Royal Canadian Corps of Signals - Second World War Organization

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The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals grew significantly during the war, as did the Canadian Army as a whole. Corps members, due to the nature of the work, could be found at all levels of organization from supporting individual units to providing critical communications at formations from Brigade level all the way up to Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ) in the United Kingdom and National Defence Headquarters in Canada. In addition to the forces deployed at home in the defence of Canada and in training, the Corps was also present around the globe with units in Hong Kong and Australia in the Pacific, Newfoundland (which was not part of Canada at the time) and Iceland in the Atlantic, and the United Kingdom, Northwest Europe and the Mediterranean in Europe.

Canadian Army Overseas

In 1940 1st Canadian Divisional Signals was the first Signals unit to deploy to the United Kingdom. By June 1944, the size of the Corps deployed in Europe had grown to a size of 10,178 members, 460 officers and 9718 soldiers, not including any who were in static roles.[1] The Signals presence in Europe didn't cease at the end of hostilities but continued through the draw down until the last two units, 3rd Canadian Infantry Divisional Signals, R.C. Sigs, C.A.O.F and 2nd Base Signal Section (Canadian Army Occupational Force), R.C. Sigs were disbanded in June of 1946.

For the deployed forces, Signals was organized at the Divisional level and higher. At the division level, the Divisional Signals unit supported the various divisional headquarters elements and, in addition, sections were assigned to support Divisional Troops such as artillery and engineers, to support armoured regiments and to subordinate brigades. At Corps level and higher, the composition of signals was not fixed. The units were established with the basic elements and unit structure necessary to operate and to that, individual signal sections were added by type and quantity as deemed necessary to fulfill the mission.

This flexible and decomposed structure led to not only a large number of establishments but to a long list of individually named units as well. With units named 'sections' but organized at divisional level and higher, a study of the Corps organization can seem daunting at first. If the sections are viewed as the building blocks of which the Corps and Army level signals units were formed, some sense can be made of it all. To further complicate the study of the signals organizations of the Second World War is the fact that during the buildup of forces units were being created, renamed and disbanded at a dizzying pace not to mention changes to a unit's establishment during the time it existed. As such, any detailed answer to the question of what the corps looked like during the war is only accurate for a particular point in time. For a point in time, it's possible to arrive at an answer by taking the signals composition and the effective establishments of the day into account.

Canadian Army Overseas - Signals composition
Canadian Army Overseas - War Establishments
Canadian Army Overseas - Units

Home Defence

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Other locations

In addition to the more well known forces that served in Canada and in Europe, Royal Canadian Corps of Signals unit were deployed to many other locations as well.

Hong Kong

For "C" Force, the Canadian force dispatched in the fall of 1941 for the Defence of Hong Kong, there was not a distinct Signals unit. Rather, the Signals element was embedded as part of Headquarters, "C" Force. The establishment called for 33 personnel in total, one officer and 32 other ranks. When the Japanese attacked and overran the garrison in December 1941, the unit ceased to function and it's members were either killed in the battle or taken as prisoners of war. Further details of the force can be found at "Defence of Hong Kong and Canadian Signals".


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  1. Royal Canadian Corps of Signals establishment, June 1944. Library and Archives Canada, RG24, Vol 9829.