Special Distinctions

During the 20th Century, many regiments of the British Army wore special distinctions on their uniforms as a commemoration of past glories.  The Gloucestershire Regiment wore two cap badges; one on the front of the headdress, and another smaller one on the back, commemorating the Battle of Alexandria on 21 March 1801; fearing a cavalry charge, and unable to form square, they simply reversed their rear rank and fought back to back. The Royal Welch Fusiliers wore a fan of black ribbons on the back of their tunic collars, commemorating  the fact that one of their battalions was on active service for so long, they were the last unit in the British Army to adopt a new hairstyle doing away with the black hair ribbon.  King William IV gave Royal Assent to the back flash.  Several regiments wear a Sphinx on their buttons, buckles or cap badges, commemorating a campaign in Egypt.

Like the British Army on which it has modelled itself, the Canadian Army adopted special distinctions of dress during the 20th Century as well.

The Red Hackle
 
The 43rd (later 42nd) Regiment of Foot of the British Army was raised in the mid 1700s, and almost immediately became known as The Black Watch, though that name was not made official until 1861.  The regiment first saw action at Fontenoy in 1745 during the War of Austrian Succession, and went on to fight in the Seven Years War in North America, while a second battalion was raised and served in the West Indies.  Both battalions merged, and the regiment saw action in the War of Independence, and the French Revolutionary wars.

In 1795, the regiment recovered abandoned guns at Geldermalsen, and it is believed by some that this was when the right to wear the hackle was earned.  However, the custom of wearing red vulture feathers evolved during the long campaigns in North America in the 1770s, and the regiment's conduct in Flanders was only the ultimate sanction for the distinction.  The red hackle was first officially issued out on a parade at Royston in 1795.  An Army Order of 1822 made the red hackle the official badge of the Black Watch, who have the distinction of wearing the hackle without a cap badge.  

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Final parade of the regular battalions of the Black Watch in July 1970.  Note the red hackles being worn in the blue balmorals.


The hackle featured on other forms of headdress for other units of the British Army throughout the 19th and 20th Centuries, but only the Black Watch was permitted one in red.

The 5th Regiment, Royal Highlanders of Canada, formed an affiliation with the Black Watch of the British Army in the decade before the First World War.  In that war, the regiment sent several numbered battalions to fight with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, notably the 13th, 42nd and 73rd, whom were invited by the Black Watch to also wear the Red Hackle.

Since the First World War, the regiment became known as the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada.  The regiment raised several battalions for the Second World War.  After the Korean War, the regiment was raised once again to full time regular status, which it maintained until 1970, when it reverted to a one battalion Militia unit.


Oak Leaf Shoulder Badges

When Battle Honours for the First World War were being considered in the 1920s, the units that perpetuated the 10th and 16th Battalions of the CEF were perturbed that they did not receive recognition for the Battle of Kitcheners Wood.  That battle had marked the first offensive action taken by Canadian soldiers in the First World War, and was later described by Marshall Foch as "the finest act in the War."  The commanding officers of the three regiments (The Canadian Scottish Regiment, The Calgary Highlanders, and The Winnipeg Light Infantry) petitioned Ottawa, and gained the support of many prominent individuals such as Sir Arthur Currie.  The Adjutant General proposed that a distinction in dress be awarded in lieu of a battle honour.

In June 1926, it was suggested that one or more oak leaves on a blood red background be adopted as a collar badge, as Kitcheners' Wood had been an oak plantation.   The Calgary Highlanders preferred a badge be worn on the lower sleeve while the WLI preferred an upper sleeve badge.  All three agreed that an acorn and oak leaf design was desirable.  The Adjutant General agreed that a collar badge depicting a single acorn and oak leaf was acceptable, and could be worn in conjunction with existing collar badges, as precedence for double collar badges had been set in the British Army by the Seaforth Highlanders and the Royal Irish Fusiliers.

In 1930, the Adjutant General's office proposed that the collar badges of the individual units be set upon a bronze oak leaf.  This idea was rejected, and in 1933 a metal shoulder badge was agreed upon.  The Calgary Highlanders and Canadian Scottish wanted the full name of the regiment to be part of the design, while the WLI wanted only their initials.

General Orders in 1934 granted authority for the Calgary Highlanders and Canadian Scottish to wear bronze oak leaf and acorn badges with their names inscribed on an annulus.  The WLI were to wear a badge consisting of the oak leaf and acorn with the initials on the regiment superimposed.

When the badges were presented in 1938, the Calgary Highlanders' design had again changed to one resembling the WLI, being a brass oak leaf with the letters CH superimposed.   It is not clear why the change was made.

