The Royal Canadian Legion
Home
About Us
Membership
Poppy and Remembrance
Home
Service Bureau for Veterans and Ex-Service Persons
Legion Sports
41st Dominion Convention 2006
Related Sites
Sitemap
bottom bar
Member Benefits Package

 

 

The Golden Web Award
Legion Logo
Members Login Legion Newsroom Provincial Commands
Français Dominion Bulletin Board 2007 Legion Magazine
Frequently Asked Questions Remebrance Music Contact Us
stripes


About Us

 

Our Military Heritage

Contents

CANADA’S ARMED FORCES BEFORE 1914

By 1665 virtually every parish in what was known as "the new world" could muster some form of militia for local protection. Militias were military forces raised from the civilian population and were often used to supplement regular army or standing military units. In 1759 six of these units of battalion size took part in the defence of Québec.

In the War of 1812 the brunt of the fighting along the American frontier was borne by British permanent forces and "Fencible" units (colonial volunteers in British Army units who could not be obliged to fight outside their home provinces unless they volunteered for that as well). But the militia was employed on active service in 1837 during the so called "Canadian Rebellions". They were also employed in 1866 and 1867 during the "Fenian Raids" and in 1870 against the first Métis uprisings. The need for troops during the Fenian Raids caused the reactivation and reorganization of Canada’s military forces under Georges Etienne Carter’s "First Dominion Militia Bill" of 1868.

By 1876 the federal government had started work on the Royal Military College of Canada. In 1885 some 5,000 members of the militia, the permanent force and the Northwest Mounted Police saw service during the Northwest Rebellion. In the same year Canada contributed military contingents to Lord Wolsely’s Nile Expedition.

From 1899 to 1902 Canada provided 7,369 men for service in the South African (Boer) War of which 224 were killed. By 1910 a Department of the Navy had been formed and two ships purchased, the Niobe and the Rainbow, and the Royal Canadian Navy came into being on 4 May 1910.

Top of PageTop of Page


CANADA’S FORCES IN THE 20TH CENTURY

By 1914 Canada was populated by 7.5 million people and had a militia of some 57,000 members. But within three weeks of the outbreak of the First World War more than 45,000 people had volunteered for military service. The first 30,000 Canadian troops bound for the war set sail from Gaspé, Québec for England on 3 and 4 October, 1914, aboard 33 ships. The "Great War", as it was dubbed, lasted just over four years and is generally seen by historians as the period when Canada came of age as a nation and began to emerge as a significant power on the world stage.

While army and navy forces played a substantial role in the First World War, the newly formed flying corps used at the time was part of the army. It was to become the Royal Canadian Air Force and was formed as such on 1 April, 1924.

World War II commenced in September 1939 and by its end some six years later 237,000 men and women would have served in Northwest Europe and 97,500 in Italy. There were also 1,975 Canadians stationed in Hong Kong early in the war with Japan. After a short fight with the Japanese, Hong Kong fell in December 1941 and 557 of the troops were either killed or died in prisoner of war camps where those not killed in the fighting were sent. Those who survived stayed in these camps for the remainder of the war under horrific conditions.

Canada’s support to the Korean War under the United Nations entailed 20,000 army personnel, three Royal Canadian Navy destroyers and 426 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Air Force which supplied air transport resources.

Canada’s military forces "unified" under the Canadian Forces Reorganization Bill of 1 February, 1968. All three forces adopted a single colour green uniform until 1988 when traditional service uniforms came back into being. The forces, which had become commands under this unified system, also returned to being called the army, navy and air force but the unification of common systems and services remains in place.

Peacekeeping has dominated Canadian military operations since the Suez Crisis of 1956. Canada has participated in some form or other in almost all United Nations peacekeeping missions since that time.

In the 1990s Canada participated in the Gulf War, defeating Iraq after its invasion of Kuwait. In 2001 it joined with its NATO allies in conducting the "War on Terrorism" precipitated by terrorist attacks on the United States.

