The Minute Book
Saturday, 11 February 2017

Four Year Roundup; Top Posts and Topics
Topic: Commentary

Four Year Roundup; Top Posts and Topics

On 11 February 2014, I published a blog post identfying the ten most popular posts and post topics. Here's a revisit after three more years and nearly 1500 daily posts.

Top 20 Posts

1.     10 Diseases of Leadership
2.     Traditional Officers' Rank Insignia
3.     The Veteran on the Ten-Dollar Bill – Fact Checking
4.     The Canadian Forces Officers' Ceremonial Sword
5.     Pips and Crowns and Politics
6.     High Seas in a Melmac Cup
7.     Befuckled, and other Mission Task Verbs
8.     Drill
9.     Infantry Company Command (2016)
10.     Never Pass a Fault
11.     If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops
12.     The Woods Recognition Cards; The Jokers
13.     Posed as Winner of Victoria Cross (1918)
14.     How the Legion Halls are Failing
15.     Characteristics of a Good Combat Order
16.     CF-104 Starfighter; the widowmaker
17.     Murphy's Laws of Combat Operations
18.     Button Backmarks of The RCR - Guelphic Crown Buttons
19.     The Heller Anti-Tank Rocket Launcher
20.     Rolls of Honour

Top 10 Topics

1.     Army Rations
2.     Canadian Army
3.     Cold War
4.     Militaria
5.     Wolseley Barracks
6.     Halifax
7.     Soldiers' Load
8.     CEF
9.     The RCR
10.     Tradition

The Senior Subaltern

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Canadian Army Battle Honours

Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment in the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Sunday, 17 April 2016

Capturing Military History---"20 Questions"
Topic: Commentary

Capturing Military History
"20 Questions"

The four questions sets follow, please make free use of them, rewrite them, share them. Record your answers, send them to your regimental historian.

We seldom think of the things we're doing in the present as historical events. This is especially so when we look at the minor, every-day things we do as individuals. "History" is what happened long ago, "history" was made by the notable few that get names in the history books. But that is a view with a strongly short horizon. Each and every day we might do something that, if not recorded in some way, can lead to an unanswered researchers' question in the future.

With my own interests in military history, medal collecting, and research, I often find myself, or others, delving into the detail of individual, often unrecorded, lives of soldiers, non-commissioned officers and officers. This then leads to general questions as professional and amateur researchers try to understand the lives of their subjects. The day to day life, including the training and experiences of soldiers, the social and cultural environment, and the changes they experienced are all subject to curiosities and questions. The problem is, that many of those details, being considered mundane by the participants, went unrecorded in any consistent manner.

This trend, undoubtedly part of the flow of human nature, permeates the research of soldiers. "Everybody did basic training, so why record that?" one might ask. But not everyone did the same basic training course, and it's those changes over time that are just as important to understand as the way basic training shapes a civilian into a soldier. And this leaves us with broadly generalized assumptions about soldiers and soldiering.

About a decade ago, I developed a set of questions to begin capturing more basic reminiscences for my regiment's records from those who were still around to record them. (Unfortunately, the received responses aren't currently available on line.) While each person may have simple singular memories of a part of his or her military career, there is much to be gained when such memories are collected from those who have served in different decades, in different locations, and on different operations (even the same operation over time, or under different employment on the same operations). The "mundane" details are the colorful infill in the tapestry of a regiment's story. The best days and the worst days get recorded, victories and defeats on every scale have their details captured. But the daily life of soldiers, in each era, especially when it includes the evolution of training and equipment, needs to be recorded at every stage to understand the soldier's experience.

These questions sets were called the "20 Questions" and there were four sets:

a.     The Young Soldier,
b.     The Young Officer,
c.     Sergeants and Warrant Officers, and
d.     Operations.

These weren't specific to my regiment, and could be used by any military unit wanting to capture some basic information for their own records. Even if you don't think this information is useful right now, imagine being tasked with writing your unit's history in ten years, how valuable would those personal memories be then, especially of those no longer available to record them. For those who study history of long ago events, the most valuable records are those recorded at the time by those who were there. If you don't think something is worth noting, write it down, you'll probably be the only person to record it.

The four questions sets follow, please make free use of them, rewrite them, share them. Record your answers, send them to your regimental historian (or save them with instructions in your will for them to be sent to the appropriate recipient, to protect the innocent).

20 Questions - The Young Soldier

Please provide: Name, rank achieved, years of service (from - to)

1.     What year were you recruited?

2.     Where did you take your basic training and how many weeks did the course run?

3.     Where did you take your basic infantry training and many weeks did the course run?

4.     What weapons were you trained to use on your basic infantry training?

5.     What training events do you best remember from your basic infantry training course?

6.     When were you posted to the Regiment, what location were you posted to, and to what Battalion, Company and Platoon?

7.     How many men were in your platoon?

8.     What vehicles and weapons did the platoon have?

9.     How often did you go to a live fire range in a year and what weapons did you fire each year?

10.     How many men lived in the same room in the barracks? How much space did you have to yourself?

11.     Approximately how many men in your platoon owned a car?

12.     In general, what was your daily schedule like in garrison?

13.     How often were you inspected; in your room, on the parade square?

14.     What was required of you before you could leave the barracks and go downtown?

15.     How much were you paid each month as a new Private?

16.     How many days leave did you get each year?

17.     What did you do each year for an annual fitness test?

18.     What was the most useful piece of personal kit you were issued at that time?

19.     What was the least useful piece of personal kit you were issued at that time?

20.     When the Battalion did a Change of Command parade, how long did you spend on the parade square practicing drill?

And, for extra credit:

21.     What was a usual punishment one of your roommates would get for a charge of AWOL?

20 Questions - Sergeants and Warrant Officers

Please provide: Name, rank achieved, years of service (from - to)

1.     What year were you recruited? What year were you promoted to the rank of Sergeant?

2.     Which Battalions of the Regiment and in which Companies have you served?

3.     What units have you served in outside the four Battalions of the Regiment?

4.     How many years did you spend at each rank level before you were promoted to Sergeant?

5.     What leadership training did you have to take before your promotion to Sergeant? When and where did you take this training and how long was the course?

6.     Were there any particular events that inspired you during your advancement to the Sergeants' and Warrant Officers' Mess?

7.     What do you feel was the most valuable lesson you received as a developing leader?

8.     What was your first appointment on promotion to the rank of Sergeant?

9.     When you commanded a rifle section, what vehicles, weapons and equipment did your section have?

10.     What was your most challenging appointment as a Sergeant or Warrant Officer?

11.     What did you find most rewarding about your responsibilities as a Sergeant or Warrant Officer?

12.     What training experiences have you found most rewarding for yourself and your soldiers?

13.     What training experiences did you find that best promoted your professional development as an NCO?

14.     What operational missions have you served on as a Sergeant or Warrant Officer?

15.     What was the most useful skill you learned that was taught as essential for a Sergeant or Warrant Officer to know?

16.     What was the least useful skill you learned that you were told would be essential for a Sergeant or Warrant Officer to know?

17.     What type of training do you think would have been more useful to receive, or to receive more of, before being promoted to Sergeant and assuming the leadership responsibilities of that rank?

18.     What job or task have you had that you think every new Senior NCO should experience?

19.     If you could give advice to a young soldier starting his or her military career in the Infantry, what would you offer?

20.     If you could give advice to a young NCO about to be promoted into the Sergeant's and Warrant Officers' mess, what would you offer?

And, for extra credit:

21.     Accepting that "no names, no pack drill" is a time honoured practice … what was the most outrageous act you remember a peer having to present himself to the RSM to explain?

Can you provide a photograph of yourself from that period of your career?

20 Questions - The Young Officer

Please provide: Name, rank achieved, years of service (from - to)

1.     What year were you recruited?

2.     What was your entry plan as an officer? How long was it between enrolment and commissioning for you?

3.     Where did you take your basic officer training and how many weeks did the course run?

4.     Where did you take your infantry officer training and many weeks did the course(s) run?

5.     What training events do you best remember from your infantry officer training?

6.     When were you posted to the Regiment, what location were you posted to, and to what Battalion, Company and Platoon?

7.     How many men were in your platoon?

8.     What vehicles and weapons did the platoon have? What was your personal weapon?

9.     How long, on average, could you expect to be a rifle platoon commander when you joined the Battalion?

10.     Approximately how many young officers in the battalion lived in the barracks, and how long was it before you could request permission to move out on the economy?

11.     What was the best aspect about being a platoon commander? What was your least favourite task as a platoon commander?

12.     How often were you expected to be at the Officers' Mess? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?

13.     How often did you attend Mess Dinners? How long were you in the dining room during the longest Mess Dinner you remember attending?

14.     What standard of dress were you expected to maintain in your off-duty hours?

15.     How much were you paid each month as a new officer?

16.     Were junior officers often sent on additional training courses? What courses did you attend outside the battalion as a young officer?

17.     What exercise or training event did you find that best promoted your development as a young officer?

18.     What type training would you have liked to do more of if you'd had the opportunity?

19.     Were there any particular battalion eccentricities (dress or deportment) that all officers' in your Battalion were expected to follow?

20.     How often might you normally have been the Duty Officer for the Battalion or the Base? What was the oddest duty you had to perform as the Duty officer?

And, for extra credit:

21.     What was the greatest number of extra duties you remember a peer getting, and, if not sworn to secrecy, what were they for?

20 Questions - Operations

Please provide: Name, rank achieved, years of service (from - to)

1.     What Operation did you serve on?

2.     Where did the operation take place?

3.     What unit (Bn/Coy/Pl) of the Regiment were you with?

4.     What rank and position did you hold?

5.     What were the dates of your deployment?

6.     How long did the unit spend conducting pre-deployment training? How much of this time was spent on exercises at your local base, or away from home?

7.     In general, what subjects were covered during pre-deployment training? Did you receive briefings or training on the culture of the country you would be visiting?

