148: Royal Canadian Mounted Police

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Canadian Cavalry Badges 1920 – 1953 part 2

8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars)

The 8th Canadian Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars), commonly abbreviated to 8 Recce, VIII Recce or (within the British Army) 8 Canadian Recce, was the reconnaissance arm of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division during World War II.

Formation and structure

The “unit patch” for 8 Recce, worn on both shoulders of the battle dress. The bullseye is superimposed on the blue “formation patch” of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division.

8 Recce was formed at Guillemont Barracks, near Aldershot in southern England, on March 11, 1941, by merging three existing squadrons within the division. Its first commanding officer was Lieutenant Colonel Churchill C. Mann. Mann was succeeded as commanding officer on September 26, 1941, by Lieutenant Colonel P. A. Vokes, who was in turn followed on February 18, 1944, by Lieutenant Colonel M. A. Alway. The last commanding officer was Major “Butch” J. F. Merner, appointed to replace Alway a couple of months before the end of the fighting in Europe.

8 Recce had its roots in the 14th Canadian Light Horse, a militia unit formed in 1920 by the union of the 27th Light Horse and the 14th Canadian Mounted Rifles. The regiment was headquartered in Swift Current, Saskatchewan. It comprised ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ Squadrons based at Swift Current, Swift Current and Shuanavon, respectively. In 1937 the regiment was designated a mechanized unit, and in 1940 the regiment was renamed the 14th Canadian Hussars. In 1941 the regiment was mobilized, and its members joined with other reconnaissance personnel in England to form 8 Recce.

Following the pattern used in the Reconnaissance Corps of the British Army, 8 Recce was composed of a regimental headquarters (officially 26 men of all ranks at full strength), one headquarters squadron (222 men of all ranks) and three reconnaissance squadrons identified by the letters ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ (191 men each of all ranks). The Headquarters Squadron contained a squadron headquarters (6 men), an administrative troop (44 men), a signal troop (40 men), an anti-aircraft troop (9 men), an anti-tank troop (79 men) and a mortar troop (44 men).

Each of the three reconnaissance squadrons was composed of a squadron headquarters (36 men), three scout troops (38 men each) and one assault troop (41 men). The 12 troops in the reconnaissance squadrons were numbered, with Troops 1 to 4 in ‘A’ Squadron, Troops 5 to 8 in ‘B’ Squadron, and Troops 9 to 12 in ‘C’ Squadron. Troops 4, 8 and 12 were the assault troops. A reconnaissance squadron was commanded by a major assisted by a captain.

A scout troop comprised one reconnaissance section and two carrier sections. Each scout troop (38 men of all ranks) would usually be commanded by a lieutenant assisted by a second lieutenant. An assault troop (about 41 men of all ranks) contained four assault sections (8 men each). Each assault troop was commanded by a lieutenant assisted by a sergeant.

The nominal strength of the regiment was 42 officers, 71 non-commissioned officers and 708 other ranks for a total of 821 men of all ranks.

Primary mission, weapons and equipment

Formation sign used to identify vehicles of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division

The primary mission of 8 Recce was to provide reconnaissance capabilities for the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. Reconnaissance involves determining the location and capabilities of enemy units, and providing current information concerning the state of the theatre of operations (e.g., road and bridge conditions, alternative lines of advance). Weak enemy positions might be attacked if the opportunity arose, but strong-points are generally by-passed and left for assault units to tackle. Nevertheless, determining the position and strength of the rear guard of a retreating enemy, or the location and strength of newly established defense lines, will frequently draw fire and provoke combat situations. Unless the enemy is retreating in especially disorganized fashion, a lightly armoured reconnaissance unit is vulnerable to land mines and ambushes. Consequently 8 Recce, along with other reconnaissance battalions, had significant assault capabilities to allow it to rescue pinned down scout units.

After its formation in England, 8 Recce was equipped initially with BSA M2 motorcycles, 15-cwt and 3-ton CMP trucks, light armoured cars, automatic weapons and radio communication equipment. The equipment was upgraded progressively during the three years of training in England to include more heavily armed armoured cars and a variety of weapons systems in response to the combat experience of other reconnaissance regiments in the Reconnaissance Corps. During the campaign to liberate northern France, Belgium and the Netherlands, the primary scouting vehicles of 8 Recce were the Humber Mark IIIA as well as the (from October 1944 onward) Daimler armoured cars. Although the ruggedness and speed of these lightly armoured wheeled vehicles was ideal for the reconnaissance role during the campaign across Northwest Europe, they were vulnerable to German antitank weapons, such as the 75-mm and 88-mm guns. Other major weapons deployed by 8 Recce included the Universal Gun Carrier, the M5 half-track, 2-inch light mortars, 3-inch mortars, 6-pounder anti-tank guns, PIAT portable anti-tank weapons, and heavy machine guns.

