THE RESERVE ARMY IN SOUTHEASTERN BRITISH COLUMBIA
While this web site is primarily concerned with the history of the 54th Canadian Infantry Battalion their successors in the Kootenays are the 44th Field Engineer Squadron, Canadian Military Engineers located in Trail. These sappers, as they are known, carry on the traditions and operational training that the members of the 54th Battalion would have been very familiar with, as “sap” refers to trenches leading towards an enemy stronghold. Indeed, LCol Carey and many of the 54th Battalion came from the 67th “Western Scots” Pioneer battalion, an early combat engineer unit.
The expansion of the Militia outside of the Lower Mainland at the end of the 19th century reflected the economic growth of the British Columbia interior and the establishment of new population centres. For the first half of the 20th Century this increase also mirrored the popular support of Canada’s involvement in foreign wars and the nation’s military forces that fought in them. For many Canadians the Militia was the Army and it represented both past achievements and future capabilities. It was not until the 1950s, when the Regular Army assumed its present prominence, that the part-time soldiers and their many units – whether they were known collectively as the “Non Permanent Active Militia”, the “Canadian Army Reserve Force”, the “Canadian Army (Militia)”, or just “the Militia” – were reduced in status and size.
The changing structure of BC interior reserve units greater in size than independent squadrons or companies also demonstrates the difficulties of organizing effective regiments over large geographical areas. While some units, for relatively short periods, had detached sub-units in more than one of the BC regions, there is a perceptible strain on these units’ organization when they were stretched too far for effective command and control. In the Kootenays the majority of the population live in valleys running north / south and there are limited east / west communication routes. Combined with the diminishment of the relative importance of the Army Reserve or military budget restrictions, consolidation into smaller geographic areas was, and still is, the end result.
As a rule, dates and places quoted are from official Canadian Army documents such as general orders and they can be considered authoritative. However, it is a long way from Ottawa to the Kootenays and there can be no guarantee that what was initially proposed in one place was eventually implemented in another, especially after it had traveled up and down the staff system! Furthermore, while squadron, battery and company locations are fairly easy to identify, in rural settings they often just represent the centre of mass of sub-unit members. Detached troops and platoons would appear to be the norm, but since ‘armouries’ were neither constructed nor rented for them, official records are literally non-existent. Only in a few cases were facilities that might have been established for a squadron or a company kept on for a troop or platoon.
1900 – 1914
On July 1, 1898, five independent rifle companies were authorized1 in the British Columbia interior towns of Kamloops, Kaslo, Nelson, Revelstoke and Rossland. These units were known by their location (e.g. “Nelson Rifle Company”) until January 1, 1900, when the “Rocky Mountain Rangers” were authorized2 as a corps consisting of numbered, independent companies. There was no ‘regimental headquarters’ for this unit. The companies were located in:
No. 1 – Rossland
No. 2 – Nelson
No. 3 – Kamloops
No. 4 – Kaslo
No. 5 – Revelstoke
In 1904 the “Kootenay Rifles” were authorized3 with two independent companies (No. 1 and No. 2) – both located in Fernie.
|MAP: BC Militia Units circa 1905|
On April 1,1908, the organization of an additional company of infantry in Nelson was authorized and this unit was amalgamated with the three southern independent companies of Rocky Mountain Rangers to form the “102nd Regiment”.4 This unit’s headquarters was established in Nelson5 and it incorporated the following:
|C Company||Nelson (this company was created on April 1,1908)|
At the same time, the Rocky Mountain Rangers were reduced to the two northern independent companies in Kamloops and Revelstoke; they continued to be respectively known as “C Company” and “E Company”.8
On June 1, 1908, an independent “Company of Infantry” was authorized in Armstrong.11
|MAP: BC Militia Units circa 1908|
In 1909, the “102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers”, in addition to this name change12 on June 1, was expanded to six companies.13 The regimental headquarters continued to be in Nelson, and the companies were located in the following towns:
|E Company||Kamloops (formerly C Company, Rocky Mountain Rangers)|
|F Company||Revelstoke (formerly E Company, Rocky Mountain Rangers)|
In 1910 the Canadian Mounted Rifles became the “British Columbia Horse”14 and were later expanded to four independent squadrons.15 The two new squadrons authorized on April 1,1910, “C” and “D”, were located in Coldstream and Lower Nicola, respectively.16
In April 1,1911, the British Columbia Horse was authorized an increase to eight independent squadrons, in order to form two four-squadron regiments.17 The regiments were designated on December 1, 1911, as “1st and 2nd Regiments, ‘British Columbia Horse'”18 Initially 1st Regiment, ‘British Columbia Horse’ included the four existing squadrons19 but on March 1, 1912,20 they were divided between the two new units. 1st and 2nd Regiments, ‘British Columbia Horse’ were re-designated again on April 15, 1912,21 with the following organizations:
30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse
|A Squadron||Lumby (org April 1, 1911)|
|B Squadron||Vernon (org April 1, 1908)|
|C Squadron||Armstrong (org April 1, 1910, in Coldstream)|
|D Squadron||Kelowna (org April 1, 1911)|
31st Regiment, British Columbia Horse22
|A Squadron||Kamloops (org April 1, 1908)|
|B Squadron||Salmon Arm (org April 1, 1911)|
|C Squadron||Wallachin23 (org April 1, 1911)|
|D Squadron||Merritt (org April 1, 1910, in Lower Nicola)|
On March 1, 1912, the independent Company of Infantry in Armstrong became “G Company, 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers”.24 Later that year, on 01 May 1912, five of this regiment’s companies were “…disbanded with a view to their re-organization…”.25 These companies were “A” (Rossland), “B”, “C” (both in Nelson), “D” (Kaslo) and “F” (Revelstoke). In the end two additional companies were authorized26 and the regimental headquarters was transferred from Nelson to Kamloops.27 There was also a redesignation of companies28 with the end result being:
In 1912, the two companies of Kootenay Rifles in Fernie were disbanded.29
On April 1, 1913, an independent “Company of Sharpshooters” was authorized in Grand Forks30 but was included in the Militia Lists as an “Independent Company of Rifles”.