8.     How did you deploy to the theatre of operations and how long were you in transit from Canada to the operational area?

9.     What was your weekly work schedule like during the operation?

10.     What were the usual types of tasks you performed on a daily or weekly basis on the operation?

11.     What was the weather like during your tour?

12.     What were your living conditions in theatre (type of quarters, personal space allocation, numbers of personnel living together)?

13.     What were the rations like during the operations (type, variety, personal opinion on general quality)?

14.     Did the Battalion celebrate holidays and Regimental Days as special occasions? Do you remember any particular events that stand out in your mind?

15.     What weapons and equipment did your section/platoon employ during this operation? Was any new equipment issued during the operation?

16.     In a few words, can you describe your general impression of the physical terrain of the country you were in?

17.     What entertainments or diversions were available during your off hours?

18.     How much leave could you expect during the tour, what were your options (locations, travel of spouse) for this leave?

19.     Were there any small locally available souvenirs that soldiers purchased that still remind you of the tour when you see them?

20.     How did you transition out of country back to Canada? How long was it between your last 'duty' and your return to family?

And, for extra credit:

21.     What medal did you receive for this operation?

Can you provide a photograph of yourself from the operation?

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 28 March 2016

Topic: Commentary


As a rule, soldiers hate drill. This hatred begins in the earliest days of basic training. Hours spent on a parade square, wearing boots not yet broken in, being instructed by some loud and apocryphally impolite instructor who seems intent on creating soldiery through suffering; all these set the conditions for the universal hatred of drill.

And it continues. After basic training the soldier might be subjected to ceremonial parades and the practice they require. These can also require the return to the instructional environment, as new drill movements not imparted during basic training are required for a polished performance. And that necessity only reawakens that visceral hatred of drill developed on the recruit parade ground.

Some parades require few rehearsals and are only annoying in the time they take to accomplish, and the preparation necessary to be in the right uniform. Others, significant ceremonial parades, can require days of practice and rehearsals, sometimes spread out over weeks until the hazy memories of the months before a major event are reduced to that of sore feet, of being told it's not good enough yet, and of more boot polishing. And after finally getting to the point where the sergeant-major is happy, the pain of the experience is renewed when the officers arrive to start learning the parade sequence and their own role on the square.

Many of those who hate drill, at the time or decades later, will argue that there's no military necessity for drill. Drill, they will claim, originated when drill movements were the tactics of the day; and in the mindless military need for tradition and repetition, it simply hasn't died out. Never have they done any military duty that resembled the drill they learned. This last of course, omits the admission that the drill they performed was also a military duty.

The equally eternal arguments in support of drill lean heavily on justifying the need to learn to work together, to follow commands reflexively, and also to have a simple orchestrated method of moving groups of people around in an orderly manner. All of these are sound arguments for some drill to be learned, but they also fall short of promoting the need for all drill in all its painful variations.

Tradition. Customs of the service. The dreaded phrase "we've always done it this way." Hard core traditionalists don't need reasons, it's good enough for them if it resembles what their grandfathers did while serving in the regiment. But those arguments only work on those who have already drunk the same Kool-Aid. Tradition isn't about strictly rigid adherence to unchanging process, it's about upholding principles and "keeping the faith." Traditions can evolve to meet modern necessity and expectation, and "tradition," in itself, makes a poor argument to not examine why we do things the way we do.

A much as old soldiers, and many new ones, profess to hate the drill they did and do, drill remains a part of the military mien. The experienced eye can often pick out a soldier across the room by his or her bearing. A pair or small group of soldiers stands out when they naturally fall into step. Those little things came from the drill they learned, from the conscious, then subconscious, focus on bearing and movement they learned, at least in part, on the drill square.

And the ultimate dichotomy comes out of the fact that many of those old soldiers who decry the drill they had to do, and declaim its irrelevance in a modern army, will also be the first vocal critics when they see new soldiers, with less accomplished drill, performing less well than they had in their day. Soldiers today perform less drill today then their fathers' generation did, but the expectations placed on them to "look like soldiers" doesn't diminish. Old soldiers, and the public at large, still expect soldiers to look like soldiers and drill, when seen, to be performed well. Archaic as it may be to some, drill remains a small measure of perceived professionalism in many armies.

Drill still has its place. The challenge for each new generation of commanders and sergeants-major, is to decide how much is just enough.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 28 March 2016 1:20 AM EDT
Sunday, 5 July 2015

If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops
Topic: Commentary

If You Don't Stand Behind Our Troops…

The messaging of the image above, whether in a facebook feed, on a bumper sticker, or plastered somewhere else has always raised my hackles. It's in keeping with the rhetoric that comes of veteran outrage syndrome and the trend that continues to propagate the same sense of entitlement is well described in this article; The Death of the Quiet Professional.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

Really? If you've ever spouted this, did you actually pause and think about what it's actually saying? No, I didn't think so?

I'm sure some soldiers and veterans, and supporters of same, picture this (if they picture it at all) in the context of an armed force in all-round protection. Soldiers in a tight circle (proportional to the force size, of course, for the pedants out there), all facing outwards, sheltering a select deserving few inside, and everything outside defined as potential targets, where everything in front of the muzzle is the enemy. But life's never really that simple, is it?

First off, it's not the soldier's choice who might be under his (yes, or her) protection. That decision falls to the political masters, the ones who decided if we'd be at war, and with whom. And the soldier certainly doesn't get to decide that someone no longer deserves protection. The mere thought of that undermines the whole context of being a soldier in a democratic society. Soldiers can't claim to be defending the rights and freedoms of our country's populace, if they don't accept and allow them having an contrary or adversarial opinion. That, quite specifically, is one of those rights and freedoms.

"Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms: (b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication… – Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom

That freedom includes being able to disagree with how the elected officials running the country decide to employ the military. even if they, directly or indirectly, benefit from the military's existence in some other way. Those citizens are still entitled to express their opinion. We should be glad that they are, for they maintain that right even as some soldiers evolve from ardent supporters of their employer, the Government, to ardent veteran critics of every thing that same Government does in support (or perceived lack thereof) of soldiers and veterans.

Soldiers protect, both persons and materiel, and defend the rights and freedoms of their society, in ways chosen by the Government (that's part of the deal, the Government chooses the missions), and they protect individuals, very directly, when they happen to be inside one of those protective circles soldiers form on operations. No serving soldier on an operational mission would turn to a sheltered civilian (of any status) and declare that they no longer deserved protection. No soldier who dutifully embraces their responsibilities would cast a civilian from that protective circle.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

You cannot hide behind suggested contexts and declare that the lack of a physical intent to cast someone out excuses the thought. The declaration itself offers to withdraw the protection that it is a duty of a serving soldier to provide. The soldier does not have the authority to withdraw it, because that authority has not, and never will be, delegated. To make such an declaration doesn't display a strong validation of one's support of soldiers and mission, it antagonistically shows a careless disregard for duty and loyalty to the nation's rights and freedoms. It doesn't reinforce the support it attempts to proclaim, it undermines it.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

It's not simply a cute rhetorical quotation, it's an offer of violence, directly or indirectly. Parsed by the military mind, it says to the receivers that if they doesn't wholly support the soldier and his purpose (or support the soldier separate from mission, as some angry veterans might allow), than the receiver is welcome to walk into the danger zone. The citizen who does not agree with the Government's use of the military does not deserve to be sent into the crossfire. That citizen's opinions are just as valuable, and just as worthy to be expressed, in a democratic society. If anything, their right to express that opinion deserves to be openly recognized, and protected, from those who might try to muzzle it.

Soldiers like the analogy of sheep, sheepdogs, and wolves. Soldiers are the sheepdogs, protecting the populace (the sheep) from the bad guys (the wolves). The sheep can rest peacefully, because the sheepdogs remain awake, alert, and ready to counter the wolves. But the analogy always leaves out one important player … the shepherd … the Government. The sheepdog obeys the shepherd, and no true sheepdog abandons a sheep to the wolves, no matter how recalcitrant that sheep might be. It's not the sheepdog's choice, to do so is counter to the sheepdog's duty.

"If you don't stand behind our troops,
feel free to stand in front of them!"

It's time for this facile expression to die and disappear. Those who express it are certainly entitled to their opinion, but perhaps they need to think a little harder about that opinion first and how it can be interpreted. It's not just a reprehensible expression, it's directly in contradiction to the soldier's duty.

In its place, I offer this quote, which thoughtful soldiers have seldom hesitated to express:

"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." – Voltaire

Pro Patria

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 6 July 2015 8:42 PM EDT
Sunday, 11 January 2015

How the Legion Halls are Failing
Topic: Commentary

How the Legion Halls are Failing Todays Veterans

Michael M. O'Leary

The Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) continues to promote itself as the voice of the Canadian veteran in dealing with the Government and other national agencies. Despite the upsurge of splinter veterans' groups, admittedly the result of so many ex-service members being made to feel unwelcome in Legion halls because they were not official "big 'V' Veterans" under the old rules, the RCL continues to dominate the discussions that influence change, Many of those splinter groups are represented, at the media face of their operations, by angry representatives whose vitriolic speech achieves little but a hardening of the bureaucracy to not be held hostage to empty threats and bombast.

But the Royal Canadian Legion has its own problems. Most significant among these is the disconnect between the institutional goals of the RCL to support and help veterans, and the local goals of Legion branches to sustain brick and mortar Legion halls and their perpetual schedules of dart and euchre tournaments, fish fry dinners, and how to keep the lights on over the horseshoe pits. Increasingly, these Legion branches have been run by committees with no (or very few) ex-serving members among themselves or, in some cases, among their membership at all.

Many Legion branches have reached the point where they have little connection to, or understanding of, the needs of younger veterans as individuals. Most of the veteran care initiatives they have brokered over the past few decades have been geriatric care issues. This lack of connection is especially so in regard to young, newly released (or even still serving) soldiers, sailors and airmen (and women). Much of this disconnect comes from a failure to understand what the Legion hall did in its original conception, and how that served the veterans who frequented them in the early days of the institution.

