This past week, my friend JJ made this comic picking at the Canadian relationship with its Crown. It included drawings of two soldiers, and in light of this blog’s recent spotlight on the Canadian Forces, I thought I’d take a look at the uniforms and see what we can learn from them, as a sort of case study.
Here’s the first one.
Let’s start with his rank. From the two gold stripes on the epaulets, he is an officer holding the rank of a captain. But if that’s the case, then the red sash he’s wearing makes no sense, because it’s only worn by senior non-commissioned officers in the infantry regiments: sergeants and the warrant officers. And speaking of infantry, let’s move on to guessing his regiment.
The biggest clue is the kilt. Only 16 regiments in the Canadian Army have kilts as part of their full dress uniform: The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada, The Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, The Lorne Scots (Peel, Dufferin and Halton Regiment), The Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, The Nova Scotia Highlanders, The Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (Duke of Edinburgh’s Own), The Essex and Kent Scottish Regiment, The 48th Highlanders of Canada, The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s), The Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, The Calgary Highlanders, The Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), The Irish Regiment of Canada, and The Toronto Scottish Regiment (Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother’s Own). Only three of them, however, wear a hat like the one in the picture: a Glengarry cap with a red and white diced border. Of those three, the Calgary Highlanders only wear the Glengarry with a red coat, and the tartan of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is blue and green, with no red. Therefore, by a process of elimination, the soldier is a member of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, an infantry regiment of the 4th Canadian Division, which wears a Glengarry with a red and white border (although they do not have a white hackle in the cap as shown here), a green coatee, and a red, blue and green tartan kilt. Which, considering that this event is taking place in Vancouver, and the SDGH is headquartered in Cornwall, Ontario, on the other side of the country, is a little odd.
Assuming he is a member of the SDGH, we can pick apart the finer details of his uniform. His cap badge ought to look like a silver saltire (X-shaped cross) behind a green circle – the regiment’s badge. It should match the sporran badge, and the collar badges too, although the current collar badges look a bit like the badge of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps, which would also be acceptable to use.
We can dismiss his four medals out of hand as being completely fabricated: none of them match up to any medal issued to the Canadian Forces, especially the two on the right, as no medal ribbon has horizontal stripes, since they’d be difficult to represent on ribbon bars.
Now, the second one:
First, his service branch, which is a bit of a mystery. Usually this can be easily divined by the colour of the uniform, but his uniform isn’t blue enough for him to be in the Air Force, and not green enough for the Army. More on this later.
Next, there is the matter of his rank. The epaulets are fully blank, which are only worn by newly recruited privates, but the thin gold stripe on his sleeve is the mark of an officer cadet. Both make sense, since they’d both be ranks taking the Oath of Loyalty.
Then there is his regiment. The key here is the beret. The only members of the Forces who wear maroon berets are members of the Army who are trained as paratroopers; therefore, the man is in the Army.
There are seven regiments in the Canadian Army with paratrooper battalions: The Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, 5 Combat Engineer Regiment, The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, The Royal 22e Régiment, and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Of these, only the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers have a cap badge with a similar colour scheme to the one here (red ringed with gold), so, since the man is taking the oath in English, and 5 Combat Engineer Regiment is mostly French, the soldier is likely from the 2 Combat Engineer Regiment, likely a long-time NCO (judging from the paratrooper designation and the medals, which are also fabricated like the last ones) just now being commissioned as an officer in the Army. If that’s the case, then he should be wearing Engineer’s collar badges, which are smaller versions of his cap badge, instead of what appear to be Infantry collar badges – which are crooked, on top of that.
While I’m on the subject of this picture, you’ll notice that the RCMP officer has two stripes on his epaulets. Those ought to be chevrons, not stripes, and two would indicate that he is a Corporal. The star on his sleeve is for 5 years of good service, and the cross below it looks to be the award for marksmanship with rifles.
Much more problematic is the judge’s robes. Firstly, his barrister’s tabs look like they were tied around his neck like a cravat, where in fact the tabs are a single strip of fabric folded over, with a string attached to the fold so they can be tied around the back like a bib. Secondly, his medal’s ribbon most closely resembles that of a Member of the Order of Canada, but lacking the unique “snowflake” design of the medal. But perhaps most grievously, no Canadian judge wears a blue sash. Most judges’ sashes are red, although Ontario justices of the peace and Nova Scotia Family Court judges wear green sashes, and sashes of Nova Scotia Court of Appeal and Provincial Court judges are black. Robes with blue edging are worn by provincial court judges in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and New Brunswick.
