Okanagan Military Museum
Kelowna, British Columbia
06) The Cold War 1951 -1991
06) The Cold War 1951 -1991
- Militia restructuring
- Civil Defence role
- Training vs Morale
- Freedom of the City of Kelowna
- MAD restores soldiering as Recce
- CF mergers, cutbacks
- Cadet Corps
- Visit to Europe
- Armoured again
- Visit to Holland
- Training and Sports
Combat skills declined in favour of emergency rescue and aid to civil power taskings.
Kelowna, BC, Canada
The main training location for subjects beyond the recruit level was at Wainwright, Alberta in the early 1950s. Some valuable instruction was given there to troops in what was then known as "Wireless," "D&M," or driver/maintenance, and gunnery. The BCD troopers and non-commissioned officers (NCOs) enjoyed the course work and the opportunity at the end of the courses to implement tank tactics, the practical driving skill, and shooting on the ranges.
In 1953, at the Vernon Armoury, Maj. H. A. Merklinger, the wartime padre of the BCDs, presented the CO of the day Lt. Col. G. D. Johnston, with a 'Dominion' (aka 'Red Ensign') flag. He had used this particular flag during burial services of the Regiments fallen members during WW II, in Italy and NW Europe.
The numerical designation of 9th Armoured Regiment was dropped from the unit's name, to become the British Columbia Dragoons, in 1958. The unit carries this proud name to this day.
A Regimental Pipe Band was authorized in 1959 and became a valuable component of 'C' Squadron in Penticton. The band adopted the MacGregor tartan in honour of Capt. J. MacGregor VC who won this high award while serving with the 2nd CMRs in France in WW I. 1962 saw the visit of the Hon. Lady Gylia MacGregor, of Clan MacGregor, to the Okanagan from Scotland and presented the Pipe Major's banner to the Regiment in honour of the connection. Throughout the 1960s the Pipe Band performed at most of the Regiments ceremonial functions and at community events throughout the Valley.
While the decade following WW II was a period of relative plenty for the Militia, at least when compared with the inter-war years and today, as the 1950s drew to a close equipment became scarce. The principal reasons for this were Canada's foreign commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and in UN peacekeeping, which increasingly gained a greater part of the nation's military resources. As the Cold War deepened and Canada's international obligations became more arduous, the primary role of the Militia had historically performed within Canada's National Defence policy, was downgraded. This was because of the doctrine that in an era of instant atomic warfare the proper response lay in a highly trained regular army, or "forces in being." Indeed, the speed with which military strategists believed war would be conducted in the future convinced many that the Militia was unnecessary, if not a waste of money, because in the event of war it would take too long to mobilize and train for combat. The time allowances of the past were gone.
In this environment a 'civil defence' tasking for the Militia became a means of justifying its continued existence. The threat of Soviet bombers and nuclear missiles hurtling over the North Pole dictated that much of the air defence of North America would be fought in Canadian airspace. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing into the 1960s, the Militia concentrated heavily on what became known as "National Survival" training, which had two primary aspects. First, there were the "re-entry" drills or simulations of what would occur in urban areas after a nuclear attack, with heavy emphasis on emergency rescue techniques like First Aid, traffic control, and the maintenance of law and order. Second, was radiation monitoring in blast areas, which fit in to some extent with the Recce role the Dragoons had been trained for.
Civil defence skills being demonstrated to visiting military dignitaries.
Kelowna, BC, Canada
Within the national survival strategy the BCDs formed the nucleus of what became the Number 4 Mobile Support Column (4MSC). It was composed of the BCDs, the Rocky Mountain Rangers, the 24th Medium Anti-Aircraft Regiment, RCA, and the 44th Field Squadron, RCE. During this period summer camps took place at Vernon rather than at Wainwright, so that the units of 4MSC could practise their drill together over the terrain they would have to cope with in the event of nuclear war. In July 1959, for example, some 300 members of 4MSC gathered at Camp Vernon to participate in an exercise that simulated a nuclear attack on Merritt requiring the Column to proceed by three routes to Recce and monitor the blast area, provide light rescue and casualty clearance functions.