As anyone who has been watching the explosion of on line discussions about actually helping and supporting new veterans will realize, the most valuable resource they need and capitalize on is effective communication. This is not communications with existing veteran organizations, or with Government agencies, it is communications among themselves. Nothing has changed from the days when their grandfathers and great-grandfathers returned from the wars of their respective generations.

Many of the Legion branches across Canada trace their roots to the years after the First World War or the Second World War. They were formed by local veterans who, by sheer demographic participation, were present in platoon and company and battalion sized groups in large and small towns across the country. I use those specific terms for their groups intentionally. In the First and Second World War, it was most likely that men who knew one another enlisted together. They joined the same units, trained together, and served together. They came home to the same towns, having shared the same experiences, having lost the same friends, and were there to remember and to represent that service and loss to the families of their friends whose sons, brothers and fathers did not return. The evolution of the Legion halls was a natural formation of structure around the soldiers, sailors and airmen with shared service who found comfort and communication among themselves, Their connection was not that they had served, but that they had served together.

Today, new veterans don't join the Legion, and the Legion doesn't really understand why. Legion executive members without military service see the Legions as "places where veterans gather" and have no personal experience to understand the essential context of shared experience which leads to the needed levels of inter-communication between veterans. Those executives confuse what the Legion halls became over 60 or 80 years with what their original purpose in supporting returned veterans was. What the modern veteran needs, the current Legion branches with their halls and bars cannot provide.

So, what are the new veterans doing? They are seeking and developing ways to communicate, with each other. Not just with other veterans, but with the veterans they served with, the same benefit those veterans of the World Wars found in their hometown Legion halls with the fellow Legionnaires that they served with. The new veterans are building, in the online environment, exactly what their predecessors used to have. The existing Legion halls have no role in the way this informal communication network is evolving. In fact, the way the new veterans are building their own virtual groups is completely foreign to most of the current generation of Legion executive members and only by radical change will the Royal Canadian Legion be able to repurpose their facilities to serve the new generation of veterans.

The new veterans aren't looking for bars, they're probably the first generation of veterans that widely understand that taking your hurting friend to the bar is probably one of the worst options in assisting him in getting help. They also aren't looking for halls, those Legion branch halls that grew out of the need for the original Legionnaires' children and grandchildren to have a place for wedding receptions, and to have dances and expanded games events for married Legionnaires as the Branches changed from close-knit veterans support groups into community service clubs. The new veterans are looking for what the original Legion veterans had before worrying about paying an over-extended mortgage on a dilapidated building became the executive's biggest worry.

In the 1920s, an ex-soldier might go to the Legion hall after work on Friday, and sit at the bar next to the guy he shared a trench dugout with for over three years in France. In the 1950s, his son went to the Legion hall and sat beside the guys he crewed a tank with in Normandy. Today's veteran walks past the Legion hall in southwestern Ontario, because he knows his fire team partner went back home to Prince George, British Columbia, and they will possibly never have a weekly chat together in person. He also knows that no-one in that hall can fill that role in place of his fire team partner. So he goes home, logs into the internet and asks his buddy on facebook or by email how he is doing, and sends along one of the photos he took of that friend sleeping against a mud brick wall in Afghanistan. They connect, they talk, they check up on one another, but the current Legion hall has no role because its current format does not serve their needs.

Want to revamp your branch's Legion hall? Sit down with a few of the new veterans (you know the ones, some of them are barely out of their teens) and ask what they'd like to see. It may be time to tear down half your bar and install a modern coffee facility, and train your bartender to be a decent barista. Ask how they talk to their fellow soldiers, the ones they served with that now live a thousand miles away. It may be time to install a wifi network, add internet terminals in quiet rooms, and video conferencing capabilities that let them see each other and talk to one another, or even to play video games with each other across that digital divide (because they are not going to be joining your euchre league any time soon). Build communication networks, ones that multiple veterans in Legion halls across the country can use to share a discussion. Facilitate the communication they are seeking, don't presume to be the people they want to talk to. In this way, there's a chance for the RCL to provide what the Legion halls did for past generations, but it needs the realization that the bar was a place to sit and talk; it was not a purpose in itself.

Today's veterans aren't looking to immediately become the new generation of blue-jacketed Legionnaires at Remembrance Day ceremonies. But they do have the same needs as the veterans of the 1920s and 30s, and of the 50s and 60s. They need to be able to talk to each other as the most important capability the RCL can provide them. The challenge comes from the fact that they don't live in the same towns the way those earlier generations of veterans did. But that's ok, the means and technology exist to support their needs. All it will take within the Royal Canadian Legion is the will to make it happen, both at the institutional level and in the individual branches across the country.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Sunday, 11 January 2015 12:08 AM EST
Sunday, 21 December 2014

Giants and Heroes; Regimental History
Topic: Commentary

Giants and Heroes; Regimental History

By: Michael O'Leary

I've had the privilege of speaking to our young officers' course each year since 2008 on "The Regiment and the Great War." Since the direction of my presentation focuses more on the soldiers of the regiment and less on tactics, battles and dates, I would often situate my presentation on the First World War by talking about "giants and heroes."

Published regimental histories are not so much the full story of a regiment's history as they are the story of that regiments giants and heroes. Although we learn, at first contact, to accept the published tale as the accepted "full" story, it's easy to miss the fact that it describes a very small cross-section of the regiment. To be mentioned in a regimental history almost exclusively required that one have executed some great, and usually highly rewarded, deed on the battlefield (the heroes), or to have become known as a pillar of the regimental institution (the giants), in which case one's career would be entwined in the regimental story as a recognizable name at many points of contact.

But these tales of giants and heroes merely skim the surface, touching on the high points of a much more varied and encompassing tale. For organizations whose success, their presentation (within and outside of military circles), and their very reputation, relies solely on the cumulative dedication, commitment and hard work of the men and women who form them, this historic approach to regimental histories leaves out so much more than it includes.

The full story of a regiment is the collection of stories of each soldier, non-commissioned officer, and officer who has served in and with the regiment. That service does not require the wearing of the regiment's cap badge because no regiment is composed of single trades any more. Any regiment's story is also expanded by the roles played by retired members in promoting and supporting the regiment, and by various ancillary groups such as Associations that can take a formal role in regimental affairs. While it is beyond reasonable expectation that a published history should be able to include every single thread of a regiment's story, the challenge still remains to ensure we are all aware that the published story is merely the tip of an iceberg.

When I commanded a rifle platoon in the quiet days at the end of the Cold War, there was no impending mission on the horizon, there was no busy pre-deployment training cycle with seemingly unlimited funding, there was only a repetitive annual training cycle. Our service was about maintaining skills we might never be expected to use. For the most part, we were far too young to be eligible for the "giants" label, and we had no opportunity to earn the "heroes" label. The not so welcome highlights of the period for a young subaltern were dealing with the occasional drunk, debtor, or absentee,

And, in time, the question this left in my mind was "where was my platoon (or its equivalent in any past era) in the regimental story." As I would tell the regiment's new officers; while reading the old volumes of regimental history made me feel pride in regiment, and I found connections to those giants and heroes, it left me wondering where my platoon of ordinary soldiers outside of the historic high points was in the regiment's story. It was in my evolving research into mt regiment's service in First World War that I began to answer that question for myself.

As I researched the regiment's service in the Great War, my focus was seldom on the operational descriptions of battles, the movements of forces and clash of adversaries. It was on the soldiers, the NCOs and the officers. This deepening interest grew out of collecting medals awarded to soldiers of my regiment, with a specific interest in those for the Great War.

Along the way I transcribed the regiment's War Diary, to make searching for names easier, but found that to be as little populated with names (other than those of officers) as the published history covering the period. Following this disappointing result (despite the usefulness of the transcription), I was next pointed at the regiment's Part II Daily Orders. These orders were the compiled personnel notes that would be transcribed at HQ in London and Ottawa into individual soldiers' service records. Though not containing a complete compilation of notes on any given soldier, they would hold the critical events for any soldier while they were with the regiment.

1500 pages of original documentation and eight months of full time transcribing work resulted in over 17,000 lines of data. While any individual item, an arrival or departure, a promotion or demotion, leave, punishment or reward, was merely an interesting fact on a single soldier, the compiled data was a wonderful end resource. It was here I found the soldiers who had never received mention in the published history. Not only the drunks and deserters, but also many whose accomplishments just didn't make them stand high enough to be counted among the recorded giants and heroes. Some with long service, and others with minimal service time. Here was "my platoon" in that era. Here were glimpses of their stories, of those many Royal Canadians, each of whose service formed one of the many strands of the regiment's story, but which were never examined in isolation.

There were soldiers whose story in the Part II Orders included promotion, demotion, reward, punishment, drunkenness and absenteeism. And there were others whose regimental story was told in only two brief entries; "Taken on Strength" followed a short time later by "Killed in Action." Over 4700 individual stories which, intertwined, formed the tale of that overseas battalion. Isolating only a few, whether they be the giants and heroes, or the drunks and deserters, doesn't tell the full story. But perhaps the wealth of understanding of a regiment's history comes not from how many individual strands we examine, but the variety of individual stories from which the selected strands are chosen.

I know from my research that I now understand my regiment better than I did after reading the published history. It was not in those pages I found my platoon, but in the examination of tens of thousands of other data points that accumulated the stories of thousands of soldiers, for most of whom their service would never lead to a label of "giant" or "hero," yet they served, for the most part well and with honour. And we should forgive the transgressors, for no regiment, regardless of what a published history claims, is truly made of plaster saints.

Who's missing from your regimental history?