Almost all militaries in the world have two types of ranks: the lower ranks, which compose most of the fighting force, and higher-ranking officers, who are usually better educated, better paid, and hold command over the lower ranks.
In Commonwealth countries, these two sets are also referred to as “Non-Commissioned” and “Commissioned”. This is because every officer in the Forces is given a “commission”, a very large and formal document, signed by the Governor General, appointing the person to serve under the Crown and giving that person permission to command lower-ranking soldiers.
Traditionally, these two rank structures in the Canadian military are subdivided in two: the lower ranks have Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs) and Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs), while the upper ranks have Commissioned Officers and General Officers (in the Army and Air Force) or Flag Officers (in the Navy).
Let’s look at each of these four subsections individually.
Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs):
• In most of the Army, NCMs are ranked as Private, which is subdivided into Private (Recruit), Private (Basic) and Private (Trained), which is reached after about 2.5 years of service.
A number of sections of the Army use special names instead of Private: the rank of Gunner is used in the Artillery, Trooper in the Armoured Corps, Sapper in the Engineers, Signalman in the Signal Corps and Craftsman in the Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. In the Infantry, Fusilier is used in the fusiliers regiments, Rifleman in the rifles regiments and Guardsman in the guards regiments.
In Canada, Private is abbreviated as Pte.; Pvt. is only correct in America.
• In the Navy, NCMs are divided into the ranks of Ordinary Seaman (the lowest rank in the Navy) and Able Seaman (which is earned after completing basic training and thirty months of service).
• Before 1968, NCMs in the Air Force held the rank of Aircraftman. They became Privates in 1968, when all the Air Force’s ranks were changes to be the same as Army ranks. Starting in 2015, the rank will be changed to Aviator.
• Before 1968, the NCO ranks in the Army were as follows:
Lance Corporal → Corporal → Sergeant → Staff Sergeant → Warrant Officer Class II→ Warrant Officer Class I.
(Between 1939 and 1945, there had also been a Warrant Officer Class III.)
During the Unification, the ranks of Lance Corporal and Staff Sergeant were dropped and an extra warrant officer rank was added; the warrant officer ranks were re-named Warrant Officer, Master Warrant Officer and Chief Warrant Officer.
To make up for the number of lance corporals being suddenly promoted to corporal, the Army appointed a number of senior corporals to the title of Master Corporal. Many sources – including official ones – treat Master Corporal as a rank, even though it is technically an appointment and not a rank.
In the Artillery, Bombardier and Master Bombardier are used instead of Corporal and Master Corporal, and in the guards regiments of the Infantry, Warrant Officers are known as Colour Sergeants.
• In the Navy before 1968, the NCO ranks were:
Leading Seaman → Petty Officer 2nd Class → Petty Officer 1st Class → Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class → Chief Petty Officer 1st Class.
The only change since then was the addition of the appointment level of Master Seaman, which is the Navy equivalent of Master Corporal.
• Air Force ranks are the same as Army ranks. Before 1968, Air Force NCO ranks were:
Leading Aircraftman → Corporal → Sergeant → Flight Sergeant → Warrant Officer Class II → Warrant Officer Class I.
• Army officer ranks have consistently remained as follows:
Officer Cadet → Second Lieutenant → Lieutenant → Captain → Major → Lieutenant Colonel → Colonel.
In the guards regiments of the Infantry, Second Lieutenants are known as Ensigns.
• Officer ranks of the Navy are as follows:
Naval Cadet→ Acting Sub Lieutenant → Sub Lieutenant → Lieutenant (N) → Sub Commander → Commander → Captain (N).
Before 1968, Naval Cadets were called Midshipmen.
• Air Force officer ranks are the same as Army ranks. Before 1968, officer ranks in the Air Force were:
Flight Cadet → Pilot Officer → Flying Officer → Flight Lieutenant → Squadron Leader → Wing Commander → Group Captain.
In 1962, the rank of Flight Cadet was renamed Officer Cadet.
