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Regimental System under review

I hope I will not be attacked for this strictly emotional viewpoint, as I freely admit it is at the very beginning.

It just seems wrong to me to take away the long and proud military heritage of some of the Canadian regiments. Some people have joined certain regiments simply for this reason.

In these days of extremely low morale, why is this even being considered at this time? Morale has been going downhill since the 80‘s. It seems there is a plan in place that we are not being told about to reduce our military to a tiny shadow of what it once was. You all know what I am talking about; no equipment, equipment failures (those dreaded Seakings, new vehicles), no PARTS to repair them (Few C6 parts in the system), disbanding of regiments, no ammo for exercises, etc. This is happening everywhere.

Now, I do agree that some of the above arguments have merit. Of course teambuilding would take place anywhere there are good troops regardless of whether they are in a named regiment or a numbered one. To me that is not the issue right now; but why would this be considered now?? We need to raise morale not lower it further.
Considering Michael‘s exceptions to the rule, one question is to what level of conflict, if any, is the regimental system best suited? Perhaps it isn‘t that relevant in a time of great war when people are motivated by patriotic fervor, racial hatred, a great crusade, national survival, etc. But what about a time of small conflicts (Britain‘s period of empire, modern peace operations) to which the citizenry is largely indifferent? Is the regimental system a useful glue for battalions alternating between garrisons and deployments?
If it‘s not broken don‘t fix it. That‘s the bottom line. Things work just fine as they are. Maybe things wouldn‘t change much but then what‘s the point. If it wouldn‘t make any difference then why change it?

It seems to me that the Liberals are spending money for nothing again. Why don‘t they spend more for a new logo for the CF, eh? The "research will be completed and the status quo will remain. No one should be surprised. I must admit this is one of the stupider things that I‘ve seen the government do lately. Stupid!
(I‘m swamped at work, but stumbled across this excellent editorial - with which I couldn‘t agree more. Thought some of you might appreciate it, too - those of you who don‘t, well ... you already know it all, thus I won‘t waste your invaluable time any further)

Col. Capstick in HQ with a memo

John Robson
The Ottawa Citizen
Friday, July 12, 2002

The enemy has destroyed our troops‘ equipment, ground their numbers down through attrition, pinned them in terrible living conditions and blown off their uniforms. Yet they can still fight. So now the foe is using psychological warfare to destroy the unit cohesion that is all that‘s keeping them going.

Who is this fiendish adversary? Ludendorff? Mussolini? Kurt Meyer? No, it‘s the Department of National Defence, which has a study under way by a cultural anthropologist living in Holland on whether to destroy the storied regiments that have distinguished themselves from Lundy‘s Lane and Queenston Heights to the Somme and Vimy to Sicily, Verrières and the Scheldt to Korea. According to Col. Mike Capstick, overseeing the project, DND is not considering abolishing regiments, just transforming them from the centre of a soldier‘s career into another box on a bureaucratic flowchart: death by 1,000 paper cuts.

Many Canadians may not grasp how irresponsible this plan is, because our public education system doesn‘t exactly stress what a regiment is or what it does. (If this government has its way, they won‘t know what a gun is either, even if they‘re in a regiment.) I didn‘t know until, unlike Art Eggleton, I began to read books about war and talk to combat veterans. (And hasn‘t my public skepticism about his judgment on appropriate sources of military advice been amply vindicated?)

Very briefly, a regiment is the military unit where strategy and tactics meet. Above the regimental level, flags move around on maps; below it, companies take individual strong points. A regiment turns the movement of flags into the capture of bunkers, and the capture of bunkers into the movement of flags.

A Second World War infantry regiment had around 1,000 men at full strength, organized into four rifle companies of just more than 100 men each plus support and logistical units commanded by a colonel, and historically was raised from a given region, obviously with the Winnipeg Rifles or North Nova Scotia Highlanders, if not with the Black Watch or Seaforth Highlanders.