Pro Patria

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Heroes Among Us; Past and Present
Topic: Commentary

Heroes Among Us; Past and Present

We often see the word "hero" thrown around quite liberally today, applied to everyone from Victoria Cross recipients to anyone who has worn a military or emergency services uniform and then to anyone who has championed any cause. It's to the point where use of the word only regains meaning when context is added, so that the receiver of the message can apply their own filter on how applicable the label is; how well it matches their personal criteria for the description.

Undoubtedly, there are those in uniform who deserve that label in every context of the word. Sadly, the story of a member of the Canadian Armed Forces who commits a crime will have their deeds and military connection well declared in the news. But the stories of those decorated for heroism in battle, in the past or recent years, barely grace the pages or screens of our news systems, if they pass the editors' desks at all.

How many Canadians are aware of the awards received by soldiers that rank just below the Victoria Cross (VC) for heroism in the face of the enemy? Where once soldiers received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and the Military Medal (MM), and officers might receive the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and the Military Cross (MC), Canadian service members today receive the Star of Military Valour (SMV) and the Medal of Military Valour (MMV).

How few of the stories of the recipients of the SMV and MMV are known to Canadians. How many stories of the recipients of the DSO, MC, DCM and MM are equally unknown, not lost, but mostly forgotten. There was a time when many Canadians would recognize the medals and ribbons of the older awards, how many would recognize the SMV or MMV today?

How many stories of local heroes are already forgotten in your community? When was the last time you walked through the local veterans' plot and actually noted the post-nominal inscriptions? What have you been doing to bring their stories back into notice, and to ensure the stories of our newer heroes are not forgotten?

The gravestone of 438285 Sergeant Peter McVicar, DCM, MM, in the Veteran's Plot at Mount Pleasant Cemetery, London. Ontario.

Citation for the Distinguished Conduct Medal – "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an attack against enemy "pill-boxes." When acting as a scout in front of his company he came under fire from two enemy snipers, but advanced against them and killed them both. He was one of those who crawled in close to one of the 'pill-boxes" and attracted the enemy's fire, thus permitting an attack upon it in strength" (London Gazette Issue No. 30601, 26 Mar 1918).

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 17 June 2014 12:17 AM EDT
Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Never Pass a Fault
Topic: Commentary

“Never Pass a Fault”

“Never Pass a Fault” is not about you. Should you be asking yourself if your true motivation is to help the individual correct a fault, or to impress your friends with your performance art in jumping on the revealed flaw? Do you click “reply” or “reply all” when you want to point out an error in someone's message?

“Never Pass a Fault” is known by many in the Canadian Armed Forces as the motto of The Royal Canadian Regiment. It has at times also been adopted by other units and schools. Such a simple phrase, it is unfortunate that the execution of its application is often flawed.

“Never Pass a Fault.” How often has it been quoted to justify someone pointing out another's error, using it as justification for a tedious opportunity to insult, provoke or humiliate? As quickly invoked to point out a typo or to back up an unduly harsh critique of some young soldier's error in dress, it gets used in some circles like a gang sign for bullies.

“Never Pass a Fault.” Such a simple context, that a responsible person (regardless of rank, years of service, or any other factor) should not overlook errors and mistakes. Instead, they should get involved in correcting them, in a professional manner.

“Never Pass a Fault” is not, and never has been, a license to nit pick. Neither is it a warrant to publicly insult or humiliate someone who has made an honest error. It's certainly not a ticket for self-declaration of assumed superiority for spotting something wrong (if you do that, you can turn in your quiet professional badge). And it is never an excuse to be rude, or to insult someone's person, parentage, regiment, corps, or service---or the people who trained them. Yet it has been used by some as their virtual bumper-sticker for all these failures in personal communication.

“Never Pass a Fault” illuminates the responsibility of each of us to watch for and correct errors. These could be minor faults of dress, drill, or deportment, or they might be the type of error, in training or operations, that could get someone killed if uncorrected. “Never Pass a Fault” is the opening for a responsible leader to identify and capitalize on teaching opportunities. These can range from opportunities to quietly correct an individual without embarrassing them; or to confirm that a training requirement for a wider group has presented itself.

“Never Pass a Fault,” effectively applied, understands that “the fault” is not always assignable to the individual whose actions or appearance has resulted in its being invoked. To immediately cast blame at the individual, especially when a narrow mind capitalizes on the phrase for public shaming, is, in itself, the greater fault, the greater failure.

“Never Pass a Fault” invites correction of the error, in a manner befitting the “crime” and appropriate to the style of leadership that will ensure remedy without humiliation or hostility. It is a challenge to apply leadership skills; responsible, level-headed leadership which respects the possitions of both parties and any others who may be watching. It's the difference between yelling at someone in pubic for a minor error, and taking that person aside for a moment to explain what they did wrong and how they can avoid repetition. In either case, the person will remember you for your action, but only in the latter example will that memory be a mutually respectful one.

“Never Pass a Fault” is not about you. Should you be asking yourself if your true motivation is to help the individual correct a fault, or to impress your friends with your performance art in jumping on the revealed flaw? Do you click “reply” or “reply all” when you want to point out an error in someone's message?

“Never Pass a Fault” invites you to get engaged when you identify an error, and to apply an appropriate measure. That invitation is not to be a critic, it's to be a leader. (Keep in mind that leadership is not solely the responsibility of the more senior person in an exchange.) When the opportunity to “Never Pass a Fault” crosses your path, which line of approach do you choose?

And if you ever have to say “Never Pass a Fault” to explain your actions to justify being rude or insulting, you've failed. If you're lucky, maybe someone will take you aside and explain where you went wrong.

Pro Patria

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 28 May 2014 12:10 AM EDT
Wednesday, 19 February 2014

The Veteran on the Ten-Dollar Bill – Fact Checking
Topic: Commentary

The Veteran on the Ten Dollar Bill - Fact Checking

It's one of those enduring bits of internet flotsam. Posted and reposted, it survives on blogs, websites and message boards. Even now, it may be in your facebook feed.

It has one thing in common with many copy-and-paste bits of electronic detritus, it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Then why does it survive? It does so because it reads nicely, evokes favourable emotions, portends to inform and leave you wanting to share your new "knowledge" with others. And it survives because so few people question the things they read, especially when they might trust the surce the see if appear from.

The item I speak of is "The Veteran on the Ten Dollar Bill" and it can be found all over the net.

All. Over. The. Internet.

The Veteran on the Ten-Dollar Bill

If you have a Canadian $10 bill, look at the back right side of the bill. You will see a  veteran standing at attention near the Ottawa war memorial. His name is Robert Metcalfe and he died last month at the age of 90. That he managed to live to that age is rather remarkable, given what happened in the Second World War. Born in England, he was one of the 400,000 members of the British Expeditionary Force sent to the mainland where they found themselves facing the new German warfare technique - the Blitzkrieg. He was treating a wounded comrade when he was hit in the legs by shrapnel. En route to hospital, his ambulance came under fire from a German tank, which then miraculously ceased fire. Evacuated from Dunkirk on HMS Grenade, two of the sister ships with them were sunk. Recovered, he was sent to allied campaigns in north Africa and Italy. En route his ship was chased by the German battleship Bismarck. In North Africa he served under General Montgomery against the Desert Fox, Rommel.

Sent into the Italian campaign, he met his future wife, a lieutenant and physiotherapist in a Canadian hospital. They were married one morning by the mayor of the Italian town, and again in the afternoon by a British padre. After the war they settled in Chatham where he went into politics and became the warden (chairman) of the county. At the age of 80 he wrote a book about his experiences and on his retirement he and his wife moved to Ottawa. One day out of the blue he received a call from a government official asking him to go downtown for a photo op. He wasn't told what the photo was for or why they chose him. "He had no idea he would be on the bill," his daughter said. And now you know the rest of the story of the veteran on the $10 bill.

But what If It's Not True?

Some time ago, I was forwarded a copy of "The Veteran on the Ten Dollar Bill". The item just seemed a little too neat and I started to check a few facts that were presented:

1.Let's start with the real Robert Metcalfe. Mr. Metcalf's name has probably been used in the above piece of drivel because it provides one more recognizable element. If someone searches for him by name, he is easily found on the net. Once you wade through the many copies of the Ten-Dollar Bill text, you find that he was a real person and a real veteran. That, to many, would be enough for them to accept the remainder as sound.

Robert W. Metcalfe - The Memory Project

My name is Robert Metcalfe. I'm a war bridegroom who came over here in 1948 with my Canadian-born wife. Most of my military service, I served with the Green Howards [Alexandra, Princess of Wales's Own] Yorkshire Regiment. I joined on the 4th of December, 1935.

The first contact I had with the war was in 1939. We mobilized on the 23rd of August. I went to France with the Reconnaissance party of my regiment on the 19th of January 1940. My first battle was the Battle on Vimy Ridge. We battled with Rommel. Rommel commanded the 7th Panther Division. We fought for two days on the Ridge. He drove us off there and then we went north into Belgium. We made contact with the enemy at Ypres at Menin Gate. I was a company commander by this time and the captain. And I received my orders for the defence of Ypres underneath the famous archway of Menin Gate.

See the presented transcript at the Memory Project to see where Metcalfe's real story overlaps and diverges from the Ten-Dollar Bill text. Read the rest at the link.

2.The British Expeditionary Force in France did not total 400,000 men, but all of the Allies involved in the battle did---The Battle of Dunkirk.

3.The HMS Grenade itself was sunk during the evacuation at Dunkirk, and one of her sister ships was also sunk, the Grafton (they were among a total of 9 British and French destroyers sunk)---HMS Grenade at and The Dunkirk Evacuation.

4.The Bismark was sunk on 27 May 1941, which was long before the landings in Northern Africa on 8 Nov 1942.

5.In the text, Metcalfe is described as a member of the British Expeditionary Force, which does make me wonder why the anonymous government official wouldn't have found a Canadian veteran for this supposed photo/art opportunity.

