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CF in Great Britain ~26 May 1940; Sealion variant


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I'm following a discussion on an author's forum (Tom Kratman) about the available forces in Britain at about the time of Dunkirk. The disposition of Canadian and Newfoundland units has come up, as they would appear to be available to react to a (forecast and prepared for) German invasion near Kent.

What did McNaughton have to work with in late May? What transport and artillery was available to him?

The discussion is as follows:

[quote author=tkratman]They're generally around Aldershot on 26 May.  On that date, their commander, McNaughton, suggests forming nine battalion battle groups from his division, and basing them generally around Oxford, about 40 miles west of London's western outskirts.  Instead, the order is given on 27 May to move to Northampton, vic. Kettering, which is about 60 miles north of London.  That order will be obviated by a German landing on 26-27 May.  What's interesting, though, is that the move was done by hired civilian lorrries and still took four days.  What's also interesting is that, to the extent the Canadian advanced parties are reconning anything, and they likely are, per their orders they're reconning the eastern coast above the Humber.  They would, therefore, for both the reasons given, be going into the lodgment area somewhat fragmented, somewhat slow, and somewhat blind. How steady and reliable civilian lorry drivers would be when moving toward a combat zone is somewhat questionable, and both Macksey and Collier seem to doubt they would be very of either.[/quote]

[quote author=tkratman]It further appears that 1st Canadian Brigade, at least, is fully equipped for artillery.  At least by 14 June they have all 24 pieces.  I think it likely the rest of the division is, as well, and probably by the projected S Day (Since Brit production, in May, alone, is unlikely to account for even 1st Brigade having all its guns). 

Note further that 57th Royal Heavy Artillery, which is composed of Newfies, is apparently equiped with 7.2 inchers and is at Royal Tunbridge Wells.[/quote]

[quote author=sturmvogel]Tom,
That website on the Newfie artillery I posted says 9.2s and not until 5 June. The impression is that they don't have any guns until then as they're still forming. Both 57 and 58th Heavy Regiments are in Sussex somewhere according to the website, playing at infantry until they get their guns.

The Canadians have 72x 18/25 pdrs during this period, not 25 pdrs, IIRC. [/quote]

[quote author=Paul]Re: Lorry Drivers,

They would most likely be past call-up age [40-55] and given the commitment of manpower resources by the Brits during WWI they as a group are likely to have seen more combat than the Canadians.  I doubt that a few Huns are going to be a bother.


[quote author=Tom Monaghan]It appears McNaughton was not a fire-eater so how fast they would have pushed on into combat without explicit orders is questionable.[/quote]


Old Sweat

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If you go to the DHH website, you should be able to follow the links to CMHQ (Canadian Military Headquarters) Report 15 of 13 March 1941 titled Activities of Canadian Forces in the United Kingdom, 1939-40. I downloaded and printed a copy a few years ago for my files; much of it was based on an article written for the Canadian Geographic Journal, so it is a little vague in places for reasons of security. The report indicates that the First Division was first tasked on 23 May 1940 to move to France to restore "the communications of the B.E.F. with the Channel ports. . ." General MacNaughton carried out a recce of both Calais and Dunkirk and then returned to London on 24 May to brief the military chiefs and then Mister Churchill and the War Cabinet. As a result of his recce, the operation was cancelled. It should be noted that some troops had already moved to embarkation ports by this time.

In the following days there were two further proposals to commit the division, both of which were scrubbed. On 29 May "the First Division and its ancillary units were constituted as a self-contained 'Canadian Force' and on the same day they moved to an area in the Midlands where they would be in a position to strike rapidly and heavily at any invading force which might succeed in penetrating the defences of the East Coast."

Following this, the division was ordered to the Brittany Peninsula. This too was aborted, but only after 1 Brigade and some supporting troops had already landed. These troops were evacuated successfully and the division then returned to the Midlands in a counter-attack role to strike against any bridgehead the Germans may have been able to sieze.

The whole thing was frustrating and the troops began to refer to their initials, CASF for Canadian Active Service Force, as Canadians Almost Saw France.