Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

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wwilson
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Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by wwilson » 19 Jun 2020 18:12

One aspect of 21st Army Group is that it apparently came to have an excess corps headquarters around early 1945 or so -- British I Corps. In the order of battle of First Canadian Army, the British I Corps sort of fades away, and Canadian I Corps arrives from Italy and seemingly takes its place. Were there political considerations at work in this case?

The case of British VIII Corps after the Rhine crossing is also interesting. A small corps compared to the others in 21st Army Group; did it have a full AGRA etc. in support?

Thanks for any enlightenment on these questions.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Mori » 19 Jun 2020 19:37

I remember reading exchanges between Montgomery and de Guingand (who was still in the UK) about adding another corps to 21AG in September 1944 or so. There was a corps HQ in the UK (I Corps, I guess) and de Guingand insisted it coud be of use on the continent. Monty flatly refused the proposal - and interesting case of a commander refusing reinforcements.

Obviously there was something behind the scene, both for de Guingand to insist and for Monty to refuse. The correspondence I saw only took the operational perspective, Montgomery explaining he could run the administration of his forces without any extra HQ. However, there could be a matter of staffing if the commander of I corps wasn't acceptable to Monty. Just an hypothesis.

The arrival of Canadian I corps is mostly political to satisfy an old demand of the Canadian, that is to have all their forces together. Also, there was little left to do in Italy then. The timeline made it pretty clear that operation Goldflake would have little to no impact on operational development in NW Europe, as the corps and its division would at best be active mid of end March 1945.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by wwilson » 19 Jun 2020 20:01

Thank you Mori, interesting comments.

I think the corps headquarters in the UK must have been other than British I Corps, which apparently was part of the D-Day landings.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Mori » 19 Jun 2020 20:16

wwilson wrote:
19 Jun 2020 20:01
Thank you Mori, interesting comments.

I think the corps headquarters in the UK must have been other than British I Corps, which apparently was part of the D-Day landings.
Definitively, it was probably British I Airborne Corps. It's a distant memory, I read that more than 5 years ago

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Sheldrake » 19 Jun 2020 23:13

British doctrine was to fight battles at the corps level, while pursuit was conducted at the divisional level. In the event that the Germans put up significant resistance the corps would close up with its siege train. In the final advance a lot of troops were grounded.

Besides political reasons there were sound military reasons for First Canadian Army to use the two Canadian corps to lead the pursuit. The main Canadian forces employed were the II Canadian Corps which had commanded the 2 &3 infantry and 4th Canadian Armoured Divisions since July 1944. The Canadian troops from Italy were a corps of the 1st infantry and 5th Armoured Division, which had fought as a corps since May 1944. These were teams used to working together.

There was also a long defensive frontline through the southern Netherlands. I suspect 1st British Corps was used to command the troops manning the defensive line. It would take the resources of a corps to provide the C2.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by wwilson » 20 Jun 2020 04:57

Thanks again fellows.

Wikipedia is iffy as far as sources go, but it mentions:
After the Battle of the Scheldt I Corps Headquarters then took over administration of the 21st Army Group's logistics area around the port of Antwerp, Belgium until the end of the war.
This jogged a memory -- something about a command called "Netherlands District" or something similar that was engaged with administrative and logistics functions of 21st Army Group. I may have that a bit wrong, I think it is mentioned in Volume II of the British official history.

Hmm, a bit more from Wikipedia, re: General Sir John Crocker.
When severe British manpower shortages prompted the disbandment of two infantry divisions (the 59th (Staffordshire) and 50th (Northumbrian)) in late 1944, I Corps HQ was withdrawn from the front line to take over the administration of the 21st Army Group's rear areas in Germany as it advanced across the river Rhine in March 1945. . . . In June 1945, with the war in Europe over, Crocker returned to the United Kingdom to take over Southern Command from Lieutenant-General Sidney Kirkman, who took over I Corps from Crocker.[37]
That reference #37 is to page 109 in Richard Mead's Churchill's Lions, edition of 2007.