It‘s not the division that has reunions, nor the brigade, company or platoon. It‘s the regiment. Farley Mowat‘s eloquent account of serving in Italy during the Second World War with the Hasty Pees (an abbreviation, reflecting life in a combat zone, of the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment from the Ontario county of the same name) is called The Regiment. Our current minister of defence, economist John McCallum, should read it, if he hasn‘t already.

Regiments have a history that inspires current members to live up to the deeds of the past and to their regimental comrades. A bookmark given to me by a Canadian veteran of a British regiment, the Green Howards (as distinct from the Brown Howards), shows the crest of a regiment linked directly to the Glorious Revolution of 1689. Now that‘s a history to live up to. Like Waterloo, the Armada and Juno Beach.

Last week, Col. Capstick said, "Our gut tells us that the regimental system is well worth retaining, but at the same time our gut tells us that, OK guys, it‘s time to get out of the ‘50s." The 1950s? The battle honours of our regiments go back to the war of 1812. Ortona was in 1943. Canada became a nation at Vimy in 1917.

Later he changed his story, saying in an opinion piece in the Thursday Citizen that the regimental system‘s "roots and rituals can be traced to the Victorian era ... when the country was far more culturally homogeneous than it is today and when the stratified class system of the era was replicated in the regimental messes. In short, it came of age in a society that no longer exists."

For the record, Victoria reigned 1837-1901, somewhat before D-Day. But unfortunately, an influential segment of the Canadian elite regards all of history as an ugly, undifferentiated grande noirceur from which Pierre Trudeau and the Canadian Human Rights Commission finally rescued us.

So apparently now it‘s time to bring the army into the modern era. The era of subs that can‘t dive, helicopters that can‘t fly, bright green uniforms in a desert country and lucky to have those, and snipers making world-record shots with American ammunition and British uniforms in Afghanistan and our government doesn‘t even tell us about it. I expect 21st century battles will be as different from Normandy or El Alamein as those were from Waterloo. But if we‘re still winning them, it will be because storied regiments live up to their history.

So let‘s reassign that anthropologist to find out why Dutch children still place flowers on the graves of Canadians who liberated them from Nazi tyranny. Be sure he examines the plaques all over Holland commemorating Canadian regiments who didn‘t crack, even when underequipped, under strength and under attack.

John Robson is Senior Editorial Writer and Columnist.
(I‘m swamped at work, but stumbled across this excellent editorial - with which I couldn‘t agree more. Thought some of you might appreciate it, too - those of you who don‘t, well ... you already know it all, thus I won‘t waste your invaluable time any further)
If you‘re not capable of intelligent discourse or rational discussion - scholarly references included - don‘t go mewling all over cyberspace about it. I see you‘ve hit on the perfect solution to your lack of debating skills, though - verbatim quotes of magazine and newspaper articles. I still don‘t understand the utility of a public forum that consists mainly of verbatim posts of articles, where any attempt to discuss things in a scholarly way are dismissed out of hand or ignored.

That said, the article is interesting, but if you don‘t have the brains or the balls to back up a statement you have made with something other than random irrelevant quotes, maybe you should stick to crying into your beer in the mess? It‘s probably just as effective.

In other words, I always thought forums were for us to share our own thoughts, as coloured by our own education and experiences - not a place to quote entire articles and pretend that it substitutes for intelligent discourse.