Top of PageTop of Page

CANADA’S MERCHANT NAVY

During World War I Canadian merchant seaman served aboard ships that came under enemy attack during voyages on the high seas. But at the outbreak of World War II there were only 37 Canadian vessels registered for foreign voyages and nearly half that number were lost to enemy attacks early in the war. More than 1,400 Canadian merchant seamen served on these ships. In 1941 an Order in Council called for the establishment of Merchant Seaman Manning Pools. The order also created training schools and facilities as required and encouraged the assistance and coordination of the extension of facilities in Canadian ports for the welfare of these seamen.

The Pools were established in Halifax (September 1941), Montreal (January 1942), Vancouver (May 1942), and Saint John (July 1942). Eventually, Canada had the largest merchant fleet in the history of the Dominions with 180 ocean-going cargo vessels and 14,000 skilled seamen of all ranks. The Pools provided for the maintenance of a reserve of qualified personnel and offered seamen continuous pay and a home between voyages, provided they agreed to accept assignment to Canadian foreign-going ships.

Top of PageTop of Page

REMEMBRANCE DAY

After insistent representation from the then Canadian Legion of the British Empire Services League, the federal government amended the Armistice Day Act in 1931 to ensure that 11 November would be set aside as a day distinct and apart from any other observance. It would be upon this day, and this day only, that the nation would pay special tribute to those "who gave their lives that freedom might prevail". In 1970 "The Holidays Act" was passed by Parliament which included, amongst others, Remembrance Day.

Top of PageTop of Page

THE NATIONAL WAR MEMORIAL

Vernon March of Yorkshire, England won the competition launched in 1925 for the design of a National War Memorial. There were 122 entries considered and Mr. March was authorized to proceed after the submission of a model. The components of the memorial as it stands today were conceived and constructed in a garden in Kent. Mr. March, six brothers and one sister produced the structure over a ten-year period. Amazingly no member of this farming family had any training in art or sculpture.

Mr. March died in 1930 and his sister and brothers completed the project in 1932. First shown at Hyde Park in London to great public acclaim, it was slightly modified and delivered to Canada in June 1937. For its voyage it was separated into components that filled 35 containers.

The memorial is a granite arch with huge bronze figures of the Victory and Liberty at the top. Marching through the arch are 22 figures representing all branches of the service that existed during World War I. Upon the figures’ faces is the look of hope, and behind them is a symbolic unlimbered cannon.

The National War Memorial was unveiled by His Majesty George VI in May 1939 in front of a crowd of 100,000 people. Since then the Memorial has been the site of Canada’s annual National Remembrance Day Service, with the exception of the years when construction around the site made it impossible. In those few years the ceremony has been held on Parliament Hill, just as it was prior to 1939.

Top of PageTop of Page

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN SOLDIER

On 28 May 2000, The Unknown Soldier was laid to rest in his Tomb at the foot of the National War Memorial. This project was initiated and managed by the Legion.

Top of PageTop of Page

THE ACT OF REMEMBRANCE

The Legion Act of Remembrance, now recited at memorial services around the world, is actually part of a poem. It was extracted to become the act because of its poignant wording. The work is from English poet Laurence Binyon’s book "Poems for the Fallen". Binyon (1869-1943) wrote:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


REFRAIN
We will remember them.

Top of PageTop of Page

THE CLOSING RITUAL

At the end of formal Legion gatherings there is a closing ritual used. The words used are also from a poem which became a hymn as well. "Recessional" was written by the esteemed Rudyard Kipling. A verse of the poem ends:

Lord God of Hosts,
Be with us yet,
Lest We Forget - lest we forget.