That somewhat dovetails with Sheldrake's comment about a headquarters providing C2 for the Maas front.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Gary Kennedy » 20 Jun 2020 15:46

I put some notes together on Divisions assignments to Corps and other higher HQs in 21AG a while ago, all culled from Joslen. I hadn't realised that I Corps does indeed vanish for a long period of time. The last Division shown under command was 52nd (Lowland) from 11th Nov 1944 to 4th Dec 1944. They then pop up briefly one last time, with 3rd (Br) from 5th May to 21st May 1945, which subsequently became I Corps District on 21st May 1945.

VIII Corps was Army Reserve for the Rhine, and with just 11th Armd Div on hand throughout was indeed a bit small. 6th Airborne Div came under VIII Corps from 29th Mar 1945 and both 5th Division (which similarly to the Canadians had come over from Italy) and 15th (Scottish) Div joined the Corps during April (17th and 5th of respectively).

I must admit I don't know that there's a record of which AGRA was with which Corps/Army for what periods.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Aber » 20 Jun 2020 17:55

Gary Kennedy wrote:
20 Jun 2020 15:46
I put some notes together on Divisions assignments to Corps and other higher HQs in 21AG a while ago, all culled from Joslen. I hadn't realised that I Corps does indeed vanish for a long period of time. The last Division shown under command was 52nd (Lowland) from 11th Nov 1944 to 4th Dec 1944.
Situation Map 2 April 1945 shows them along the lower Maas with Polish Armoured.

https://www.loc.gov/resource/g5701s.ict ... 28,0.208,0

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by wwilson » 20 Jun 2020 18:30

Thank you, Gary.

L. F. Ellis, in his second volume of "Victory in the West", page 285, has a footnote regarding the 21st Army Group order of battle for the Rhine Crossing. It mentions Canadian First Army commanding the "Netherlands District" which in turn commanded the Polish 1st Armoured Division, a commando brigade, and a brigade of Royal Marines. These troops (probably with Dutch liberated manpower units by that point) were holding the Maas Front.

I note this in the Canadian official history, C. P. Stacey's "The Victory Campaign" Volume III, p. 585:
While these discussions were proceeding at higher levels, British and Canadian staffs were planning concrete steps to deal with the problem. Headquarters West Holland District had been established for this purpose to carry out the 21st Army Group's responsibilities and in February, under the new designation of Headquarters Netherlands District,* this organization, commanded by Major-General A. Galloway, became responsible for bringing in and distributing relief supplies in the "B-2" area. Originally, Netherlands District depended upon First Canadian Army merely for administrative services north of the Maas; but on 13 April it came directly under General Crerar's operational command, while retaining direct access to Montgomery's staff on all matters pertaining to Dutch relief. It was responsible for defence of the islands at the mouth of the Scheldt, and had the 4th Commando Brigade and the 116th Royal Marine Infantry Brigade under it for the purpose. Other troops, including the 33rd Armoured Brigade and Dutch and Belgian units, prolonged the line to the vicinity of Tiel. The District was under the 1st Canadian Corps from midnight 23-24 April.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Gary Kennedy » 20 Jun 2020 19:07

Yes, I was just having a scan through 'The Victory Campaign' myself (Volume III of the Official Canadian Army History) following Aber's link to 1 Corps being within First Canadian Army's area. They spent a long time with the Canadian forces, which is perhaps why they seem to disappear in British formation accounts. Page 439 of notes that in Dec 1944 I Corps was to 'implement and maintain' a deception that an attack was to be launched to liberate northern Holland. The Corps left First Canadian Army at the start of April 1945 (p545 refers).