6.If the veteran wrote a book on his experiences, it is very unusual that the original reporter never mentions the book's title. Metcalfe did write a book, titled No time for dreams: A soldier's six-year journey through WW II (1997).

It's too bad this story doesn't "check out," because it does evoke all of the emotions we are supposed to feel at reading such a heart-warming tale. (Of course, that's the key to its survival.) It's just too bad that it's such a poor fabrication that does this to us. It would, however, be nice to know who the veteran on the bill really is (if a real person was even used as a model), and what his own story might be. Then again, who was the model for the peacekeeper? Or the artist?

It's too bad that Robert Metcalfe's name has been entwined with this artificial piece of internet fiction. Unfortunately, it remains a fact of human nature that it will probably continue to be shared as the likelihood of enough people checking the facts to stop its spread remains low.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 19 February 2014 6:38 PM EST
Tuesday, 11 February 2014

The Minute Book; after one year
Topic: Commentary

The Minute Book; after one year

With a year's worth of daily posts in the Minute Book, here's how the top ten most visited posts and topics line up:

Ten most popular posts:

Ten most popular topics:

Canadian Army Battle Honours

The Senior Subaltern

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment in the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Faith isn't the problem
Topic: Commentary

Faith isn't the problem

Sometimes, it's how you represent that undermines your intent.

I recently attended a funeral, and the Minister who conducted the service said something that resonated: "Faith isn't the problem, the problem is religion."

"That's interesting," I thought, "it's not what you believe, it's how you practice it that can be the problem." The reason I found it interesting is that I saw an immediate parallel in the way some soldiers, serving or retired, apply similar methods to their declarations of regimental loyalty.

For many, belonging to a regiment is an entry into a brotherhood (apply variable gender as needed) that extends both laterally through one's own generation as well as forward and backward in time to all preceding and succeeding generations of regimental soldiers. Accepting this. they devote themselves to earning a rightful place among peers in regimental service (spanning generations and divested of rank stratification). That common attribute of belonging is taken as a starting point, and everything that follows is an opportunity to prove that they too deserve to belong, in thought, word and deed. They strive to strengthen the regimental family by being a strong component of its structure. They consciously work, in all that they do, to represent the regiment's "brand."

For others, "regiment" is an identity they take unto themselves. They use it to declare their affiliation, and assume rights of respect, honour and reward because of that affiliation. To them, belonging to a regiment justifies their actions, and behaviors molded in one era might be repeated (despite degraded social acceptability) because that's what they did "back in the day."

Those in the first group, I want to believe they are the majority, are content to be the quiet professionals. They adopt a minimum of overt regimental branding, and often then only in careful context. They maintain regimental standards of proficiency, professionalism and honour, often leaving their regimental identity to be discovered afterwards by an outside observer, or given only on direct inquiry. They walk a path of regimental pride with a personal attitude of peace and calm, they know that brotherhood stands behind them, and they offer support more often than they seek it.

The second group lead with that regimental identity. They are the ones festooned with regimental colour and accoutrements, even in the most sedate environment. Where many might wear one or two lapel pins, they will wear a flurry of them, representing every group they belong to, often in multiples, and for each event they have attended that issued a representative pin. This over the top approach may play well among their like-minded fellows, but it also undermines the intent. The tacit intent to attract new members into that long-standing group of regimental supporters.

At any regimental event, that noisome group of regimental supporters is readily noticed, and most certainly noticed by young soldiers on parade. In those young minds, that recognizable group, which by habit clusters into a tight and loud subset of onlookers, becomes the imprinted image of what appears to be expected of them on retirement. (The larger group of quieter ex-regimental soldiers is often overlooked, they remain dispersed and more subdued, by personal and collective habit.) In many young soldiers' minds, they resolve not to become one of "those guys." Unfortunately, the extrapolation of that thought is not to avoid becoming a member of the louder group, but instead to not become a member of the regimental association at all.

We need to work on managing the perceptions of the younger generations, ensuring they understand that they can choose what role they take in representing their regiment and, for that matter, that different roles and relationships exist. More importantly, we must consciously work to avoid undermining their sense of what regimental participation in future means, because they are, and will always be, the future of the regiment from where we stand today.

So, how are you expressing your ongoing loyalty to regiment? Is it setting an example that your own young self would have readily followed? Will others follow you? Leadership responsibilities don't end when we take off the uniform.

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 1 January 2014 12:23 AM EST
Sunday, 15 December 2013

None Stand Alone
Topic: Commentary

The wallet card reminder issued to members of the Canadian Armed Forces on services available to all ill and unjured soldiers.

Click the image or this link to go to The Guide.

Note: the correct URL is:

None Stand Alone

While preparing information cards for medals in my collection, for a new display case layout to show at an upcoming regimental dinner, I pondered the number of men I have been researching who had also served in other regiments than my own. So many had come from, or gone to other units. For some, it was only during wartime that they served, enlisting each time in a local unit. For others, who served in war and peace, they transferred as needed to continue their service. And others still were moved between units as the Army required, or their abilities to serve made necessary.

In each case, receiving units would have gained the benefits of the training, service and experience those soldiers arrived with. Often they become staunch members of their new units, rising in rank, authority, and receiving the rewards of faithful service. This was not unlike the experiences of so many that I have also served with in past decades.

When viewed from this perspective, it quickly becomes clear that no regiment stands alone. None can call themselves "pure" in the context of having allowed in no influences brought from other regiments. And because of this, we all stand closer than our perceptions of regimental pride and uniqueness might lead us to believe.

Consider the way we often present regimental histories. While it is perhaps true that no regiment ever played a supporting role in its own presentation of its history, often this can be taken to the effect that some regiments seem to stand alone on every battlefield as they tell the story. This approach, tending always to speak of our own regiments as singular entities, easily leads new solders to think their own cap badge led every charge, and mopped up every trench. But that denies the deep symbiosis we have at both the organizational level, where every regiment belongs to a Brigade, and at the personal level, with soldiers moving to and from other units. We are all linked by the brotherhood of past friendships and by blood to the soldiers of so many other units, past and present.

Just as no soldier stands alone on the battlefield, supported by his fire team partner, his "battle buddy," so every regiment stands beside brothers and sisters in arms, meeting each challenge with mutual support and interlocking arcs of fire. These bonds of soldiering cross every boundary, and we better understand our own regiment when we learn to see and understand the many threads of personal connection between our own regiment and the many others in this Army.

As you think about your own connections to other regiments, through your own service or that of those your served with, think about reaching out to them to see how they're doing. You may have a fire team partner now who wears the same badge, but every soldier you have served with, or that your own battle buddies have served with, regardless of cap badge then or now, is equally deserving of your continuing mutual support.

Send up the Count.

Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 16 December 2013 8:03 AM EST
Thursday, 12 December 2013

The Responsibility of Perpetuation
Topic: Commentary

The Responsibility of Perpetuation

Many units of the Canadian Army perpetuate units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The CEF was raised by Sir Sam Hughes as Canada's Overseas Forces during the First World War. In order to sidestep the existing political influence of the Active Militia, and being no more a fan of the Permanent Force (which was at token strength), Hughes maintained the greatest level of control by building his own force.

The achievements of the CEF are undeniable. Accomplished through the recruiting of over 600,000 Canadians, the honours won by the CEF were achieved in the main by citizens who became soldiers only in their country's time of need. Those honours are still held by units of the Canadian Army. Some of those units fought as part of the CEF (or BEF) and remain in the Order of Battle today. Many others hold honours because of the rights of perpetuation.

Perpetuation, a uniquely Canadian concept, is described in the Canadian Armed Force publication A-AD-200-000/AG-000, The Honours, Flags and Heritage Structure of the Canadian Forces as follows:

15.     Perpetuation is a unique Canadian system developed after the First World War to provide a formal means of preserving military operational honours and heritage for succeeding generations. It is government policy that disbanded units, which have gained an honour and/or distinction in the field, be perpetuated to preserve their memory. Disbanded units which have not gained an honour or distinction in the field shall not be perpetuated. Units perpetuated by disbanded units which are not eligible for perpetuation may, subject to the concurrence of the disbanded units' authorized or officially recognized association(s), be perpetuated by an extant unit.

16.     Perpetuation is a public declaration of a family inheritance from a distinguished Canadian ancestor, and entitles the perpetuating unit to the honours of its predecessor. Thus, although few Canadian regiments were mobilized as such for overseas service in the First World War, most have battle honours earned in the war.

With those honours comes a responsibility. That responsibility is to remember those units, and the soldiers of those units, who won those honours in the trenches of France and Flanders. For any unit perpetuating a fighting battalion of the CEF, or any number of battalions that provided reinforcements, that may mean they represent the contributions of thousands of soldiers.

The pervasive oral narrative, which is the local understanding of regimental history in many cases, often blurs the perpetuation distinction. The use by CEF units of adopted badge designs, unit titles and support from local units in their recruiting have all leant themselves to many losing the detailed understanding that the battlefield units of the First World War were not battalions of their regiment at the time. The official connections were developed post-war, a point that has seldom survived in the later oral narrative. Even more insidiously, when the field unit of the CEF is the one with overlapping trappings, other perpetuated units, especially those absorbed into the reinforcement stream, may be forgotten completely except by those who study the regiment's history in detail.

As we come upon the Centennial of the Great War, it is time to account for all of those units. Our regimental connections to those who won battle honours we count as our own today (through perpetuation and amalgamations), and those units which were raised in our own communities that may have sent soldiers to fight in many other battalions. They, too, deserve to be remembered.

But it's not just the units that need to be remembered and commemorated. It is the soldiers we owe a debt of honour, service and sacrifice. Each man recruited into, or taken on the strength of, a perpetuated battalion is one of our regimental soldiers. Their stories, even for those who passed on to fight under a different badge, is also one of our stories. A man can belong to more than one regiment, and more than one regiment can take pride in the service and story of any one soldier. No soldier's service is lessened by the accumulated claims of each regiment he served with. Between us, we can, and should, remember them all. And we can do those soldiers no greater honour than remembering them correctly within the context of each of the units they served in, and not burying their memory within a blurred understanding of regimental histories.