Maybe I‘m in the wrong place.
Michael I must admit that I have not read all the messages in this thread, I don’t have the
patience to go through all the rhetoric. I do take exception to your remark about the CEF
and the Regimental system. The 48th ran a proper Regimental system despite the
government’s attempts to stamp it out. All units reported back to Regimental
Headquarters. Wounded officers who were returned and discharged reported to RHQ and
were used as instructors, some even joined other 48th Battalions and returned to the front
with the 15th Bn (48th Highlanders). It is true that many of the men recruited did not go
to 48th Battalions and in one instance the 48th were stopped from raising another
battalion until they supplied recruits to another unit that was having trouble attracting
sufficient numbers of men.
WW II was much the same, after the 1st Battalion left for overseas the Regiment was
tasked with forming a Depot that was stationed in the Automotive Building in the CNE.
They were able to do this because of all the old soldiers from WW I who rallied round to
support the Regiment. I recently became aware of one WW I vet who was enlisted as a
Private to be Sergeant, acting and unpaid. I have seen the names of many of the old
timers on Part II Orders of the 48th Highlanders Depot. Some of the men who did not go
overseas with the 1st Battalion jumped at any chance to get overseas then worked their
way back to the 48th.
In 1940 the 2nd Battalion (R) was formed. this unit supplied many of the replacement
officers for the overseas unit. When a vacancy occurred a request was sent to the 2nd for
a replacement.
On top of all this you had in both wars the support of the Regimental Family, ex Officers,
ex Sergeants, IODE, Ladies Auxiliary, Old Comrades all working to support the overseas
battalions. Even in Korea I received a Christmas package from the 48th as did others.
This support continues today for the men in the militia and those who are serving as
Augmentees to the Regular Army Units. Social Services, scholarships and other services
are provided not only to those serving but also to veterans.
A couple of anecdotes if I may. You mentioned AA Officers who were retrained to
Infantry. I interviewed such an Officer. On the way over to Italy he made up a fourth for
bridge with three 48th Officers who were returning. He said that by the time he got to
Italy he was so imbued with the Dileas spirit that he was determined he would join the
48th. When the time came he was told that he would be going to the RCR and was
loaded on a truck with the other replacements. The first stop was the 48th so he just
jumped off the truck and reported in. He was wounded and returned to Canada and after
the war joined the 48th Militia Battalion. Until the time of his death a couple of years ago
he was one of the most faithful members we had.
A similar incident occurred with a friend of mine who was in the Lorne Scots. He was
wounded and left behind when the Canadians moved NWE. When he followed on some
time later he was in a general reinforcement pool. While being driven up the road in
France he passed by the Lornes so he just jumped off the truck and reported in.
When I was in Korea with a group of RCR reinforcement we were told that some of us
would have to got to the Patricias. We just absolutely refused, there was a lot of huffing
and puffing but the brass backed down and we continued on to the RCR. I believe there
was a similar incident with a British Highland unit in Italy and a lot of the men went to
detention rather than leave their unit. END OF SEMI-RANT.

Aye Dileas
Art - thank you very much. It was delightful to be regaled with tales of a "numbered" regiment with such a rich, proud regimental history (and the battle honours to prove it).

Michael - What‘s your problem? Take a pill.

It‘s entirely acceptable in a non-academic milieu to stimulate debate or discourse by planting a seed, offering differing opinions via editorials, or even a ‘red herring‘. By taking a broader, inclusive approach (vice exclusive or elitist) to inviting readers to participate, we encourage more people to pause and think, or even contribute. Heck, we might even get somebody to log off and read a book ... !

Furthermore, there is no guarantee that each reader/viewer will have read every single article or editorial on a given topic/thread, thus they are proffered as a public service (readers who may already have seen a particular article/column can simply scroll downwards).

And, with regard to your comment " ... but if you don‘t have the brains or the balls to back up a statement you have made with something other than random irrelevant quotes, maybe you should stick to crying into your beer in the mess?"

We‘re fortunate to be separated by cyberspace - I‘ve had a rough week/month, and it‘s been ages since I‘ve attended a raucous happy hour or played Wellington with an undeservedly arrogant/haughty pis-sant who needs to be taken down a notch.

As I said, I‘m swamped at work and at home, and can‘t afford the time to perform scholarly research that will meet your wonderfully high standards - and, if I did, I‘d use that time for more university studies as opposed to insulting others who simply don‘t have as much time to waste.

Thus said, why on earth would you want to exclude busy people from participating in this forum?

Scholarly? No. Real? Yes.

Please stop being rude and insulting other participants.

