Army goes back to the future with return to British-style ranks and designations


OTTAWA – The Canadian Army is marching into its past.

Defence Minister Peter MacKay says the army will replace the Maple Leaf rank designation on the shoulder boards of officers with the traditional “pips and Crowns” last used in 1968, before the various branches were unified as the Canadian Forces.

The ranks of non-commissioned officers will also be returned to the original British Army and Commonwealth designations.

As a result, the rank of private will be virtually eliminated within the army and replaced with trooper, bombardier, fusilier, rifleman or guardsman, depending upon the unit.

In recent years, the Conservative government has restored the pre-unification names of different branches of the military, re-introducing the Royal designation to the air force and navy.

MacKay also says the military will do away with the geographic “land forces” designations within the domestic army command, instead organizing different regions of the country into their historic “divisions.”

He says the changes don’t strip away any Canadian identity, but rather strength the bond with the past.

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Army goes back to the future with return to British-style ranks and designations

  1. Perhaps we should just adopt the Union Jack. That should make Harper happy.

    • Agreed. And switch the national anthem back to God Save the Queen. Goodness knows he’s done everything else to return us to being a colony again.

      • Gee Emily, yet another negative comment. Bitter much? maybe if you had served (or serve) you’d be more appreciative of our military.

        • I spent 5 years in the air force, boyo. The Canadian one.

          • I don’t think five years in the Air Cadets count. I agree with John. You whine too much. Besides I’ve spent over 33 years in the Air Force, the real one, girly.

          • Sorry….real air force, not ankle biters….so enough with the macho crap….this is not the UK

          • Were you just as bitter in the Air Force Emily?

          • Knock it off with the nonsense, guys….no once cares about your red herrings.

            This is Canada, not the UK….and not a colony of the UK.

            Next you’ll be curtseying to the Red Ensign.

          • Were you always this brain dead or is this the result of a head injury?

          • What was your job in the air force in Cold Lake?

          • WTF does that have to do with British insignia on Canadian uniforms today?

          • Just interested to know if you worked on the planes or if you were a mechanic on land or if you worked in stores. Or were you an officer or a pilot?

          • LOL it was 1968, Women were officers but not pilots or mechanics.

            Still has nothing to do with Canada returning to colony status.

          • Bob, EmilyOne says she was in Cold Lake. Where were you and what was your job?

          • Aero engine 511 (the 514 AVN) Cold lake (twice) CFE Baden, Gagetown, Winnipeg, Egypt, Calgary. Worked on CT-133, CF-5, CF-104, CH-118, CH-146 CF-18 aircraft.
            This has nothing to do about colonialism but restoring tradition taken from the military in 1968. Since the announcement I haven’t heard any negative comments amongst and I’ waiting for the RCAF to follow suit. I’ve heard the cost of this latest army rank change to be in the neighbourhood of $250K…..chump change.
            I’ve been reading this forum for a long time and Emily has flaunted her military “time” before. her lack of real time and continual whining gives her very little in the way of street cred with those of us who have served.

          • My brother-in-law was in Edmonton, Baden (1991-93) and Cold Lake wing 441 (1994-2003). He worked on the Hercules in Edmonton and then the CF-18s (communications). He was at Aviano, Italy for 6 months. I wish I could tell you his name because you might know him but with privacy and all…. Anyway, I can’t believe it will be that cheap to make the changes but there you go. I am not surprised that the guys in the service are okay with the change. I also find it odd that Emily would brag about her service but want to disclose even the most benign details….not even what she did in 1968….

            We had some awesome times as the Lamplighter, a bar at CFB Edmonton (Namao)… lots of good looking young servicemen, too much drinking, fights breaking out…..ah to be young again.

  2. We have enough troops for a division? I guess if you count the reserves — sorry, I mean fencibles.

    • The army was tapped out by deploying a battle group (~ 1/9 of a division) for a significant period. I wonder how long it will take for the argument to be made that the new division commanders should be MGens like their peers in the US Army?

    • No we don’t. A bunch of friends of mine (in the army and navy) were joking about this problem last night. We do have enough for nine tumans, though (including reservists), if Peter wants to go even further back in history for his inspiration.

  3. A shiny crown, a change in letterhead and now some pips; but the DND hierarchy and useless MacKay still dump on traumatised vets. The whole of the top brass and the cardboard cutout jet pilot himself should be dismissed summarily. The cheerleaders in the Legion can go take a flying jump too.
    The Harper government is the most anti-military bunch of chicken-hawks in this country’s history but somehow the military and ex-military fail to realise that. It’s time to wake up service personnel, they don’t care about you unless you can provide them with a photo-op.

    • I am not sure about them being “the most anti-military in the country’s history”. After all, it was someone else who sent the troops into combat in the desert wearing green camouflage. You have to admit that painting a large green target on them isn’t exactly showin’ them the love.
      However, I really wonder what all this BS is going to cost and what is supposed to accomplish. This is just like something the Alberta govt. likes to pull. They are forever changing the name of the regional health authority. Calgary has gone through multiple name changes…each one necessitating new stationary, etc. etc. All of it VERY costly. Spend the money on the PEOPLE! I would be fascinated to know what sort of studies they do that tell them this is a worthwhile way to spend funds.
      We can only hope that Mr. McKay will be ousted right to the backbench in this shuffle.

      • What makes them anti-military in my mind is that they insist on being pro-military while doing nothing more than adding gold stars to the uniform while they are happy to dump on vets, order totally unsuitable equipment, ignore day to day mundane needs and all in the name of photo ops.