Local Squadrons were tasked with recruiting and training volunteers who otherwise would be unemployed. They were to train on a full-time daily basis at the armouries and in the local areas on national survival skills, including knots and lashings, aka 'Ropes and Ladders.' Nonetheless, a good number of them stayed on with the Regiment after their short term of training. Lieutenant Nigel Taylor answered the call to return to the unit to become the Course Commander in Kelowna and then remained in the unit until his retirement as Deputy Commander in 1969.
National survival training was very unpopular to all concerned. Lt. Col. A. Moss, the CO of the day, described the "air of unreality" which surrounded the training. The men came to appreciate the horrific magnitude of the nuclear devastation likely to occur in time of war. The problems the Column faced in attempting to deal with the thousands of casualties expected and the evacuation of cities like Vancouver into the Interior regions via only a few roads would be monumental. Moreover, with all the emphasis of rescue and First Aid, practical soldiering skill were neglected. Between the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Regiment did not fire a single tank round, and the Regiment yearned for "the whiff of powder."
The pessimism inherent to the national survival training caused many others to abandon the Militia in favour of the Regular army, which appeared much more attractive with its postings in Europe with NATO or UN peacekeeping in some exotic location.
A committee of senior members of the Regiment worked for many years on a list of battle honours and insignia to be place on a new regimental colours or flag called a "Guidon." In May 1967 a contingent of more than 50 officers and men from the Regiment, along with veterans in the Whizzbang Association, gathered at the Centennial Stadium at the University of Victoria to receive the new Guidon from HRH Princess Alexandra. Former BCD Padre Merklinger, now a Colonel and Deputy Chaplin General of the Canadian Armed Forces, was present to consecrate the Guidon in honour of the Fallen. In addition to the BCDs, the parade included the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and the Royal New Westminster Regiment, who also received new regimental colours. The Laurel Wreath that was recovered from the church fire that destroyed the original regimental colours was later affixed to the new Guidon.
It was but a few weeks after that the people of the Okanagan had their first opportunity to view the new Guidon. The occasion was the Regiments' receipt of the "Freedom of the City of Kelowna" on 10 June 1967. The ceremony dates back to the medieval times when cities were walled for protection. Bestowing the 'Freedom of the City' on a military unit was an honour that also carried with it the tangible right to "enter and parade in the City . . . with Colours flying, drums beating and weapons borne" without the permission of the civil authorities. For the Dragoons, it also meant that in Kelowna the CO of the Regiment receives, ex officio, all the qualifications and privileges of a "Freeman of the City," including the right to be placed first on the List of Electors of City. The Regiment, with the Guidon flying and bayonets fixed, marched with a contingent of Whizzbangs from the Kelowna Armoury to City Hall accompanied by the Regimental Pipe Band. There the Dragoons gave the Royal Salute to Major General (MGen.), the Hon. George R. Pearkes VC who was the Lt. Governor General of BC and the Honorary Colonel of the Regiment. Also present were Premier W. A. C. Bennett, the Honorary Lt. Col. of the Regiment Brigadier General (BGen.) R. T. Moulin, and Mayor R. F. Parkinson who was a former officer in the wartime BCDs. He presented the Proclamation to the Regiment.
The BCDs exercise along the Hope Princton Highway route.
South Central BC, Canada
BCDs in a regatta parade on Bernard Avenue in Kelowna.
Kelowna, BC, Canada
Vernon, BC, Canada
BCDs on exercise in the Bear Creek forestry are west of Kelowna.