MB, Esquire
Bloody **** !! sounds like "the patriot "was talking about the FN again!!! :p :boring:
I have served in four Regiments in my career. Three Canadian and one British. While on exchange with the British Army, I went to Bosnia with a regiment that had itself just been amalgamated with another regiment. Nobody really had anything in common, least of all me. However, we quickly became an effective and close team not because of the regimental system but, because we trained together, and deployed together and went through a deployment together. We could have had post it notes on our berets and still we would have been an effective team because we trained together and stayed together not because we had a fancy guidon. So there is some real experience for you all.

I also just had a chat with an old vet who told me it was quite routine for wounded soldiers to go to different regiments if they were out of the line for more than three weeks. So did that weeken them our the units they joined?

Were the Germans or Americans any less effective because they did not have regiments in WW II?

The Problem with the Regimental system is that it is more sizzle than steak. Just because you wear the capbadge of the guys who stormed Normandy does not mean that you yourself will do the same today.

It seems to me that there are too many sacred cows in this army. Rather than examine the regiments in the clear light of day for their pros and cons, the regimental associations bang their rice bowls on the table circle the regimental goats and say: "No, thinking allowed leave my rice bowl alone!!"

Lets look at the advantage of getting rid of the regiments. One that comes to mind is, there is no way to determine who is reg and who is reserve. A nice advantage of the American system. One I‘ve seen first hand in Bosnia. It would be easier to form battlegroups. The Corps/the Army would speak with one voice vice fractured regimental interests. Officers and soldiers on ERE looking for positions at the regiment might be chosen on merit rather than connection. Members of disbanded regiments might not be left out in the cold.

The thing that really bothers me about those getting up on their hind legs about this issue are really just saying no change rather than using the regiment to help the system. If we had lots of Scottish and Irish regiments formed in the past to attract recruits and build up the military based on the heritage of the ethnic groups that were dominent 150 years ago then why can‘t we have new regiments to reflect the heritage of the new immigrants to this country? And don‘t tell me it is because they don‘t like the army because there were some pretty big sihk regiments in the british army.

This same group of regiment do or dies is the same group that has held up LFRR for years. Ask yourself these questions. Why can‘t we discuss change and when did an order become a start point for negotiation in the army.

The irony here is that I never really understood why we had many of our regimental traditions until I server in the British Army. The fact of the matter is that we are no longer british and keeping the regimental system as is, is just like keeping the army in the past. The past was not all that great if you as me. Why can‘t we do like the Australians and move forward not stay in the past.
Post 21

You have brought up intresting points. I to am inclined to think that an Army of our size should go the way the ANZAC‘s have. What if all the infantry in Canada were called RCR , and we had 9 Bn‘s. of infantry. We would then be able to Reorg our cookie cutter type Brigades. An example would be we could then standup a Para Bn. without the Regt infighting that would occur if we did that now. Far more effective in my mind to have one Para Bn. then 3 misplaced Rifle Coy‘s. But hey I‘m ex 2 CDO so what do I know :)

I have always found it interesting that the staunchest proponents of the regimental system allow the perpetuation of the myth that the only alternative is to have nothing. The concept that the existing regimental system in the Canadian Army is a perfect evolution invites attacks on its retention beacuse it thwarts any discussion of examination and improvement. It is those who wish to protect the regimental system, in any variation, that should be first in line to defend it‘s strengths and to guide such examination and critique. They should also be first to surrender and abolish any aspects that prove to undermine tactical and organizational efficiencies. Doing so will ensure an opportunity to preserve that which is strong and worthwhile, and decreases the likelihood of facing a hostile fait accompli by a frustrated Army organization needing to fix that which they consider broken (whether that is based on good advice or ill).

I have previously expressed my views in the paper The Regimental System which was published in The Army Doctrine and Training Bulletin. Interestingly, this paper on a topic which so many claim to be central to their sense of Army and Regiment, garnered little response.