On August 5, 1913, C Squadron, 30th Regiment, “British Columbia Horse” was moved from Armstrong to Enderby.31
In 1913, “E” Company of the 102nd Regiment “Rocky Mountain Rangers” was authorized in Kelowna.32 It was followed in 1914 by “F”, “G” and “H” companies that were authorized in Salmon Arm,33 Vernon,34 and Penticton,35 respectively.
Effective May 1, 1914, a new infantry battalion was authorized in the interior of British Columbia.36 This unit would eventually be known as the “107th East Kootenay Regiment”37) may be considered the direct antecedent to the present 44th Field Engineer Squadron. Originally, this eight-company regiment was to be created in the valleys amongst the Selkirk, Purcell and Rocky ranges with battalion headquarters at Fernie. Company headquarters were to be at Fernie, Cranbrook, Elko, Fort Steele, Golden, Hosmer and Michel. However, with Canada’s entry into the First World War changes in the unit’s organization were inevitable.
|Rocky Mountain Rangers Parading through Nelson BC ca 1908 – 1912|
|MAP: BC Militia Units circa 1914|
1914 – 1918
First World War
In August 1914 most Militia units were mobilized for local protective duties. They then contributed volunteers to the early contingents proceeding overseas. Later most would raise complete units for the Canadian Expeditionary Force; these either served in France and Flanders or were broken up to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps. Militia home service continued throughout the war, with some expansion of existing units.
The 30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse served from 1914 to 1918 without change to its organization.
In 1915, the 31st Regiment, British Columbia Horse moved its headquarters from Merritt to Kamloops and transferred “C” Squadron from Wallachin to Langley Prairie.38 In 1916, “B” Squadron was re-located to Vancouver from Salmon Arm.39
After the creation of “H” Company in Penticton in late 1914, the 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers retained its eight-company organization until 1919.
The relatively new 107th East Kootenay Regiment went through a number of organization changes as it shook itself out. The following localization of battalion and company headquarters was authorized in January 1915: 40
|“A” and “B” Companies||Fernie|
|“C” and “D” Companies||Cranbrook|
In 1915 and 1916, there would be changes to the organization of the 107th East Kootenay Regiment that would see its footprint reduced. In 1915, “E” Company transferred from Elko to Fernie, “G” Company from Athalmer to Nelson, and “H” Company from Golden to Nelson.41 In 1916, “C” Company would be relocated from Cranbrook to Michel.42
In 1918, at the close of the First World War, the Militia in the British Columbia interior had the following structure:43
30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse
31st Regiment, British Columbia Horse
|C Squadron||Langley Prairie|
102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers
|F Company||Salmon Arm|
107th East Kootenay Regiment
|Independent Company of Rifles||Grand Forks|
|MAP BC Units circa 1918|
Post WW1 – 1936
The relative disarray experienced by the Canadian Army in the years immediately following the end of the First World War is well known. The Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.), representing the majority of the more than 400,000 soldiers who served overseas, returned home and its units were disbanded. The resettlement of ex-servicemen was both a national and an individual priority and it was not until 1919 that a review – known as the Otter Committee – was completed of defence requirements that indicated the size and nature of a future Canadian Army. It was envisioned that a military force of 11 infantry and six cavalry divisions would be required.44
At the same time, there was a universal sentiment to perpetuate in the Militia the deeds and history of the CEF, and this was also reflected in the initial reorganization of the reserves. Most Militia unit titles were changed – most notably for the infantry who, except for the 48th Highlanders, lost their “regimental” numbers”. Non-active members could, at their choice, be assigned to a unit’s ‘reserve regiment’ or (reserve battalion) instead of to a unit general list (though the end result was the same). After the First World War, these ‘corps reserve’ units were allowed to hold as many members as were willing to be associated with their former regiments.45 The B.C. interior regiments were re-styled as follows:
The British Columbia Mounted Rifles46
(from an amalgamation on May 15, 1920 of the former 30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse and the “Victoria Independent Squadron (British Columbia Horse)”)
|Active regiment||1st Regiment (2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion, C.E.F.)|
|Reserve regiment||2nd Regiment (11th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion, C.E.F.)|
5th British Columbia Light Horse47
(the former 31st Regiment, British Columbia Horse)
|Active regiment||1st Regiment|
|Reserve regiment||2nd Regiment|
The Rocky Mountain Rangers48
(the former 102nd Regiment ‘Rocky Mountain Rangers’)
|Active battalion||1st Battalion (172nd Battalion, C.E.F.)|
|Reserve battalion||2nd Battalion|
The Kootenay Regiment49
(the former 107th East Kootenay Regiment)
|Active battalion||1st Battalion (54th Battalion, C.E.F.)|
|Reserve battalion||2nd Battalion (225th Battalion, C.E.F.)|
The Independent Company of Rifles at Grand Forks was disbanded with effect from April 15, 1920.50
In 1921 the first post-war reorganization of the Militia resulted in this configuration of British Columbia interior units:
The British Columbia Mounted Rifles51
NOTE: despite the amalgamation, The British Columbia Mounted Rifles did not have a presence in the Victoria area after 1920
In 1926, “B Squadron,” of The British Columbia Mounted Rifles was moved from Lumby to Kelowna.54
On March 15, 1929, The British Columbia Mounted Rifles were redesignated “The British Columbia Dragoons”.55
5th British Columbia Light Horse
In 1924 the 5th British Columbia Light Horse was reorganized when “B” Squadron was moved from Merritt to Vancouver and “C” Squadron was moved from Langley Prairie to Merritt.57
Effective August 15, 1932, the 5th British Columbia Light Horse was redesignated “The British Columbia Hussars”.58
The Rocky Mountain Rangers59
|B Company||Salmon Arm|
In 1928, “D” Company, The Rocky Mountain Rangers was moved from Kelowna to Revelstoke.60
The Kootenay Regiment61
|MAP BC Units circa 1925|
Effective October 13, 1932, The Kootenay Regiment was “disbanded for the purpose of reorganization”.62 The eventual outcome was the relocation on November 1, 1933 of this unit as follows:
NOTE: Only the Headquarters, “B” and “C” Companies were authorized to stand up, with the organization of “A” and “D” Companies held in abeyance until authorized by National Defence Headquarters.63
|MAP BC Units circa 1935|