Their stories are also the stories of our regiments.

The following shows the amalgamated and perpetuated units of The Royal Canadian Regiment.

The Royal Canadian Regiment
(Amalgamations and Perpetuations)

The Royal Canadian Regiment was amalgamated in 1954 with:

  • The Oxford Rifles
    • Which perpetuated:
      • 71st Canadian Infantry Battalion (CEF)
      • 168th Canadian Infantry Battalion (CEF)
  • The Canadian Fusiliers (City of London Regiment)
    • Which perpetuated:
      • 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion (CEF)
      • 33rd Canadian Infantry Battalion (CEF)
      • 142nd Canadian Infantry Battalion (CEF)
    • And was itself amalgamated in 1936 with:
      • 2nd Bn, The Canadian Machine Gun Corps (Militia)
        • Which perpetuated:
          • 2nd Bn, The Canadian Machine Gun Corps (CEF)
  • How readily can you draft a similar list for your regiment?

    Canadian Army Battle Honours

    Researching Canadian Soldiers of the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Monday, 9 December 2013

The Regiment Should...
Topic: Commentary

The Regiment Should …

As someone with an interest in regimental history, I often find myself talking to members of the Regiment, both serving and retired, on a variety of regimental topics. Quite often our starting point is some mention of the Regiment's past. Sometimes the conversation leads to confirmation or debunking of a long held belief about the Regiment, theirs, or mine. Or it may be an exploration of some aspect of regimental life or history that they experienced first hand which was new to me.

Another direction that seems to crop up all too often is when someone launches into their pet diatribe, usually starting with that ominous phrase: "The Regiment should …"

The contentious point may be a subject of regimental history that the speaker feels has not been adequately recorded, or the establishment of a memorial or marker or symbol commemorating some chosen moment in regimental history, or perhaps simply the issuing of some item (gratis, of course) to every member of the Regiment. Unfortunately, the opinion that the Regiment should do something, and what they would like to see done, is never backed up by a solid analysis of costs, requirements, or effort. In particular, the speaker never defines who they are talking about when they say that "the Regiment" should do something. My counter, when not completely stunned by the impracticality of the idea, is to challenge them on this point.

"Who, exactly, do you think should do that?"

It's a question that never immediately gets a clear answer. I then describe how few people actually work in what we call our Regimental headquarters, and how all the other people they remember holding regimental appointments were doing them voluntarily, on top of the full time responsibilities the Army gave them. In comparison, in many regiments there are no dedicated regimental appointments and all regimental business (i.e., those functions outside of Canadian Armed Forces requirements and responsibilities) is done by voluntary contributions of time and energy.

For many, it is an awakening to realize how the Regiment covers off so many essential functions. And how that leaves little capability among the assigned staff for many other desires, such as the project which was declared by them to be something that the Regiment "should do."

The last part of this conversation almost always takes the same form.

Yes, I might agree, the Regiment should do something. And I point out that the part of the Regiment which should take charge and assume responsibility for this project is the speaker himself. He, too, is part of the Regiment, and if his desired project is that important to him, then he should be the one carrying a complete plan (including realistic suggestions on how it should be funded without assuming available Regimental funds), or, depending on its nature, the completed project, to the Regiment.

I wish I could say that the proposer of such a project more often than not walks away with an intent to follow through, but that wasn't the answer they were looking for. All too often, when someone starts a suggestion with "The Regiment should …", what they really mean is "Someone else should …"

It's easy to be part of a Regiment when you expect others to do the work you suggest should be done.

The Royal Canadian Regiment Museum

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 2 December 2013 8:11 AM EST
Saturday, 2 November 2013

Does this sound familiar?
Topic: Commentary

Does this sound familiar?

"Years ago it was sufficient if the soldier gave a more or less rigid, unwavering, physical adherence to his leaders and comrades. Nowadays, however, his adherence must be mainly intellectual. Standing in line to meet the massed attacks of advancing battalions required another type of discipline--which we are not losing very fast. The absolute subordination of the man was the only criterion of those days. Individuality was ruthlessly suppressed, and if at times it did display itself, it was in spite of, and not because of, the system of training then in existence. Marching, shooting, and obedience were about the only things which a soldier of former days had to learn. To-day the soldier is, comparatively speaking, an intellectual giant. To-day, our soldiers are not only required to march, shoot and obey, but they actually dabble in the realms of science. They study physics, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and what not. Men who are able to tackle such subjects cannot be disciplined by the old methods of constant soul-killing drill. Instead of instilling in the soldier the fear of punishment we must inculcate ideals of conduct and achievement; we must develop his mental faculties and we must encourage a display of reasonable judgment and initiative. There must be an appeal to the soldier's intelligence and our training must be moral training of the highest type."

We often hear such word spoken of our soldiers today, that they are smarter, better educated, and more aware of the word around them then their predecessors. Even as we demand more of our soldiers, for them to be the "Strategic Corporal," to learn and effectively employ ever more complex technologies for communicating, finding the enemy, and killing him, yet we still also find that some soldiers have always maintained a propensity to misbehave. Those unavoidable combinations of youth, immaturity, alcohol, testosterone and the predilection for males to head butt one another (physically or metaphorically) over everything from a woman's attention, a favoured sport's team's legacy, or even a perceived slight against one's cap badge, lead to the fact that the Discipline volume of Queen's Regulations and Orders is as important and useful as it ever was.

We may have better educated soldiers (on average) with each passing decade, but they are still soldiers. As much as some things change, others never really do. For some of those troops that keep landing on the sergeant-major's naughty list, some of that old school parade square discipline may not be a bad thing.

Oh, and that quote above … it was written in 1925. — Taken from "Discipline and Personality," by Sergt.-Major E.J. Simon, The RCR, Canadian Defence Quarterly, Vol. II, No. 3, April, 1925.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Sunday, 27 October 2013

Austerity Measures
Topic: Commentary

The Officers' Quarters at Wolseley barracks, London , Ontario, now surreounded by contractors fencing. The building is being demolished as part of measures to reduce DND infrastructure as a long tem cost saving measure.

Austerity Measures

As every Government Department seeks ways to economize to meet new Government austerity targets, the Department of National Defence among them, the following excerpts show that periods of austerity are not new to the canadian Armed Forces. Of course, anyone who was serving in the 1980s will remember the last such period, when some unit budgets were so tightly controlled that asking to borrow the use of a photocopier was often replied with by the question: "Did you bring your own paper?"

Austerity was now the order of the day. Interspersed at regular intervals among the files of National Defence Headquarters for 1931-33 are the chits by which its senior members meticulously indicated the disposition of street car tickets for transportation between the Woods Building and the various ports of call on official business in the capital. Any extra expenditure, however slight the project or small the amount, came before the Chief of the General Staff for his personal consideration and decision. "I think that the O.C. [Camp Borden] has made a case for the dish washing machine, the mixing machine, and the toaster in addition to the bread slicer," General McNaughton wrote to the Quartermaster General on 23 March 1931, "and that on its merit this proposal should be approved." ["Memorandum by the Chief of the General Staff for Quartermaster- General," 23 March 1931, McNaughton Papers (C.G.S., 76)] Less fortunate was a proposal that the men's barracks at Borden should be converted into officers' quarters The Minister "thinks that after the 1st May [the officers] should be able to manage under canvas for six months," a General Staff officer wrote plaintively to McNaughton in January 1932, "and that, in the meantime, they must shift as they are at present. If the personnel attending training courses … cannot be furnished with improvised accommodation, then he says some of the courses must be cancelled…" [Lt.-Col. H.H. Matthews to MacNaughton, 28 Jan. 1932, Ibid.] A few days later he reported that "a proposal is now being put before the Minister to fix up the interior of the Men's Barrack Block and kitchen accommodation at a cost of about $6,000… This seems a reasonable solution of the difficulty, but it is possible the Minister may not sanction the spending of even this amount of money just now."" [Lt.-Col. H.H. Matthews to MacNaughton, 3 Feb. 1932, Ibid.] And, on 9 February: "The Minister continues resolutely to refuse to authorize any expenditure which he thinks can be postponed. Consequently no real progress has been made regarding the fixing up of accommodation for the Air Force officers at Camp Borden…"" [Lt.-Col. H.H. Matthews to MacNaughton, 9 Feb. 1932, Ibid.] – James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada; From the Great War to the Great Depression, 1964

The "rust out" of vehicle fleets, i.e., the loss of vehicles through wear and tear before replacements are acquired, and the deleterious effect of same on the training of soldirs are not new problems either:

Since the withdrawal of harness from practically all the militia batteries, the guns have become completely immobile. No adapters have been issued, which makes it impossible to move them with trucks which could be obtained locally, nor would authority be granted even if we had the equipment in any of the larger centres, because the guns are not equipped with the rubber tires which are necessary to make it reasonably safe to move the field pieces over hard roads. As a result, all we can do is train the gunners on guns which almost assume the role of garrison pieces, and train the other specialists independently. It is true that very valuable preliminary training can be carried out before going to camp, but it is not very effective in teaching a gunner his real job, which is that every member of the battery takes his part in directing the shell fire of the battery at a given target… [Drew to D.M. Sutherland, 3 Dec 1931. Bennet Papers] – James Eayrs, In Defence of Canada; From the Great War to the Great Depression, 1964

The question for those who continue to serve always remains: "How best to maintain required levels of training of essential skills in an environment defined by reduced resources and budgets?" This is the new challenge for a generation of soldiers and commanders that enjoyed great support, of all kinds, during a decade of combat operations.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Monday, 14 October 2013

The Missing Factor
Topic: Commentary

The Missing Factor

Whenever I took instruction in tactics, whether it be as a Corporal, as an Officer Cadet, or as a Captain, we were taught to assess a variety of factors in developing our tactical plans. The factors lead us to developing a variety of options, the Courses of Action; comparison of which produced the best course of action on which to develop a plan.

