The Canadian Army is a term used on this website to describe the land forces of Canada's military from 1900 to 2000. The term "Canadian Army" was not in official use until 1940, and after Unification in the 1960s fell into official disuse once again. The term was revived for official use in 2011.
Structure of Canada's Land Forces
Canada's military land forces have always been divided into two major components; a full-time component, or standing army, and a part-time component, or reserve force. In time of war, a third component is added, usually referred to as a field force, or alternately as an overseas component since no wars were fought on Canadian soil during the 20th Century.
Within the framework of the two major components, many reorganizations were made to the structure of the Army in the years between 1900 and 2000. These generally involved modernization of the forces (based largely on technology and major equipment acquisitions). The change with the largest impact was no doubt Unification in 1968.
The Canadian Army's focus has been on war fighting; when the Army was not fighting wars, it was training to fight them. The main types of actual operational missions were performed by the Army during the 20th Century:
The Canadian Army evolved from British garrison forces on the North American continent in the 1800s. Upon Confederation of Canada in 1867, the ground forces in Canada were referred to as the Canadian Militia or simply as the Militia. Eventually, a Permanent Active Militia was designated and were Canada's full time professional soldiers, with the Non-Permanent Active Militia made up of small units across the country consisting mainly of part-time soldiers employed in the civilian world who additionally did military training on evenings, weekends, and for short periods in the summer months.
The birthday of Canada's military is considered to be 20 Oct 1871, as on that Militia General Order No. 24 authorized the formation of two batteries of Garrison Artillery to provide for the "care, protection and maintenance of forts, magazines, armaments, and warlike stores recently or about to be handed over (by the British) to the Canadian government in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec." The Canadian Armed Forces formally celebrated their centennial in 1971.
In 1914, the Canadian Expeditionary Force was formed in response to Britain's call for soldiers. The CEF was a separate entity from the Permanent Active Militia (also known as the Permanent Force, or PF) and the NPAM. Regiments and other units of the Militia were not mobilized, but rather transferred personnel to the CEF for overseas deployment. The CEF was disbanded after war.
Canada's land forces underwent two major organziational changes between the wars; in 1920 the Otter Committee brought about sweeping changes, amalgamating and renaming all the pre-war infantry regiments and creating systems of perpetuation so that both pre-war units, as well as the war-service units of the CEF, would both have their histories and traditions carried on. The new regiments were permitted to perpetuate the history of the wartime CEF, and even adopted their Battle Honours. Similar perpetuations occurred in the artillery as well. Additionally, between the war, several organizational corps were created, mirroring corps in the British Army.
In 1936, Canada's land forces again underwent dramatic reorganizations, with three types of infantry regiments being created (rifle, machine gun, and tank). Many regiments were disbanded or amalgamated.
In 1939, the Canadian Active Service Force was mobilized to serve in the Second World War; similar to the CEF, this was a mobilization of prewar PF and NPAM units, who retained their traditional titles. In 1940, the land forces of Canada were retitled (see below). A new Canadian Armoured Corps was created and many infantry regiments were reroled to fight in tanks. The veterinary corps was disbanded in 1940 as mechanization was completed and all cavalry units eventually converted to armour or armoured car regiments.
A desire to have an entire French Canadian brigade was thwarted by a lack of francophone staff officers. The original mobilization scheme grouped infantry battalions by region; the 1st Brigade was an Ontario brigade, the 2nd from Western Canada and the 3rd from the Maritimes. The 2nd Division was supposed to follow the same lines, but after deployments to Iceland, the Western Canadian and Quebec brigades were mixed and no attempt was made with the 3rd, 4th or 5th divisions to organize regionally. The 5th Brigade was originally to be an all-Quebec brigade, with one anglophone and two francophone regiments. While French Canada was represented by four overseas French-speaking infantry battalions, and the Army did attempt to produce training literature in French, it would not be until after Unification that French and English soldiers would have equal career opportunities.
The 6th, 7th and 8th Divisions were Home Defence Divisions and contained a large number of conscripted NRMA troops which by law could not serve "overseas". One brigade did go to the Aleutians in 1943 to fight the Japanese on the technicality that it was North American soil, though no contact with the enemy was made.
