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An Army of Never-Ending Strength: Reinforcing the Canadians in NW Europe 44-45

TangoTwoBravo

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I recently read Arthur Gullachsen's An Army of Never-Ending Strength - Reinforcing the Canadians in North-West Europe 1944-45. In the interests of transparency I should point out that Arthur, a serving Captain and history prof at RMC, and I served together in 2 RCR and we have remained friends. Gullachsen looks at Canadian doctrine, equipment, training and organization with a focus on the period between the landings in Normandy and the German surrender in 1945. He argues that the Canadian army was able to remain in a state of perpetual offensive operations due to a very robust personnel and equipment replacement system. The book should be of interest for those looking for a deeper understanding of the Canadian army in NW Europe, but it also offers some insights for current-day officers contemplating large scale combat operations.

The book describes in detail the personnel and vehicle replacement system in place for the Canadian army. The scale of personnel replacements to units in Normandy is stunning. Over 5,000 Canadian reinforcements were sent in August 1944 alone, with another 9,000 sent in September. Five reinforcement battalions managed this flow from England to the units fighting on the line. The book lays out how the system would flow, noting that excessive bureaucracy was an issue but also pointing out that the system worked.

Gullachsen studies the shortage of infantry reinforcements in August 1944 that precipitated the conscription crisis. A number of factor contributed to the shortage, but chief among them was incorrect forecasts of casualties by branch of service which in turn meant that reinforcements were available but in the wrong branch. Infantry casualty forecasts were too low, while those for other branches were too high. In June and July 1944 the forecasted loss rate for infantry other ranks had was 2,150 while 3,885 was the actual number. At the same time, 1,211 casualties had been forecast for non-infantry while 994 were the actual losses. As a result there were re-mustering programs for the reinforcements, but Gullachsen points out that training standards were maintained. By August 1944 new casualty rates had been produced to guide future reinforcement programs.

RCEME officers should take great interest in the third chapter which describes both the formation of their Corps and the breath-taking vehicle repair and replacement system in effect at the time. G3 and G4 staff officers should also find this chapter interesting. The contrast with the German vehicle repair and replacement system at the time is staggering - 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade starts one period of comparison with over 200 tanks and reaches a low of 100 on 16 August but is quickly back to 150 tanks a week later. Throughout most of the period there are losses but the tank strengths stays around 200 until Totalize/Tractable with constant replacements. The German Panzer Regiment 3, on the other hand, starts the period with over 150 tanks and steadily declines into nothing by 9 August.

Arthur notes that losses in Artillery units were much lower than in the infantry and armour, and partly as a result the Canadian artillery was able to maintain a high level of efficiency throughout the campaign. He describes the "bite and hold" tactics that evolved to leverage this artillery superiority along with improved combined-arms tactics.

The accounts in the book would have been interesting from an academic perspective to serving officers at the time of its publication last year. In the light of the current war in Ukraine, though, there are some areas that could be noted as Western countries contemplate a return to large scale combat operations. The need for a robust replacement system is clear. The WW2 Canadian standard for an infantry reinforcement/replacement was four months. The need for accurate forecasts of losses is also highlighted along with the need for replacements to be able to be remustered. The experience of the Ukrainian war should be studied to inform our estimates. Whether it is preferable to keep units "on the line" and reinforced in place or have units rotated out for the integration of reinforcements should also be examined. The Canadian practice of doing this forward was successful in 1944, but the Canadian army of that time was also able to dominate the artillery duel.

I recommend this book for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Canadian army's performance in NW Europe as well as serving officers who want to see an example of how a force is kept in action and the systems required to do so.
 

Edward Campbell

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I recently read Arthur Gullachsen's An Army of Never-Ending Strength - Reinforcing the Canadians in North-West Europe 1944-45. In the interests of transparency I should point out that Arthur, a serving Captain and history prof at RMC, and I served together in 2 RCR and we have remained friends. Gullachsen looks at Canadian doctrine, equipment, training and organization with a focus on the period between the landings in Normandy and the German surrender in 1945. He argues that the Canadian army was able to remain in a state of perpetual offensive operations due to a very robust personnel and equipment replacement system. The book should be of interest for those looking for a deeper understanding of the Canadian army in NW Europe, but it also offers some insights for current-day officers contemplating large scale combat operations.

