ranks (850 total) for a Canadian infantry (rifle) battalion.

11. - War Establishment - "A Canadian Infantry Battalion" Cdn. II/233/4 which provided for an authorized strength of 38 officers and 812 other ranks (850 total) for a Canadian infantry (rifle) battalion, was still in effect at the end of the war.

12. - Starting with War Establishment II/1931/12F/1- "An Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)", copies of:

- War Establishment II/1931/12F/1 - "An Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)"
- "A Canadian Infantry Battalion (Higher Establishment)" Cdn. II/1940/12F/1
- A Canadian Infantry Battalion Cdn. II/1940/12F/2
- A Canadian Infantry Battalion Cdn. II/233/1
- A Canadian Infantry Battalion Cdn. II/233/2
- A Canadian Infantry Battalion Cdn. II/233/3
- A Canadian Infantry Battalion Cdn. II/233/4

along with Amendments can be found at Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa) in the following files:

Reference: RG24 , National Defence , Series C-2 , Volume 9942
File : 5/INF BN/1 , Access code: 90
File Title: War establishment - Canadian infantry battalion
Outside Dates: 1940/02-1943/04
Finding Aid number: 24-15

Reference: RG24 , National Defence , Series C-2 , Volume 9942
File : 5/INF BN/1/2 , Access code: 90
File Title: War estab [establishment] - Cdn [Canadian] infantry battalion
Outside Dates: 1943/01-1944/08
Finding Aid number: 24-15

Reference: RG24 , National Defence , Series C-2 , Volume 9942
File : 5/INF BN/1/3 , Access code: 90
File Title: War estab [establishment] - Cdn [Canadian] infantry battalion
Outside Dates: 1943/07-1946/04
Finding Aid number: 24-15

Hope this helps in some small way.

Cheers

Mark
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Joined: January 9th, 2007, 1:32 am

August 24th, 2009, 8:43 pm #9

Hello everyone,

With some research in my limited printed library and online resources, I've found a typical Canadian Rifle Company order of battle in the Second World War.

I think most of the readers here are knowledgeable about the formations and equipment involved - my question is more about usage and tasking.

At the Company HQ level, there is a Jeep, a 15-cwt truck and a Universal Carrier attached. I'm familiar with the role of the Jeep and Universal Carrier as a general purpose vehicle and fire support/ammo carrier/general use vehicle respectively, but what was the purpose of the truck at the company level? Generally carrying the Company's HQ/admininstrative equipment and records around? Food? Supplies? I would think that the trucks of the RCASC would take care of supply and motorized transport for most needs - what role/mission did the company truck have?

Up until November of 1944, two snipers were organic to the Company. Did they operate independently, generally, or were they used more directly? For example, if the rifle company was on the advance against fixed defensive positions (hasty or deliberate), what did the snipers do?

Or were they primarily employed between engagements or in defensive situations to harass the enemy?

Late in 1944, the snipers were consolidated in the Battalion as a separate section. This allowed certain administrative and hierarchical changes, but was also apparently as a result of experiences in Normandy. What was happening with the snipers that it was felt that their role was better served at the Battalion level of attachment?

There are three orderlies listed - are these typically used as runners and general go-fers, or did they have more specific roles?

The equipment list allocated three PIAT launchers at the company level. Were they typically allocated to the platoon HQs, to a specific section in the platoon, or on a ad hoc basis?

A lot of questions. Thanks in advance for answers.
Christopher,

Your questions seem to be about the tactical handling of a rifle company in combat and what the correct procedure was for the handling of the company headquarters's vehicles and the company's snipers. I am not an expert on Second World War infantry tactics but I have been researching Canadian war establishments for many years now. Before I put in my 2 cents there are four things I have learned that I would like to pass on.

1) The greater ones interest becomes the more one realizes that the answers are not on publicly available internet forums or books. If you're lucky enough to be living in Ottawa or near to a military museum, use the resources available. The LAC and DHH are great places to rummage through files, as are the museums. If you can't do this, then go to your local military shows and purchase some manuals etc. These also have a wealth of information. There is a cautionary note however, sometimes the official documents can be wrong too!

2) A war establishment (NOT an order of battle) is an administrative document. It does not deal with tactics or the four phases of warfare. There were 33 Canadian rifle battalions at the height of the fighting in Europe and I would bet that probably none of them matched the official war establishment at any given time. This was not due to a lack of discipline by the commander but to the situation and available resources confronting the battalion.

3) On the cover of every war establishment is a paragraph that states the written establishment is only a guide for the commanding officer, and that the commanding officer can make any changes he sees fit within the total numbers of personnel, allotted ranks and equipment provided. This meant that the CO could, if required, keep four rifle companies of 125 each or reorganize to five companies of 100 or three companies of 166. The CO's discretion was paramount and flexibility was a key word in reacting to any combat situation.

4) By the latter years of the war the Canadian Army was fighting by echelons. This was reflected in the training manuals of the time and was known as battle organization or organization for battle. This is important to remember especially when dealing with the allocation of softskin vehicles.

Now to your specific questions. Keith Matthews had some good information on infantry use vehicles, but remember two things. First, the allocation of the company's vehicles depended on what phase of warfare the company was involved in. Second, the company commander (like the battalion commander) could allocate whichever vehicle he had to whichever echelon he wanted. Generally I would think that the 15-cwt truck operated between the 'B' and 'A' echelons while the carrier operated between 'A' and 'F'. The jeep could probably do both, if required. Again, commander's discretion and flexibility. With 132 Canadian rifle companies in combat there were probably 132 SOP's.

The same can be said for the snipers. The procedure for their usage came from the company commander and depended upon the situation at hand. Their positions were transferred to battalion control for two reasons; to enhance their usage as a battalion rather than company asset, and to provide for a rank structure that allowed soldiers with a desire to get ahead to remain as snipers.

I don't want to sound pedantic but with regard to the allocation of PIAT's, remember; commander's discretion, the applicable phase of war and the situation at hand.

Now for the orderlies. The definition of an orderly in 'Infantry Training 1937' is 'a man detailed to carry messages'. This is what they did and what they were for. Remember that even by 1944 the use of radios below company level was not a fait accompli. The relevant manual, 'Infantry Training 1944 Part VIII', stated that 'the normal method of passing information back to company headquarters from a forward position is by runner (read orderly)'. Three rifle platoons in a company required three orderlies in company headquarters to pass on orders in real time.

Well, I hope this helps. Good luck in your research.

Cheers,
Dan.
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