Military History Books
by Harold A. Skaarup   www.SilverHawkAuthor.com   
 
Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC) Part I, 1910-1939

Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC)

Part I, 1910-1939 

The photos on these pages have been gleaned from the Library and Archives Canada collection and a few by the author.  Many of the photos were filed with detailed information missing from the caption section.  This set of photos has been collated and compiled by the author with information added where photos can be compared with existing tanks and armoured fighting vehicles.  There are errors in some of the data, and any additions, corrections or amendments to data concerning the posted photos here would be most welcome and may be e-mailed to the author at hskaarup@rogers.com. 

Data current to 24 Oct 2020.

Originally formed as the Canadian Cavalry Corps in 1910, Canada's first tank units were not raised until late in 1918.  Initially these units were considered to be part of the Machine Gun Corps and the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion, 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion and the 3e Bataillon de chars d'assaut were all too late to join the fighting in the First World War.  However, the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion was still training in Mk. V tanks in England when the Canadian Tank Corps was finally authorized two days after the armistice.Between the wars, little thought was given to tanks, although in the 1930s there were some small attempts at mechanization with motorcycles, experimental armoured cars and the purchase of a few tracked Carden-Loyd machine gun carriers for training.  The first tanks to arrive in Canada since the First World War ended, did not arrive until a few machine gun armed Vickers Mk. VI light tanks appeared just one year before Canada went to war with Germany again.  From these modest beginnings the modern Canadian Armoured Corps began on 13 August 1940 with Major-General (then Colonel) F.F. Worthington as its first colonel-commandant.  Over the course of the war from 1939 to 1944, the Armoured Corps gradually took over responsibilities from other Corps, such as Tank Regiments all being converted to Armoured Regiments, the transition of infantry reconnaissance battalions to the Armoured Corps, as well as anti-armour responsibilities from the Artillery Corps. Towards the close of the Second World War, the Corps was subsequently bestowed the honour of the 'Royal' designation by King George VI in 1945.

This portion of the story covers the period 1910 to 1939.

 (Anthony Seward Photo)

1st Canadian Tank Battalion cap badge and collar dogs. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395254)

His Majesty's Land Ship (HMLS) "Canada", No. 521, Canadian commanded British Mk. I tank.  It belonged to C Battalion, Heavy Section Machine Gun Corps, during the First World War, June 1917. 

 (National Fim Board still Photo)

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395392)

Canadian commanded British Mk. II Supply tank of the Great War having its Maple Leaf war crest and the name "Forage" painted on the glacis plate before battle in France, August 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395391)

British tank, Amiens-Roye Road, Battle of Amiens, Aug 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3405526)

British tank returning with soldiers of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles, Amiens, Aug 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395256)

British tank HMLS Donner Blitzen being dismantled, June 1917. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395412)

Tanks collected at the railway yard, Villers - Bretonneau, France after the end of the First World War, April & May 1919. 

Tank Support to the Canadian Corps in the First World War (1914-1918)

 (Anthony Sewards Photo)

1st Canadian Tank Battalion cap badge, collar dogs and shoulder flashes.

2nd Canadian Tank Battalion, 3rd Canadian Tank Battalion and Canadian Tank Corps badges.  (E Bay Photos)

**

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395270)

British tanks advancing on Vimy Ridge, July 1917.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395254)

His Majesty's Land Ship (HMLS) Canada, Canadian commanded British tank of the Great War June 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  3395261)

British First World War tank. 

On 15 September 1916, seven British tanks attached to Brigadier-General Brutinel’s Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade supported the Canadian attack on Courcellette, France during the Battle of the Somme.  British tanks also supported the Canadian Corps during the 8 August 1918 Amiens offensive.[1]

One detachment of three tanks was tasked to support the 2nd Canadian Division‘s 4th Infantry Brigade.  Another detachment of three was to work with the 6th Brigade, while the seventh tank was held in reserve.  One of the first tanks Brutinel inspected was a male tank, which meant that it was equipped with two 6 pounder Hotchkiss guns, was given the nickname Crème de Menthe.  The second tank, named Cordon Rouge, was a female version with a complement of Vickers machine-guns.  Two more tanks in the section were named Cupid, a male, and Cognac, a female.  During the battle, only one of the tanks, Crème de Menthe, was able to get into the German lines.  A soldier described seeing “a landship named the L.S. Crème de Menthe pass ahead, and go right up to the walls…its guns blazing…and the monster roared into the fort, while we could see the Germans streaming out behind it, offering an excellent target to the riflemen in the shell holes.”[2]