Mike O‘Leary
The Problem with the Regimental system is that it is more sizzle than steak. Just because you wear the capbadge of the guys who stormed Normandy does not mean that you yourself will do the same today.
I belive "Lest we forget" is the expression? for me a student the past is what the army is, Ive read enough books on the Canadians that fought at Vimy Ridge, Pashendale and D-day that what little I know about the Canadian Forces is in the past and changing the Regemental system would wipe that out. I dont care weather the sergeant yells a name or a number it it wont make me fight harder or better, its the history attached to the name or number AND your comrades beside you that make you fight harder. Nothing that I can see is wrong with the curent system and If you change it then our history is lost, capbadges are not magical (as far as I know) they wont make you run harder or shoot better but remembering the men before you that did the same in the face of danger might give you that extera bit of honour and pride to take that bunker or storm that beach, that is if you have any sesns of National pride. Its not the name or the capbadge its the history...
Well said. If we retain a system that makes today‘s students think like this, that alone is worth the effort.
Sorry Boys, I for one will fight harder as, say, a Seaforth Highlander, with everything that name means behind me, than as a member of the 8th Bn of the 3rd Inf Regt of the 259th Bde of the 2nd Div of the 6th Corps or whatever. I think the regimental system has certain aspects that could use reform and renewal, but for God‘s sake leave our regiments alone. Change can and should happen, even limited amalgamations and even some disbandments, but this doesn‘t mean the whole system has to be gutted. The majority of our units, with perhaps a few adjustments, should stay as they are.
I am a little confused here. How is it that the US is so patriotic and focused on their history while still having no regiments? And we are not? (check with Jack Granstien) I also have to wonder what made the PPCI stand firm in the first Battle of Ypres during the first gas attack, when at the time, they had a Regimental history of about one year? We might also ask the same the Strathconas in the Boer war?

Palitudes about the pride of the (fill in the blank) all sound good in the newspaper and on the parade square but, after the first round goes down range it is all BS. (not that I‘m some kind of hero lots of guys have the same resume as me :tank: ) Having found myself on the wrong end of a couple of AK 47s and heard them fire in my general direction, told by the locals that they were going to kill me (which they tried a couple of nights later I have trouble making new friends). Nearly **** my pants while standing between Gen Dudakovic‘s henchmen and some hapless croats slated for removal with little more than a pistol 2X SA 80s and a busted GPMG. Let me tell you some real life thoughts that crossed my mind. Is that ******* really shooting at me? This is not as much fun as the movies make it out. I guess I better stop those *******s because nobody else is around and they might just slaughter those villagers. If I don‘t do something, the SSM will think I‘m a wimp. Gee getting killed here would really suck. Mental note: make sure gun is always handy. Here we go again another unmarked minefield. This is what you got the bars for for move forward and hope for the best. I hope they can get a chopper in here to get me to a hospital. In all the ****ty situations I was in, the last thing on my mind was the glory of the regiment, the regimental goat or the Guidon. If anything my thoughts ran between fear, duty, survival and those around. And later, those posturing arseholes of DS who told me of their potential heroism while I was an OCdt. How brave we all are before we here our first shot fired in anger. Those of us who have seen been shot at and have had to guird up our courage for real know that the regiment is nice for having a beer but, on the day where we had take our lives into our hands and earn the Queen‘s shilling the regiment was the last thing on our minds.

So save the platitudes for the mess and lets have a cold hard look at this issue in the cold light of day. Let Col Capstick do his Job. Fear of change is the last vestige of the incompetent.
I am a little confused here. How is it that the US is so patriotic and focused on their history while still having no regiments? And we are not?
The US is focused on thier history because there history involves numbers not regiments in history, it would not matter if thier history involved numbers or names they would still be focused on it thanks to the 11 and the vast amount of marketing by the US goverment and I belive we are patriotic, but thats just me.

JJ man it sounds like your talking about peace keeping missions not full out battles and war, I think beeing part of a regiment with a history would help more in a motevational speech before hand or during a crisis piont in battle, but I dont know the situation so mabey I am wrong.

