Bertram Meryl Hoffmeister, born in Vancouver,
British Columbia, on May 15th, 1907; died
in Vancouver on December 4th, 1999; Canadian
Army officer, businessman.
B.M. Hoffmeister, commanding officer
of the Seaforth Highlanders of
Canada, Sicily, August 1943
by Terry F. Rowe. Department of
National Defence / National Archives
of Canada, PA-132779
Bert Hoffmeister discovered the excitement
of military life when, at age 12, he joined
the Seaforth Highlanders Cadets Corps. Although
he was to make his career in the forest
industry, he always remained close to the
Seaforth Highlanders: in 1927, he enlisted
with the Non-Permanent Active Militia. In
1939, he was promoted to Major and commanding
officer of a company of the Seaforth Highlanders.
He sailed for England with his regiment
as early as December 1939.
In March 1942, Hoffmeister returned to
Canada to attend the Canadian Junior War
Staff courses at the Royal Military College
in Kingston, Ontario. Upon graduating, he
left once more for England and, in October
1942, was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel
and placed in charge of his old regiment
as Officer Commanding.
The campaign of Sicily, which started with
the landing of Allied forces on July 10th,
1943, provided Hoffmeister with an opportunity
to demonstrate his skills as an officer
and as a leader. He was awarded a first
medal, the Distinguished Service Order,
earned in combat on Sicily's mountain roads.
In October 1943, Hoffmeister became Brigadier
and commanding officer of the 2nd Canadian
Infantry Brigade, to which had been entrusted
the difficult task of capturing Ortona,
in December 1943.
On March 20th, 1944, Hoffmeister received
the command of the 5th Canadian Armoured
Division, together with a promotion to Major-General.
The 5th Division took part in the victorious
May 23rd, 1944, attack of the German defence
positions that formed the Adolf Hitler Line
in the Liri Valley. On August 30th, Hoffmeister's
5th Armoured Division took on the Gothic
Line, which blocked the Allies' access to
northern Italy. In spite of the confusion
resulting from violent fighting, Hoffmeister
demonstrated initiative and won the day
for Canada: on September 1st, the Germans
were forced to abandon their positions.
In February 1945, the 5th Armoured Division
joined the 1st Canadian Army in the Netherlands,
and during the following months, took part
in the Allies' march through enemy-occupied
Once the war was over in Europe, Hoffmeister
was appointed Officer Commanding the 6th
Division, the Canadian Army's Pacific forces.
Japan's surrender in August 1945 put a stop
to military preparations and, in September,
Hoffmeister became a reserve officer.
Back to civilian life, Bert Hoffmeister
resumed his business activities in the British
Columbia forest industry. He was CEO of
MacMillan Bloedel from 1949 to 1957, British
Columbia's Agent General in London from
1958 to 1961, and Chairman of the Council
of Forest Industries of British Columbia
from 1961 to 1968. He was made a member
of the Order of Canada in 1982.
Bert Hoffmeister had a real talent for
war. He would always make sure he knew thoroughly
in what conditions his men were to live
and fight. Intelligent and a good listener,
a trusted leader, he was attuned to his
officers' ideas and led through consensus
rather than sheer authority. His men were
proud to be part of "Hoffy's Mighty
Maroon Machine", as the division was
known on account of the colour of the arm
patches, a unit that displayed an outstanding
esprit de corps.
J.L. Granatstein, The Generals,
The Canadian Army's Senior Commanders
in the Second World War, 1993.