The basic 1921 order of battle lasted (with the minor changes listed above) until 1936, when a major re-organization of the Militia converted a number of units to meet the requirements of a field force consisting of six infantry divisions and one cavalry division.64 The reorganization with the most impact in the B.C. interior was The Kootenay Regiment’s conversion from infantry to artillery.65 Another significant event was the move of most of The British Columbia Hussars to Vancouver, following its amalgamation with the headquarters and “B” Company of the 11th Machine Gun Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps.66 and converted to an armoured car regiment on December 15, 1936. In the period leading up to the start of the Second World War the Militia in the interior was organized as follows:
The British Columbia Dragoons67
|Regimental Headquarters||Kelowna ( from Vernon68)|
The British Columbia Hussars (Armoured Car)69
“A” Squadron, The British Columbia Hussars (Armoured Car) in Kamloops was disbanded on May 15, 1939, while the remainder of regiment was converted to “1st Searchlight Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery.” on the same day.70
|107th Field Battery||Cranbrook|
|108th Field Battery (Howitzer)||Kimberley|
|109th Field Battery||Trail|
|111th (Nelson) Field Battery72||Nelson|
The Rocky Mountain Rangers
|B Company||Salmon Arm|
|MAP: BC Units circa 1939|
The Second World War
All three units from the interior mobilized their members and saw active service during the Second World War with “force generation” (to use a modern phrase) conducted in a logical, progressive manner. As at the start of the Great War, elements of these units were placed on active service on September 1, 1939 for local protective duties.
The 24th (Kootenay) Field Brigade, R.C.A. did not proceed overseas as a formed body but its four Field Batteries were the first of the interior units to go ‘active’ when they mobilized on September 1, 1939.74 These batteries would end the war with the 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (109th Battery), 2nd Anti-Tank Regiment (108th Battery), 7th Anti-Tank Regiment (111th Battery) and the 8th Army Field Regiment (107th Battery) respectively.
The British Columbia Dragoons mobilized on May 24, 1940, and effective April 1, 1941, the element not mobilized was redesignated the “9th (Reserve) Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)”.75 “A”, “B” and “C” Squadrons of this unit continued to be located in Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton; respectively.76
The Rocky Mountain Rangers mobilized on January 1, 1941 and formed a second battalion for service in the Reserve Army. In August 1941, the “2nd (Reserve) Battalion, The Rocky Mountain Rangers” was reorganized77 as shown below:
|H.Q.||Salmon Arm||Kamloops||Less one platoon in Ashcroft|
|“A”||Kamloops||Cranbrook||Less two platoons – one in Kimberley, the other in Fernie|
|“B”||Salmon Arm||Revelstoke||Less one platoon in Michel from 1 October 1942 78|
|“C”||Armstrong||Salmon Arm||Less one platoon in Enderby|
|“D”||Revelstoke||Trail||Less two platoons – one at Rossland, the other in Nelson|
The 24th (Kootenay) Field Brigade, R.C.A. was redesignated “24th Reserve (Kootenay) Field Regiment, R.C.A.” 79 in April 1943, with four batteries retaining the same numbers as those that had been mobilized but with “(Reserve)” incorporated in their titles.
Following the return of the active service units from overseas, all three reserve units were redesignated on April 1, 1946 to:
* 9th Reconnaissance Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)80
* 24th Field Regiment, R.C.A.81
* The Rocky Mountain Rangers
After the Second World War
In a spirit very similar to that of the early 1920s, the reorganization of Canada’s Militia immediately after the successful conclusion of the Second World War resulted in an ambitious field force. The units that went to war in 1939, were for the most part, retained. To provide all the arms and services found in a modern mechanized army82 new units were established while some existing units were converted to other roles.83 In British Columbia, two new formation headquarters (22nd Armoured Brigade and 15th Infantry Brigade) were created in Vancouver to command the Militia arms units in the province.
In 1946, with the exception of the 108th Field Battery (Howitzer) and The Rocky Mountain Rangers, most of the Militia units in the British Columbia interior, as detailed below, were little changed in structure from 1939.
9th Reconnaissance Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons) 84
|Pipes and Drums||Penticton|
24th Field Regiment, R.C.A.
|107th Field Battery||Cranbrook|
|109th Field Battery||Trail|
|111th Field Battery||Nelson|
Effective February 5, 1948 the 24th Field Regiment, RCA was converted and redesignated “24th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RCA;” it consisted of the 107th, 109th and 111th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Batteries, RCA.86
|108th Anti-Tank Battery (Self-Propelled), RCA||Kimberley87|
The Rocky Mountain Rangers 88
|A Company||Prince George|
|B Company||Salmon Arm|
While the Rangers would retain a four rifle company structure for the next 20 years, the following changes would significantly affect their dispersion:
* Sometime after 1948, “B” Company was moved to Revelstoke, “C” Company was in Salmon Arm, and “D” Company had its headquarters in Armstrong, with its No. 12 Platoon in Enderby. Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company, and Support Company were in Kamloops 89
* In 1952, “B” Company was re-located from Revelstoke to Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, where it was active until approximately 1955
* Also in 1952, No. 7 Platoon, “C” Company was organized in Revelstoke; in 1953 it was known as No. 9 Platoon, and kept that title until 1956, when it reverted to being known as No. 7 Platoon
* In 1952, No. 9 Platoon was listed as being in Chase. In 1953 and 1956 it switched locations to and from Revelstoke, as described above. No. 9 Platoon stayed in Chase until 1958 when it was re-located to Salmon Arm.90
* Support Company’s Mortar Platoon was established in Merritt about 1952. In 1956 the Pioneer Platoon was set up in Lytton, but it was relocated to Kamloops in 1958. 91
* In 1956, No. 3 Platoon (of “A” Company) was listed as being in Quesnel, and No. 4 Platoon (the only active component of “B” Company – which had been stood-down in Whitehorse the year before) was organized in Williams Lake. However, in 1958 the platoon in Williams Lake was relocated to Kamloops.92 No. 3 Platoon in Quesnel continued to be listed as such until 1960, when it became known as No. 4 Platoon. The platoon in Quesnel was reduced to nil strength and made dormant with effect from 24 February 1964.93
* In 1958, No. 9 Platoon in Chase was relocated to Salmon Arm, and No. 12 Platoon in Enderby joined the remainder of “D” Company in Armstrong.94
* In 1959, “D” Company headquarters moved from Armstrong to Revelstoke, and No. 7 Platoon in Revelstoke was transferred to Armstrong.