Top of PageTop of Page

SIGNIFICANT DATES IN CANADA'S MILITARY HISTORY
Revised July 2006

January
  • 16 January 1991 - Gulf War begins


February

  • 01 February 1968 - Canadian military forces unify
  • 18 February 1900 - Battle of Paardeberg (South African War)
  • 21 February 1916 - Battle of Verdun
  • 25 February 1955 - Women become part of the RCN
  • 28 February 1991 - Gulf War ends

March
  • 01 March 1942 - Canadian Women’s Army Corps (CWAC) formed
  • 06 March 1945 - Allies take Cologne
  • 14 March 1915 - Battle of Saint Eloi
  • 21 March 1898 - Yukon Field Force organized
  • 26 March 1885 - North-West Rebellion Campaign in Canada begins
  • 28 March 1944 - The Battle of Bourlon took place in Italy

April
  • April 1942 - Campaign to free Burma begins (WW2)
  • 01 April 1924 - Today the RCAF officially came into existance
  • 04 April 1949 - NATO Accord signed by Canada
  • 9-12 April 1917 - Battle of Vimy Ridge
  • 10 April 1866-1871 - Fenian Raids: Irish Brotherhood launches raids into
                                          Canada in support of Irish independence
  • 11 April 1855 - Militia Act
  • 17 April 1915 - 2nd Battle of Ypres begins (2nd of three)
  • 17 April 1945 - Last Canadian ship lost in WW2
  • 22-24 April 1915 - Battle of St. Julien (Ypres)
  • 24 April 1885 - North-West Rebellion, Battle of Fish Creek
  • 24-26 April 1951 - Battle of Kap-yong (Korea)
  • 29 April 1991 - Gulf War official cease-fire

May
  • May 1943 - Battle of the Atlantic (31 U-boats sunk)
  • 02 May 1885 - North-West Rebellion, Battle of Cut Knife
  • 03 May 1915 - 2nd Battle of Ypres ends (2nd of three)
  • 04 May 1910 - The Naval Service Act establishes the Canadian Navy
  • 08 May 1945 - Victory in Europe Day (V-E Day)
  • 09 May 1885 - North-West Rebellion, Battle of Battoche
  • 11 May 1939 - Battle of the St. Laurence
  • 12 May 1885 - North-West Campaign ends
  • 12 May 1958 - NORAD created
  • 15-25 May 1915 - Battle of Festubert
  • 21 May 1939 - National War Memorial unveiled
  • 23 May 1947 - Canadian Rangers organized
  • 28 May 2000 - The sarcophagus of the Unknown Soldier is laid to rest at the
                               National War Memorial in Ottawa
  • 31 May 1902 - South African War ends

June
  • 01 June 1876 - The Royal Military College opens its doors in Kingston
  • 06 June 1944 - Normandy invasion (D-Day)
  • 10 June 1940 - Canada declares war with Italy
  • 11 June 1917 - PM Robert Borden introduced the Military Service Act to
                                the House of Commons
  • 25 June 1950 - Korean War begins

July
  • 01 July 1867 - With Confederation, the Dominion of Canada becomes a nation
  • 01 July 1916 - Battle of the Somme begins
  • 01 July 1916 - Battle of Beaumont Hamel (Royal Newfoundland Regiment)
  • 02 July 1904 - Canadian Army Medical corps organized
  • 02 July 1941 - Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force formed
  • 10 July 1940 - Battle of Britain begins
  • 10 July 1943 - Allied Invasion of Sicily
  • 22 July 1940 - The British Commonwealth Air Training Plan (BCATP)
                               begins at Camp Borden, Ontario
  • 26 July 1936 - King Edward VIII unveils the Vimy Ridge memorial in France
  • 27 July 1953 - Korean War ends
  • 31 July 1942 - The Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service is founded

August
  • 04 August 1914 - World War I begins
  • 07 August 1950 - Canada announces entry into Korean War
  • 15 August 1945 - Victory Over Japan Day (V-J Day)
  • 19 August 1942 - Dieppe Raid
  • 27 August 1942 - Women’s RCN Service Established
  • 29 August 1917 - Conscription becomes law in Canada
  • 29 August 1911 - His Majesty the King has authorized that the Canadian Naval Forces
                                    are to be designated the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN)
  • 30 August 1945 - Liberation of Hong Kong
  • 31 August 1946 - Women’s RCN Service disbanded

