Canadian soldiers and Headley Heath

During the Second World War, Headley Heath was used by the Canadian Army as a training ground. One such area is The Pyramids, so named due to the stacks of ammunition boxes created by the Royal Canadian Engineers during the war.

Defence of Britain

From late 1939, the Canadian 1st Division and associated units (around 23,000 all ranks) arrived in the south of England. In the aftermath of the fall of France, a new Anglo-Canadian 7th Corps was formed to help defend Britain from an expected German invasion. The Corps headquarters were at Headley Court under Lieutenant-General A.G.L. McNaughton of the Canadian Army.

The 1st Canadian Division formed a mobile reserve ranging from Guildford to Westerham, with troops stationed in billets or under canvas, along the North Downs Way. Had the Germans attempted an invasion, the Canadians would have been called upon immediately.

Divisional Headquarters were established at Headley Court, later the Headquarters of 1st Canadian Corps (a combination of the 1st and 2nd Canadian Divisions). Headley Court served as the senior Canadian field headquarters throughout almost the entire period until the First Canadian Army moved to France in 1944.

On the Front Foot

As the threat of German invasion passed, thoughts turned towards the liberation of occupied Europe, requiring an unprecedented level of planning and training. May 1943 saw the creation of a school for operations of special engineering equipment, started at Pippingford Park (near Uckfield in Sussex) by the Mechanical Equipment Company of the Royal Canadian Engineers. Between there and Headley Heath, this school continued for the next four or five months. Other training on the Heath included aircraft recognition, gas attack drills and use of a shooting range at High Ashurst.

In support of the Canadian land forces in the area, Canadian Army engineers would construct Dunsfold Aerodrome for the Royal Canadian Air Force in just eighteen weeks.

Preparations and training would culminate on 6 June 1944, D Day, from when Canadian troops and engineers found themselves in the thick of the fighting to liberate occupied Europe.