* In 1960 the armoury in Armstrong was badly gutted, and it was reported that a temporary home for No. 9 Platoon was found in the recently vacated Enderby armoury. It is presumed that this “No. 9 Platoon” was the former No. 7 Platoon – in any event, from 1961 onward the Rangers in Armstrong are listed as No. 7 Platoon. In 1965, this platoon was relocated to Salmon Arm95
Maps showing Rangers company and platoon locations
Rangers in the North
Rangers in the South
In 1949, the sappers arrived in the interior of British Columbia in force. In 1947, the 44th Field Squadron, Royal Canadian Engineers was to be organized in Victoria.96 There is little evidence, however, that plans were implemented to effect its creation; instead, its number was used when the existing squadron was stood-up in Trail, effective January 25, 1949.97 About 100 miles to the northeast, the 17th Independent Field Squadron was organized in Kimberley on June 30, 1949, using a number from a squadron that had previously been established in Victoriaville, Quebec.
|MAP: ‘BC Units circa 1950’|
The Kennedy Report
1954 – The Kennedy Report
In 1953, a committee chaired by Major General H. Kennedy, was formed to review all aspects of the Reserve Force and to recommend a future role.98 The next year, the committee tabled its report, which stated that, while there was no requirement for a mobilization structure in peacetime, mobilization “…was to be the primary reason for training and equipping the new ‘Militia’.”99 The result was to be a “…partially trained and equipped force as the nucleus of units to be mobilized and brought up to strength in case of an emergency.”100
The six divisions in the Reserve Force were disbanded and ‘militia group headquarters’ replaced the existing 35 formation headquarters. Originally, command of the interior units was placed under 24 Militia Group Headquarters in Vancouver, but by the fall of 1961 it was decided to organize a “sub headquarters” to better facilitate control.101 A year and a half later, the formation of “No 27 Militia Group Headquarters” in Vernon was authorized, effective February 8, 1963,102 to command all units within its area of responsibility.
At the same time, the Militia’s organization was “…re-balanced to reflect a more appropriate mix of arms and services.”103 After a national review of anti-aircraft artillery requirements was completed the following changes in the British Columbia interior took place:
* Effective August 18, 1955, the Cranbrook-based 107th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Battery, RCA was converted and redesignated “107th Field Battery (Self Propelled)” and allocated to the Lethbridge-based 18th Field Regiment (Self Propelled), RCA.104 This battery was made dormant September 30, 1958.105
* Effective August 22, 1955, the 24th Heavy Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RCA was converted and redesignated “24th Medium Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RCA;” it consisted of the 109th and 111th Medium Anti-Aircraft Batteries, RCA.106
The Introduction of National Survival Training
In 1956, the Minister of National Defence announced a new role for the Canadian Army: “…assistance to the Civil Defence organization in the event of attack on Canada.” Training to support this mission, which by 1959 had been termed ‘national survival’, was common to all corps. While it did not affect unit organization per se, the principle task – the conduct of rescue and re-entry operations – required the establishment of mobile support columns. In the interior of British Columbia, “No. 4 Mobile Support Column” was organized on The British Columbia Dragoons, the 24th Field Artillery Regiment, the 44th Field Squadron, and The Rocky Mountain Rangers.107 Effective April 12, 1960, in common with all other Militia artillery units, the 24th Medium Anti-Aircraft Regiment had Artillery added to its title, becoming the “24th Medium Anti-Aircraft Artillery Regiment”.108 Two years later this unit would be subject to its last organizational change when it was converted to a field artillery regiment, effective December 10, 1962; it consisted of Regimental Headquarters and the 109th Field Battery in Trail and the 111th Field Battery in Nelson.109
1964 – The Suttie Commission
By the terms of reference for “The Commission on the Reorganization of the Canadian Army Militia,”110 the roles of the Militia were defined as: (1) support the Regular Army, (2) provide a training force, (3) conduct internal security operations, and (4) fulfill National Survival responsibilities. It was estimated that a strength of 30,000 members was required to meet these tasks.111 The Commission (more popularly known by the name of its chairman, Brigadier E.R. Suttie) was expected to recommend to the Minister of National Defence the best means of meeting these requirements and “… the changes which should be made in the organization of the Militia to carry out its revised roles more efficiently and realistically”.
One of the Commission’s leading recommendations was that the 25 Militia group headquarters should be replaced by much leaner headquarters which would ” advise units in all G, A and Q matters” with “no responsibility for administrative paperwork” and “Direct communication should exist between the Area Headquarters and the unit.” It was recognized that in some localities a full headquarters was not required, and that a “Militia Advisor” in the rank of Colonel could provide advice to local units.112 On this basis, 27 Militia Group Headquarters was disbanded,113 and in its place a “BC Interior Militia Advisor” was to be established in Vernon.
For the five Militia units in Southeastern British Columbia there would be many changes,114 the least significant of which was the proposed move115 of the Regimental Headquarters of The British Columbia Dragoons from Kelowna to Vernon. Effective November 9, 1966, however, it was back in Kelowna!116.