The metal shoulder titles were to be worn on Service Dress and Full Dress.   With the advent of Battle Dress in 1939, the regiments took to wearing the new badges with the new uniform.  The practice was short lived.  The Canadian Scottish only permitted the First Battalion to wear the badge.  For Battle Dress, a cloth shoulder title incorporating the oak leaf into the design was instituted.   Officers in the Second World War continued to wear Service Dress, and officers of the three regiments continued to wear the oak leaf when in that uniform.  When midway through the war it was decided that unit shoulder titles were a drain on resources, and ordered all officers to wear the plain CANADA title in brass, the CO of the First Battalion, Canadian Scottish Regiment, refused.  He was told that he would be sent to Canada if he persisted, but he advised his officers to retain the prized oak leaf badges, and the matter was quietly dropped.

Oak leaves were again worn on Battle Dress after the Second World War.  With unification of the Armed Forces, the oak leaf badge was in danger of being dispensed with.  The WLI had been amalgamated with another regiment in 1955, leaving only the Canadian Scottish and Calgary Highlanders as bearers of this emblem.  Neither unit adopted the oak leaf for the new combat dress.  The new CF uniform lacked shoulder straps, and so the metal oak leaf was no longer worn when in full dress.  Both units did adopt cloth substitutes, however.   The Canadian Scottish adopted a badge in the shape of the Presidential Unit Citation worn by 2 PPCLI. The Calgary Highlanders adopted a large arc shaped title with the name of the regiment, the oak leaf, and the numeral "10" superimposed.   Metal oak leaves continued to be worn on work dress.

Barry Agnew, then a curator of the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, uncovered the drawings below in the National Archives in Ottawa.  They show suggested designs for the Calgary Highlanders' oak leaf badges; none of the badges were ever worn.
 

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Photo reproduced from The Oakleaf, Regimental Newsletter of the Calgary Highlanders, Dec 1991 issue.

With the introduction of the DEU in the late 1980s, the epaulettes of the new uniform meant a return to the metal oak leaves when in parade dress.

At right, two styles of Canadian Scottish shoulder titles adopted by the First Battalion during the Second World War.  The upper badge is a cotton printed example (also referred to by collectors as "canvas") and the lower title is an embroidered sample. The Second Battalion's shoulder title did not incorporate the oak leaf design, and was simply a red arc with the words CANADIAN SCOTTISH in blue.  Below these are the approved version of the metal oak leaf.  Because of its size it was sometimes referred to as a "soup plate" by members of the regiment.  All oak leaf badges worn by the Canadian Scottish had the oak leaf on the left; they were not issued in right and left pairs.

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The WLI and Calgary Highlanders oak leaf badges were both  issued in right and left pairs.

When the Canadian Scottish Regiment added the suffix "Princess Mary's" to their name, they also adopted the cloth shoulder title shown here.   Like the wartime title, it was in red with blue lettering, with the acorn and oakleaf in natural colours.

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The Calgary Highlanders adopted these titles for wear on the new CF uniforms in the early 1970s.  They were worn, like the metal badges, with the acorns facing the wearer's front.

The Blue Putties

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HM King George VI and HM Queen Elizabeth inspect Canadian troops.  Pictured at right is General McNaughton, commander of Canadian troops in England.  At left, Captain Phil Seagram of the 48th Highlanders, wearing the blue putties.  Captain Seagram was Aide de Camp to His Majesty, and became the first 48th Highlander to be killed by enemy action, during a German bombing raid.  It was after this inspection that HM gave permission to the 48th to wear the blue putties.
Photo courtesy Art Johnson, Associate Curator, 48th Highlanders Museum

 

In the early 1900s, blue putties were issued to Colonial Forces of the British Empire.  It is possible the 48th Highlanders wore them with trews, though the Regimental Museum has not been able to establish this with any precision.  That they were at some point issued to the 48th does not seem to be in doubt; they were stored in the Armouries.  In 1939, when the regiment mobilized for the Second World War, initial issues of the new Web Anklets was slow.  Pipe Major James Fraser reminded Lieutenant Colonel Eric Haldenby, the Commanding Officer of the 48th Highlanders, that the puttees were in storage.   Regimental tailor Sergeant Alex Smith cut each pair of the full length puttees into two, and the Regiment arrived in England wearing these puttees.

The Regimental History of the 48th tells us that when King George VI inspected the regiment in January of 1940, the Colonel of the 48th responded to the King's inquiries about the puttees by saying that the anklets had not been available, and the regiment thought the puttees smarter looking.