Imagine, if you will, advancing across varied terrain in training. The enemy is small, just strong enough to require the desired training to be assessed. They know what direction we are coming from (and when to expect us), and they arrange themselves in accordance with the instructor's direction to present a prepared enemy watching for our approach.

When the enemy sees us and engages, bringing us under effective fire, what do we do? We execute the battle drill and follow the checklist. We take cover, and return fire to win the firefight. And the commander (whether student on course or, afterwards, a section, platoon or company commander) starts to formulate a plan of attack.

Invariably, the idea of assaulting directly towards an identified enemy is considered "the frontal attack." In a deep societal understanding, the "frontal attack" is perceived as a desperate option, one highly reminiscent of the worse days of the First World War. And of those worst days, none have been painted more thoroughly in the Western psyche as the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916, when many units of Kitchener's New Army were decimated by German machine guns as they attempted to assault across No Man's Land. "Decimated," by definition, fails to describe the losses of many unit, but it has become so in a more modern comprehension of the word. (What we are seldom told, however, is that not all units suffered to the same degree, but that knowledge leads to further examination of local conditions and actions, undermining the deep sense of tragedy the event holds in our minds.) But the Great War has thoroughly branded the frontal assault as the greatest crime of generals and battlefield commanders.

The frontal assault is always imagined as being not only directly at the enemy position, but also through the very worst approach (i.e., his best prepared defence works and most effective killing zones---no man's land). But this misses one critical point.

The perceived concept of the frontal assault assumes something which should never be left unexamined. A factor that potentially changes everything. A factor that can make the frontal assault not only a good course of action, but possibly the best course of action.

Because we train to fight small enemy forces, which are ideally located to ensure we meet them on our line of approach and that they are ready to force our hand to assault their position, we never really surprise the enemy. We arrive on a known route at an expected time and face off an enemy designed to halt our advance. All the training in developing the higher plan with intent to dislocate or otherwise disrupt the enemy before the fight is engaged is eliminated by the exercise planner's need to ensure contact happens in accordance with the Master Event List. (Apparently, you can't assess a commander as effective if he finds a way to avoid engaging some of the enemy and still makes it to his final objective.)

But what's the missing factor, you ask.

The missing factor is the orientation of the enemy position.

When we plan operations, we consider the enemy. We determine his most likely defensive positions, his killing zones, his obstacle belts. And then we try to develop a plan to avoid those killing zones and obstacles as best as possible, while still being able to neutralize or destroy his defensive positions. But on training exercises that level of preparatory work is denied us, and the exercise planner ensures we face the enemy across the ground he is best prepared to meet us on. We teach ourselves that we should try to place ourselves in a position to face the enemy from a direction he does not expect. But in training we more often invalidate that principle.

The repetitiveness with which we place "friendly forces" and "the enemy" facing off across the latter's killing ground reinforces and perpetuates the deep loathing we have for the frontal assault.

But what happens if the commander has done his own planning and chosen the line of approach. Then he may be facing the enemy not across his killing ground, but from a flank or the rear, i.e., on one of his less well prepared approaches. And this can make the frontal assault from the line of march the best course of action.

When we teach the development of tactical plans, we think about the orientation of the enemy. But when we practice it, we habitually let resource limitations (troops for enemy forces, time, space) and exercise requirements lead to the elimination of that factor. Instruction teaches process, but practice reinforces the "acceptable" options, especially for younger NCOs and officers who ares till trying to absorb the lessons and details of each situation. We need to stop modeling tactical exercises that consistently situate the estimate in concurrence with societal preconceptions. Expanding training options to see when, and how, the frontal assault can be the best course of action can ensure we actually recognize it, and consider it a viable option, when it is presented to us.

elipsis graphic

The Canadian Infantry Section Attack

The Canadian infantry section attack, usually the first introduction to small unit tactics for soldiers and officers in the Canadian Army, was once (before 1990) taught with options of direct assaults (i.e., frontals) and flanking attacks, moving either a supporting fire or an assaulting group. With the adoption of the C7/C9 family of small arms in the late 1980s, the idea that an infantry section would never attack alone, and therefore would only operate as part of a larger assault force, took hold. This idea led to the belief that a section commander only needed to know how to direct his section in a forward assault, and the training of flanking options for the section attack ceased. After a decade of experience in Afghanistan, and the renewed understanding that many factors can lead to independent actions of the infantry section, the flanking section attack has returned to the latest revision of the Army's manual for Section and Platoon tactics.

From The Regimental Rogue:

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Saturday, 7 September 2013

A short chamber Boxer Henry point 45 caliber miracle
Topic: Commentary

"A short chamber Boxer Henry point 45 calibre miracle"

The military affectation for complicating language.

Colour Sergeant Bourne: It's a miracle.
Lieutenant John Chard: If it's a miracle, Colour Sergeant, it's a short chamber Boxer Henry point 45 calibre miracle.
Colour Sergeant Bourne: And a bayonet, sir, with some guts behind.

" It is worth noting that one of the tests used by the Germans for admission to officer rank is the ability to translate the technical language of the instruction books into everyday words understood by the average recruit."

The above quote, as many will recognize, is from the move Zulu. More than a humorous line of dialogue, it also captures a stereotypical affectation of some soldiers; the fetishization of technical detail.

Many professional soldiers have successfully completed careers without obsessing over details that were not part of their decision-making processes, at either the tactical or strategic level. They dispensed with what they considered useless knowledge to focus on the important factors that led to success. Clearing their mind of clutter, even the clutter that the training system puts there, was essential for them to achieve their goals.

Knowing how many rounds are in your magazines is important when you're reaching for the next one. Knowing how many lands and grooves are in the barrel of your rifle is not. Knowing how many tanks the enemy is approaching your defensive position, gained from real time intelligence is inherently valuable. Knowing exactly how many tanks are in his higher doctrinal organization is not, and can always be found in a reference if needed. (Notably, in stories many of my generation heard of the Staff College experience of our seniors, mixed amongst the tales of drunken battlefield tours in Europe were always the struggles to memorize, down to the smallest detail, each Soviet Army divisional organization.)

Armies, and not just the Canadian Army, tend to put technical trivia and jargon into publications, and then, in turn, makes those details part of formal classroom instruction. A soldier doesn't need to read a PowerPoint slide to learn how heavy a weapon system is, and each of it's parts to the gram. He would better use that time carrying it to understand the realities of the balance and bulk weight problems in moving it (a test that the planners and manual writers would do well to emulate before calling something "man-portable"). The only time the soldier ever uses those memorized numbers is to regurgitate them on a written test, which confirms his ability to memorize facts and exactly nothing about his ability to employ the weapon.

Many military trades are dependent upon knowing, in an instant, what others may consider esoteric facts. That knowledge may be critical to one or another task of that trade, and carries with it functional importance. In these cases, that knowledge is not fetishized, and is taught and tested with due importance.

The fetishized vocabularies of the military, whether of technical details, or the rote memorization and repetition of needlessly complex military publication prose, only serves to slow the learning process, or to create an aura of understanding where little might exist. This confusion between trivia and professional knowledge is increasingly evident in our electronically connected world. How many of us have seen the confused look on a professional soldier's face when some young Call of Duty fan eagerly wants to discuss the technical differences between all of the weapons he has studied and used in that game? And the professional soldier's response? Indifference. Because the gamer's intense readiness to memorize such details has so little overlap with what the professional learned and, further, retained after application of the useful parts of his training.

Admittedly, there are committed detail-minded soldiers whose personal and professional interests encompass every area of technical trivia and detail. For those with interests in small arms, they do know how many lands and grooves, and they know the effects of internal ballistics between different bullets and barrel lengths. But their knowledge and how they apply it within the army (for those in the right appointments) helps to improve weapons systems being placed in the hands of many others who do not need to know those things. They are experts, self-made or by appointment, and their involvement with the knowledge is to embrace the functional, not to simply boast that they know it.

Where the Army goes wrong is when it embeds the trivia and the awkward turns of phrase as the critical knowledge requirements at every level of training. This is when the training approach can impede the learning process. And it's not a new problem:

Technical Vocabulary and Unfamiliar Words


This uninteresting learning of meaningless names of parts is closely associated with a general danger that words unfamiliar to the average recruit will often be used: e.g., in Lesson I (Bren Gun), "gas operated," "tripod," "convertible." I myself was puzzled when told that it was "air-cooled," not having heard before that earlier machine guns were water-cooled. If I had never driven an air-cooled Morgan three-wheeler I should have been still more puzzled.

In an Army instruction film I saw, dealing with anti-tank guns, a sergeant appeared on the film and stated that, at a certain angle of incidence, the bullet would "result in a penetration." Why not "go through"? Why should holes be called "apertures"? Perhaps the best example is the phrase "segmentation to assist fragmentation," which one officer quotes from the description of a Mills hand grenade.

There may, in some instances. be reasons for using less usual words as names, for the sake of rapid identification at later stages; but in early lessons easy words should be used instead of unfamiliar ones, or at least along with the unfamiliar terms as an explanation. In long peace-time training the meaning of unfamiliar terms would gradually sink in, but in quicker war-time training that is not likely.

Some of my students say indeed that instructors at times cannot explain the meaning of words they repeat when they are asked. It is worth noting that one of the tests used by the Germans for admission to officer rank is the ability to translate the technical language of the instruction books into everyday words understood by the average recruit.