Although the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion was formally created by an Order-in-Council on 19 April 1918, the war ended before it could be employed.  Canada raised three tank battalions that together with a brigade headquarters, supply and workshop companies and a depot, would have comprised the Canadian Tank Brigade.  The 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion was formed in the UK and the 3rd Canadian Tank Battalion was being organized in Canada when the armistice was signed.  Originally, these tank units were designated as part of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps, but on 29 Nov 1919, they were assigned to the very short lived Canadian Tank Corps.[3]

[1] Roger V. Lucy, Early Armour in Canadian Service, (Ottawa, Service Publications, 2009), p. 5.

[2] Michael R. McNorgan, Great War Tanks in Canadian Service, (Ottawa, Service Publications, 2009), p. 5.

[3] Roger V. Lucy, Early Armour in Canadian Service, (Ottawa, Service Publications, 2009), p. 6.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  3405524)

British First World War tank with Canadian soldiers on board, Amiens, Aug 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  3405525). 

British First World War tank with Canadian soldiers on board, Amiens, Aug 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada  Photo, MIKAN No.  3395386)

British First World War tank marked TORONTO, Aug 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada  Photo, MIKAN No. 3395387)

British tank damaged, Battle of Amiens, Aug 1918.  

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522713)

Canadian soldiers advancing with a British Mk. II Male tank at Vimy, April 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395115)

British tank fresh from the factory, Wm. Foster & Co, Lincoln, UK. 

(Library and Archives Canada  Photo, MIKAN No. 3395259)

British tank, Nov 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3397301)

British tank, Nov 1916. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395260)

British tank, July 1917.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395267)

British tank, July 1917.

(Library and Archives Canada  Photo, MIKAN No. 3522071)

British First World War  tank, Vimy, Nov 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  33521931)

British late First World War  tank. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.  3395263)

British First World War  tank, July 1917. 

(Photo courtesy of United Kingdom Government)

British Mark V “male” tank, showing short 6-pounder (57-mm) Hotchkiss gun in right sponson. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395266)

Tanks preparing to go into action, July 1917.  

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395271)

Tanks preparing to go into action, July 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395384)

Tanks preparing to go into action, July 1917. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395390)

Tanks preparing to go into action July 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395394)

British tank, Hourges, Battle of Amiens, 9 Aug 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395405)

British Great War tank "Britannia" in the Victory Loan parade, Toronto, 2 Nov 1918. 

According to Robert Robinson, this tank visited over 40 Cities, towns and camps in the USA and Canada between Oct 1917 and Jan 1919 (some more than once).  "Britannia" visited Canada twice, in 1917 and 1918.  She was in Toronto on both occasions and also in Hamilton and Montreal on at least one.  The early photos show she did not have the name "Britannia" on her front glacis plate during the first visit.  The tank underwent a makeover in Chacago after mid-1918.  "Britannia" was used to recruit British and Canadian soldiers (and some Jewish and Armenian volunteers as well).  It helped sell very large amounts of war bonds in both countries and even starred in a Broadway Musical!  Four US presidents (past, present and future) were involved in the visit these being Teddy Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge and Eisenhower.

The tank crew, under Captain Richard Haig (no relation to the Field Marshal) left for Britain after the 1918 visit, but the tank which had been transferred to the US Army went back to the USA.  The officer marching in front of the tank (shown below) is Captain Haig .  His stiff walk, due to his being shot through the knee in 1917 is apparent. He was the author of "Life in a Tank" (which is now available on the Internet for free down load). 

The 301st Us Tank battalion which had operated with British heavy tanks alongside the British Tank Corps in 1918 brought their surviving Mk V and V* tanks back to Camp Colt in Oregon and it joined them. The First Battalion Canadian Tank Corps were still training in Britain when the war ended and returned without their tanks. 

"Britannia" was located at Camp Polk, Oregon, in January 1919 after the crew had gone home.  It was one of a number of tanks which were transferred to the new US Army training camp at Camp Colt, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  The US 301st heavy tank battalion carried  out a number of destructive tests of Anti-Tank (AT) mines in the early 1920s using one or more Mk IV tanks and this may have been the final fate of "Britannia".  