The postwar Army was reduced once again. In 1950, a third major field force was raised, the Canadian Army Special Force, which ultimately raised and supported a brigade in the field in the Korean War. This force was inactivated after the Korean War, but the Regular Force (as the former Permanent Force became known) was greatly expanded, reached a peak strength of seven infantry regiments and three armoured regiments. The Cold War led to the positioning of a Canadian mechanized brigade in West Germany from the 1950s up into the 1990s.
In 1968 Unification led to a loss of identity as the Army was renamed Force Mobile Command, with both a regular and a reserve component, the latter readopting the historic title Militia. Antipathy towards the military was engendered by both the prevailing federal government and the public whose opinions were often shaped by public coverage of America's unpopular war in Vietnam. Canadian land forces underwent many changes, as several of the regular regiments were revertd to one-battalion Militia (reserve) units and interest in the military waned.
The Regular Force was downsized in 1970, and the number of regular infantry battalions was reduced from 13 to 10.
In the late 1960s, the Canadian Forces committed itself to creating French Language Units (FLUs) and encouraging career opportunities for francophones. The Minister of National Defence, Léo Cadieux, announced their creation on April 2, 1968, to include artillery and armoured regiments as well as units of the supporting arms, with two battalions of the Royal 22e Regiment at their core. The Army FLUs eventually concentrated at Valcartier and became known as 5e Groupement de Combat. A French-speaking Regular Force armoured regiment was created, and the policy of bilingualism was supported by the first Chief of the Defence Staff, General J.V. Allard.
The focus of Force Mobile Command was set on peace missions as well as future conventional war in Europe. Equipment acquisitions such as the M113 APC and Leopard tank marked a modernization, as did the Militia's use of the Cougar and Grizzly AVGP in armoured reconnaissance and mechanized infantry roles.
In the late 1980s, after reorganization of the three services into distinct "elements", with the naval and air components returning to uniforms roughly comparable to the former RCN and RCAF, Force Mobile Command became Land Force Command, retaining a slightly-modified version of the unified "CF Green" uniform. Towards the end of the 20th Century, the term "Army" became once again unofficially used to refer to Canada's land forces, both Regular and Reserve. This period was marked by increased opportunities for operational deployments overseas on UN and NATO missions, increasing public interest, and the end of the Cold War (as well as significant Canadian military presence in Europe).
The Canadian Militia had a full-time component, the Permanent Active Militia (PAM) which was also known as the Permanent Force, or PF. The part-time component was the Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM), sometimes referred to simply as "the Militia." During World War One, the Canadian Militia raised a force for overseas employment known as the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), which existed from 1914 to 1919. The force was merged into the Army under the auspices of the Otter Committee's report. At the start of the Second World War in 1939, another overseas force was raised, and referred to as the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF) until renamed in 1940. Unlike mobilization in 1914, existing units and regiments were used as the basis of the new field force.
On 19 Nov 1940, by order in council, the Canadian Militia was renamed. "The Military Forces of Canada shall henceforth be designated and described as The Canadian Army".
Those units embodied for continuous (full-time) employment became the Canadian Army (Active), and all others (generally those part-time components previously known as the Non-Permanent Active Militia) were to be known as the Canadian Army (Reserve). The overseas component became known as the Canadian Army (Overseas).
The Canadian Army (Overseas) was dissolved in 1945 and 1946, and an "Interim Force" was created while deciding how to structure the postwar Permament Force. When this was decided, it was designated the Canadian Army Active Force. The Canadian Army (Reserve) was retitled the Canadian Army Reserve Force.
In 1950 after the oubreak of the Korean War, an overseas force known as the Canadian Army Special Force (CASF) was raised. Soldiers remained in Korea for several months after the armistice in 1953.
In 1954, after the Kennedy Board published its recommendations, the Canadian Army Active Force became the Canadian Army (Regular) and the Canadian Army Reserve Force became the Canadian Army (Militia).
On 1 Feb 1968, Unification took effect and the Canadian Army became Force Mobile Command (FMC). Soldiers of FMC belonged to either the Regular Force (full-time component), or the Canadian Armed Forces Reserves (part-time component). The term "Militia" was also used to refer to part-time FMC soldiers. An overseas component existed in Canadian Forces Europe, which was an all-arms command focused on supporting a mechanized infantry brigade in West Germany.