Toward the end of the war each scout troop was equipped with five armoured cars (three Daimlers and two Humbers) and seven Universal Gun Carriers (each mounted with one American .50-calibre heavy machine gun, replacing the original .303-calibre Bren gun). Each assault troop was equipped with five half-tracks, each carrying one .50-calibre heavy machine gun.

In accordance with the system of vehicle markings used by the British Army, the vehicles of 8 Recce were identified as belonging to a reconnaissance unit by the presence of a square “unit mark” containing the number 41 in white on top of a two-tone, green above blue blue background.

Action during World War II

Canadian (likely from 8 Recce) Humber (foreground) and Daimler (background) armoured cars during the Scheldt Campaign, Putte, on the Dutch–Belgian border, 11 October 1944

8 Recce spent the first three years of its existence involved in training and coastal defence duties in southern England. It was not involved in the ill-fated Dieppe Raid on August 19, 1942, and thus avoided the heavy losses suffered that day by many other units of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The Regiment landed with its division in Normandy on July 6, 1944, one month after D Day, and first entered combat as infantry in the on-going Battle of Normandy. The Regiment’s first two combat deaths occurred on July 13, when a shell struck a slit trench sheltering two men near Le Mesnil .

Following the near-destruction of the German Seventh Army and Fifth Panzer Army in the Falaise Pocket in August 1944, the remaining German forces were compelled into a rapid fighting retreat out of Northern France and much of Belgium. 8 Recce provided the reconnaissance function for its division during the advance of the First Canadian Army eastward out of Normany, up to and across the Seine River, and then along the coastal regions of northern France and Belgium. The Regiment was involved in spearheading the liberation of the port cities of Dieppe and Antwerp; it was also involved in the investment of Dunkirk, which was then left under German occupation until the end of war. 8 Recce saw heavy action through to the end of the war including the costly Battle of the Scheldt, the liberation of the Netherlands and the invasion of Germany.

An early demonstration of the mobility and power of the armoured cars of 8 Recce occurred during the liberation of Orbec in Normandy. Over August 21 to 23, the infantry of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division had succeeded in pushing eastward up to the west bank of the River Tourques, but they were unable to expand an initial bridgehead across the river because of the presence of enemy positions in Orbec on the east bank. Humbers of 8 Recce had meanwhile scouted out possible river crossings northwest of the town. They succeeded in crossing the Tourques, then circled back to Orbec and attacked the German defenders unexpectedly from the north and east. Enemy resistance in the town was rapidly overcome and the Division’s advance towards the Seine could resume.

The reconnaissance role of 8 Recce often put its members well ahead of the main body of the division, especially during the pursuit of the retreating German army across northern France and Belgium in late August and September 1944. For example, elements of 8 Recce entered Dieppe on the morning of September 1, 1944, scene of the disastrous Dieppe Raid of 1942, a full 12 hours before the arrival of truck-borne Canadian infantry. The liberation of Dieppe was facilitated by the withdrawal of the German occupying forces on the previous day. The unexpectedly early liberation allowed a planned and likely devastating Allied bombing raid on the city to be called off. 8 Recce was responsible for liberating many other towns in the campaign across Northwest Europe.

During the Battle of the Scheldt, 8 Recce advanced westwards and cleared the southern bank of the West Scheldt river. In one notable action, armoured cars of ‘A’ Squadron were ferried across the river; on the other side the cars then proceeded to liberate the island of North Beveland by November 2, 1944. Bluff played an important role in this operation. The German defenders had been warned that they would be attacked by ground support aircraft on their second low-level pass if they did not surrender immediately. Shortly thereafter 450 Germans surrendered after their positions were buzzed by 18 Typhoons. Unbeknownst to the Germans, the Typhoons would not have been able to fire on their positions since the aircraft’s munitions were already committed to another operation.

On April 12, 1945, No. 7 Troop of ‘B’ Squadron liberated Camp Westerbork, a transit camp built to accommodate Jews, Roma people and other people arrested by the Nazi authorities prior to their being sent into the concentration camp system. Bedum, entered on April 17, 1945, was just one of many Dutch towns liberated by elements of 8 Recce in the final month of the war. 8 Recce’s last two major engagements were the Battle of Groningen over April 13–16 and the Battle of Oldenburg, in Germany, over April 27 to May 4. Three members of 8 Recce were killed on May 4, just four days before VE Day, when their armoured car was struck by a shell.

During the war 79 men were killed outright in action while serving in 8 Recce, and a further 27 men died of wounds.

1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment

1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment (1CACR) (also known as the 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Regiment) was an armoured regiment of the Canadian Army formed during the late stages of World War II in the European theatre. It was formed in October 1944 at Tilburg with the original 1st Canadian Armoured Personnel Carrier Squadron as its core. It was the only Canadian regiment to be both formed and disbanded overseas. The new regiment was a specialised armoured unit equipped with Kangaroo armoured personnel carriers.

