1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group History

1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1 CMBG) has traditions which date back to May 1911, when the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade was allocated to the 1st Division of the Non-Permanent Active Militia. Even before that date the 1st Brigade had existed independently as a formation of the Canadian Militia.

At the outbreak of the First World War, the 1st (Provisional) Infantry Brigade of the Canadian Expeditionary Force was organized at Valcartier, Quebec on 29 August 1914 and sailed for England on 3 October 1914. Following a period of training, the Brigade moved to France in mid-February 1915.

Beginning with the stern test at the Second Battle of Ypres, the Brigade fought in many of the major battles of the First World War, including the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Canal du Nord and the Pursuit to Mons. The Brigade, with a full strength of 4,700 men nonetheless suffered approximately 15,000 casualties, one-third of whom were killed. The Brigade returned to Canada in April 1919 and its units were demobilized. First Brigade remained in existence as part of the Non-Permanent Active Militia with Headquarters in London, Ontario.

The 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade was mobilized once again on 1 September 1939 and went overseas in December of that year. In June 1940, the Brigade disembarked at Brest, France but the rapid deterioration of the situation on the Continent resulted in its hasty withdrawal to England before it saw action. Nearly three years of defensive duties, against the anticipated German invasion, and intensive training followed while the Brigade was in England.

In the spring of 1943, the Brigade, as part of the First Canadian Infantry Division, participated in the invasion of Sicily. Following Sicily came the test of fighting up the length of Italy. Some of the Brigade’s most notable battles included Ortona, the Liri Valley, and the breaching of the Hitler and Gothic Lines.

The Brigade, as part of 1 Canadian Corps, moved from Italy to participate in the fighting in Northwest Europe in March 1945. By April, the Brigade was participating in the liberation of Holland and advanced into Amsterdam on VE Day, 8 May 1945. During two years of hard fighting the Brigade suffered approximately 4,000 casualties, one-quarter of whom were killed. The Brigade was disbanded in September 1945.

On 14 October 1953, the First Canadian Infantry Brigade was reactivated and replaced 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade in West Germany as Canada’s peacetime contribution to NATO. In 1955, the Brigade returned to Canada with its Headquarters located in Edmonton. In October of the same year the Brigade was designated as the First Canadian Infantry Brigade Group and, in August 1958, the Brigade Headquarters moved to Currie Barracks in Calgary.

In 1972, the Brigade’s title was changed to 1 Combat Group, then (in 1976) to 1 Canadian Brigade Group and, in 1992, to 1 CMBG. The most recent change was made to signify the Army’s commitment to maintaining a general-purpose combat capability.

With the end of the Cold War, soldiers of 1 CMBG found themselves deploying in support of numerous missions. Initially, the bulk of these deployments were rotations through Cyprus. 1 Combat Engineer Regiment deployed to Kuwait in 1991. Commencing in 1992, several Battle Groups were provided to support the The United Nations Protection Force missions in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Later, the focus became support to NATO peace enforcement operations in Bosnia and Kosovo. In 1999, soldiers of 1 CMBG formed the vanguard for NATO’s entry into Kosovo.

HQ 1 CMBG re-located to its current location at Steele Barracks in Edmonton, Alberta in 1997.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, units from 1 CMBG were employed in Afghanistan. A 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Battle Group – comprised of soldiers from 3 PPCLI, 2 PPCLI, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians), 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 1 Combat Engineer Regiment and 1 Service Battalion – deployed on Operation APOLLO to southern Afghanistan in 2002.

Several elements of the Brigade served in Kabul as part of the NATO International Security Assistance Force stabilization force. When Canada’s mission in Afghanistan shifted south to Kandahar in the fall of 2005, as part of Operation ATHENA, B Company of 3 PPCLI formed the security element for the first Canadian Provincial Reconstruction Team.

In early 2006, HQ 1 CMBG formed the nucleus of the Regional Command (South) Headquarters, and 1 PPCLI provided the initial Battle Group in Kandahar Province. HQ 1 CMBG also formed the majority of the Task Force Afghanistan Headquarters from February until November of 2009.

Elements of 1 CMBG have been involved in every successive rotation to Afghanistan, to include Canada’s first deployment to the region in 2002 through to the last Operation ATTENTION task force that returned to Canada in 2014. In that time, men and women from 1 Brigade professionally conducted the full spectrum of operations to include combat, stability operations, humanitarian assistance and security force capacity building.

Most recently, 1 CMBG has deployed troops overseas to conduct infantry and airborne training with our NATO partners in Europe as part of Operation REASSURANCE, and provided members to support Operation IMPACT, a multinational stabilization force in the Republic of Iraq and in Syria.

In addition to these international deployments, 1 CMBG has been involved in a number of domestic operations, notably:

  • the 1997 Red River Flood;
  • the 1998 Ontario and Quebec ice storms;
  • the 2002 G8 Summit in Kananaskis;
  • the 2003 forest fires in British Columbia;
  • the Canadian Forces support to the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver and Whistler;
  • Operation NANOOK in Canada’s Arctic;
  • the Assiniboine River flood in 2011 on Op LUSTRE; andthe floods in Alberta in 2013 and Manitoba in 2014 under Operation LENTUS.

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