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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Lists We Play: The Canadians

By Mitch Reed 

This is the first in what I hope are many articles on some of the forces that we either play or play against in Flames of War. Today’s spotlight will be on the first army I actually built, the Canadians.

I have always been interested in the Canadian story of WWII, which grew with my many trips to Canada as a child visiting family in Canada or my many trips to Winnipeg when I was stationed in North Dakota.  This interest was even more solidified from working with the Canadian military and marching in the 2005 Warriors Day Parade in Toronto.

My forces are modeled after the tankers of the Fort Garry Horse and the infantry are the Royal Winnipeg Rifles (aka Little Black Devils), both of whom landed in Normandy on D-Day and fought through the campaign the Northwest Europe. 

WWII Cap Badges turned into Objective Markers. Ft Gary Horse is on the right and Royal Winnipeg Rifles is on the left

Where to Find the Canadians
In Flames of War, Canadian lists appear in both Middle and Late War books and two PDFs. We first see them in their combat debut in the Dieppe Raid PDF, where you can field either a Confident Trained Rifle or Infantry Tank Company. This PDF covers the ill-conceived raid on Dieppe France in June of 1942. The 2nd Canadian Division suffered terribly, losing 60% of the troops who landed that day. After the raid the unit was taken back to England and rebuilt.

We next see them in the North Africa book, which covers the 1st Canadian Division during its landing in Sicily in July of 1943. In this book you can field a Confident Trained Rifle Company or Recce Squadron.  The Canadians were a part of Field Marshall Montgomery’s British 8th Army and acquitted itself well during the campaign.  

We next move to late war, where the Canadians are extensively featured in many books that cover the campaign in Italy and North-West Europe.  A player can find many excellent Canadian lists that include armor, airborne, infantry, and mechanized recce in books such as Overlord, Road to Rome, and Market Garden. The period covered by these books find the Canadians not as a single division under British control, but as a Canadian Army in NW Europe or a Corps in Italy. Canadian lists in Overlord are mostly Confident Trained (1st Canadian Parachute Airborne list is Fearless Veteran), where they are Confident Veteran in Road to Rome and Market Garden. In the Market Garden book, a player can field up to 5 different lists, which I have enjoyed playing and from its popularity, many others have taken to these lists as well. They feature some unique Canadian units such as the Land Mattress Battery and the very popular Ram Kangaroo armored personnel carriers.

Canadian Special Rules
The Canadians benefit from using both unique and British national rules. Canadians lose the British Bulldog rule and gain “woodsman” which gives them the German “mission tactics” rule and “assault troops” which gives them a re-roll on recovering from being pinned down or bailed out. These rules combined with the British artillery rules and having semi-indirect fire tanks makes the Canadians a popular force among gamers. 

Fielding a Canadian Force
The Canadians were basically equipped along the same lines as the British, so getting British Sherman’s and infantry is a good start. While the infantry wore the same style battledress as the British, theirs were of a different shade, which was noticeably “greener” than the brownish one worn by the rest of the commonwealth armies. Using the recommended Vallejo Brown Violet color on your troops gives the model a very distinct green shade which does make them stand out from the British. You should not feel locked into playing Canadians if you paint your troops this color. The Free Poles who fought with the British were dependent on getting uniforms from any source they can find. In my many meetings and interviews with Polish veterans, most of them liked the Canadian battledress which was cut better and was made out of a better material than the British version. 

Greener Canadian battledress is on the left and the British on the right

The only other major differences in uniforms was the “Invasion Boot” worn by some members of the 3rd Canadian Division during the Normandy Invasion, which is a mid-calf all leather black boot which does not require the use of ankle gaiters. While I have not done this with my models, you can place some “green stuff” over the gaiters and paint the full boot black to display this limited use boot. You can also use this technique if fielding a list from the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion. In fact, many of the members of this unit (the only Canadian Battalion to serve under British divisional command) went to airborne school at Fort Benning in Georgia and adopted the US jump boot which they polished with a red dye which gave them a dark maroon appearance. You can experiment with many colors such as a mixture of Vallejo Hull Red and Mahogany Brown to represent the color used by the members of “1 Can Para”. If the game was played at a larger scale than 15mm, you also would have to account for the different ankle boots worn by the Canadians which did not feature a leather toe-cap like the British manufactured ones.

Sherman tanks of the Ft Garry Horse flanked by the armored cars of the Manitoba Dragoons

Canadian tanks and guns were painted in the same color scheme as the British, however with unique markings that proudly displayed the Maple Leaf.

L to R; the Ram Kangaroo, 2 C15TAs, PIAT Battery, and the Otter

Their are some uniquely Canadian models you will need to field for your force; some are optional and some were developed by the Canadians and also used by the British during the war:
-       ~Otter LRC, which is an option to replace the Humber LRC
-       ~Land Mattress Rocket Battery
-       ~Ram Kangaroo APC
-       ~PIAT Battery Universal Carriers
-       ~WASP Flamethrower Universal Carriers
-       ~C15TA armored trucks

I have included all the above units in my Canadian lists from time to time and found them worth the time to purchase and paint.

The Land Mattress Battery, each stand counts as 4 guns firing!

Why Canadian?
The Canadian story in WWII is a very interesting one and stems from them gaining a national identity in the Great War. Most Canadian cities have a street or park named after the battle of Vimy Ridge in 1917. In this battle the Canadian Corps was left to plan and execute an attack on a German position that the British or French could not capture from its defenders. The Canadians developed new tactics and captured the ridge in a quick one day attack and were then referred to as the Allies “Assault Troops” by friend and foe alike.

Supported by the MMG Carriers of the New Brunswick Rangers, Canadian infantry attacks an SS platoon

The bloodletting of the Great War had a profound impact on the Canadian people and they did not want to fall under British command in the future. The Canadian government passed a law that stated that all Canadians who were drafted into the military had to volunteer for overseas service. No other nation involved in WWII had such a policy and despite this limitation the Canadians fielded an army (First Canadian Army) and two full Corps (I and II), as well as many ships and flying squadrons for the European campaign.

Reading Ah-boot the Canadians
Perhaps the best author on the topic of the Canadian military story is Mark Zuehlke who has written 10 books covering the Canadians in Dieppe, Sicily, Italy, Normandy, and Holland.  I am reading his latest book now Tragedy at Dieppe, which is another excellent book in this stellar series. 

One book that is a must for history buff and modelers alike is From D-Day to VE-Day, the CanadianSoldier by Jean Bouchery.  It has all you would ever need to know about the Canadians in WWII.

Other books I would also recommend any books by Terry Copp, Farley Mowatt, and Dennis Whitaker; the last two being veterans of the war. 

So, if you are in the market for a new and interesting list I would recommend the Canadians.


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