Lee Enfield Rifle, No. 4, Mark I: The Canadian infantry used the Lee Enfield rifle as their standard weapon throughout World War II. The Short Magazine Lee Enfield No.1 was used up until November 1942 when the No. 4 was issued. In June 1943, the Canadians started using the No. 4's made in Canada (designated the Mark I). It's box-type magazine, extending through the bottom of the stock forward of the trigger guard,carried two 5-round clips of .303 ammunition. The Lee Enfield was the fastest operating bolt-action rifle in the world. A trained rifleman could fire between 15 to 30 aimed rounds a minute and be effective up to 900 yards, although ranges up to 600 yards were more common. Various sights could be fitted and it could also launch a grenade from a cup adapter or discharger. A superior locking system and easy field maintenance made the Lee Enfield superior to most other bolt-action rifles. Canada manufactured almost a million Lee Enfields during the war.
Vickers .303 Machine Gun: Canadians used the Vickers .303 machine gun during both world wars. Classed as a medium weapon, the Vickers gun could be fired at high or low angles from a tripod. It operated on a simple gas-assisted recoil system and was water cooled. The Vickers was fed by 250 round cloth belts of .303 ammunition and fired in full automatic bursts of 10 to 20 rounds. It could fire 60 shots per minute (rated as slow fire) and 250 as rapid fire. It was accurate up to 1100 yards but could reach much farther. A soldier fired the weapon by grasping both traversing handles and depressing the trigger with both thumbs. The gun fired fully automatically as long as the trigger was depressed and until it ran out of ammunition.
3-Inch Mortar: The 3-Inch mortar was the standard heavy mortar used by the infantry battalions support company to provide extra firepower. It could lob shells into enemy positions from a high angle and could hit targets from as close as 125 yards to a maximum of 2800 yards. A crew of three transported it in a Universal Carrier and handled it as three separate parts: the smooth bore barrel, the base plate and the mounting which supported the barrel providing elevating and transversing adjustments. Once set up, a 10-pound bomb was dropped down the barrel and hit a striker stud which fired a propellant cartridge in the tail of the bomb. When the bomb landed a striker in the bomb set off its explosive. Three types of mortar bombs were used: smoke, high explosive and star. There was also a 4.2-inch mortar that fired a 20-pound bomb. The infantry platoons alsoused a 2-inch mortar that fired a 2 ½- pond bomb.
PIAT (Projector Infantry, Anti-Tank): The 32 pound PIAT was a cross between an anti-tank rifle and a bazooka. It fired a 2 ½ -pound anti tank grenade up to one hundred yards. The PIAT was effective against all German tanks if fired accurately at the side armour. It was simple in design, construction and operation but it had considerable recoil. A bomb was slid onto a spigot inside the launcher, and when the trigger was pulled the spigot struck and detonated the bomb's propellant cartridge, firing the bomb.
Grenades: The grenade, a small simple bomb, was used with great effect by the infantry in assaults on pillboxes, machine-gun nests and small groups of soldiers. Once the safety pin is pulled, a striker lever is held in place by the soldiers grip until the he throws the grenade. When the lever is released, a striker ignites a fuse, there is a delay of 4 - 5 seconds as the grenade travels to its target and it explodes into shrapnel pieces. The Type 36 grenade could be either thrown or fired from a rifle and was widely used by Canadian troops. Other grenade types included the No. 74 anti-tank grenade and phosphorous grenade.
Bangalore Torpedo: The Bangalore Torpedo was a simple explosive device, first used extensively on D-Day by Allied troops to clear barricades, mines and barbed wire. The torpedo was man portable and consisted of three different sections: a nose section for penetrating obstacles, explosive sections filled with TNT or C4, and hollow sections of pipe to give the device the required length. Up to 4 sections, each 3 inches wide by 6 feet long, could be connected by metal collars. Deployed by one or two soldiers, the tube was placed on the ground and then pushed forward below bunkers, tank traps, barbed wire entanglements or by mine fields and then detonated with either a remote-controlled electric detonator or a non-electric blasting cap with delayed-action fuse.