General Officers (“Flag Officers” in the Navy):
• General officers in the Army are:
Brigadier General → Major General → Lieutenant General → General.
Brigadier Generals were called Brigadiers before 1968, except between 1922 and 1928, when they were called Colonels-Commandant.
• The flag officer ranks of the Navy are:
Commodore → Rear Admiral → Vice Admiral → Admiral.
• Air Force general officer ranks are the same as Army ranks. Before 1968 the Air Force general officer ranks were:
Air Commodore → Air Vice Marshal → Air Marshal → Air Chief Marshal.
The Chief of Defence Staff is the only person who is ever appointed to the highest general officer rank.
Until 1875 the army in Canada was the British Army. In 1875, the domestic army was reorganized as the Canadian Militia, and an officer of the British Army held command as General Officer Commanding the Canadian Militia. This stood until 1904, when the Canadian Militia became commanded by a Canadian officer known as the Chief of the General Staff from 1904 to 1964, except for a period of time between 1919 and 1920 when he was called the Inspector-General and Military Counsellor. The Militia was renamed the Canadian Army in 1940. After unification the Army leader was Commander of Mobile Command from 1964 to 1993, Chief of the Land Staff from 1993 to 2011 and the Chief of the Army Staff and Commander of the Canadian Army since 2011.
The British commanders of the Canadian Militia were:
Gen. Sir Edward Selby Smyth KCMG, 1875–1880.
Lt.-Gen. Richard George Amherst Luard CB, 1880–1884.
Gen. Sir Frederick Dobson Middleton KCMG CB, 1884–1890.
Maj.-Gen. The Rt. Hon. Sir Ivor John Caradoc Herbert CB CMG KStJ, Bt., 1st Baron Treowen, 1890–1895.
Maj.-Gen. Sir William Julius Gascoigne KCMG, 1895–1898.
Lt.-Gen. Sir Edward Thomas Henry Hutton KCB KCMG, 1898–1900.
Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Hebden O’Grady Haly KCB, 1900–1902.
Lt.-Gen. The Rt. Hon. Sir Douglas Mackinnon Baillie Hamilton Cochrane KCB KCVO, 12th Earl of Dundonald, 1902–1904.
The Canadian commanders of the Canadian Army have been:
Maj.-Gen. Sir Percy Henry Noel Lake KCB KCMG, 1904–1908.
Maj.-Gen. Sir William Dillon Otter KCB CVO VD, 1908–1910.
Maj.-Gen. Sir Colin John Mackenzie KCB, 1910–1913.
Maj.-Gen. Sir Willoughby Garnons Gwatkin KCMG CB, 1913–1919.
Gen. Sir Arthur William Currie GCMG KCB, 1919–1920.
Maj.-Gen. Sir James Howden MacBrien KCB CMG DSO CStJ, 1920–1927.
Maj.-Gen. Herbert Cyril Thacker CB CMG DSO, 1927–1928.
Gen. The Hon. Andrew George Latta McNaughton CH CB CMG DSO CD PC, 1929–1935.
Maj.-Gen. Ernest Charles Ashton CB CMG VD, 1935–1938.
Maj.-Gen. Thomas Victor Anderson DSO CD, 1938–1940.
Gen. The Hon. Henry Duncan Graham Crerar CH CB DSO KStJ CD PC, 1940–1941.
Lt.-Gen. Kenneth Stuart CB DSO MC, 1941–1943.
Lt.-Gen. John Carl Murchie CB CBE CD, 1944–1945.
Lt.-Gen. Charles Foulkes CC CB CBE DSO CD, 1945–1951.
Lt.-Gen. Guy Granville Simonds CC CB CBE DSO CD, 1951–1955.
Lt.-Gen. Howard Douglas Graham OC CVO CBE DSO ED CD,1955–1958.
Lt.-Gen. Samuel Findlay Clark CBE CD, 1958–1961.
Lt.-Gen. Geoffrey Walsh CBE DSO CD, 1961–1964.
Gen. Jean-Victor Allard CC CBE DSO ED CD, 1965–1966.
Lt.-Gen. William Alexander Beaumont Anderson OBE CD,1966–1969.
Lt.-Gen. Gilles-Antoine Turcot CM CMM CD, 1969–1972.