His Majesty agreed, and confided in the Colonel that he didn't like the new anklets either.  General McNaughton, commanding the Canadian contingent, listened with his staff.  According to the 48th's history: "When Colonel Haldenby opportunely - quickly - expressed his fear that the blue putties might soon be discarded by official order, His Majesty said, pointedly, and with a twinkling eye: "Continue to wear them.   They have my approval."

With the introduction of the high top combat boot, the puttees faded from use by the 48th.

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The Blue Hackle

In 1939, the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of the British Army, like all Highland Regiments in the British Empire, abandoned the kilt as combat dress.  The CO of the First Battalion, Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders, was determined that with the kilt gone, his unit should still be distinctively dressed.  To do so, he ordered the white hackle normally worn with the tropical helmet to be worn on the balmoral.

King George V inspected the battalion on 5 Dec 1939, and the King agreed to the suggestion of wearing the hackle on the balmoral, but suggested that Royal Blue was more appropriate.  Eight hundred hackles were made up and the battalion wore them at Arras for the first time on 11 Feb 1940.    Incidentally, the battalion also continued to wear the kilt, and were the last regiment to wear it in action, going all the way through Dunkirk so clad.

The blue hackle was discontinued until it could be approved by the War Office, which only did so in 1951.

In the mean time, the 1st Battalion of the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada sent their advance party to England in late 1939 and adopted the blue hackle of their sister regiment.  It appears to have been worn sporadically throughout the war, and was never approved by Canadian Army Headquarters.  The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, also affiliated with the Imperial Camerons, never adopted the blue hackle though some individuals may have taken to wearing it.

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 Reconstruction of a post-war Queen's Own Cameron Highlander of Canada.  Wartime hackles were smaller and less voluminous. 


Between 1946 and 1951, the hackle was not worn by the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, but Canadian Army Headquarters did approve of it in 1951, and it has been worn with the glengarry and the balmoral ever since, except for pipers in Full Dress who wear an eagle feather in lieu of the hackle.

United States Distinguished Unit Citation

In March of 1951, the United Nations forces in Korea again took the offensive, inspiring a Chinese counter-offensive.   The 29th British Brigade deployed in the hills south of the Imjin River and on 22 April 1951, the Chinese attacked.  A platoon of the Gloucestershire Regiment killed 100 Chinese as they made four attempts to cross the Imjin in front of his positions; not a single Gloster was lost.  Hard fighting went on between the other two battalions of the brigade.   The Chinese regrouped, and now came at the Glosters with at least a thousand men.  Using a crossing unknown to the Glosters, the Chinese surrounded the British battalion.  A Company took severe casualties while B Company killed 100 more Chinese without losing a man.  A counterattack by Lieutenant Curtis' platoon failed to throw the Chinese off of a dominating position, but Curtis was later awarded the Victoria Cross - posthumously.  Chinese attacks went on into the 24th, and the Glosters contracted their line from almost four miles to only 600 yards of frontage.   As the rest of the 29th Brigade made good their withdrawal after fierce fighting, the Glosters had no way of retreating.   By morning of the 25th, the CO gave permission for men to try and break out through the Chinese encirclement. Some 400 Glosters were captured, and only two full platoons made it back to safety.  The Gloucestershires have born many nicknames over the years; The Old Braggs, The Slashers, Fore and Aft, The Back Numbers, and The Silver Tailed Dandies, but the nickname earned on the Imjin is perhaps the most flattering: The Glorious Glosters.

The Second Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, serving at the time with the 27th Brigade, was also in action on the 22nd of April.  When the front collapsed under the weight of Chinese assaults, the PPCLI and the 3rd Battalion of the Royal Australian Regiment were ordered to hold the escape route of the withdrawing Allied forces.  The Chinese attacked the RAR on the 23rd, and after holding out as long as possible, the RAR were ordered to withdraw.  The PPCLI, in positions near the village of Kapyong, was next subjected to multiple assaults by a Chinese force nine times their number.  One section was overrun early on, but the position was retaken.  A second Chinese attack in battalion strength was beaten off, but managed to overrun two more sections.  More attacks were stopped by mortar fire and concentrated .50 calibre fire.  At one point one company commander called down friendly artillery fire on top of his own position, and by morning  the remaining Chinese had melted away.  The Patricias' casualties had been light; especially compared to the Glosters, only losing 33 men.