The 24th Field Artillery Regiment was reduced to nil strength in February 1965 and placed on the “Supplementary Order of Battle” 117 – as were its two Field Batteries (the “109th” and “111th”). It was planned that its personnel were to be absorbed by the 44th Field Engineer Squadron, and its armoury in Trail was to be used by that unit. Furthermore, the members of the 111th Field Battery in Nelson were to be absorbed by a new Field Troop, of the 44th Field Engineer Squadron, that was to take over that battery’s accommodation.118
The 7th Field Engineer Regiment in Vancouver was also placed on the Supplementary Order of Battle, and the 44th Field Engineer Squadron became an independent unit with a new field troop in Nelson, as described above. The Squadron’s establishment also included a brass band.
The 8th Field Engineer Regiment continued to exist, and for the 17th Field Engineer Squadron it was planned that the Field Troop located in Creston would be relocated to Kimberley and its presence in Cranbrook eliminated.119 Furthermore, ‘absorbing’ and re-training members of the 31st Technical Squadron, Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers would establish a new troop in Blairmore, Alberta – but this apparently did not take place.120 While the 17th became an independent squadron on 1 July 1, 1967,121 this change in status was relatively short-lived because the unit was transferred to the Supplementary Order of Battle effective December 31, 1968.122
Proposed changes to The Rocky Mountain Rangers were relatively minor, with platoons in Quesnel and Armstrong relocated to the appropriate companies (“B” in Kamloops and “C” in Salmon Arm). After 1965 this unit would be organized as follows:
|A Company||Prince George|
|C Company||Salmon Arm|
|Support Company||Kamloops (with Mor Pl in Merritt123)|
|Regimental Band||Prince George124|
|MAP: ‘BC Units circa 1965’|
The last major reorganization of the Militia in the 20th century was announced in 1969. Based on the requirement for a Militia of only 19,500,125 it was centred on the establishment of five Militia areas and 21 districts to coordinate the activities of assigned units. The Militia units in the interior of British Columbia would be unique because they would report directly to “Militia Area Pacific Headquarters” in Vancouver and no district organization was created to replace the BC Interior Militia Advisor stationed in Vernon.
Across Canada many units were placed on the Supplementary Order of Battle to achieve the new paid ceiling, though this target was also met through the elimination of sub-units in outlying towns. By the spring of 1970 the Militia in the interior of British Columbia had been reduced as detailed below.
* “C” Squadron of The British Columbia Dragoons and the Regiment’s Pipes and Drums in Penticton were closed
|MAP: ‘BC Units circa 1970’|
A View of the Future: The Militia in the British Columbia Interior
Aside from the creation of 39 Canadian Brigade Group Headquarters in 1997 (to command all Army Reserve units in British Columbia as a replacement for Militia Area Pacific), little has changed in the 30 years since the last major reorganization in 1969. The distribution of units in the year 2001 is:
The British Columbia Dragoons
|44th Field Engineer Squadron||Trail|
The Rocky Mountain Rangers
|MAP: ‘BC Units 2001’|
Comments are welcome – send to gavrelle @ sympatico.ca
Barman, Jean. THE WEST BEYOND THE WEST: A HISTORY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA. Revised paperback edition. Toronto: University of Toronto, 1996.
Flick, Lieutenant Colonel C.L. A SHORT HISTORY OF THE 31ST BRITISH COLUMBIA HORSE. Victoria: Parker Buckle, The “Reliable Press”, 1922.
Goodspeed, Lieutenant Colonel D.J., ed. THE ARMED FORCES OF CANADA 1867 – 1967: A CENTURY OF ACHIEVEMENT. Ottawa: Directorate of History, Canadian Forces Headquarters, 1967.
Holmes, Kenneth John. THE HISTORY OF THE CANADIAN MILITARY ENGINEERS: VOLUME III, TO 1971. Toronto: Thorn Press Limited, 1997.
Love, David W. A CALL TO ARMS: THE ORGANIZATION AND ADMINISTRATION OF CANADA’S MILITARY IN WORLD WAR ONE. Winnipeg: Bunker to Bunker Books, 1999.
Nicholson, G.W.L. THE GUNNERS OF CANADA – THE HISTORY OF THE ROYAL REGIMENT OF CANADIAN ARTILLERY, VOLUME II 1919 – 1967. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1972
Roy, R.H. SINEWS OF STEEL – THE HISTORY OF THE BRITISH COLUMBIA DRAGOONS. Brampton, Ontario: Charters Publishing Company Limited, 1965
Canadian Army Orders
Canadian Army Staff Duties Letters
Canadian Forces Organization Orders
The Canadian Army List, 1st Edition, Part II – Reserve Force, 1 July, 1948
“The Regiments and Corps of the Canadian Army (Volume I of the Canadian Army List)”, prepared by the Army Historical Section, Queen’s Printer and Controller of Stationery, Ottawa, Canada 1964
Report of the Commission on the Reorganization of the Canadian Army (Militia) (Parts I and II), 1964
“Brief History of the Reserve Force” (V 3120-27 TD 1057 (D Prog C) dated 4 October 1971)
Acknowledgement: The assistance of the staff of the Directorate of History and Heritage is gratefully acknowledged. In particular, Major Paul Lansey, was extremely helpful in verifying organizational records. The patience of the National Defence Headquarters Library staff who, over the course of six months, re-shelved the Militia Lists time and again must be also be recognized.