Lt.-Gen. William Alexander Milroy CM DSO CD, 1972–1973.
Lt.-Gen. Stanley Charles Waters CD, 1973–1975.
Lt.-Gen. Jacques Chouinard CMM CD, 1975–1977.
Lt.-Gen. Jean Jacques Paradis CMM CD, 1977–1981.
Lt.-Gen. Charles H. Belzile CM CMM CD, 1981–1986.
Lt.-Gen. James A. Fox CMM CD, 1986–1989.
Lt.-Gen. Kent R. Foster CMM CD, 1989–1991.
Lt.-Gen. James Cyrille Gervais CMM CD, 1991–1993.
Lt.-Gen. Gordon Reay CMM MBE CD, 1993–1996.
Gen. Joseph Gérard Maurice Baril OC CMM MSM CD, 1996–1997.
Lt.-Gen. William Leach CMM CD, 1997–2000.
Lt.-Gen. Michael Jeffery CMM CD, 2000–2003.
Gen. Rickey John Hillier OC CMM MSC CD, 2003–2005.
Lt.-Gen. Joseph Henri Paul Marc Caron CMM MSM CD, 2005–2006.
Lt.-Gen. Andrew Brooke Leslie CMM MSC MSM CD, 2006–2010.
Lt.-Gen. Peter John Devlin CMM MSC CD, 2010–2013.
Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse CMM MSC CD, 2013–now.
The Chief of Defence Staff is the single commanding officer of the Canadian Forces, the Canadian version of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The post was created in 1964 when the Army, Navy and Air Force were amalgamated. The CDS is also the head of the Armed Forces Council and Principal Commander of the Order of Military Merit.
The Chiefs of Defence Staff (and their main regiments or posts before being appointed to high command) have been:
Air Chf. Mshl. Frank Robert Miller CC CBE CD (1908-1997), 1964–1966. Director of Training Plans and Requirements, RCAF.
Gen. Jean-Victor Allard CC CBE DSO ED CD (1913-1996), 1966–1969. Royal 22nd Regiment.
Gen. Frederick Ralph Sharp CMM DFC CD (1915-1992), 1969–1972. RCAF Training Command.
Gen. Jacques Alfred Dextraze CC CMM CBE DSO CD (1919-1993), 1972–1977. Royal 22nd Regiment.
Adm. Robert Hilborn Falls CMM CD (1924-2009), 1977–1980. HMCS Bonaventure.
Gen. Ramsey Muir Withers CMM CD (1930-2014), 1980–1983. Royal 22nd Regiment.
Gen. Gérard Charles Édouard Thériault CMM CD (1932-1998), 1983–1986. Collège Militaire Royal, St-Jean (Air Command).
Gen. Paul David Manson OC CMM CD (b. 1934), 1986–1989. 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron.
Gen. Alfred John Gardyne Drummond de Chastelain CC CMM CD CH (b.1937) (1st time), 1989–1993. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Adm. John Rogers Anderson CMM CD (b.1941), 1993-94. HMCS Restigouche.
Gen. Alfred John Gardyne Drummond de Chastelain CC CMM CD CH (b.1937) (2nd time), 1994–1995. Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Gen. Joseph Édouard Jean Boyle CMM CD (b.1947), January–October 1996. 4 Fighter Wing.
Vice Adm. Lawrence Edward Murray CM CMM CD (b.1947) (acting), 1996–1997. HMCS Iroquois.
Gen. Joseph Gérard Maurice Baril OC CMM MSM CD (b.1943), 1997–2001. Royal 22nd Regiment.
Gen. Raymond Roland Joseph Henault CMM MSC CD (b.1949), 2001–2005. 444(CA) Tactical Helicopter Squadron.
Gen. Rickey John Hillier OC CMM MSC CD (b.1955), 2005–2008. Royal Canadian Dragoons.
Gen. Walter John Natynczyk CMM MSC CD (b.1957), 2008–2012. Royal Canadian Dragoons.
Gen. Thomas J. Lawson CMM CD (b.1957), 2012–now. 421 Squadron.