The book describes in detail the personnel and vehicle replacement system in place for the Canadian army. The scale of personnel replacements to units in Normandy is stunning. Over 5,000 Canadian reinforcements were sent in August 1944 alone, with another 9,000 sent in September. Five reinforcement battalions managed this flow from England to the units fighting on the line. The book lays out how the system would flow, noting that excessive bureaucracy was an issue but also pointing out that the system worked.

Gullachsen studies the shortage of infantry reinforcements in August 1944 that precipitated the conscription crisis. A number of factor contributed to the shortage, but chief among them was incorrect forecasts of casualties by branch of service which in turn meant that reinforcements were available but in the wrong branch. Infantry casualty forecasts were too low, while those for other branches were too high. In June and July 1944 the forecasted loss rate for infantry other ranks had was 2,150 while 3,885 was the actual number. At the same time, 1,211 casualties had been forecast for non-infantry while 994 were the actual losses. As a result there were re-mustering programs for the reinforcements, but Gullachsen points out that training standards were maintained. By August 1944 new casualty rates had been produced to guide future reinforcement programs.

RCEME officers should take great interest in the third chapter which describes both the formation of their Corps and the breath-taking vehicle repair and replacement system in effect at the time. G3 and G4 staff officers should also find this chapter interesting. The contrast with the German vehicle repair and replacement system at the time is staggering - 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade starts one period of comparison with over 200 tanks and reaches a low of 100 on 16 August but is quickly back to 150 tanks a week later. Throughout most of the period there are losses but the tank strengths stays around 200 until Totalize/Tractable with constant replacements. The German Panzer Regiment 3, on the other hand, starts the period with over 150 tanks and steadily declines into nothing by 9 August.

Arthur notes that losses in Artillery units were much lower than in the infantry and armour, and partly as a result the Canadian artillery was able to maintain a high level of efficiency throughout the campaign. He describes the "bite and hold" tactics that evolved to leverage this artillery superiority along with improved combined-arms tactics.

The accounts in the book would have been interesting from an academic perspective to serving officers at the time of its publication last year. In the light of the current war in Ukraine, though, there are some areas that could be noted as Western countries contemplate a return to large scale combat operations. The need for a robust replacement system is clear. The WW2 Canadian standard for an infantry reinforcement/replacement was four months. The need for accurate forecasts of losses is also highlighted along with the need for replacements to be able to be remustered. The experience of the Ukrainian war should be studied to inform our estimates. Whether it is preferable to keep units "on the line" and reinforced in place or have units rotated out for the integration of reinforcements should also be examined. The Canadian practice of doing this forward was successful in 1944, but the Canadian army of that time was also able to dominate the artillery duel.

I recommend this book for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Canadian army's performance in NW Europe as well as serving officers who want to see an example of how a force is kept in action and the systems required to do so.
I remember studying, very carefully - it was 99% sure to be a promotion exam question, the A vehicle and crew replacement system. There were, Forward Delivery Squadrons (RCAC) (in each corps?) wherein RCAC soldiers (newcomers and veterans who had lost their tank) were "married up" with one another and with a new tank and then sent forward, as required, when needed. It wasn't simple - it actually required well coordinated G, A and Q (Ops, Pers and Log) staff actions (can you imagine?), but it appears to have been very, very effective.
 

daftandbarmy

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Can we also have a thread on Army reserve structuring, funding and its relationship with the Regular Army ?

We really haven't dived deep enough into that topic.

Stop It And You GIF
 

Halifax Tar

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I recently read Arthur Gullachsen's An Army of Never-Ending Strength - Reinforcing the Canadians in North-West Europe 1944-45. In the interests of transparency I should point out that Arthur, a serving Captain and history prof at RMC, and I served together in 2 RCR and we have remained friends. Gullachsen looks at Canadian doctrine, equipment, training and organization with a focus on the period between the landings in Normandy and the German surrender in 1945. He argues that the Canadian army was able to remain in a state of perpetual offensive operations due to a very robust personnel and equipment replacement system. The book should be of interest for those looking for a deeper understanding of the Canadian army in NW Europe, but it also offers some insights for current-day officers contemplating large scale combat operations.