Unification began to be reversed in the late 1980s with the reintroduction of distinctive uniforms for land forces troops, and the title Canadian Army began to be readopted unofficially in the 1990s. The official designation became Land Force Command, with the previous Regular Force and Militia designations remaining unchanged.
The Canadian Armed Forces Reserves consisted of several different branches, with the Militia comprising land forces and the Communications Reserve including many units of what had previously been the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals. At some point, the "Armed" designation was quietly dropped, to become the Canadian Forces Reserves.
Canada's military land forces in the 1800s were very small, and Canada depended on Britain directly for defence matters. In the first years of the 20th Century, Canada began to establish her own support services, and by 1914 had her own standing army. Two main types of units make up any army. One type are combatant units, referred to today as the "combat arms" which in 1900 consisted of cavalry, artillery, engineers, and infantry. Secondly are supporting units, such as ordnance, service, signals, postal, medical, dental, and chaplain services.
Even in combatant units such as an infantry battalion, there have become an increasing number of tradesmen whose jobs do not lie in the front line or in directly fighting the enemy.
The following is a list of the various Corps and Services of the Canadian land forces of the 20th Century, as well as their date of creation, and their duties in general.
Artillery units have always provided not only indirect fire support for infantry, but have added to their repertoire duing the last century by also performing anti-aircraft duties and anti-tank duties.
Engineer units performed a variety of tasks, often under enemy observation and fire, such as the construction of roads, bridges, tunnels, defensive works, etc., as well as the creation and clearance of minefields and other obstacles. Up until the end of the First World War, the Canadian Engineers also performed signalling duties.
Signals units gained in importance during the 20th Century as the importance of wireless grew. Signals units were used to transmit information in a variety of ways, such as radio, telephone, signal flag, morse code, etc. as well as being used to monitor enemy transmission, participate in elaborate deceptions, etc.
Provided medical care for the large number of draft animals in the Canadian military. Mechanization eliminated the requirement for this corps.
Service units provide transport companies, butcher and bakery units, and with the ordnance corps help safeguard and deliver supplies throughout the field forces. In the 1990s the Administration Branch was merged into the Logistics Branch.
Provided medical care for soldiers, including the evacuation from the battlefield and treatment of all manners of casualties.
Provided dental care for the three services.
During the First World War, machine guns had evolved as a separate class of weapon, distinct from both the infantry and the artillery. In 1936, machine guns were merged into the infantry, though tactically Medium Machine Guns remained a specialist weapon; not until after the Second World War were they merged into regular infantry units.
In addition to just caring for weapons, Ordnance men also maintained such entities as ammunition, clothing and equipment stores, salvage depots, and mobile bath and laundry units.
RCEME/EME troops concerned themselves with the repair and maintenance of vehicles, weapons, optics, and other machinery.
Responsible for the administration of soldier's pay and benefits.
Responsible for the movement of mail to troops serving on operations overseas. In the 1990s the Administration Branch was merged into the Logistics Branch.
Responsible for providing cutting and preparing timber.
Providing spiritual care to Canadian soldiers.
This Corps/Branch provided military policemen, for field work and the staffing of detention facilities.
Allowed women to serve in the Armed Forces for the first time; in 1964, women were admitted into the other branches of the Canadian Forces and the CWAC was disbanded.
Finance Clerks remained part of the Logistics Branch until the 1990s when the trades of Adminstration Clerk and Finance Clerk were amalgamated, and the Administration Branch was dissolved.
The Armoured Corps continues the traditions of the cavalry by using tanks and armoured vehicles to support the infantry, create breakthroughs, and exploit successes.
Throughout the 20th Century, Canadian land forces have been small in peacetime. Regular units are scattered across the country, and reserve units have always been very localized.
In time of war, the land forces have not been committed as formed units; instead, existing units have contributed to overseas forces as mentioned above - the CEF or CASF.
These overseas forces were strictly organized as Formations. While the composition of field formations changed greatly throughout this period, the general hierarchy did not.
Army: a group of Corps
Corps: a group of Divisions
Division: two or more Brigades
Brigade: usually three regiments (armour) or battalions (infantry)
Infantry and Cavalry (or Armour) are the two types of unit which the rest of the army has been designed around. All other arms and services exist only to support these units. All are essential, all are organized very differently, and all were employed in varying degrees of proximity to the front lines. When one speaks of an Infantry or Armoured Division, one must remember that all the other arms and services also had troops represented in that Division.