Near Kelowna, BC, Canada
By the mid-1960s NATO and the Warsaw Pact, or the Soviet coalition of communist nations in Eastern Europe, had enough nuclear capability to destroy each other, and the world, many times over and accordingly the notion that there could be any meaningful 'national survival' in a post-nuclear world, faded. By the late 1960s therefore, the Militia once again began to train in earnest for action against a live enemy, rather than for civil defence. The perceived threat at the time was that the massive Warsaw Pact forces in Central Europe might invade Western Europe. The resulting training was to suit the tactics required by a battle on the Northern German plains. For the Dragoons, it meant a return to the Recce role it had performed after WW II, but without tanks. While the physical environment in and about the Okanagan Valley did not often simulate the terrain of NW Europe, the training did prepare the men for the tasks they could expect in a shooting war.
Throughout the late 1960s and into the 1970s, the Regiment trained in both the Caribou region west of Williams Lake, and Glenemma north of Vernon. The troopers drove trucks, jeeps and the "Ferret" scout car, and practised the basic Recce skills like Radio procedure, map and aerial photo reading, chemical warfare, concealment and camouflage, enemy vehicle recognition, handling of explosives, mines and booby traps, bridge and route classification and message writing and field sketching.
For 25 years following WW II, the Regiment continued to maintain a presence in all the major communities of the Valley: Vernon, Kelowna and Penticton. A retrenchment in funding for the military started in 1969 and continued into early 1970. The consequence was that LCol. (Previously abbreviated as Lt. Col.), J. T. F. Horn faced a painful dilemma: close down either the Vernon or the Penticton Squadron. He was also ordered to disband the Regimental Pipe Band.
Any decision to disband a squadron was bound to be unpopular. Nevertheless, one had to go. In the end, LCol. Horn reluctantly decided that 'C' Squadron in Penticton would disband. He based his decision on the fact that Vernon had better training facilities than Penticton. The demise of 'C' Squadron and the Pipe Band was clearly a bitter blow to the Regiment and the people of Penticton but it did not signify the end of a military presence there. The community is still represented through the Royal Canadian Army Cadet No. 788 (BCD) Corps, which along with No. 903 (BCD) Corps in Kelowna and No. 1705 (BCD) Corps in Vernon, continue to be affiliated with the unit. Moreover, there has remained a "Penticton Troop" of keen men that regularly come up to Kelowna to train with "B" Squadron.
The Regiment has maintained a strong commitment to community activities in the Okanagan Valley. In the early 1970s the Regiment organized and marshalled the Vernon Winter Carnival Parade. During the Christmas season the Regiment and the Salvation Army have collaborated to collect donations of goods for the needy. On Remembrance Day the BCDs provide cenotaph honour guards to seven valley communities, while representatives attend at six other locations.
In 1970, the Regiment was honoured by the people of Holland as one of several units in a Presentation Ceremony at Shaughnessy Hospital in Vancouver for veterans, and then invited to Holland for the 25th Anniversary of the Liberation of Holland. A delegation went by service aircraft to Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Lahr, Germany, and then by personal aircraft of the Canadian NATO Brigade commander to The Hague, in Holland. There they attended a reception for the Dutch people at the Canadian Embassy with a small group going to an audience and morning coffee with Queen Wilhelmina at her summer palace. She wished especially to meet with Gen. Pearkes who had helped her during her exile in Canada during WW II. From there the delegation went to Veendam for a municipal reception at the City Hall and receptions at various private homes. This was followed by a special church service and a trip to Appingdam. Finally, there was a special visit to Munster, Germany, at the behest of the unit's sister regiment in the British Army, the 5th Inniskilling Dragoon Guards or the "Skins." There the delegation had the pleasure of driving their Chieftain tanks and partaking in the hospitality of the Dragoon Guards. Gen. Pearkes and LCol. Horn then went on to a reception for Victoria Cross winners at Canada House, in London, with their spouses before catching a flight home from Lahr.
The Commonage range area.
Commonage range, Vernon, BC, Canada
Driver training on a Sherman tank.
Vernon, BC, Canada
Veterans march to Kelowna's City Park for a Remembrance ceremony.
Kelowna, BC, Canada
This is a Staghound armoured car, used by the recce troop of an armoured squadron.
Glenemma Range, Glenemma, BC, Canada
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