The book describes in detail the personnel and vehicle replacement system in place for the Canadian army. The scale of personnel replacements to units in Normandy is stunning. Over 5,000 Canadian reinforcements were sent in August 1944 alone, with another 9,000 sent in September. Five reinforcement battalions managed this flow from England to the units fighting on the line. The book lays out how the system would flow, noting that excessive bureaucracy was an issue but also pointing out that the system worked.

Gullachsen studies the shortage of infantry reinforcements in August 1944 that precipitated the conscription crisis. A number of factor contributed to the shortage, but chief among them was incorrect forecasts of casualties by branch of service which in turn meant that reinforcements were available but in the wrong branch. Infantry casualty forecasts were too low, while those for other branches were too high. In June and July 1944 the forecasted loss rate for infantry other ranks had was 2,150 while 3,885 was the actual number. At the same time, 1,211 casualties had been forecast for non-infantry while 994 were the actual losses. As a result there were re-mustering programs for the reinforcements, but Gullachsen points out that training standards were maintained. By August 1944 new casualty rates had been produced to guide future reinforcement programs.

RCEME officers should take great interest in the third chapter which describes both the formation of their Corps and the breath-taking vehicle repair and replacement system in effect at the time. G3 and G4 staff officers should also find this chapter interesting. The contrast with the German vehicle repair and replacement system at the time is staggering - 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade starts one period of comparison with over 200 tanks and reaches a low of 100 on 16 August but is quickly back to 150 tanks a week later. Throughout most of the period there are losses but the tank strengths stays around 200 until Totalize/Tractable with constant replacements. The German Panzer Regiment 3, on the other hand, starts the period with over 150 tanks and steadily declines into nothing by 9 August.

Arthur notes that losses in Artillery units were much lower than in the infantry and armour, and partly as a result the Canadian artillery was able to maintain a high level of efficiency throughout the campaign. He describes the "bite and hold" tactics that evolved to leverage this artillery superiority along with improved combined-arms tactics.

The accounts in the book would have been interesting from an academic perspective to serving officers at the time of its publication last year. In the light of the current war in Ukraine, though, there are some areas that could be noted as Western countries contemplate a return to large scale combat operations. The need for a robust replacement system is clear. The WW2 Canadian standard for an infantry reinforcement/replacement was four months. The need for accurate forecasts of losses is also highlighted along with the need for replacements to be able to be remustered. The experience of the Ukrainian war should be studied to inform our estimates. Whether it is preferable to keep units "on the line" and reinforced in place or have units rotated out for the integration of reinforcements should also be examined. The Canadian practice of doing this forward was successful in 1944, but the Canadian army of that time was also able to dominate the artillery duel.

I recommend this book for those seeking a deeper understanding of the Canadian army's performance in NW Europe as well as serving officers who want to see an example of how a force is kept in action and the systems required to do so.

In all seriousness, I will have to look this up. I am very interested in our Logistics history.
 

Blackadder1916

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In all seriousness, I will have to look this up. I am very interested in our Logistics history.

It looks interesting. As I wait to acquire the book there are a few on-line resources in the same vein from Gullachsen.

A junobeach.org podcast

From 2018 Canadian Military History journal

And his PhD dissertation "An Army of Never-Ending Strength: The Reinforcement of the Canadian Army 1944-1945" (2016)
 

Old Sweat

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This is an interesting, and intriguing, subject. We did experience a shortage of infantry reinforcements, however a study by the Canadian Army Historical Section, available on line, determined it was because of a miscalculation by British authorities of the percentage by corps. Based on experience in North Africa, they overestimated the number of armoured casualties. The subject is a fascinating read, suffice to say that the percentage of infantry casualties was virtually unchanged between the two world wars; what changed was the percentage of infantry in the army, not the rate at which they became casualties. Is this still valid?
 

