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The Regiment of Canadian Guards – A Capsule History

Prelude: 1950-1953

At the outbreak of the Korean War and on the initial mobilization of NATO forces, the Canadian Infantry consisted of just three regular force battalions (RCR, PPCLI and R22eR). Canada added two battalions to each of these regiments and formed six new infantry battalions to augment them, primarily for service in Europe. These six battalions were formed from contributions from famous Militia regiments. The battalions were two each from the line infantry, highland and rifle traditions. By 1953, the focus was shifting from Korea, where the war was winding down, to Europe, where the need to sustain a brigade-sized force and a Division in home reserve for the foreseeable future was evident. The temporary infantry expansion had to be put on a sustainable footing. The highland and rifle battalions were aligned to existing Militia units. The first and second infantry battalions would form the basis of a new regiment, The Canadian Guards.

The Formative Years: 16 October 1953 to 31 March 1957

The Regiment of Canadian Guards, consisting of four battalions, the Regimental Depot and Band, was authorized on 16 October 1953. At the time various components were in different parts of the world, and bore other allegiances. The 1st Battalion, in Korea was serving then as the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. It was re-designated the 1st Battalion of the Regiment on 15 April 1954, and re-located to Camp Petawawa, Ontario. The 2nd Battalion, returning from Korea as 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, was rebadged on 8 January 1954, and also re-located to Camp Petawawa. The 3rd Battalion, in the process of returning from Germany as the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, was renamed on 16 October 1953, and re-located to Camp Valcartier, Quebec. The 4th Battalion, then in Camp Valcartier as the 2nd Canadian Infantry Battalion preparing to go to Korea, was also re-designated on 16 October 1953.

Now, the Chinese Bunker is the one on the left and the Brigade Headquarters Officers’ Mess is the one on the right, I think.

The Regimental Depot was activated on 1 September 1954 in Camp Petawawa. Finally, the Regimental Band, then in Camp Borden, Ontario as the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion Band, was renamed on 22 April 1954 and later re-located to Camp Petawawa on 28 August 1957.

 

Caterham Indoctrination 1954 - ‘All right you lot of colonials, it’s time to get back to the regimental motto. The last idea, ‘a Mouse in the Mess, a Lion in the Pub and Seldom in the Field’ won’t do!’ (See this Caterham link also!)

The approval of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, was sought on dress regulations and regimental organization, and her consent to be Colonel-in-Chief obtained. By the time of the opening of the Regimental Depot these details were in place and the process of creating a Guards ‘atmosphere’ had begun. By the end of 1955, the change was well underway: the Depot was turning out platoons of well-trained recruits; all orders of dress that made ‘Guardsmen’ distinctive were approved; junior leaders' courses had begun; and work was in-progress for the issue, in 1956, of Regimental Standing Orders and an annual regimental journal, The Canadian Guardsman.

Well, when recruiting is slow, we sure could pour on the quality instruction!

The four battalions strove to make the transition from infantry-of-the-line to Guards. Unfortunately, the efforts of the 3rd and 4th Battalions were short-lived as they are disbanded on 31 March 1957 in order to raise two new armoured regiments. The 3rd Battalion in Camp Valcartier established a reputation for competitive shooting and boxing, two events that, over time, became Regimental triumphs. The 4th Battalion, after six months in Korea, was stationed in Camp Ipperwash, Ontario where it became expert at local public relations, also a Guards' tradition. The 2nd Battalion was slated to go to Germany in the fall of 1957 and it received priority in terms of men, weapons, and equipment. The Pipes and Drums, in full dress, become renowned for their piping. The 1st Battalion won its first tug-of-war competition in 1954, beginning a tradition of success in the sport in the Canadian Army.

NATO and the Germany Years: 1 April 1957 to 31 December 1962

From 1957 onwards the Regiment was well established in a two-battalion, depot and band structure. Each of these units was laying down the reputation of the Regiment as a highly professional and dedicated group of soldiers, second to none.