Morale and patriotism seem to be at highs during times of war, this is when our countrys (and regiments) history is remembered best making it more of a factor in troop morale...
What an awesome point to make - about Scottish regiments being used as a recruiting tool in the past because of the large number of ethnic Scots, Irish and English in Canada!

It‘s too true. Half the CEF in 1915 had actually been born in the UK. It is certainly not that way now. They have experimented with all-Native summer youth employment programs, I believe, but that really isn‘t a step in the right direction (we need to be integrating Natives into the mainstream, not cutting them off even more).

But the idea of a Sikh Regiment as part of the Canadian Forces...it has appeal, especially if it gets more people to enlist - and those people turn out to be quality soldiers.

Fully 1/3 of Canada‘s overseas infantry battalions in WW II were Scottish or Highland - far outside the number of ethnic Scots living in Canada.

As to the young Seafroth..er...Seaforth I mean. You don‘t know what you would do or how hard you would fight until you‘re in that position, so don‘t be barking at the moon about how much you love your regiment. I love my regiment too, but as a tradesman I‘m not allowed to wear the regimental cap badge anymore. Pride is what you make of it. All this inter-regimental rivalry stuff strikes me as a bunch of crap too - just an excuse to get into bar fights with each other. Better you spend your time thumping long haired civvies if you ask me rather than the regiment across the armoury floor.
Oh, and it may interest some of you to know that the Americans DO have a regimental system. The 7th Cavalry, for example, still exist (Custer‘s old regiment at lLittle Big Horn). They greet each other with the phrase Garry Owen (the name of the regimental march). You saw a bit of that in Mel Gibson‘s latest pornography of violence movie, We Were Soldiers.

The oldest regiment in the US Army is, I believe, the 2nd Infantry, and different regiments do have nicknames - Rock of the Marne, etc. They just don‘t identify as strongly with their regimental history as they do divisional.

It is the same with the Canadian Army - artillery batteries in Canada don‘t identify so much with the history of their field regiment as they do with the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery as a whole.

I will bring up again, in case anyone missed it, the example of the CEF in World War One, and the numbered battalions in which so many men fought so proudly. Granted, the Seaforths did sneak in their traditions to some of those numbered battalions (the 16th and 72nd Battalions in particular IIRC), but a lot of pride was still placed on the numbered battalion in theatre - not the regiments at home.

Seems to me Canadian troops were among the best in the trenches on either side during that war.

The other example was the German Army who also abandoned to a fair degree their regimental heritages during the exapansion of the Wehrmacht in the 1930s.

The point has been made, however, that it does not have to be "all or nothing." It is quite possible to have - to continue the previous example - 9 battalions of the RCR across the country, with individual companies perpetuating certain regiments.

Does anyone have any idea how many regiments have come and gone in the 20th Century? Take a look, you may be surprised. I have some info up on my site at http://www.canadiansoldiers.com - badly in need of an update. But all the infantry regiments in 1900 were renamed and reorganized in the 1920s. Everything was reorganized again in 1936, with many units getting the chop. Ever heard of The Yorkton Regiment? We did pretty good in WW II without them, from what the vets tell me.

After WW II there have been many amalgamations and reorganizations - always a blow to morale, but our largest problem is recruiting and retention. We can‘t man the regiments we have now. Granted, threatening to disband units is a double edged sword (it scares the bejesus out of them and forces them to train harder, but also kills morale in the process) and I wouldn‘t want to see it happen. But from a purely pragmatic standpoint, if it was possible to conclude that going to a different organizational system would magically cure all our other ills, there would be no reason not to.

The trouble is, either way, the problem of retention and recruiting is not going to be helped. Doctrinal issues are fine to worry about, but if you have no one to fight your battles for you, it doesn‘t matter what doctrine you preach in your field manuals. Or what system you use to organize your men.
but our largest problem is recruiting and retention
Really? Ive heard that people are being turned away from recruiting centers because of the lack of funds to train them, but for all I know that is just another headline the media has run away with...