Click the town names below to see where they are found in the Yukon Territory, Southern Alberta and South Eastern British Columbia, Canada
Armstrong Ashcroft Athalmer Banff Blairmore Calgary Chase Coldstream Cranbrook Creston Elko Enderby Fernie Fort Steele Golden Grand Forks Hosmer Kamloops Kaslo Kelowna Kimberley Langley Prairie Lethbridge Lower Nicola Lumby Lytton Merritt Michel Nelson Penticton Prince George Quesnel Revelstoke Rossland Salmon Arm Trail Vancouver Vernon Victoria Walhachin Whitehorse Williams Lake
1 Militia General Orders (G.O.) G.O. 67 / 1898, 1 July 1898. This General Order also authorized the formation of the “Vernon Mounted Rifles” with its headquarters in Vernon, however, it was never stood up. A comprehensive review of the reasons why this did not happen – and the vicissitudes of organizing Militia units in the 19th century – are contained in the first chapter of R.H. Roy’s “Sinews of Steel (The History of the British Columbia Dragoons)”. While reference to the “Vernon Mounted Rifles” is included in the Militia List in the editions of 1st October 1898, 1st January 1899, 1st April 1899 and 1st July 1899, no mention of this unit is made in the 1st October 1899 and subsequent editions.
2 G.O. 130 / 1899, 1 December 1899. It should be noted that prior to 1914 the peace establishment of an infantry company consisted of only 42 officers and men, commanded by a Captain. As a rule there were eight such companies in a Canadian Militia infantry battalion. (G.O. 58 / 1907, 2 April 1907 – see also A and B as this order had to be broken up to display) By comparison, the war establishment of one of the eight rifle companies in the Canadian Militia Field Formations in 1914 was 120 all ranks. This would change in the late fall of that year when the four company structure was adopted and there would be 240 all ranks in each company. (Love, D.W. A Call To Arms: The Organization and Administration of Canada’s Military In World War One (Winnipeg: 1919) pp. 21 and 25 to 26)
3 G.O.172 / 1904, 1 December 1904
4 G.O. 59 / 1908, 1 April 1908
5 G.O. 64 / 1908, 1 April 1908
7 G.O. 123 / 1908, 1 June 1908
8 The change from numeric designation of companies in ‘rural regiments’ of infantry was authorized by G.O. 29 / 1907, 1 March 1907. “The Quarterly Militia List of the Dominion of Canada – Corrected to 1st January, 1907” shows infantry companies as “No. 1 Co.”, “No. 2 Co.”, etc., and the change is reflected in the next edition of this list (Corrected to 1st April 1907) where companies are shown as “a Co.”, “b Co.”, etc.
9 G.O. 59 / 1908, 1 April 1908
11 G.O. 119 / 1908, 1 June 1908
12 G.O. 75 / 1909, 1 June 1909
13 G.O. 73 / 1909, 1 June 1909
14 G.O. 40 / 1910, 1 April 1910
15 G.O. 38 / 1910, 1 April 1910
16 G.O. 39 / 1910, 1 April 1910
17 G.O. 52 / 1911, 1 April 1911
18 G.O. 199 / 1911, 1 December 1911
19 G.O. 198 / 1911, 1 December 1911
20 G.O. 39 / 1912, 1 April 1912
21 G.O. 74 / 1912, 15 April 1912
22 G.O. 40 / 1912, 1 March 1912
23 “Wallachin” is the spelling used by both General Orders and the Quarterly Militia Lists, but a query to either the Natural Resources Canada / Geomatics Canada website or the BC Geographical Names Information System website will result in a reply of “No records exist or your query was incorrectly typed”. The Commanding Officer of the 31st Regiment, British Columbia Horse, in his post-Great War unit history refers to “Walhachin” (Flick, Lieutenant Colonel C.L. A Short History Of The 31st British Columbia Horse. (Victoria: 1922) pp. 13-14.). Walhachin is presently an unincorporated area to the West of Kamloops on the Thompson River.
24 G.O. 40 / 1912, 1 March 1912
25 G.O. 83 / 1912, 1 May 1912
26 G.O. 157 / 1912, 3 September 1912
27 G.O. 158 / 1912, 3 September 1912
28 G.O. 159 / 1912, 3 September 1912
29 GO. 103 / 1912, 1 June 1912
30 G.O. 67 / 1913, 15 April 1913
31 G.O. 138 / 1913, 15 August 1913
32 G.O. 180 / 1913, 15 August 1913
33 G.O. 42 / 1914, 16 March 1914
34 G.O. 150 / 1914, 15 September 1914
35 G.O. 202 / 1914, 15 December 1914
36 G.O. 80a / 1914, 1 May 1914. A map showing the battalion organization is here. Map. It should be noted that these orders are backdated and were issued in August 1914 after the start of the First World War.
37 G.O. 179 / 1914, 2 November 1914
38 G.O. 51 / 1915, 15 April 1915
39 G.O. 41 / 1917, 16 April 1917. The transfer was authorized with effect from 19 November 1914.
43 Information drawn from “The Quarterly Militia List of the Dominion of Canada (corrected to 1st January 1918)”
44 Goodspeed, D.J., Lieutenant-Colonel, ed. The Armed Forces of Canada 1867 – 1967 A Century of Achievement (Ottawa, 1967), p. 93. The peace establishment of the Militia was to be over 140,000.
45 An example of this change is found at G.O. 185 / 1920, 1 November 1920, that states, in part: “Reserve Regiments will not, for the present, be limited in establishment, either in Officers, Warrant Officers, N.C.O.’s or Other Ranks.”
50 G.O. 30 / 1922, 15 February 1922
51 G.O. 184 / 1920, 1 November 1920, directed that cavalry regiments would consist of three sabre squadrons.
52 G.O. 43 / 1922, 1 March 1922, lists only the headquarters, “A” and “B” squadrons of the 1st Regiment, B.C.M.R
53 G.O. 122 / 1922, 1 July 1922, authorized the localization of “C” Squadron in Penticton.
54 G.O. 33 / 1926, 1 May 1926
55 G.O. 34 / 1929, 15 March 1929
56 G.O. 135 / 1921, 1 May 1921, lists only the headquarters, “A” and “C” squadrons of 5 Horse – the localization of “B” Squadron was not detailed.