September
  • 02 September 1918 - Battle of Arras, France
  • 02 September 1945 - World War II ends in Europe
  • 03 September 1939 - UK and France declare war on Nazi Germany – WW2 begins
  • 03 September 1943 - Invasion of Mainland Italy
  • 05 September 1918 - RCN Air Service authorized
  • 10 September 1939 - Canada declares war on Nazi Germany
  • 15 September 1993 - Battle of Medak Pocket Croatia - Canadian Forces personnel,
                                            while peacekeeping in Croatia, become involved in a fierce firefight
  • 16 September 1914 - Canadian Aviation Corps authorized
  • 27 September 1918 - Battle of Bourbon Wood
  • 27 September 1918 - Battle of Canal du Nord

October
  • 01 October 1990 - Two months after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait,
                                      HMCS Athabaskan and HMCS Terra Nova sail on 1st Multinational
                                      Interception Force (MIF) patrol
  • 02 October 1944 - Battle of the Scheldt Estuary
  • 08 October 2001 - Departure of the 1st CF units to join the international campaign against
                                      terrorism. A Naval Task Group of four ships was deployed to the Persian
                                      gulf under Operation APOLLO
  • 11 October 1899 - South African War begins
  • 12 October 1917 - 1st Battle of Passchendaele (3rd Battle of Ypres)
  • 14 October 1914 - Canada’s 1st overseas contingent starts to disembark at
                                      Plymouth, England
  • 14 October 1978 - Unveiling of United Nations National Memorial in Pusan, Korea
  • 18 October 2005 - Operation ATHENA ended with the withdrawal of the Canadian
                                      reconnaissance squadron from ISAF, and the end of five deployments
                                      of CF personnel to the Kabul area since August 2003
  • 24 October 1945 - UN established
  • 26 October 1917 - 2nd Battle of Passchendaele begins
  • 31 October 1914 - 1st Battle of Ypres begins (1st of 3)
  • 31 October 1940 - Battle of Britain ends

November
  • 10 November 1917 - The Battle of Passchendaele ends (3rd battle of Ypres)
  • 11 November 1918 - After four years and three months of fighting, the Great War is suddenly
                                          ended by an armistice at 11:00 a.m
  • 17 November 1914 - 1st Battle of Ypres ends (1st of 3)
  • 18 November 1916 - Battle of the Somme ends
  • 19 November 1938 - RCAF gains parity with RCN and Canadian Army
  • 20 November 1917 - Battle of Cambrai

December
  • 06 December 1917 - Halifax Explosion
  • 08 December 1915 - “In Flanders Fields” published
  • 09 December 1941 - Battle of Hong Kong begins
  • 10 December 1988 - Nobel Prize awarded to Peacekeepers
  • 20 December 1915 - Evacuation of Gallipoli (Royal Newfoundland Regiment)
  • 25 December 1941 - After a week’s battle, British, Indian and Canadian forces surrender the
                                           island of Hong Kong to Japanese forces

Top of PageTop of Page


STATISTICS

Number of Canadians in Service

South Africa (1899-1902) - approximately 7,000
World War I (1914-1918) - 628,736 (includes 4,518 women)
World War II (1939-1945) - 1,081,865 (includes 49,963 women)
Korean War (1950-1953) - 26,791
Gulf War (1991) - 4,074 (includes 237 women)

Canadian Casualties

South Africa (1899-1902) - 267 dead
World War I (1914-1918) - 66,573 dead
World War II (1939-1945) - 44,927 dead (includes 73 women)
Korean War (1950-1953) - 516 dead
Gulf War (1991) - 0 combat casualties

Canadians Wounded

South Africa (1899-1902) - no record available
World War I (1914-1918) - 138,166
World War II (1939-1945) - 53,145 (includes 19 women)
Korean War (1950-1953) - 1,558
Gulf War (1991) - 0 combat wounded