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Eighth Army Headquarters, commanding the Commonwealth Brigade, placed great importance on the actions of the British and Canadians during the course of the battle.  The three Commonwealth brigades were credited with saving the entire situation in Korea, by providing retreating units the time to regroup, and by standing fast had completely upset Chinese plans, stopping an advance that might have retaken Seoul, the capital of the south.  By way of appreciation, the United States Distinguished Unit Citation was granted to the 1st Glosters, the 3rd RAR, and the 2nd PPCLI.  The Canadian Goverment did not allow the Patricias to add the blue battle streamer to the Regimental Colour for several months, and it was five years before permission was granted to the battalion to wear the Distinguished Unit Citation.   American practice called for the Unit Citation to be worn over the right breast, but the Commonwealth units so honoured took to wearing the blue rectangle on both upper sleeves.   The Second Battalion of the PPCLI continued to wear the Unit Citation throughout the remainder of the century.  Those who served at Kapyong were allowed to retain the citation on their uniform regardless of what unit they served in afterwards.  

Otherwise, the only Canadians granted the privilege of wearing this award (now called the Presidential Unit Citation) have been the 2nd Battalion, PPCLI.

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Kapyong veterans Sergeant Jim Wall, Sergeant Cowling and Sergeant John Miles wearing the blue rectangle of the Distinguished Unit Citation on Kapyong Day, 25 April 1969.  Captain John Bremner, at right, was not a Kapyong veteran but as a member of the 2nd Battalion PPCLI was entitled to wear the Citation as well.
Photo reproduced from the 1969 volume of The Patrician: The Regimental Journal of the PPCLI


Commander-in-Chief Unit Citation

On 1 December 2002, a newly created Commander-In-Chief Unit Citation was presented to the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, the Governor General of Canada.   Her Excellency - who in her tenure proved to be a proud supporter of the Canadian Forces - created the award on 3 July 2002, to provide Canada with an equivalent to the Presidential Unit Citation and was instituted to "recognize outstanding service by members of the Canadian Forces under direct fire in times of conflict.".   Specifically, the award was intended to honour those men of the 2 PPCLI Battle Group, whose courage at the battle of Medak Pocket in September 1993 had gone unrecognized.  In the wake of the Somalia scandal, this operation - the largest combat action in Canadian history since the end of the Korean War - went largely unreported in Canada.  A subseqent award was made to the Royal 22nd Regiment for another incident in Yugoslavia, also in the 1990s.

Members of the 2 PPCLI Battle Group held their ground while enduring a 24 hour artillery barrage while on peacekeeping duties in the former Yugoslavia.  The Battle Group was put even further into harm's way between opposing forces of Serb and Croat troops, when they were ordered forward as a buffer between the two forces.  Firefights erupted, some lasting minutes, some lasting over an hour, with heavy weapons being brought to bear on the Canadians such as 20mm guns and rocket propelled grenades.  When the Croatian forces backed down, the Canadians returned to peacekeeping mode, of necessity interacting with men who had been shooting to kill not long before.  The intent to "ethnically cleanse" the area was apparent, and the resolve of the Canadians not to back down no doubt spared many civilian lives.

Soldiers from across Canada formed the 875-strong Battle Group, including 385 Reserve Force soldiers.

Like the Presidential Unit Citation, there is a uniform distinction that denotes this award.  The individual insignia of the award is worn by all members of 2 PPCLI as long as they serve in that unit.  For any soldier actually at Medak Pocket, they may wear the award regardless of what unit they actually serve with.  This insignia consists of a gold bar, with the Vice Regal lion in full colour on it.  The insignia is worn on the centre of the left breast pocket of the CF Uniform.

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CITATION

The 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group is awarded the  Commendation for courageous and professional execution of duty during the Medak Pocket Operation in the Former Yugoslavia in September 1993. Under conditions of extreme peril and hazard, facing enemy artillery, small arms and heavy machine gun fire as well as anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, the members of the 2PPCLI Battalion Group  held their ground and drove the Croation forces back. The exemplary action of the 2PPCLI Battalion Group caused the Croation Army to cease their ongoing tactics of "ethnic  cleansing" in the sector, without question saving many innocent civilian lives.

In addition, the Royal Pennant of the Governor General is permitted to be flown under the National Flag in unit lines "in perpetuity."  This does not refer to the official stand of Colours.

CITATION

The 1 R22eR Battle Group (including N Coy, 3 RCR) is awarded the commendation for having opened the airport in the besieged city of Sarajevo in July 1992. While surrounded and being shot at by belligerents on all sides, the BG steadfastly executed its mission, securing the Sarajevo airport for humanitarian relief flights and escorting these relief convoys into the city. As a result of their presence, the anti-aircraft weapons, howitzers and tanks stationed around the airport were soon forced to draw back. The superb effort of the BG led directly to the provision of critical aid for the war ravaged citizens of Sarajevo and helped in large measure, establish the UN in the eyes of the community as a vital force for world peace and security.

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