Gary

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by wwilson » 20 Jun 2020 19:35

Interesting little bit here.

https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/30071920

And also this, from the U.S. official history volume on Civil Affairs.
4 The West Holland District, later known as the Netherlands District, was created on 5 February 1945. It was given the task of planning for, and ultimately carrying out, the relief of the B-2 area, together with the dewatering of the flooded area.
And this as well, from https://www.tracesofwar.com/articles/25 ... rigade.htm
The Netherlands district
When it became clear in the fall of 1944 that the west of the Netherlands could not be liberated for the time being, and would therefore run into extremely difficult circumstances, a decision was made to organize an aid program. This plan was generated by consulting between SHAEF and the Dutch Government. The Netherlands had been divided by SHAEF into three areas: sector A south of the great rivers, sector B north of the rivers and west of the river IJssel and sector C east of the IJssel and the IJsselmeer. Carrying out this aid plan was the responsibility of the XXIst Army Corps. (sic) The XXIst established a special unit with the title West Holland District later on renamed Netherlands District under the command of General-Major Galloway. Because the 1st Army Corps could no longer remain involved in guarding the long river front line the Irene Brigade and other guards were placed under the command of the Netherlands District.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Martin_Schenkel » 20 Jun 2020 21:50

Mori wrote:
19 Jun 2020 19:37
I remember reading exchanges between Montgomery and de Guingand (who was still in the UK) about adding another corps to 21AG in September 1944 or so. There was a corps HQ in the UK (I Corps, I guess) and de Guingand insisted it coud be of use on the continent. Monty flatly refused the proposal - and interesting case of a commander refusing reinforcements.
The addition of another Corps HQ would make no sense. It would need Divisions to control, and there weren't any extra Divisions sitting around unemployed, nor were the existing Corps in NW Europe overloaded that they needed the addition of another Corps HQ to off-load them. Nominal configuration of a Corps was 2 Inf Divs and 1 Armd Div, and there were enough Divisions to support all Corps to that configuration. The manpower situation for the British at that point in the war was such that they were essentially disbanding Divisions (50th and 59th) in NW Europe, due to lack of manpower to maintain them. There were enough Corps HQs to manage the existing Divisions employed, hence an extra Corps HQ would be of no use.

50th and 59th Divisions were pulled out in the fall of 1944 (Oct-Nov) and around that time 1st British Corps seems to have taken on a more administrative role for 21st Army Group rear areas. This makes sense, as with being down two Inf Divs, 21st Army Group already had essentially a surplus Corps HQ in NW Europe.
Last edited by Martin_Schenkel on 20 Jun 2020 22:00, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by Mori » 20 Jun 2020 21:56

Martin_Schenkel wrote:
20 Jun 2020 21:50
The addition of another Corps HQ would make no sense. It would need Divisions to control, and there weren't any extra Divisions sitting around unemployed, nor were the existing Corps in NW Europe overloaded that they needed the addition of another Corps HQ to off-load them. Nominal configuration of a Corps was 2 Inf Divs and 1 Armd Div, and there were enough Divisions to support all Corps to that configuration. The manpower situation for the British at that point in the war was such that they were essentially disbanding Divisions (50th and 59th) in NW Europe, due to lack of manpower to maintain them. There were enough Corps HQs to manage the existing Divisions employed, hence an extra Corps HQ would be of no use.
I wouldn't argue with Montgomery on such a matter: his assessment was he did not need another corps HQ. Certainly he had a strong rationale for that. He was, after all, one of the very best professionals the Allies had.

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Re: Employment of corps headquarters 1944-45

Post by wwilson » 21 Jun 2020 07:33

So it sounds like the actual troop command along the Maas Front was under General Galloway's West Holland / Netherlands District. British I Corps apparently did something with logistics in the Antwerp area, but it is not clear to me what specific responsibilities that General Crocker and his command had. One of the quotes above makes it sound a bit like the activity undertaken by Fifteenth U.S. Army, at least in 1945.
I Corps HQ was withdrawn from the front line to take over the administration of the 21st Army Group's rear areas in Germany

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