        MacKay and his boss are only pro-military in as far as it will further their goals in terms of remaining in office and supplying their sponsors with access to the public coffers.

        Other governments have been up front in declaring that the military are not the priority, this bunch on the other hand wrap themselves in the flag, claim to love the average pongo, but will stab them in the back at every opportunity.

        There’s something about duplicity and hypocrisy that just makes me vomit and every time I see Harper or MacKay I chuck up a little.

      • No CF soldier was shot at while wearing CADPAT.

        Do you think the PM is involved in ordering army uniforms? It was the army’s priorities before 9/11 that delayed production of Arid CADPAT in sufficient quantities to equip battle groups. BTW both the US and UK have gone to uniforms in Afghanistan with more green in them and the Afghan Army wears woodland camouflage.

        • “It was the army’s priorities before 9/11 that delayed the production of Arid CADPAT..” Yes, I am sure that is accurate given the fact that Canadian forces NEVER expected to fight in a country like Afghanistan on short notice.
          However, you misunderstand me. I am NOT defending Harper or McKay. I am saying the Liberals weren’t exactly “friends” of the military. As for CF soldiers getting shot wearing CADPAT, let’s face it, most if not all of the Canadians who died in Afghanistan were the victims of incendiary devices which blew them up.

  4. And how much is this waste going to cost us?

    • Bets. > $ 10 million. Uniform tailoring. Rank slip ons. Badges. Letterhead. Signage. Software charges to make sure “sappers” get paid. Instructional posters. Changes to manuals. Changes to web sites. Division renaming ceremonies.

      • You are way underestimating. Do you have any idea how many active and reserve military there are? You are forgetting that they have dress uniforms AND work uniforms. ALL of the planes, jeeps and trucks will have to be painted, etc. etc.

        • > means “more than”.

          Why would vehicles have to be painted?

          Most don’t have dress uniforms and if they do they use old style rank already. Mess kit is an individual cost. Rank is shown on combat uniforms by slip on.

          • Sorry…might be wrong about the paint jobs but my guess is it will happen because there will be some ensigna change as well.
            As for the dress uniforms….my brother-in-law served from age 18 for 20 years… he started as a.private and retired as a Master Corporal in the Air Force and he ALWAYS had a dress uniform. I believe you are misinformed. In the military, they parade and they attend funerals and other events such as their weddings, and formal events. They ALL have dress uniforms ‘and casual work uniforms (shirts and pants). They can turn in their work pants for different sizes or if they are worn out, etc. The shirts have their names on them in the form of a patch that is embroidered. Then of course there are the overalls at the job sites for the mechanics, etc. It will be endless.

  5. Good. Now when is the RCAF getting it’s traditional ranks back?

    • It would be confusing since Squadron Leaders in the RAF command flights and Wing Commanders command squadrons. In any event I suspect the air force would much rather pattern itself off the USAF than RAF.

      • Or we could just be Canadian, not Brit or Yank

    • What were their traditional ranks? Do you think this is a way to look back fondly on WWII?

  6. has any other colony every forged a national identity over decades and then fell back on old ways like this?

    • Not that I know of….most countries LIKE being independent.

  7. Hopefully this is MacKay’s final legacy to DND. It’s an unnecessary waste- similar to his bringing back The Halifax Rifles (as if we needed another reserve pickup regiment)- that tugs at the emotions of some elderly vets. The notion that this “restores” morale is insulting nonsense.The troops don’t long for pips and crowns. They normally serve on operations in ad hoc groups made up of soldiers from across the CF. Calling the Area HQs “divisions” is a joke.

    The whole business nicely sums up MacKay’s tenure. A big show of nothing of importance while the important work at DND- procurement, training and re-organization is a mess.

  8. WHY???

    • Excellent question. Perhaps to harken back to the “glory days” of WWII?

  9. Exactly how does this not strip away Canadian identity?
    We are *removing* Canadian insignia.
    That’s pretty much the definition of “stripping away Canadian identity”.

    At this point, I’m starting to think they’re just trolling in the hopes it’ll bury the more important stories.. where the hell is that 3.1 billion dollars?

  10. This is typical of the CF. I spent 5-yrs as a reg force member in the 80’s.
    Wasting money on what we call ourselves, new uniforms and not enough money spent replacing worn out equpment, modern weapons and realistic training.
    You know, the kind of thing a professional military needs.I never really cared if I was called trooper or private. As long as the weapons and my training were better than the other guys we had to deploy against.

  11. 11-year Reg Force Infantry Officer here (just for full disclosure). All this about Canadian vs. UK rank designation — don’t forget that for over 100 years, including the Northwest Rebellion, the Boer War, WW1, WW2, and Korea, Canadian soldiers fought and died as Fusiliers, Sappers, and Bombadiers, while wearing pips and crowns (in the case of officers). This IS our historical identity – it was robbed from us by Paul Helleyer, Lester Pearson, and Pierre Trudeau in 1968 in favour of a common but previously meaningless NCO rank structure across all branches, and common officer rank insignia borrowed from the Navy.

    Agree, though, that now might not be the right time for this, given the current fiscal environment we find ourselves in.

  12. Apparently many Junior Ranks cannot afford to live in Cold Lake without holding an extra job. We can’t afford to redress that problem but we can bolster their “morale’ by renaming their rank into old, outdated designations.

    What nonsense!

  13. Are they going to bring back the red jackets and muzzle loaders?