TangoTwoBravo

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This is an interesting, and intriguing, subject. We did experience a shortage of infantry reinforcements, however a study by the Canadian Army Historical Section, available on line, determined it was because of a miscalculation by British authorities of the percentage by corps. Based on experience in North Africa, they overestimated the number of armoured casualties. The subject is a fascinating read, suffice to say that the percentage of infantry casualties was virtually unchanged between the two world wars; what changed was the percentage of infantry in the army, not the rate at which they became casualties. Is this still valid?
Arthur Gullachsen has a whole Chapter of the book dedicated to this. The original casualty planning figures in 1939 were 20%. This was amended with British experience from North Africa. This was somewhat responsible for the shortfall. Losses in North Africa were spread much more equally among Corps. In North Africa I suppose we saw the loss of entire formations through encirclement and surrender which would indeed spread the losses out.

Losses for the Ordanance and EME corps, for instance were planned at 9% when in actual fact they turned out to be 1% in Normandy.

The actual casualties for infantry (other ranks) in June and July 1944 were almost double the forecasts.

I think one take-away is that casualty forecasts must be made with an understanding of the context from which real-world examples are used. This is not to sharp-shoot staff officers making forecasts without the benefit of hindsight.
 

Blackadder1916

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. . . We did experience a shortage of infantry reinforcements, however a study by the Canadian Army Historical Section, available on line, determined it was because of a miscalculation by British authorities of the percentage by corps. Based on experience in North Africa, they overestimated the number of armoured casualties. . . .


And not to overlook the boys in various shades of blue


 

TangoTwoBravo

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I remember studying, very carefully - it was 99% sure to be a promotion exam question, the A vehicle and crew replacement system. There were, Forward Delivery Squadrons (RCAC) (in each corps?) wherein RCAC soldiers (newcomers and veterans who had lost their tank) were "married up" with one another and with a new tank and then sent forward, as required, when needed. It wasn't simple - it actually required well coordinated G, A and Q (Ops, Pers and Log) staff actions (can you imagine?), but it appears to have been very, very effective.
The level of staff work required was indeed impressive - and think, no computers!

Arthur covers this in detail in Chapter 3 of the book: A Vehs, B Vehs and major weapon systems. Canada (and the UK) had an impressive system. The Canadian Army in NW Europe had the 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment (25th CADR) that had eight squadrons. Their number of sqns ashore increased as the Canadian Corps and then Army became established. They had sqns for delivery of tanks to formations/units and other more specialized sqns including one focused on railhead acceptance of tanks. Other sqns were responsible for bringing replacement AFVs up to operational readiness and fitting all weapons and ancillary equipment. A really impressive organization. It was, though, very large and some of the checks and steps could be seen as redundant or excessive. It is hard to argue, though, with it's effectiveness.

For example, the BCRs (28th CAR) were virtually wiped out on 9 Aug 44, losing 44 Shermans that day plus some other light AFVs (not to mention the grievous personnel losses). On 10 August, however, the 25th CADR delivered 22 Shermans with another 16 Shermans delivered on 12 August. German tank replacements were tiny compared to this.

Repairs of tanks were also centralized in the Canadian Army. Vehicles were recovered back to Div and higher level "workshops/vehicle parks" for repair. Repaired vehicles might not return to the unit of origin. This was in stark contrast to the German system where Divisions hoarded their broken vehicles and dragged them around with them for fear of losing them.
 

daftandbarmy

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The level of staff work required was indeed impressive - and think, no computers!

Even less so in WW1 ;)

How Canada earned the world’s respect​

The Canadian Army was created from almost nothing. Training, leadership and grit made it indispensable to the effort to win the First World War.

The Canadian staff at every level had also learned on the job and become very competent. The plans for Vimy in 1917 had taken months to draft. Drawing up the strategy for the attack on the Drocourt-Quéant Line east of Arras at the end of August and the beginning of September 1918 took scarcely any time: “Four days ago,” staff officer Maj. Maurice Pope noted, “I knew nothing of this affair and the job is at the very least of equal magnitude.” And now the staff were, except for a few British officers, all Canadian.

 
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