In October 1957 the 1st Battalion received its Colours and mounted its first Royal Guard of Honour. This was followed by the issue of full dress and the beginning of the Changing of the Guard ceremony in 1959. The 2nd Battalion proceeded to Germany in October 1957, where it began the annual cycle of training: Haltern, Putlos, Sennelager, Soltau, and the fall NATO exercise. The battalion also participated in three special events: providing No. 5 Guard and the Pipes and Drums to the Queen's Birthday Parade at Dusseldorf, a platoon to the Nijmegan Marches, and the Pipes and Drums to the Edinburgh Tattoo.

 Ya, meine frau, this really is an old Canadian tradition!

The 1st Battalion replaced the 2nd Battalion in Germany in October 1959. The tour of three years yielded a number of outstanding achievements: the 1962 Prix Le Clerc (NATO shooting championship), the 1962 BAOR (British Army of the Rhine) stretcher-bearers’ competition.

Bury this 8CH tac sign somewhere and let’s get out of here before they get back from lunch!

The 2nd Battalion back in Canada received its Colours in 1960 and carried on with the evermore demanding Public Duties: most memorable – the Guard of Honour for President J.F. Kennedy in 1961, and the Seattle World’s Fair in 1962.

UN and the Cyprus Years: 1 January 1963 to 31 December 1966

In September 1964 the 1st Battalion flew to Cyprus where it remained for six months. It opened the Nicosia-Kyrenia road for all traffic. The 2nd Battalion continued with Public Duties, including a Royal Guard of Honour for Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. In the fall of 1965 the 2nd Battalion rotated to Cyprus, returning home in 1966. In the summer it assumed Public Duties responsibilities, replacing the 1st Battalion that had filled in during its Cyprus tour.

I know we’re in Cyprus, but surely two large combinations with double cheese should be possible!

In mid 1964, the Government began to introduce far-reaching changes to National Defence. The first to be affected by these changes, which included assignment of the battalions to the newly formed Mobile Command, was the Depot, which was placed under command of the newly created Training Command and the Band under Headquarters CFB Petawawa.

The Final Years: 1 January 1967 to 6 July 1970

The Regiment was able to maintain its distinct identity against a background of increasing force integration and eventual unification. All Canadians were absorbed by the 1967 Centennial of the founding of Canada and the many celebratory events held that year. It proved to be a wonderful year for the Regiment. Company Colours were presented to the remaining 10 companies lacking them. A highly successful Canadian Army Tattoo travelled across Canada and the 1st Battalion formed the core of this Tattoo, which trained at Camp Picton. It was a year of triumphs for the 1st Battalion. Its shooting team won 308 of 309 shooting trophies at Connaught Ranges and formed the majority of the 1968 Bisley Team. 1967 was also year of intense Public Duties for the 2nd Battalion, which mounted 99 guards of honour for visiting heads of state and other dignitaries.

But changes were in the wind that would dramatically affect the Regiment. These changes were driven from two directions: first, the government’s need to reallot funds from defence to social spending. This required that the Army reorganize as part of a unified Canadian Forces in the most efficient way possible.

All right guys, the roll on, roll off ship for Denmark will be down at the Yacht Club in one hour!

Recruit training was centralized and many organizations, such as bands, were disbanded. The Regimental Depot closed on 3 June and the Band on 1 October 1968. Units were reduced in size and the number of battalions reduced from 13 to nine. In 1968, many of our members departed for the Canadian Airborne Regiment in Edmonton, as others were being ‘temporarily rebadged’ in other units. On 1 October 1968, the 1st Battalion was reduced to nil strength. The 2nd Battalion was reduced to three rifle companies but carried on as an AMF (L) unit, participating in a large NATO exercise in Denmark in 1969.

As time has passed, however, it has become clearer that a second factor affecting the Regiment was likely the most telling. Together with realigning spending, the Government of the day was facing increasing nationalism in Quebec and was evolving a concept of multiculturalism that would later result in the patriation of the constitution from Westminster in 1982. To deal with these issues, it appeared necessary to ‘Canadianize’ our institutions as fully as possible. These efforts had already resulted in the demise of the RCN, the RCAF and many of our ‘Royal’ army corps. It was now the turn of the regiments to bear these changes.

By 1969 the strength of the Regiment fell below 1,000. With the demise of the Regiment imminent, an Association was formed. The end came with a final Trooping of the Colour on 6 June 1970 by the 2nd Battalion, which was reduced to nil strength on 6 July and redesignated the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.

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