1st Canadian Division


On 1 August 1914 – three days before Britain declared war – the Governor-General of Canada offered help should war break out. On 7 August Lord Kitchener responded, saying that the Canadians might form a Division. An Expeditionary Force soon began to assemble at Valcartier (Quebec). The Division sailed on 3 October 1914 and arrived in England eleven days later. Training re-commenced on Salisbury Plain and the Division embarked for St Nazaire in early February 1915. It arrived in the Hazebrouck-Strazeele area on 15 February and thereafter the 1st Canadian Division fought in many of the major actions of the war, including:


  • The Second Battles of Ypres
    – The Battle of Grafenstafel (22-23 April). One of the most famous of Canadian actions of the Great War, when following the German poison gas attack against French North African units that were holding the front line north of Ypres and adjacent to the Division, Canadian units filtered across to their left into the gas-contaminated area and carried out a series o important counter-attacks. In so doing they greatly assisted in stemming the German attack.
    – The Battle of St Julien (24 April – 4 May).
  • The Battle of Festubert (15 – 25 May)
  • The Second Action of Givenchy (15-16 June)


  • The Battle of Mount Sorrel (2 – 13 June)
  • The Battles of the Somme 1916
    – The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (15 – 22 September)
    – The Battle of Thiepval (26 – 28 September)
    – The Battle of Le Transloy (1 – 18 October)
    – The Battle of the Ancre Heights(1 October – 11 November)


  • The Arras Offensive (often known as the Battle of Arras)
    – The Battle of Vimy (9 – 14 April). The most famous Canadian action of the Great War, when the five Divisions of the Canadian Corps captured and held the vitally important high ground known as Vimy Ridge.
    – The Battle of Arleux (28 – 29 April)
    – The Third Battle of the Scarpe (3 – 4 May) including the capture of Fresnoy
  • The Battle of Hill 70 (15 – 25 August)
  • Third Battles of Ypres
    – The Second Battle of Passchendaele (26 Oct – 10 Nov)


Canadian Divisions were not affected by the restructuring that took place in the British Divisions in February 1918 (in which the infantry brigades were reduced from four battalions down to three). They were also not directly involved in fighting against the German offsenives of spring 1918.

  • The Battle of Amiens (8-11 Aug)
  • The actions around Damery (15 – 17 August)
  • The Second Battles of Arras 1918
    – The Battle of the Scarpe (26 – 30 August)
    – The Battle of Drocourt-Queant (2 – 3 September)
  • The Battles of the Hindenburg Line
    – The Battle of the Canal du Nord (27 September – 1 October)
    – The Battle of Cambrai, 1918 (8 – 9 October)

The Division was selected to advance into Germany after the war.

Order of battle

Divisional headquarters

Headquarters, under whose command came the Infantry Brigades and the other divisional troops listed below

1st Canadian Brigade

1st Canadian Infantry (Western Ontario)

2nd Canadian Infantry (Eastern Ontario)

3rd Canadian Infantry (Toronto)

4th Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario)

1st Canadian Machine Gun Company. Formed January 1916. Left to move into 1st Canadian MG Battalion March 1918

1st Canadian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed May 1916.

2nd Canadian Brigade

5th Canadian Infantry (Western Cavalry)

6th Canadian Infantry (Fort Garry Horse). Left December 1914

7th Canadian Infantry (1st British Columbia)

8th Canadian Infantry (90th Rifles)

10th Canadian Infantry (Canadian). Joined December 1914

2nd Canadian Machine Gun Company. Formed February 1916. Left to move into 1st Canadian MG Battalion March 1918

2nd Canadian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

3rd Canadian Brigade

13th Canadian Infantry (Royal Highlanders)

14th Canadian Infantry (Royal Montreal)

15th Canadian Infantry (48th Highlanders)

16th Canadian Infantry (Canadian Scottish)

3rd Canadian Machine Gun Company. Formed March 1916. Left to move into 1st Canadian MG Battalion February 1918

3rd Canadian Trench Mortar Battery. Formed April 1916.

4th Canadian Brigade. Broken up by January 1915

9th Canadian Infantry. Converted into a reserve unit

10th Canadian Infantry (Canadian). Moved to 2nd Canadian Brigade December 1914

11th Canadian Infantry

12th Canadian Infantry

Divisional Troops

17th Bn, the Canadian Infantry (Nova Scotia Highlanders). Left January 1915, became reserve unit

18th Bn, the Canadian Infantry. Disbanded September 1914

Newfoundland contingent. Left December 1914, later formed complete Battalion

1st Canadian Pioneer Battalion. Formed March 1916

13th Canadian Machine Gun Company

Joined January 1917. Merged into 1st Canadian MG Battalion March 1918

1st Canadian Machine Gun Battalion. Formed in March 1918 by merging the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 13th Canadian Machine Gun Companies

1st Canadian Divisional Train. A unit of the Army Service Corps made up of four companies, later titled 437, 438, 439 and 440 Companies ASC

1st Canadian Mobile Veterinary Section

1st Canadian Divisional Employment Company. Joined June 1917

Divisional Mounted Troops

Service Squadron, the 19th Alberta Dragoons. Left May 1916

1st Canadian Cyclist Company. Left May 1916

Royal Canadian Dragoons. Joined October 1914, left February 1915

Strathcona’s Horse. Joined October 1914, left February 1915

Automobile Machine Gun Brigade No 1. Left February 1915

Divisional Royal Artillery

1st Canadian Brigade RFA

2nd Canadian Brigade RFA

3rd Canadian Brigade RFA. Left May 1917

Royal Canadian Horse Artillery RHA. Joined September 1914, left February 1915

1st Canadian Divisional Ammunition Column RFA

CXVIII (Howitzer) Brigade, RFA. British unit. Joined February 1915, left June 1916

22nd Canadian Brigade, RFA. Formed June 1916, disbanded March 1917

W.1.C Heavy Trench Mortar Battery RFA. Joined June 1916, retitled as V.1.C in 1918

X.1.C, Y.1.C and Z.1.C Medium Mortar Batteries RFA. Formed in March 1916; in February 1918, Z was broken up and the other batteries reorganised to have 6 x 6-inch weapons each

Divisional Royal Engineers

1st Canadian Field Company RE

2nd Canadian Field Company RE

3rd Canadian Field Company RE

1st Canadian Divisional Signal Company RE

Divisional Royal Army Medical Corps

1st Canadian Field Ambulance RAMC

2nd Canadian Field Ambulance RAMC

3rd Canadian Field Ambulance RAMC



Other Divisions

Canadian Expeditionary Force Study Group

Many war diaries of Canadian units have been digitised and are freely available online at Libraries and Archives Canada

The Canadian Official Histories of the war are also available as complete free downloads from theNational Defence and the Canadian Forces website