Bren Machine Gun: The Bren Gun was a .303 calibre light machine gun with a 30 round magazine. The Bren Gun formed the basis of firepower of the infantry company. The Bren was employed one per infantry section of ten men (or three per platoon). Each section had a Bren group (four men) led by a lance corporal, one other rifleman, a Bren Gunner (Number One on the Bren) and his assistant (Number Two on the Bren). It was also used as a vehicle mounted weapon on Universal Carriers (often referred to as Bren Gun Carriers due to this armament).
Sten Gun: The Sten Gun was a 9 mm calibre submachine gun with a 32 round detachable magazine box. The Sten Gun was first used by Canadian troops at Dieppe and it completely replaced the Thompson submachine gun by the time of the Normandy landings. The Mark I Sten, which featured a flash hider, wooden furniture and folding hand grip was quickly replaced by the Sten Mark II. Two-million Mark II's were produced and it saw widespread use. The Sten was a very simply built weapon, manufactured from just 47 parts, mainly stamped from steel and welded, sweated, pressed or riveted together. The only machined parts were the bolt and barrel. The Sten was issuedto vehicle crews, despatch riders, and those who had no need for a long range weapon. It was issued to infantry battalions, especially platoon commanders, platoon sergeants, and section leaders in infantry platoons.
Inglis Mk I Browning: The Inglis Mk I Browning was a 9mm calibre semi-automatic pistol with a 13 round magazine. The Inglis Browning was a copy of the Browning Hi-Power designed by John Browning and manufactured in Belgium. The model was built in Canada by Inglis of Canada for all British forces, from February 1944 until September 1945. Many British and Commonwealth soldiers carried either the Browning or the Colt 1911 for its rapid fire capabilities and stopping power. It was carried by officers, NCOs and specialist ranks only.
Colt 1911 .45: Made in the United States by Colt Arms, the Colt 1911 .45 found its way to England via the Lend-Lease Act where it quickly became one of the favourite sidearms of British forces due to its powerful .45 calibre bullet. The Colt 1911 featured a seven round detachable magazine and a rear grip safety in addition to the standard semi-automatic safety.
25-Pounder Gun / Howitzer: The 25-Pounder was the main gun used by the Commonwealth field artillery. It could be used as a gun, firing armour piercing shells at a flat trajectory or as a howitzer firing high explosive shells at a high angle. It was effective up to 12,500 yards and up to 13,400 with a supercharge. When in use the gun was usually mounted on a circular firing platform which by moving the trail permitted a 360º traverse. The traverse of the gun when used without the firing platform was limited to 8º and its elevation to 45º. It was operated by a six man crew. Canada manufactured the 25-Pounder starting in July 1941.
6-Pounder Anti-Tank Gun: The 6-Pounder was the main anti-tank gun of the Canadian infantry units and anti-tank regiments after 1942. It's effective range was 1000 yards. It was usually towed by a Univeral Carrier. It was largely replaced by the 17-pounder anti-tank gun in 1944.
5.5-Inch Gun / Howitzer: The 5.5 Inch gun-howitzer was used by the Canadians as a medium artillery weapon. It fired an 82-pound high-explosive projectile up to 18,200 yards at two rounds a minute. It was operated by a ten man crew and was towed by a five-ton tractor known as a Matador.
Universal Carrier: The Universal Carrier (or Bren carrier) was a lightly armored tracked vehicle that could travel up to 35 miles per hour and carry four to six soldiers and their weapons. The men had protection against small arms fire but no overhead protection. The Universal Carrier had many uses: reconnaissance, transporting troops, wounded men, food, mortars, or machine guns, towing anti-tank guns and as a headquarters vehicle. When used as a weapons carrier it was fitted with Vickers .303 machine guns, Bren light machine guns or 2-inch mortars.
Staghound Armoured Car: The Staghound Armoured Car was used by reconnaissance regiments for patrols to get intelligence, raids, protection of convoys and headquarters. It had a crew of five, could travel up to 55 mph and had a range of 500 miles. It was armed with a 37-mm gun and two .30 machine guns.
The Priest: The Priest was a self-propelled gun used by the Canadian artillery regiments. The 105-mm howitzer fired a 33-pound high explosive shell up to 11,500 yards and could also be used against tanks. It had a crew of seven and could travel up 24 mph. The Americans called it the "Gun Motor Carriage 105-mm howitzer M7" but the British nicknamed it the Priest because of the pulpit-like machine-gun mounting.
