Guy Granville Simonds, born in Bury St.
Edmunds, England, on April 23rd, 1903; died
in Toronto on May 15th, 1974. Canadian Army
Guy Simonds inspecting II Canadian
Corps in Meppen, Germany, May
by C.H. Richer. Department of
National Defence / National Archives
of Canada, PA-159372.
The son of a British officer who immigrated
to Canada, Guy Simonds was too young to
serve in WWI. Between 1921 and 1925, he
studied at the Royal Military College in
Kingston, Ontario, and graduated with honours,
the recipient of several awards for his
academic successes, his behaviour and discipline.
Simonds joined the Canadian Permanent Force
in 1926, serving with the Royal Canadian
Horse Artillery in Petawawa and Winnipeg.
Between 1936 and 1938, the young captain
furthered his education at the Staff College
in Camberley, England. Noted for his intelligence
and his thorough understanding of military
theory as well as of problems specific to
modern warfare, Simonds was honoured upon
graduating with a laudatory recommendation
from the College's commanding officer.
Back to Canada, Simonds joined the staff
of the Royal Military College in the spring
of 1938. His papers on mechanized warfare,
published in the Canadian Defence Quarterly,
confirmed his status as one of the most
brilliant thinkers in the Canadian military.
After the proclamation of the state of war
on September 10th, 1939, Simonds, then a
major, was appointed as General Staff Officer
Grade 2 with the 1st Infantry Division and,
in December 1939, stationed in England with
In July 1940, Simonds was posted with the
1st Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian
Artillery, a demoralized unit just out of
the Dunkirk evacuation. He was to remain
there for only a short while; in November
asked Simonds to set up an intensive training
programme for officers, the Canadian Junior
War Staff Course.
Highly regarded for his remarkable military
and planning skills, Simonds rose through
the hierarchy at lightning speed: General
Staff Officer, Grade 1, with the 2nd Infantry
Division in May 1941, Commander of the 1st
Infantry Brigade in September 1942, Commander
of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division in
April 1943; he was by then a Major-General.
Simonds' first combat experience dates
back to the invasion of Sicily as he was
commanding the 1st Infantry Division. Having
skilfully organized his tanks, artillery
and infantry, and led his troops with confidence
through the battles of Nissoria, Agira
Regalbuto; he was noticed by the commander
of the 8th Army, General Bernard
Montgomery. From November
1st, 1943, to January 29th, 1944, Simonds
was at the head of the 5th Canadian Armoured
Division. In January 1944, he was promoted
to Lieutenant-General and General Officer
Commanding of II Canadian Corps, that he
had to train in preparation for D-Day.
II Canadian Corps set up its HQ in France
in July 1944, at a time when the Normandy
campaign seemed to be getting bogged down.
In July and August, Simonds headed four
important operations against German positions:
Atlantic, Spring, Totalize and Tractable.
These were difficult operations against
an enemy bitterly fighting for each square
inch of a terrain with which it was familiar.
Despite the lukewarm success of Operation
Totalize on August 7th, Simonds' strategy
was remarkable by its cleverness in neutralizing
German armoured vehicles and antitank defences.
It was then that Simonds invented the "Kangaroo",
an improvised troop carrier made by taking
the guns off a "Priest" self-propelled
gun. Operation Tractable on August 14th
allowed Canadian and Polish troops to close
the Falaise Gap.
On September 27th, 1944, Simonds took charge
of the 1st Canadian Army on a temporary
basis, in replacement of General H.D.G.
Crerar. The liberation of the
mouth of the Scheldt River was once again
an opportunity for him to display his remarkable
tactical intelligence; his firm leadership
made a favourable impression on Montgomery.
Crerar, however, took back his post with
the 1st Army and Simonds resumed his command
of II Canadian Corps for the liberation
of North-Western Europe.
After the war, Simonds remained in England
with the Imperial Defence College. He returned
to Canada as Commander of the Kingston Royal
Military College in 1949. Between 1951 and
1955, he served as Chief of the General
Staff and reorganized the Canadian Army
in preparation for the Korean War and later
for NATO operations.
Guy Simonds was outstanding among Canadian
officers who took part in WWII. Montgomery
regarded him as being, among Canadians,
the "only general fit to hold high
command in war". US General Omar Bradley
called him "the best of the Canadian
generals" and British General Sir Miles
Dempsey "the best of my Corps Commanders".
In his book The Generals, historian Jack
Granatstein wrote that Guy Simonds was for
his contemporaries and for historians alike
the best WWII Canadian soldier.
J.L. Granatstein, The Generals,
The Canadian Army's Senior Commanders
in the Second World War, 1993.