- C.W. Valentine, M.A., D.Phil., The Human Factor in the Army; Some Applications of Psychology to Training, Selection, Morale and Discipline, 1943

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 7 September 2013 9:16 AM EDT
Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Regimental History is Social History
Topic: Commentary

Regimental History is Social History

Many researchers and authors, when studying the history of a regiment, tend to focus on periods of conflict. This conflict studies approach places an inordinate focus on the actions of the regiment in wartime, often to the exclusion of other aspects of the regiment. Similarly, the long tradition of such focus on "special events" in examining our own regimental histories tends to minimize the equal importance of recording the normal routines of regimental life both during and between periods of intense activity.

But a regiment is a sum of all its parts, and battlefield actions, while inarguably important, are only one part of a much broader, and richer, whole. While one slice of a regimental history is definitely conflict studies, the overall study of a regiment is a much broader social history.

The enduring character of a regiment is based on how it perceives itself, and how it is perceived by others. The roles and attitudes adopted by a regiment in peace and war, as well as the slings and arrows directed at a Regiment and its reputation, with good or ill humour, are as important to understand as its list of Battle Honours. Take, for example, the Canadian Army's two English-speaking Regular Force infantry regiments; The Royal Canadian Regiment (The RCR) and the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI).

The RCR began in 1883 as the Infantry School Corps, with the expressed purpose of being formed to maintain Schools of Instruction for the training of Militia officers and non-commissioned officers. In this role, The RCR, both institutionally and in the actions of individuals, became the strict schoolmasters of the Army. Their responsibility to teach others "by the book" and to correct those who strayed from the doctrinal path as they came from diverse home units to the Royal Schools. The reputation to be sticklers for detail, referenced even by the Regiment's motto to "Never Pass a Fault" are deeply embedded in the attitudes that many in the Regiment hold to; adhering to known courses of action and proven procedures that will not create confusion when time does not allow for thorough preparation of new options. This institutional desire for stability, however, is often interpreted as inflexibility. Conversely, the many adherents of "flexibility" above other options attempt to follow so many different paths, that to a stereotypical Royal Canadian they can seem to be embracing chaos without concern for compatibility of procedure or repeatability. From its earliest roots, The Royal Canadian Regiment has maintained at least a vestige of this stabilizing attitude, even while keeping pace with the Army's evolution over more than a century and, despite the Regiment's accomplishments in recent decades, it's reputation as described by others often reflects the strictest perceptions of its original role.

The PPCLI, in comparison, have taken a very different path with regard to their origins and reputation. They were created in Ottawa in 1914, formed by the targeted recruitment of ex-British Army soldiers, many of whom had seen active service in the Imperial Army. In fact, the regimental history (Williams, pg. 7) states that the first recruiting posters advertised that "Preference will be given to ex-regulars of the Canadian or Imperial Forces; or men who saw service in South Africa." From that beginning, the PPCLI saw themselves as a very British regiment. They started their service in France during the First World War in the 80th Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force, and only joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in late 1915 when the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division was formed. Brigaded with The RCR in the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade, the old soldiers of the two regiments probably had much more in common with each other than either did with the many new recruits of the CEF. Three years later, with the rate of reinforcements delivered by the CEF throughout the war, there was probably little difference between the two units by late 1918, except for those attributes maintained by old and new traditions in the ranks of each.

After the First World War, both The RCR and the PPCLI were maintained as active regiments in Canada's Permanent Force, with each being assigned company stations to continue the role originally played by The RCR before 1914. The RCR re-occupied stations in central and eastern Canada, while the PPCLI went west, where it underwent a metamorphosis. While it may have been expected that the PPCLI would evolve to be more like that of The RCR, given the parallel roles they filled in the years between the World Wars, that didn't happen. The RCR, and its reputation, returned to their roots, and their reputation as sticklers for detail was sustained. The PPCLI blazed a new path and built a reputation for doing so. Despite taking on the training role, the PPCLI, probably in large part through the change in their recruiting base, of those attracted to the West, coupled with a force of regimental will to set themselves apart, successfully remodeled their own reputation. Both internally and as perceived externally, they changed dramatically, into a self advertised regiment with a western maverick attitude, filled with bold soldiers unafraid to live up to the spirit of that heritage.

Ask a "Patricia" to compare the Regiments, and you will hear of the Royal Canadian's tendency to follow the manual, perceived as seldom seeking a new path, and to uphold themselves as the stable defenders of tradition (of course, they will probably use a variety of very different descriptive terms). Ask a "Royal Canadian" the same question, and the reply will emphasize their own Regiment's stability, with a comparative description of the Patricia's impetuousness and overt readiness to change the rules. But put the officers, non-commissioned officers and soldiers of the two regiments together on a task and, after getting past their cultural differences they will find themselves not that far apart on the desire to efficiently execute the mission or in willingness to forge new options as the situation demands.

Regimental reputations and stereotypes are as much forged in peacetime as they are on the field of battle. The culture of a regiment is a unique combination of its own perception of self, its recruiting base and serving personnel, and the traditions and memories it maintains, most significantly those maintained in the enduring oral narratives that form the basis of internal cultural understanding in a self-propagating manner. In understanding these cultural evolutions, and their place in the social history of regiments, we gain a better understanding of who our nation's soldiers are, and how they perceive themselves and each other as they serve our nation, in peace and war.


The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 14 August 2013 2:19 AM EDT
Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Change is Coming
Topic: Commentary

The Canadian Army; Strong, Proud, Ready

Change is Coming


"The Canadian Army has given itself a new look by introducing a new primary badge, visual identifier and tagline in order to pay homage to its rich heritage and values."

Dire warnings of a new age of austerity have been descending on the Canadian Army, along with the rest of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Army has enjoyed years of fat; being the darling of the Government's overseas initiatives, increasingly well funded for equipment modernization, highly rated in the media and the eyes of the public, and busier than it has been since the 1950s. Those days are over.

The Government's direction has changed with the drawdown and end of the Afghanistan mission. There is a move towards a more economical approach to Government spending, and the Department of National Defence will be doing its share of saving. There is no new missions on the horizon for our soldiers. These things all spell a special kind of doom in the eyes of some soldiers. One of a sort that not many in the Army remember. But those with over 20 years of service do.

The Army's last age of austerity, sometimes called the "decade of darkness," was in the 1980s. Minimized budgets, rusting vehicle fleets, "train to need" concepts that saw courses run only to qualify the minimum required personnel. It's tough soldiering to strap on the boots every day for years on end in that environment, but many did, sustaining regimental esprit de corps and unit capabilities more by force of will than by having available resources to train the way they would have liked.

Those days, or ones much like them, it is now forecast, are coming back. How prepared everyone in the Army is for the change remains to be seen; and the likely metamorphosis of personnel that will occur is already beginning. An operational Army and a peacetime institutional Army take two different kinds of soldiers to sustain.

It's no surprise to anyone that has followed the ebb and flow of the Army's strength over the past century that the care and maintenance of the Army has never been a peacetime hobby of Canadian Governments, of any party. Even the most ardent opposition parties don't argue for a bigger or better funded army in peacetime. They all happily seek the "peace dividend" and look elsewhere to curry votes with dollars.

So what makes this evolution special? It is different, that's why. For the First and Second World Wars, Canada built large armies from a comparatively tiny base (counting both Regulars and Reserve units). At the end of each war, the departure of those who had only joined "for the duration" was a natural evolution that supported demobilization. Those that wanted to remain in uniform not only had recent experience but were more than enough to fill the intended post-war establishment. Even for Korea, new battalions were raised for that war, and then transitioned into an evolving establishment that included the opportunity for service in Germany, maintaining the interests of enough to sustain the need.

But for Afghanistan (and the Balkan missions before that), the Army didn't raise an expeditionary force to reinforce and complement the standing army. It met the need with the existing establishment, Regular units, extensively backed with Reserve augmentation as the need arose, filled the mission requirement time and again. Granted, the Army's attrition dropped significantly and unanticipated line-ups at Recruiting Centres meant lengthy wait times to join any trade, but these were still only to fill the existing establishment.

As a result, at the end of the Afghanistan campaign, many in the Army are still those who joined for the adventure and opportunity of service overseas. We cannot fault them that they didn't join to be garrison soldiers in peacetime, to work in headquarters and schools, to be recruiters, or to slowly watch their unit vehicles rust between annual exercises when there is no budget to replace them. (In truth, no-one actually joins the Army solely to do any of those things, but some are more ready than others to accept that the desire to serve in peacetime has its own price.)

They are the same soldiers who joined in 1914 and left in 1918, and who joined in 1939 and left in 1945. They have completed the service they joined to experience, and cannot be faulted for not desiring to serve in a static peacetime army for any length of time. Like their forebears, they have done Canada proud and fulfilled the duties they signed up for. But with no significant forces in Germany, or even a unit level mission in Cyprus these days, the opportunities for overseas adventures during peacetime are going to be even less than they were during the Cold War. Many of our Afghanistan veterans are no doubt assessing their options now.

The resultant challenge for the Army will be, and is already, managing that transition from an expeditionary army to an institutional army. Among those who may choose to leave, seeking new challenges, will be some who were superior soldiers, already being groomed for future promotions and prestigious appointments. Gaps will be created in lines of succession, and these will be filled by those ready to face a very different set of challenges, the challenges of maintaining the Army's kit and capabilities during the years of lean.

Unsung heroes. The soldiers who kept the lights on, and kept maintaining tactical and instructional skills, keeping abreast of developing technology and military advances even if they couldn't be acquired for themselves. These are the soldiers of 1914 and 1939 who laid the groundwork, however thin it may have been, for the unprecedented expansions that took place. These are the soldiers of the Cold War, up to and including the last decade of darkness, who sustained the foundational environment for the Army's recent advances with new equipment, new tactics and a strong wartime public profile.

In times of conflict the Canadian Army has always visibly done its nation proud.

In times of peace, Canada's soldiers have worked equally hard to be ready, often in the shadows of public awareness and without media coverage. Of them, we should be no less proud. They, too, will need our support to achieve their mission.

Strong, Proud, Ready.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 5 August 2013 11:38 AM EDT

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