Sherman: The Sherman tank was the workhorse of the Canadian Armoured Corps during the Second World War. The most widely used version was the M4A4 (Sherman V). The Sherman had a crew of five: commander, gunner, loader-operator, driver and co-driver. The 30 ton Sherman had a speed of 25 mph and a range of 100 miles. It was armed with a 75 mm gun and two .30 calibre Browning machine guns. The armour on the was 2 inches thick on the hull front, 1.5 inches on the sides, 3 inches on the front turret and 2 inches on the turret sides. It was powered by a 30 cylinder Chrysler multi-bank gasoline engine (five 6-cylinder engines) and was very reliable. The Shermans were outgunned by the German tanks, but very fast and manoeuvrable. Discarded tracks and sand bags were often added to give extra frontal protection. Some Shermans known as Fireflies were mounted with a 17-pounder gun. The regiments of the 2nd Armoured Brigade were provided with about a dozen Fireflies each, just prior to D-Day for increased firepower against the more heavily armoured German tanks.
The assault on Juno Beach used armoured vehicles known as 'Funnies' devised by Sir Percy Hobart. To many, these vehicles were the difference between success and failure. The British 79th Armoured Division and the Royal Engineers had been given the task of delivering a variety of special armoured vehicles (AVRE's) that could perform battlefield engineering tasks including clearing minefields, dropping fascines into anti-tank ditches and laying bridges. Armoured regiments were equipped with DD (duplex drive) Sherman tanks which could 'swim'' in the water and then travel on land to support the leading waves of infantry.
AVRE: The Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineer (AVRE) was a Churchill tank mounted with a "Petard" spigot mortar (large calibre short range gun) that could throw a 40-pound "dustbin" about 150 yards. It was used by the engineers to destroy concrete emplacements including concrete barriers, roadblocks and pillboxes. In addition to the Petard the AVRE could also be mounted with an assault bridge, crane or dozer blade. The "Flail", "Crocodile" and "Ark" (a moving bridge) were related vehicles.
Armoured Bulldozer: The armoured bulldozer was a conventional Caterpiller diesel tractor, fitted with a dozer blade and plated with armour to protect the engine and driver. They carried no armament and often came under heavy fire. On D-Day they were vital in clearing beach obstacles, clearing openings in the sea walls and constructing ramps to let tanks and vehicles inland off the beach. They later proved invaluable for clearing streets of rubble, filling bomb craters and clearing road blocks.
Crocodile: The Crocodile flame-thrower tank, was a modified Churchill Mark VII with a flame thrower gun mounted in place of the hull machine gun. The flame gun had a range of 120 yards.
Crab: The Crab (or Flail) was a Sherman tank with a power operated flailing attachment that could clear a 10-foot wide path through a minefield. The flail was a rotating drum powered by a drive from the tank engine and held by two girders extending from the front of the tank. Attached to the drum were 43 chains, each with an iron ball. When the drum was rotated the chains beat the ground, and exploded mines to a depth of 10 inches. Churchill tanks were also used for Flails.
Duplex Drive (DD) Tank: The DD tanks were Shermans with twin propellers and a collapsible canvas screen with rubber air tubes that provided floatation. The canvas screen was reinforced by struts and secured to a deck around the tank hull. The tank hung suspended underneath the canvas boat which provided positive buoyancy. The DD was propelled by two propellers geared to the engine and could travel at five knots in the water. It was steered by swivelling the screws. The DD tanks were carried on LCT's (Landing Craft Tanks) to about 7000 yards from shore where they were launched into the water. The tanks would swim into shore and land with the charging infantry. When the tracks grounded on the beach the canvas sides were collapsed and tanks would be ready to fight. The DD tanks were the solution to providing immediate armoured support for the assault troops on D-Day. The Shermans were armed with a 75 mm gun and two .30 calibre Browning machine guns.
The amphibious assault called for extensive use of specialized landing craft including LSI's (Landing Ship Infantry), LCT's (Landing Craft Tank) and LCA's (Landing Craft Assault) to carry the infantry, vehicles and equipment to the beaches.
LCA - Landing Craft, Assault