The U.S. Army Ordnance Training and Heritage Center at Aberdeen, Maryland, has claimed that their tank is the former "Britannia" but as "Britannia" had a cab roof hatch (probably being a converted Mk IV supply tank with female sponsons) and the Aberdeen tank has no such hatch this is unlikely.  The US Army took delivery of a number of Mk IVs in Nov 1918 and the tank at Aberdeen is likely to be one of these.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3408624)

British Great War tank Britannia in the Victory Loan parade, Toronto, 2 Nov 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3362109)

British Great War tank "Britannia" in the Victory Loan parade, Queen Street, Toronto, 2 Nov 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395404)

British Great War tank Britannia in the Victory Loan parade, Sherbrooke Street, Montreal, 19 Nov 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395404)

British Great War tank Britannia in the Victory Loan parade, Toronto, 2 Nov 1917. 

(NARA Photo)

British tank Britannia, a female tank, being tested at Camp Camp Yaphank, New York on 1 Feb 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395114)

Factory fresh Whippet tank, Wm. Foster & Co, Lincoln, England, ca. 1917. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395133)

Turreted 4-wheel drive Jeffrey armoured truck, armed with two Colt machine-guns.  Originally developed for use by the Eaton Machine Gun Battery, T40s were ordered by Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia and Defence, at a cost of $242,000.  This vehicle is on display at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, Toronto, Ontario, 1 Sep 1915.  Initially sent to the UK, they went unused until shipped to India and Ireland a year later. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395131)

Turreted 4-wheel drive Jeffrey armoured trucks, on display at the Canadian National Exhibition grounds, Toronto, Ontario, 4 Sep 1915. 

The Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade, also known as Brutinel's Brigade or the Brutinel Brigade, was the first fully motorized unit of the Canadian Army.   It was established on August 24, 1914 in Ottawa, Canada, as Automobile Machine Gun Brigade No. 1 by Canadian  Brigadier-General Raymond Brutinel, who initiated the program and was the unit's first commander.  The unit played a significant part in halting the major German offensive of March 1918.

The Brigade was originally equipped with eight Armoured Autocars mounting two Colt Model 1914 machine guns (later replaced with the standard British .303-inch Vickers MG) manufactured by Autocar in Ardmore, Pennsylvania.  Autocar also supplied six unarmoured support vehicles, four "roadsters" for the Brigade's officers, and an ambulance.

In 1918 Brutinel's force consisted of 1st and 2nd Canadian Motor MG Brigades (each of 5x8 gun batteries), Canadian Cyclist battalion, one section of medium trench mortars mounted on lorries (plus an assumed wireless and medical support).  This totalled 80 machine guns and about 300 cyclist infantry.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395367)

Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade.  A few of the eight carriers of Brutinel's Brigade, April 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395368)

Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade.  A few of the eight carriers of Brutinel's Brigade, April 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522240)

Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade,  Amiens, France, Aug 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395366)

Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade,  Amiens, France, Aug 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522760)

Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade vehicles being inspected by HRH the Duke of Connaught, ca 1918. 

 (German Army Photo)

Canadian Automobile Machine Gun Brigade vehicle casualties, ca 1918.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522326)

Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, Arras-Cambrai Road, France, Sep 1918. 

 (Library and Archives Canada Photos, MIKAN No. 3522327)

Canadian Motor Machine Gun Brigade, Arras-Cambrai Road, France, Sep 1918.  

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3395063)

Rolls Royce armoured car, No. 8 Armoured Car Sqn, March 1916, German East Africa.

 (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522273)

Renault tank, Arras, France, Sep 1918. 

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3522286)

Renault tank in Allied service during the Great War, Sep 1918. 

 (Library  and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No.)

French First World War Schneider et Saint Chamond CA 1 tank loaded on a train in Toronto, Ontario, 2 Nov 1918.  (John Boyd) 

 (Library  and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3401750) 

French First World War Schneider et Saint Chamond CA 1 tank No. 61285, loaded on a train in Toronto, Ontario, 2 Nov 1918.  (John Boyd) 

According to research by Robert Robinson, a French Schneider tank that had served with Groupe AS 17 du Groupement n° IV and that had seen action in France, was presented to Boston.  For some reason this tank was shipped through Canada on the Grand Trunk Railway as shown here in the railway yards in Toronto.   Its unit markings, an Ace of Hearts inside an inverted triangle can be seen on the side and rear of the tank. 