Canadian Prisoners of War

South Africa (1899-1902) - no record available
World War I (1914-1918) - 2,818
World War II (1939-1945) - 8,271
Korean War (1950-1953) - 33
Gulf War (1991) - 0

Statistics for the Colony of Newfoundland prior to 1949

World War I (1914-1918)
- 16,922 served
- 1,593 died
- wounded unknown
- 180 Pows

World War II (1939-1945)
- 19,460 served
- 704 died
- wounded unknown
- POWs unknown

Canadian Merchant Navy Statistics
1,400 served on the original 37 Canadian ships registered at the start of World War I
14, 000 served on registered ships during World War II
175 died by enemy action in World War I
1,146 died by enemy action in World War II
1,059 names on the Halifax Monument (place of burial unknown)

Canadian Peacekeepers

More than 125,000 have served on missions since 1948
More than 115 have died while on missions

World War II Service Intake by Province and Sex

P.E.I. 9,309 Que. 176,441 Sask./ N .W.T. 80,605
N.S. 59,355 Ont. 398,808 Alta. 77,703
N.B. 45,137 Man. 76,444 B.C / Yuk. 90,976

Outside of Canada Volunteers 17,124

Males 1,031,902
Females 49,963
TOTAL 1,081,865

Canadians on NATO duty

It is estimated that more than 136,000 Canadians served on the sea, on land and in the air with NATO forces from 1952 to 1994. Of these more than 780 died while on duty during this 42 year period.

Top of PageTop of Page


CANADA'S VICTORIA CROSS RECIPIENTS

Crimean War

Lt. Alexander Robert Dunn, 25 October, 1854

Relief of Lucknow

Able Seaman William Hall, 16 November, 1857

Indian Mutiny

Surgeon Herbert Taylor Reade, 14 September, 1857

Burma

Surgeon Campbell Millis Douglas, 7 May, 1867

Boer War

Sgt Arthur Herbert Lindsey Richardson, 5 July, 1900
Lt. Hampden Zane Churchill Cockburn, 7 November, 1900
Sgt. Edward James Gibson Holland, 7 November, 1900
Lt. Richard Ernest William Turner, 7 November, 1900

World War I

LCpl. Michael O'Leary, 1 February 1915
( Not recognized as a Canadian VC in some circles as he only lived in Canada for three years
while serving with the RNWMP)