57 This is the result of comparing Quarterly Militia Lists to General Orders of the early 1920s. As stated, G.O. 135 / 1921 lists only “A” Squadron in Kamloops and “C” Squadron in Merritt. Throughout its history, “A” Squadron served in Kamloops. The Militia Lists of the Dominion of Canada for 1922 and 1924 show “B” Squadron in Merritt and “C” Squadron in Langley Prairie (the 1923 edition of the list has not been found). The 1925 Militia List (corrected to 31 December 1924), however, shows “B” Squadron in Vancouver and “C” Squadron in Merritt. It is assumed that the change of sub-unit titles and the move of the squadron in Langley Prairie to Vancouver were associated – noting that during the First World War the squadron in Vancouver was “B” and the one in Langley Prairie was “C”. The reallocation of squadron titles in 1924 would then be on an historical basis, with the squadron in Merritt continuing to be the ‘junior’ squadron of the regiment.
58 G.O. 151 / 1932, 15 November 1932
59 G.O. 43 / 1922, 1 March 1922
60 G.O. 146 / 1928, 1 August 1928
61 G.O. 43 / 1922, 1 March 1922
62 G.O. 3 / 1933, 15 January 1933
63 G.O. 119 / 1934, 1 January 1934
64 Goodspeed, op. cit., p. 95. The peace establishment was to be 86,000. (Nicholson, G.W.L. The Gunners of Canada – The History of The Royal Regiment Of Canadian Artillery, Volume II 1919 – 1967. (Toronto, 1972), p. 595. After the dust had settled in 1937 the ‘new’ order of battle for the Non-Permanent Active Militia was published in G.O. 122 / 1937 (dated 22 July 1937). Excerpts pertaining to Military District No. 11 (the province of British Columbia) are available here: GO 122 1937 pt 1, GO 122 1937 pt 2, GO 122 1937 pt 3.
65 G.O. 177 / 1936, 5 December 1936
66 G.O. 178 / 1936, 5 December 1936
67 G.O. 168 / 1936, 1 December 1936
68 Regimental Headquarters moved back to Vernon with effect from 7 August 1940 (G.O. 211 / 1940, 19 September 1940)
69 This localization is detailed in G.O. 122 / 1937, 22 July 1937. See footnote 64 above.
71 This localization of the 24th (Kootenay) Field Brigade, R.C.A. was authorized by G.O. 197 / 1936, 9 December 1936.
72 This designation was authorized by G.O. 60 / 1938, 1 May 1938.
73 It should be noted that G.O. 168 / 1936, 1 December 1936, authorized the ‘localization’ of the headquarters of The Rocky Mountain Rangers to Salmon Arm effective 15 December 1936, but it was moved back to Kamloops with effect from 6 October 1937 by G.O. 182 / 1937 (15 December 1937)
74 G.O. 135 / 1939, 1 September 1939 lists over 400 serials at “Schedule ‘D’ – Schedule of Corps Named to Form Part of the Active Militia and to Form the Canadian Active Service Force”, The 111th Field Battery is at serial 17, the 108th Field Battery (H) at serial 82, the 109th Field Battery at serial 167 and the 107th Field Battery at serial 216.
75 G.O. 236 / 1941, 1 October 1941
76 Roy, R.H. Sinews of Steel – The History of The British Columbia Dragoons. (Brampton, Ontario, 1965), p. 443.
77 G.O. 194 / 1941, 4 September 1941
78 G.O. 52 / 1943, 29 January 1943
79 G.O. 156 / 1943, 16 April 1943
80 G.O. 115 / 1946, 13 May 1946
81 G.O. 116 / 1946, 13 May 1946
82 Goodspeed, op. cit., p. 213. “… a Reserve Force of approximately 180,000 all ranks was proposed. This would provide six divisions, four armoured brigades and necessary corps and army troops for an army of two corps.”
83 For example, the 8th Provost Company was stood up in Vancouver with sections in Victoria and Vernon.
84 On 04 February 1949, the 9th Reconnaissance Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons) was redesignated “The British Columbia Dragoons (9th Reconnaissance Regiment)”. On 19 May 1958, The British Columbia Dragoons (9th Reconnaissance Regiment) was redesignated “The British Columbia Dragoons” (The Regiments and Corps of the Canadian Army (Volume I of the Canadian Army List), 1964)
85 The date of the of the move of the Regimental Headquarters from Cranbrook is not known. G.O. 143 / 1946, 1 June 1946 advised that effective 31st March 1946 “Locations and changes of locations (of units and sub-units) will not, therefore, be notified as heretofore in General Orders.” The Canadian Army Command and Location List (300-5-46 (9223) H.Q.S. 8948-2, 20 Mar 46) shows the Headquarters, 24th Field Regiment in Trail.
86 CAO 76-3 (Supplement Issue 48/62) dated 23rd February 1948
87 On 01 April 1946, the 108th Field Battery (Howitzer) was converted and redesignated (by G.O. 115 / 1946 – see footnote 80 above) “108th Anti-Tank Battery (Self-Propelled), RCA” and allocated to the Calgary-based 41st Anti-Tank Regiment (Self-Propelled), RCA. In 1951 it was decided to move this battery to Banff, Alberta. The battery would be included in the organization of the “41st” until this unit was amalgamated with two others in 1954 to form the “South Alberta Light Horse” (CAO 76-3 (Part “B” Supplement to Canadian Army Orders – Issue 415) dated 29 Nov 54).
88 As shown in “The Canadian Army List, 1st Edition, Part II – Reserve Force, 1 July, 1948”
89 Except where otherwise noted, the reference for the location of companies and platoons of The Rocky Mountain Rangers is from the appropriate annual historical report submitted by that unit.
