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Happy 40th Birthday, Canadian Armed Forces


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On February 1st, 1968, the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force were no more, their place taken by the newly created and unified Canadian Armed Forces.

The Canadian Armed Forces was the last and final step undertaken by Prime Minister Lester Pearson and his Minister of Defence Paul Hellyer to reorganize and improve the three services as outlined in the 1964 White Paper on Defence.  That this occurred over two parliamentary terms during which Pearson was the leader of a minority government both times shows how determined he was to see his plan implemented, and possibly how little defence matters meant to the voting public.  But I've not written this birthday greeting to rehash questions and points of history that are, for all intents and purposes, now moot.

Change, in life as in the profession of arms, is inevitable and those who fight the inevitable will surely loose.  And while those who bemoaned unification at the time were many, the question should be; what really changed for the armed forces in 1968 as a result of unification?  The forces of the day were in the midst of a 5 year capital spending plan (another feature of the 1964 White Paper) for which the financial savings from integration and unification were paying.

For the Navy the third and final 'O' class submarine was commissioned in June providing them a state of the art submarine squadron based on the east coast.  HMCS Rainbow, a Tench class submarine, was purchased from the US Navy for west coast operations (at a cost of $150,000.00 dollars!).  The world's most advanced hydrofoil, HMCS Bras D'or, began sea testing.  The aircraft carrier Bonaventure had just completed a very expensive 16 month refit making it as capable an anti-submarine platform as any then afloat.  Four full destroyer squadrons were based in Halifax and six destroyers were stationed in Esquimalt.

For the Air Force, well, the world was their oyster.  Eight squadrons of supersonic CF-104s were stationed in Europe with aircraft so new they still had that 'new car' smell.  Brand new Tudor, Buffalo, Caribou, Hercules, CF-5 and tilt-wing CL-84 aircraft were either entering service or on the way.  Older aircraft like the Cosmopolitan, North Star, Harvard and Sabre were gone.  Bomarc missiles guarded the Canadian skies from Ontario and Quebec fully integrated into the NORAD defence system.

It was a good time for the Army as well.  It was the year the M-109 and the Lynx entered service in Canada and Europe.  There was a mechanized brigade group of 6,000 trained soldiers in Germany fulfilling Canada's land commitment to NATO.  A new light howitzer, 5/4 ton trucks, CUH-1H helicopters and six-wheeled armoured carriers were being planned for.  The Army in Canada was reorganizing from the three 'old style' brigade groups to four 'new and modern' Mobile Command designed combat groups.  A brand new and combined arms Canadian Airborne Regiment would be the first unit to be organized within the CAF.

The Forces were also fully committed to the nuclear weapons game using American owned and controlled warheads.  The delivery systems however were Canadian owned and operated.  The Honest John rocket gave our NATO land forces a nuclear capability.  The six strike squadrons in Germany carried weapons of up to 1.5 megaton yield.  In Canada the Genie nuclear missile equipped the Voodoo squadrons while the Bomarc missiles sat waiting to launch with their nuclear warheads attached.

The forces had a strength of approximately 110,000 men and women.  Derek Critch, 19 years old, joined the Canadian Armed Forces in St John's, Newfoundland, at midnight (Newfoundland Standard Time) on January 31st, 1968 becoming the very first Canadian to do so.  He had been selected for training as a radio navigator.  Had he been recruited as an other rank he would have attended CFB Cornwallis where, as of 1968, all anglophone recruit training would now be conducted.

So you see, while the name changed and later the uniform would too, the role and mission of Canada's military did not.  There was a job to be undertaken, the tools were being provided, and those citizens who wished to serve still volunteered to the colours.

So here's to you, Canadian Armed Forces, in which I (in my own modest way) and so many others have served.  The name and uniform changed but the job remained the same.  No one has ever been deterred from becoming a soldier, a sailor or a pilot because they've said to themselves "Well it's not a proper Navy (or Army or Air Force) any longer, is it?"  And no one ever will.  For nothing really changed for the Canadian military in 1968, and for those who really wish to serve, nothing ever will.

Feb 68?
40 yrs already?

Yowze!  I pert much remember all of those milestones!
Heh... At least no one has stuck a BLR tag on me yet.
Ok, never seen one of those only the standard N/S Tags  ;D
I enjoyed the recap. What I would really like to find is a complete description of a triforce Canadian Forces crest. Anyone has any idea where I could find that?
geo said:
Feb 68?
40 yrs already?

Yowze!  I pert much remember all of those milestones!

Feb 68, was freezing my butt off in Shilo.
Personally I like, the old system better. Its still alive and well here, and the three different elements have all those distinct customs and traditions, many which the CF lost 40 yrs ago.

Anways Happy Birthday CF!

In 1968 I was 9 :)


Happy Birthday to the Canadian Forces from a guy who has to take a subway, not a tank, to work!  :cheers: Seriously, thank you for what you do; the military has often been overlooked in this country, hopefully that's changing.
I have mixed feelings about this one.  Although I only know the unified situation, I see that despite Hellyer's boast that " the world will follow our example" no one to my knowledge has to date.  I for one, would prefer to be in the RCN vs CF.  +1 Wes.  But seeing who we have had running the monkey show of successive governments over the years (Trudeau, Uncle Jean et al) I guess I am thankful that I do have something to call a home.  Next one for me is 2010 for the 100th of the Navy.
Yeah happy birthday CF.....Now that we're getting major equipment purchases again perhaps the glory days for this generation are on the way.  ;)