It was eventually displayed as the Soldiers and Sailors monument on Boston Common for a number of years as shown here identified as a Schnider M2 tank in the fall of 1918.  This tank was commanded by MdL Jean-Francois Caron of the 12th tank of the 12th Battery of Lt Lussigny.  Its first engagement took place on 9 July 1918 in l'Oise during an attack on a farm near Porte along with the 3rd Battalion of the 404th RI.  Group AS 17 was re-engaged in the Chaudun Sector from 18-25 July.  Lt Lussigny's Battery was engaged in this battle along with the 8th Zouaves.  Four tanks were put out of action at the head of the Lechelle ravine and MdL Jean Francois Caron was killed during the battle.  This was the last battle of Schneider tank No. 61285.  Repairs were made with the intention of using the tank in a a battle near St Mihiel in the Argonne forest.  An artillery report at the time noted several Schneider tanks were being repaired near Chaudun, but did not list No. 61285.  It may have been used in the battles from 12-26 Sep 1918 at St Mihiel in the Argonne alongside the Americans.  It was possibly the one transferred to the Americans when France gave them one Schneider and four Renault FT tanks.  The photos of the Schneider on the railcar in Toronto are also reported as being taken on 3 Nov 1918.  Its subsequent fate afterwards is murky, but it may have been the Schneider tank located at Aberdeen, Maryland for a while. 

A second Schneider tank, No. 62779, was sent to the USA on 28 July 1919.  This tank had reportedly been knocked out by a German shell at the Battle of Chateau Thierry, but no records have been found to confirm this.  It was given by the French government to commemorate the service of some 150 Vassar women during and after the First World War.  It was dedicated on 11 Nov 1920 and placed on display on the campus between Jewett and Josselyn Halls at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York.  It may have been named "Fleur d'Amour".  No. 62779 deteriorated and was dismantled and removed ca 21 June 1934.  

 (Thesupermat Photo)

The sole surviving Schnieder tank, No. 62770, has been restored and is on display at the Musee des Blindes, Saumur, France

The Schneider CA 1 (originally named the Schneider CA) was the first French tank.  The Schneider tank was inspired by the need to overcome the stalemate of trench warfare which on the Western Front prevailed during most of the Great War.  It specifically had to open passages for the infantry through barbed wire and then to suppress German machine gun nests.  After a first concept by Jacques Quellennec devised in November 1914, the type was developed from May 1915 onwards by engineer Eugène Brillié, paralleling British development of tanks the same year.  Colonel Jean Baptiste Eugène Estienne in December 1915 began to urge for the formation of French armour units, leading to an order in February 1916 of four hundred Schneider CA tanks, which were manufactured by SOMUA, a subsidiary of Schneider located in a suburb of Paris, between September 1916 and August 1918.  The tank was of the "box" type, lacking a turret, with the main armament, a short 75 mm cannon, in the right side.  Generally it is considered a very imperfect design, even for its day, because of a poor lay-out, insufficient fire-power, a cramped interior and inferior mobility due to an overhanging nose section.  Improved designs were almost immediately initiated but the production of these, the Schneider CA 2, CA 3 and CA 4, was eventually cancelled.  The Schneider CA 1 tanks were widely used in combat during the last war years.  Their first action on 16 April 1917 was largely a failure, the tank units suffering heavy losses, but subsequent engagements were more successful.  In 1918 the Schneider tanks played an important role in halting the German Spring Offensive and breaking the German front in the French summer offensives.  They were active until the end of September 1918, less than two months before the Armistice of 11 November 1918, their numbers having dropped considerably due to attrition.  After the war the surviving tanks were mostly rebuilt as utility vehicles but six Schneider tanks were deployed by Spain in the Rif War in Morocco, and the type saw its last action in the beginning of the Spanish Civil War.  Internet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schneider_CA1.

Armour used by Canadians between the wars

 (Library of Congress Photo No. hec.30686)

Mk. VIII Liberty tank. 

(US Army Photo)

Mk. VIII Liberty tank being ferried across a river during a training exercise. 

 (US Army Photo)

Mk. VIII Liberty tank.

(US Army Photo)

Mk. VIII Liberty Tank. 

The Tank Mark VIII also known as the Liberty or The International was an Anglo-American tank design of the First World War intended to overcome the limitations of the earlier British designs and be a collaborative effort to equip France, the UK and the US with a single heavy tank design.  Only a few vehicles were produced before the end of the war in November 1918.  After the war, 100 vehicles assembled in the US were used by the US Army until more advanced designs replaced them in 1932.  A few tanks that had not been scrapped by the start of the Second World War were provided to Canada for training purposes.