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II Canadian Corps was a corps-level formation that, along with I (British) Corps (August 1, 1944 to April 1, 1945) and I Canadian Corps (April 6, 1943 to November 1943, and April 1, 1945 until the end of hostilities), comprised the First Canadian Army in Northwest Europe during World War II.

Authorization for the formation of the Corps headquarters became effective in England on January 14, 1943. Over March 4–12, 1943 the new Canadian corps was involved in Exercise “Spartan”, a large-scale training exercise in southern England. This exercise revealed weaknesses in the command of both the new Corps and of First Canadian Army, and this led directly to several changes in leadership over the subsequent year.

The first commander of II Canadian Corps was Lieutenant-General Ernest William Sansom, effective January 15, 1943. Concerns over his leadership abilities and health caused Sansom to be replaced by Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds on January 29, 1944. Simonds led the Corps for the remainder of its existence. On May 5, 1945, at Bad Zwischenahn in Northern Germany, Simonds accepted the surrender of German forces facing II Canadian Corps at the end of the war. The Corps was deactivated on June 25, 1945 as part of general demobilization.

II Canadian Corps opened its first tactical headquarters in Normandy at Amblie on June 29, 1944. The headquarters became fully operational on July 7 as the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division began to arrive in France. This first division was soon joined by the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division and the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade, which had participated earlier in the Normandy landings and in Operation WINDSOR as part of I (British) Corps. The 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division was the third Canadian division-level component of the Corps. Finally, for most of the campaign through Northwest Europe, the Corps also included Polish 1st Armoured Division.

Although nominally a Canadian formation, II Canadian Corps contained significant contributions at different times from other Allied countries. In addition to the 1st Polish Armoured Division, the Corps included the 1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, the Royal Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade, and the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division.

Major Operations

II Canadian Corps engaged in combat operations in North-West Europe from the beginning of July 1944 to just before VE Day in early May 1945. During the Battle of Normandy, the Corps was used to spearhead the British-Canadian advance from Caen to Falaise. With the final closure of the Falaise Gap on August 21, 1944, the remaining German forces in northern France were forced into a rapid retreat back towards defensive positions in port cities along the coast, and in the regions just south of the Netherlands and outside the western borders of Germany, in Belgium and eastern France. The First Canadian Army formed the left flank of the advancing Allied armies and was charged with capturing or sealing off German-occupied ports in Northern France and in Belgium. Dieppe, Boulogne, Calais, Cap-Gris-Nez and Ostend were captured in September by troops of II Canadian Corps. However, the defences of Dunkirk proved to be so strong that it was decided to leave the German-occupied port city under siege until the end of the European war. Antwerp had been captured by the British Second Army on September 4, but the city’s large port facilities were useless to the Allies as long as German forces continued to occupy the banks of the Scheldt Estuary. As the spearhead of the First Canadian Army, II Canadian Corps was heavily involved in the Battle of the Scheldt to clear out those German positions. II Canadian Corps was involved in the battles to expel German forces from the eastern provinces of the Netherlands, back across the western border of Germany, and then to drive them out from the west bank of the Rhine River. In the final phases of the war, II Canadian Corps advanced into the northern provinces of the Netherlands and across the border into Germany towards the North Sea coast. On May 5, 1945 Lt.-Gen. Simonds received the unconditional surrender of those German forces facing the Corps in northern Germany.

Operation ATLANTIC, crossing the Orne River and unsuccessful attempt to capture Verrières Ridge, the area south of Caen, July 18–21, 1944
Operation SPRING, assault against Verrières Ridge, July 25–28, 1944
Operation TOTALIZE, the capture of Verrières Ridge and advance towards Falaise, Normandy, August 8–13, 1944
Operation TRACTABLE, the capture of Falaise, Normandy, August 14–21, 1944
Advance up to and then across the River Seine at Elbeuf and Rouen, Aug. 23-28, 1944
Liberation of Dieppe, abandoned by the retreating German Army, Sept. 1, 1944
Investment of Dunkirk as the initial part of the 8-month-long siege of that port city, Sept. 7-18, 1944
Liberation of Ostend, Sept. 9, 1944
Liberation of Bruges, Sept. 12, 1944
Operation WELLHIT, the capture of Boulogne, September 17–22, 1944
Operation UNDERGO, the capture of Calais and the heavy batteries at Cap Gris Nez, September 25–30, 1944
Operation SWITCHBACK, clearing area north of the Albert Canal, Belgium, October 6 to November 3, 1944
Operation VITALITY, South Beveland peninsula and Walcheren Island, the Netherlands, October 24 to November 3, 1944
Operation INFATUATE I, South Beveland, October 26, 1944
Operation VERITABLE, Reichwald Forest, Germany, February 8 to March 11, 1945
Operation BLOCKBUSTER, Hochwald gap (de) and the capture of Xanten on the Rhine River, Germany, February 23 to March 3, 1945
Battle of Friesoythe, April 13-14 1945
Battle of Groningen, northern Netherlands, April 14–18, 1945
Operation DUCK, the crossing of the Ems River and the capture of Leer, April 28 to May 4, 1945
Capture of Oldenburg, April 25 to May 4, 1945

