Expeditionary Force Study Group
"The Matrix Project"
Thanks to two of our Forum
Members for their input in defining the ORBAT:
use of the term 'Army' is rather misleading. The highest unit
in the Canadian army was the Corps, or in full Army Corps.
Armies, consisting of at least 4 Corps were always led by the
Imperials. There were five British Armies in France.
we have 1 Canadian (Army) Corps, consisting of 4 Divisions,
which each consisted of a number of Brigades. Each Brigade
consisted of a number of Battalions, which had Companies,
which had Platoons, which had Sections.
One must always
remember that the Canadian Divisions and lower units were to a
certain extent interchangeable with British units, depending
on the necessities of a certain battle etc. This makes it very
difficult to define what an ORBAT is. It changed depending on
the circumstances, the battle fought, the way a battle
Basically you could construct an Orbat
for the beginning of the war, for each Canadian Division when
it was formed, for each Brigade, for each Battalion and even
for each Company or Platoon. Ditto for each year, month, week
of even day of the year. That is, if you define Orbat as a
means to analyse the composition and strength of a fighting
unit. The question is, is this sensible when thinking in terms
of the purpose of the Matrix?
A completely different
approach is, if the reason for adding Orbats to the Matrix is
to show who was in charge of what unit and what were the names
and service numbers of the soldiers who belonged to that
particular unit. A tremendous job as the members of a
particular unit were killed and wounded all the time and so
the names kept on changing. You would have to make a roll of
honour for each unit which shows all the permutations within
that unit over a 4 year period. Hm, interesting challenge?
the string indicates it is difficult to define an orbat
precisely. Orbats are used to describe the components of a
military force, unit or group at a particular point in time
and some may argue at a particular place.
the order of battle of the Canadian army is used in one sense
to describe all of the units that are on the army list (and
some not on the list) at that particular time. It is usually
done by seniority. (Sorry don't want to throw another curve at
you, but this is important.) Seniority is used to determine
who came first. So, the 1st Division is senior to the 2nd. The
units in the division are also organized by seniority, so the
1st Bde is senior to the 2nd etc. Within the division and the
brigade the units may be changed. (Eg the 60th Bn being
replaced by the 116th in the 9th Bde. The RCR was somewhat
distraught at being in the 3rd Div when they were the senior
regiment of the Canadian army. In WW2 that situation did not
So the answer to your question is yes,
orbats exist on different levels. And, yes it can describe all
the forces of the nation, or the elements of a battalion. On
the bottom level the battalion is the basic building block of
an orbat, but there may be smaller parts of units assigned. In
WW2, many battle groups were made up of a battalion with maybe
a squadron of armour, and maybe some heavy support weapons
like mg's or mortars. In WW1, the infantry battalion was the
starting point for most formations, and didn't divide into
For the Canadians in WW1, the largest
unit was the corps. The Canadian Corps was shifted around from
army to army, but due to Currie's insistence it was not broken
up and dispersed into other formations, especially during the
German spring offensive of 1918.