Capt. Francis Alexander Caron Scrimger, 22 April, 1915
LCpl. Frederick Fisher, 23 April, 1915
C.S.M. Frederick William Hall, 24 April 1915
Lt. Edward Donald Bellew, 24 April, 1915
Lt. Frederick William Campbell, 15 June, 1915
Lt. Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson, 5 July, 1916
A/Cpl. Leo Clarke, 9 September, 1916
Pte. John Chipman Kerr, 16 September, 1916
Piper James Cleland Richardson, 8 October, 1916
Lt. Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey, 27 March, 1917
Maj. Thain Wendell MacDowell, 9 April, 1917
Pte. William Johnstone Milne, 9 April, 1917
LSgt. Ellis Wellwood Sifton, 9 April, 1917
Pte. John George Pattison, 10 April, 1917
Lt. Robert Grierson Combe, 3 May, 1917
Capt. William Avery Bishop, 2 June, 1917
Pte. Michael James O'Rourke, 15 August 1917
Pte. Harry Brown, 16 August, 1917
Sgt. Frederick Hobson, 18 August, 1917
Maj. Okill Massey Learmonth, 18 August, 1917
C.S.M. Robert Hanna, 21 August, 1917
Cpl. Filip Konowal, 21 August, 1917
Lt.-Col. Philip Eric Bent, 10 October, 1917
Pte. Thomas William Holmes, 26 October, 1917
Lt. Robert Shankland, 26 October, 1917
Capt. Christopher Patrick John O'Kelly, 26 October, 1917
Pte. Cecil John Kinross, 29 October, 1917
Sgt. George Harry Mullin, 30 October, 1917
Lt. Hugh MacKenzie, 30 October, 1917
Maj. George Randolph Pearkes, 30 October, 1917
Cpl. Colin Fraser Barron, 6 November, 1917
Pte. James Peter Robertson, 6 November, 1917
Lt. Harcus Strachan, 20 November, 1917
2Lt. Edmund De Wind, 21 March, 1918
Lt. Alan Arnett McLeod, 27 March, 1918
Lt. Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, 30 March, 1918
Lt. George Burdon McKean, 27/28 April, 1918
Lt. Rowland Richard Louis Bourke, 10 May, 1918
Cpl. Joseph Kaeble, 8 June, 1918
Pte. John Bernard Croak, 8 August, 1918
Cpl. Herman James Good, 8 August, 1918
Lt. Jean Brillant, 8 August, 1918
Cpl. Harry Garnet Bedford Miner, 8 August, 1918
Cpl. Alexander Picton Brereton, 9 August, 1918
Cpl. Frederick George Coppins, 9 August 1918
Lt. James Edward Tait, 9 August, 1918
Sgt. Raphael Louis Zengel, 9 August, 1918
Pte. Thomas Dinesen, 12 August, 1918
Sgt. Robert Spall, 12 August, 1918
Lt. Charles Smith Rutherford, 26 August, 1918
Lt.-Col. William Hew Clark-Kennedy, 27 August, 1918
Pte. Claude Joseph Patrick Nunney, 1 September, 1918
Sgt. Arthur George Knight, 2 September, 1918
LCpl. William Henry Metcalf, 2 September, 1918
Col. Cyrus Wesley Peck, 2 September, 1918
Capt. Bellenden Seymour Hutcheson, 2 September, 1918
Cpl. Walter Leigh Rayfield, 2 September, 1918
Pte. John Francis Young, 2 September, 1918
Lt. Samuel Lewis Honey, 27 September, 1918
Lt. George Fraser Kerr, 27 September, 1918
Lt. Graham Thomson Lyall, 27 September, 1918
Lt. Milton Fowler Gregg, 28 September, 1918
Capt. John MacGregor, 29 September, 1918
Sgt. William Merrifield, 1 October, 1918
Capt. Coulson Norman Mitchell, 8 October, 1918
Lt. Wallace Lloyd Algie, 11 October, 1918
Pte. Thomas Ricketts, 14 October, 1918
Maj. William George Barker, 27 October, 1918
Sgt. Hugh Cairns, 1 November, 1918

World War II

C.S.M. John Robert Osborne, December 19, 1941
Lt.-Col. Charles Cecil Ingersoll Merritt, August 19, 1942
The Reverend (Hon. Capt.) John Weir Foote, August 19, 1942
Capt. (RCN) Frederick Thornton Peters, November 8, 1942
Capt. Paul Triquet, December 14, 1943
Maj. Charles Ferguson Hoey, February 16, 1944
Maj. John Keefer Mahony, May 24, 1944
Plt. Offr. Andrew Charles Mynarski, June 12, 1944
Flt. Lt. David Ernest Hornell, June 25, 1944
Sqn. Ldr. Ian Willoughby Bazalgette, August 4, 1944
Maj. David Vivian Currie, August 18-20, 1944
Pte. Ernest Alvia Smith, October 21-22, 1944
Sgt. Aubrey Cosens, February 25-26, 1945
Maj. Frederick Albert Tilston, March 1, 1945
Cpl. Frederick George Topham, March 24, 1945
Lieut. (RCNVR) Robert Hampton Gray, August 9, 1945

 

 

    Updated: 2006-08-24

Home
| News Room | About Us | Membership | Poppy & Remembrance | Legion Supply
Member Benefits Package | Service Bureau | Legion Sports | Dominion Convention | Links
Sitemap | Français | FAQ | Contact Us | Legion Magazine | Provincial Commands
Member Section