Frederic Worthington file photo [32152]

Frederic Worthington

Given NameFrederic
Born17 Sep 1889
Died8 Dec 1967


ww2dbaseMajor-General Frederic Franklin "Worthy" Worthington is considered to be the father of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. As a young man he saw service in both the Nicaraguan Army in its war against San Salvador and Honduras (1907), as a smuggler bringing weapons into Cuba until he was caught and imprisoned (1908), and with the rebels in the Mexican Civil War where he was wounded (1913). During the First World War he served in the Canadian Machine Gun Brigade and earned the Military Medal in January 1917 for actions near Vimy Ridge.

ww2dbaseThe Canadians had had a small Tank Corps formed in 1918 equipped with British Mark V and French Renault FT tanks but this did not survive the war and it was not until 1930 that armoured vehicles were again in service with the Canadian Army. These vehicles were a dozen Carden-Loyds bought from the United Kingdom to equip the machine-gun platoons of Canada's small Permanent Force.

ww2dbaseThe deteriorating international situation during the 1930s brought about a revival of a Canadian armoured element in the shape of a cadre of 24 all ranks under the command of Captain (Brevet Major) F. F. Worthington, who since 1936 had been employed as an instructor at the British Royal Tank School at Bovington Camp in Dorset in southern England, United Kingdom. Under Worthington's leadership a Fighting Vehicle School was set up at London, Ontario, and later moved in 1938 to Camp Borden, 100 kilometers north of Toronto, Canada. Meanwhile, on December 15, 1936 six militia regiments were designated as tank regiments. These included the Ontario Regiment, Le Regiment de Trois-Rivières (The Three Rivers Regiment), the Calgary Regiment, and The Essex Regiment. The Essex militiamen became the first students at the Camp Borden School. Training was carried out on the carriers and on a couple of Vickers Mark IV light tanks. In the summer of 1939 the schools vehicle strength was increased with the arrival of fourteen Vickers Mark VI light tanks from the United Kingdom.

ww2dbaseOn 1 September 1939 two of the six tank regiments were mobilised - the Ontario Regiment and the Three Rivers Regiment - as well as a number of cavalry regiments which were later to form part of the Canadian Armoured Corps, including the Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadian), the Fort Garry Horse and the 1st Hussars, which was mobilised as the 1st Canadian Cavalry Regiment.

ww2dbaseThe period of the "phoney" war delayed the development of Canada's armoured force. In March 1940 the 1st Hussars were mechanized and became 1st Canadian Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized), but apart from this armoured expansion was at a standstill. The Defence Department had decided that there seemed little requirement for Canadian tank formations. The blitzkrieg in May and June 1940 harshly demonstrated the fallacy that armoured forces would not be needed.

ww2dbaseThe next stage was the formation of the Canadian Armoured Corps which was formally embodied on 13 August 1940, with Worthington, now a Colonel, as its Commandant. Its initial establishment was to be an Army Tank Brigade and an Armoured Division. In order to obtain tanks for training Worthington went to the United States and bought all the obsolete vehicles that had been retired from US Army service. These amounted to 219, mostly M1917 six-tonners (the America built version of the Renault F. T.), but including some Mark VIIIs. To equip the tank brigade with the tanks it would need for active service the Defence Department ordered 488 Valentines (Infantry Tank Mark III) from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company who were already building Valentines for the British Ministry of Supply. By the time the first Valentines arrived, however, the 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade was in Britain. This Brigade embarked in June 1941 with Brigadier Worthington in command. On arrival it was supplied with Matilda II Infantry Tanks (Later replaced with Churchill Mark IVs).

ww2dbaseOn 26 January 1942 the Canadian 4th Infantry Division was converted into an Armoured Division of two Armoured Brigades (3rd and 4th). Arriving in the United Kingdom later that year the Division, with Worthington now promoted to Major-General, in March 1942, in command, and came under 2nd Canadian Corps of the First Canadian Army.

ww2dbaseIn the summer of 1943 the Canadian Armoured Divisions adopted the British Armoured organization of one armoured Brigade and one Lorried Infantry Brigade. In the 4th Division the 3rd Armoured Brigade was broken up and replaced with the 10th Infantry Brigade, while at the same time the Division's Armoured Car Regiment (12th Manitoba Dragoons) was transferred to Corps control. In early 1944 General Worthington was forced to relinquish command of the 4th Armoured Division, and returned to Canada to administer an expanded Camp Borden, which now included the training of infantry, Service Corps and Provost Corps replacements.

ww2dbaseMajor General Worthington served as General Officer Commander in Chief of Pacific Command from 1 April 1945 to 26 January 1946. His military career came to an end with his retirement in 1948, but not his association with the Armoured Corps. In 1949, he was named Colonel Commandant of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps School at Borden, a position he would hold until his death on 8 December 1967 at Ottawa's Military Hospital. After his funeral his body was flown to Camp Borden for interment in Worthington Park.

Duncan Crow: British and Commonwealth Armoured Formations (1919-46) (Profile Publication Limited, 1971)
Wikipedia - F. F. Worthington

Last Major Revision: Jun 2022

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