90 SD1 Letter No 58/64, 15 Sep 58
93 Army Headquarters HQC 2001-603/R8 (SD 1A) dated 26 February 1964
94 SD 1 Letter No 58/64, 15 Sep 58
95 SD 1 Letter 64/53 dated 26 Nov 65 – BC Area
96 The Canadian Army List, 1st Edition, Part II – Reserve Force, 1 July, 1948. A good description of the post Second World War reorganization of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers is found in Chapter XII of K.J. Holmes’ “The History of the Canadian Military Engineers: Volume III, to 1971”. In 1947 the Reserve Force sapper units’ organizational basis was changed from a divisional engineer structure to one consisting primarily of field engineer regiments. Ten field engineer regiments were formed – six to support the Reserve Force divisions and four to be corps troops – each consisting of three field squadrons and one field park squadron. 44th Field Squadron in Trail became part of the 7th Field Engineer Regiment, along with 6th Field Squadron in North Vancouver, 22nd Field Squadron in New Westminster and the 54th Field Park Squadron in Vancouver (Regimental Headquarters was in Vancouver). As noted above, the “17th” was organized as an independent unit, but became part of the 8th Field Engineer Regiment in the 1950s. Other than the 17th Field Squadron, the 8th Field Engineer Regiment was located in southern Alberta with its headquarters in Lethbridge.
97 Annual Historical Report of the 44th Field Engineer Squadron RCE CA (RF), Trail, B.C., 31 March 1949
98 Holmes, Kenneth John, The History of the Canadian Military Engineers: Volume III, to 1971. (Toronto, 1997), p.254.
99 Ibid., p. 255.
100 Nicholson, op. cit., p. 596.
101 “Inter sub Headquarters, 24 Militia Group” commenced operations effective 1 October 1961.
102 CAO 110-3 (Part “B” Supplement to Canadian Army Orders – Issue 744) dated 15 Apr 63
103 Holmes, op, cit., p. 255.
104 CAO 76-3 (Part “B” Supplement to Canadian Army Orders – Issue 62) dated 23rd February 1948
105 18th Field Regiment (Self Propelled) “Annual Historical Report for the Year Ending 31 December 1958”
106 CAO 76-3 (Part “B” Supplement to Canadian Army Orders – Issue 458) dated 26 Sep 55
107 Roy, op. cit., p. 435.
108 CAO 76-3 (Part “B” Supplement to Canadian Army Orders – Issue 670) dated 13 Jun 60
109 CAO 76-3 (Part “B” Supplement to Canadian Army Orders – Issue 740) dated 18 Feb 63
110 Report of the Commission on the Reorganization of the Canadian Army (Militia) (Appendix A, Part I), (Ottawa, 1964) pp. 42-45.
111 The militia’s strength in 1964 was approximately 45,000. Goodspeed, op. cit., pp. 218-219.
112 Report of the Commission on the Reorganization of the Canadian Army (Militia) (Part II), (Ottawa, 1964) pp. 7-10.
113 SD 1 Letter 64/53 dated 26 November 1965
114 The “Report of the Commission on the Reorganization of the Canadian Army (Militia) (Part II)” contains three appendices to Annex A that show:
* “Present Militia Order of Battle by Areas” (this appendix lists, inter alia, units, locations, their accommodation, etc)
* “Militia Headquarters, Units and Sub-Units to be Relocated, Transferred to Supplementary Order of Battle or Disbanded”
* “Reorganized Militia Order of Battle”
115 The Suttie Commission proposals, where implemented, were promulgated by SD 1 Letter 64/53 dated 26 November 1965
116 CFOO (CA) 66/15 “Organization CA (M) – The British Columbia Dragoons” (CFHQ F 1901-0003/1 Vol 4 (DO) dated 24 November 1966)
117 Staff Duties Letter No 64/53;
118 This Field Troop was relocated to Trail effective 1 April 1968 (CFOO 68/8, CFHQ F 1901-0003/1 (DO) 28 February 1968).
119 In the Suttie Commission’s Report at Appendix 1, the 17th Field Engineer Squadron’s locations are shown to be the Armoury in Cranbrook and the IOOF Hall and Garage in Kimberley with a troop in Creston in a “plywood building” (rented for $1800 pa). At Appendix 2, where units are recommended for relocation or disbandment, the Commission lists the Creston troop ‘relocate with parent unit at Kimberley’, but no mention is made of the Cranbrook element in this appendix or in Appendix 3 (‘Reorganized Militia Order of Battle’). While this may be an oversight, it should be noted that the Cranbrook Armoury was DND-owned and it was sold to City of Cranbrook on 31 August 1965.
120 A recommendation of the Suttie Commission at Serial 30 of Appendix 2 to Annex A to Part II of its report, but not included in the relevant Staff Duties Letter.
121 CFOO (CA) 67/10 “Organization CA (M) 8th Field Engineer Regiment, RCE” (CFHQ F 1901-0402/8 (DO) dated 8 June 1967)
122 CFOO 68/51 “Organization – The Militia” (CFHQ F 1901-0189 (DO) over F 1901-5058 (DO) over F 1901-6164 (DO) dated 25 November 1968)
123 The Mortar Platoon was relocated from Merritt to Kamloops effective 1 April 1968 (Canadian Forces Organization Order 68/8, CFHQ F 1901-0003/1 (DO), 28 February, 1968)
124 Canadian Forces Organization Order (CA) 65/3 “Organization – CA (M) Unit Bands” (CFHQ F 5050-0003/1 (DO) dated 26 May 1965)
125 According to the “Brief History of the Reserve Force” (V 3120-27 TD 1057 (D Prog C) dated 4 October 1971) the combined establishment strength for the Naval Reserve, the Militia and the Air Reserve was to be reduced to approximately 23,000 subject to a budgetary limitation of 19,200. The Militia’s paid strength would therefore become something in the area of 16,000 members. The strength of the Militia in 1969 totaled 23,500.
126 The Rocky Mountain Rangers is NOT included in the list of units with authorized bands as detailed in Canadian Forces Organization Order 70/10 “Organization – Reserve Force – Militia Bands” dated 1 May, 1970
127 The Kamloops and Revelstoke companies were re-titled “A” and “B” respectively.
128 “B” Coy relocated from Revelstoke to Salmon Arm effective 4 Jul 78 under authority of Milarea Vancouver Log C216 262215Z JUL 78” (Annual Historical Report – 1979, RMR 2900-1, dated 31 May 1979) and in 1998 it was moved to Kamloops, but no longer manned.