The regiment was disbanded on June 20 1945, at Penheim, Germany.

During the Battle of Normandy, the commander of the II Canadian CorpsGuy Simonds ordered that redundant Priest self propelled guns be converted to carry troops. This enabled the delivery of infantry close to the enemy, rapidly and protected from gunfire. These were first used on August 7 1944 at Falaise, duringOperation Totalize, and although there had been no time to organise or train, they were very successful.

The “Kangaroo Squadron” was formed on 26 August 1944, attached for administrative purposes to the 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment (The Elgin Regiment). The Elgin Regiment was under First Canadian Army control and the “Kangaroo Squadron” was an Army asset available for use as needed. The Squadron’s commanding officer was Lieutenant-Colonel G.M. Churchill who had been DCO of the Elgins. He was to remain as CO throughout the war.

After the impressive performance of Kangaroo mounted infantry in the break-out from Normandy, it was decided to form two regiments of Kangaroos, one within each of the two Armies within the 21st Army Group. Consequently, on 24 October 1944, the formation was authorised of the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment, with the “Kangaroo Squadron” as its core. This was done at Tilburg, where the “Kangaroos” had already concentrated. 1CACR was established as part of 79th Armoured Division, along with other specialised armoured vehicles. The new regiment consisted of two squadrons of four troops, each squadron equipped with 53 Ram Kangaroos. (Ram tanks had replaced the original Priests as the conversion basis.)

Unlike most Canadian regiments, which had strong local roots, 1CACR’s personnel were drawn from all over Canada. These diverse elements with their scattered loyalties were moulded together to form a coherent unit of high morale.

The British Columbia Dragoons

The British Columbia Dragoons (BCD) is a Primary Reserve armoured reconnaissance regiment of the Canadian Forces. It is based in Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton, British Columbia. The British Columbia Dragoons are part of Land Force Western Area‘s 39 Canadian Brigade Group.


The British Columbia Dragoons trace their origins to the formation of the Canadian Mounted Rifles, two independent squadrons of horse in Kamloops and Vernon in 1908. In 1910 two additional squadrons were raised and the regiment was renamed the British Columbia Horse. In 1912 the unit was renamed again as the 30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse. 1914 saw the formation of the Victoria Independent Squadron on Vancouver Island.

During the First World War the regiment was not mobilized, but in December 1914 many volunteers from the regiment joined the newly formed 2nd Regiment Canadian Mounted Rifles. After some limited service in France as cavalry, the unit was reroled to infantry as 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion on January 1, 1916.[1] The battalion became part of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade, and fought with great luck and success on the Western Front. Despite being trained as cavalry but deployed as infantry, the regiment managed the war well. Two members of the regiment were awarded the Victoria Cross over the course of the war. Captain “Jock” MacGregor for actions taken during the battle at Cambrai on September 29, 1918; and Major George Randolph Pearkes, who was on loan to the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles at Passchendaele. The actions and awards of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles are perpetuated today by the British Columbia Dragoons, their direct descendants.

In the post war reorganization, the regiment was renamed The British Columbia Mounted Rifles in 1920, and then to the name still carried today, The British Columbia Dragoons in 1929. Part of the reason for the change was to forever divorce the regiment from infantry duties. When the Second World War loomed, the regiment once again stepped forward.

The regiment was designated the 5th Motorcycle Regiment (BCD), and later an armoured car unit. Finally made into an armoured regiment, the 9th Armoured Regiment (BCD), they were deployed to Italy as part of the 2nd Armoured Brigade, 5th Canadian (Armoured) Division. The regiment saw heavy action in the Liri Valley, were the first unit to break through the Gustav Line in Italy, 1944, and helped smash the Gothic Line, holding Point 204 right in the centre of the line. Part of the “Spaghetti League”, a term used by soldiers fighting in Italy after D-Day, they continued to fight until orders were given to move the regiment to the northwest Europe area. They served with distinction until the end of the war, at which point the regiment was demobilized and returned to Militia service.

The regiment has since seen many ups and downs, with losses of manpower and funding, hostile popular attitudes, and the ever changing nature of Canada. The 1970s and 1980s saw the deployment of individual members to Cyprus as part of the UN operations there as part of larger Canadian formations. The 1990s and the new century has seen numerous members deploy to Bosnia as part of NATO operations with IFOR and SFOR. With the Global War on Terror, members are now serving overseas as part of NATO operations with ISAF in Afghanistan.

Cadet units

There are several Royal Canadian Army Cadets units spread across British Columbia which are affiliated to the British Columbia Dragoons. Cadets are not soldiers; they are part of an organization dedicated to developing citizenship and leadership among young men and women aged 12 to 18 years of age with a military flavour, and are not required to join the Canadian Forces.


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