Commanding Officers

Lieutenant-General Ernest William Sansom (January 15, 1943 to January 29, 1944)
Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds (January 29, 1944 to June 25, 1945)

Order of battle

2nd Canadian Infantry Division
3rd Canadian Infantry Division
4th Canadian (Armoured) Division
1st Polish Armoured Division, August 1944 to May 1945
15th (Scottish) Infantry Division, January to March, 1945
51st (Highland) Infantry Division, August 1944
2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade
33rd Armoured Brigade, August 1944, Operation TOTALIZE
1st Belgian Infantry Brigade, April 1945
Royal Netherlands Motorized Infantry Brigade, August 1944
1st Czechoslovak Armoured Brigade, October–November 1944, Siege of Dunkirk
Corps Troops
II Canadian Corps Defence Company (Prince Edward Island Light Horse)
18th Armoured Car Regiment (12th Manitoba Dragoons)
6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA)
6th Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery (RCA)
2nd Survey Regiment, RCA
8th Field Park Company, Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE)
29th, 30th and 31st Field Companies, RCE
2nd Drilling Company, RCE
II Canadian Corps Headquarters Signals, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
No. 2 Corps Troops Company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC)
II Canadian Corps Transport Company, RCASC
No. 33 and 34 Transport Companies, RCASC
No. 2 Motor Ambulance Company, RCASC
No. 2 Headquarters Corps Car Company, RCASC
No. 2 and 3 Casualty Clearing Stations, Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC)
No. 6 Field Dressing Section, RCAMC
No. 8 Field Hygiene Section, RCAMC
unknown Dental Companies, Canadian Dental Corps (CDC)
No. 12 Base Dental Company, CDC
No. 2 Corps and Army Troops Sub-Park, Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC)
II Corps Troops Workshop, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME)
Recovery Companies, RCEME
No. 13 Provost Company, Canadian Provost Corps (C Pro C)
Attached First Canadian Army Troops
No. 2 Army Group Royal Canadian Artillery
19th Army Field Regiment, RCA
3rd Medium Regiment, RCA
4th Medium Regiment, RCA
7th Medium Regiment, RCA
“E” Squadron, 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment (The Elgin Regiment), Canadian Armoured Corps


Additional References:

  • Byers, A. R. (ed.), The Canadians at War 1939/45, 2nd ed., The Reader’s Digest Association (Canada) Ltd., Montreal, Canada, 1986, ISBN 0-88850-145-5.
  • Brown, Angus and Gimblett, Richard, In the Footsteps of First Canadian Army: Northwest Europe 1942-1945, Magic Light Publishing, Ottawa, 2009, ISBN 1-894673-33-6.
  • Copp, Terry, Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, 2004, ISBN 978-0-8020-3780-0.
  • Copp, Terry, Cinderella Army: The Canadians in Northwest Europe 1944-1945, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, Canada, 2007, ISBN 978-0-8020-9522-0.
  • Stacey, C.P. (1960). Official history of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Vol III The Victory Campaign, The Operations in Northwest Europe 1944-1945. Ottawa: Queen’s Printer.
  • Zuehlke, Mark, Terrible Victory: First Canadian Army and the Scheldt Estuary Campaign: September 13 – November 6, 1944, Douglas & McIntyre, 2009, ISBN 1-55365-404-8.
  • “History of the 6th Canadian anti-tank regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, 1st April, 1942-24th June, 1945″ (Toronto, Regiment, 1946)