The Canadian government authorized the formation of 1st Canadian Armoured Division (CAD) early in 1941. It organized at Camp Borden in March and, redesignated 5th CAD, sailed for the United Kingdom in the fall. Originally its organization was based on two armoured brigades (each of three regiments, a motor battalion and a support group composed of a field regiment, a Light Anti-Aircraft (LAA) regiment, an anti-tank regiment and an infantry battalion). In light of operational experience with armour in North Africa the organization was subsequently changed; an armoured brigade was changed for one of infantry (three battalions), and the support group was modified to include two field regiments (one self-propelled) along with the anti-aircraft and antitank units. In addition, there were a motor battalion of infantry, a reconnaissance regiment, two Royal Canadian Engineer (RCE) squadrons and the usual support and administrative units. Once this phase of the division’s reorganization was completed, 5th CAD’s two brigades were 5 Canadian Armoured Brigade (CAB) (the Strathconas, British Columbia Dragoons, the 8th New Brunswick Hussars and the Westminster Regiment as a motorized infantry battalion), and 11 Canadian Infantry Brigade (CIB) (The Perth Regiment, the Cape Breton Highlanders and the Irish Regiment of Canada). The Governor General’s Horse Guards formed the reconnaissance regiment, and artillery support came from the 17th Field, 8th Field (Self-Propelled), 4th Anti-Tank and 5th LAA Regiments.

Equipping the division was a slow, drawn out process. By the end of July 1942, 5 CAB had received only 40 per cent of its tanks, a motley mixture of American General Lees and Stuarts, along with a few Canadian-built Rams which were to be the formation’s main battle tank. Not for another year were sufficient Rams available to fill the divisional establishment and, as a result, training suffered. Individual and specialist training went on continuously, and some troop movement and range practice was possible, but the division itself did not take to the field until it participated in the Army-level Exercise “Spartan” in February-March 1943. Afterwards, units were introduced to infantry tank cooperation drills, but little emphasis seems to have been given the topic, and while the pace of training picked up it was intermittent. The division’s operational readiness remained questionable.