The Judge Advocate General is the officer in the Canadian Forces in charge of all the military’s legal affairs, and a member of the Armed Forces Council. Despite the name, the Judge Advocate General (JAG) isn’t a judge; he (or she) is more like an Attorney-General. The Canadian Army has had a JAG since 1911.
The Judge Advocates General of Canada have been:
Maj.-Gen. Henry Smith, 1911-1918.
Lt.-Col. Oliver Mowat Biggar, 1918-1920.
Brig. Reginald John Orde, 1920-1950.
Brig.-Gen. William J. Lawson, 1950-1969.
Brig.-Gen. Harold A. McLearn,1969-1972.
Brig.-Gen. James M. Simpson, 1972-1976.
Maj.-Gen. John Patterson Wolfe, 1976-1982.
Brig.-Gen. Frank Karwandy, 1982-1986.
Brig.-Gen. Robert L. Martin, 1986-1990.
Cmdre. Peter R. Partner, 1990-1993.
Brig.-Gen. Pierre G. Boutet, 1993-1998.
Brig.-Gen. Jerry S.T. Pitzul, 1998-2006.
Brig.-Gen. Ken Watkin, 2006-2010.
Maj.-Gen. B. Blaise Cathcart, 2010-now.
For more information on JAGs and the JAG system, watch the TV show JAG.
In the 1960s, Canada merged its army, navy, and air force into one body, the Canadian Forces. In doing so, it had to merge together a lot of redundant jobs across the three services: three signal corps, three sets of chaplains, three sets of military police, and so forth. To deal with this, in 1968 the Forces established Personnel Branches: job categories to which everyone in the Forces up to the rank of Colonel (or Captain, in the Navy) is assigned.
A lot of the more specialized positions in the Forces, like the Dental Corps or the Legal Branch, treat their branch like a regiment: each branch has an official cap badge and marching song, and hold over traditions from before unification.
In order of precedence, the Canadian Forces Personnel Branches are:
- The Naval Operations Branch (sailors)
- The Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (soldiers in tanks)
- The Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery (soldiers with cannons)
- The Canadian Military Engineers (military Public Works, land surveyors, and fire & rescue services)
- The Communications and Electronics Branch (signal corps and tech support)
- The Royal Canadian Infantry Corps (foot soldiers)
- The Air Operations Branch (pilots and flight crew)
- The Logistics Branch (transport, supplies, pay corps, postal services, and administration)
- The Royal Canadian Medical Service (doctors and nurses)
- The Royal Canadian Dental Corps (dentists)
- The Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (mechanics, electricians, carpenters, and repairmen)
- The Chaplain Branch (priests and priest equivalents)
- The Canadian Forces Military Police (soldier cops)
- The Legal Branch (lawyers, like the TV show JAG)
- The Music Branch (marching bands)
- The Personnel Selection Branch (recruitment, aptitude testing and civilian readjustment services)
- The Training Development Branch (boot camps and training courses)
- The Public Affairs Branch (PR and advertising)
- The Intelligence Branch (research and reconnaissance)
- The Cadet Instructors Cadre (armed Scoutmasters, basically)
The Armed Forces Council (a.k.a. the Defence Staff) is the official assemblage of top military brass who call the shots in Canada’s military. It is the equivalent of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in America.
The Council consists of the following 11 people:
1. The Chief of the Defence Staff (Gen. Thomas J. Lawson CMM CD)
2. The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (Lt.-Gen. Guy R. Thibault CMM MSC CD)
3. The Commander of the Canadian Army (Lt.-Gen. Marquis Hainse CMM MSC CD)
4. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy (Vice-Adm. Mark Norman CMM CD)
5. The Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force (Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin CMM CD)
6. The Commander, Canadian Joint Operations Command, who oversees all the Forces’ missions (Lt.-Gen. Stu Beare CMM MSM CD)
7. The Chief of Military Personnel (Lt.-Gen. David Millar OMM CD)
8. The Chief of Reserves and Cadets (Rear-Adm. J.J. Bennett OMM CD)
9. The Judge Advocate General, head of the Forces’ legal department (Maj.-Gen. Blaise Cathcart OMM CD)
10. The Chief of Defence Intelligence (Maj.-Gen. J.M.C. Rousseau CD)
11. The Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer, the top-ranking non-commissioned soldier in the Canadian Forces (CWO Kevin C. West MMM MSM CD)