Units of the Canadian 2nd Infantry Division were mobilized on 1 September1939, even before the declaration of war, and the battalions were promptly fleshed out by volunteers. However, further expansion of the division was hindered by a temporary halt in recruitment and uncertainty about overseas deployment. Consequently, divisional and brigade headquarters were not actually formed until May and June 1940.
The entire division was briefly slated for service in Iceland, but it was instead directed to the UK in the summer of 1940. However, elements of the division formed the basis of Z Force which was dispatched from Canada to Iceland and later rejoined the division in England.
Advance elements of the division arrived in the UK on 22 May 1940. The divisional HQ and 4th Canadian Infantry Brigade arrived in the Clyde on 1 August while the main body of the division, including 5th Canadian Infantry Brigade, arrived 4 September. The last two battalions did not reach the UK until Christmas Day 1940. Training in the UK was hampered by lack of artillery and anti-tank guns, and it was not until the second half of 1941 that the unit was fully equipped.
2nd Division conducted a large-scale raid at Dieppe, France in August 1942 with the 4th and 6th Canadian Infantry Brigades, suffering extensive losses in the landing and ensuing withdrawal. Following its reconstruction, the division moved to Normandy in time to serve with the British 2nd Army. It then participated in the advance along the Channel coast with the Canadian 1st Army. The division saw heavy action in the Netherlands in late 1944 and took part in the final offensives in 1945.
The steady drain of casualties was affecting all nine infantry battalions and the division had not begun to tackle the main Dunkirk defences.
The rest of the division made the trek to Antwerp on Sept. 18 and reports from that journey show that the ride across the newly liberated Belgian countryside was an exhilarating experience.
The division was thus committed to some of the most difficult battles of the war at the village of Woensdrecht and on the narrow causeway connecting Walcheren Island and the peninsula of South Beveland.
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