After the Great War, the military went through a period of down-sizing and reorganization and history repeated itself, as it tends to do, after the Second World War. This time, however, the tank was here to stay.
On the 27th of April, 1948, Major-General “Fighting Frank” Worthington retired from active service and on that day became the first Honorary Colonel of the
Here is a photo of a RCAC jacket patch from the period between the granting of the “Royal” title and the change of the Corps badge.
Events of the war proved that the tank was no passing fancy and every modern army required an armoured fist in its arsenal. We still used some Canadian build Grizzly tanks but by the spring of 1948 the RCAC started to get the M4A2 (76mm) HVAA Sherman Tank or more commonly known as the M4A2E8 version of the Sherman tank armed with a high velocity 76mm main gun and a diesel engine. These tanks became the standard for the RCAC until replaced by the Centurion Tank in regular force units but soldiered on in the reserves for many years after.
M4A2 (76mm) HVAA Sherman Tank
In 1949 the badge of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps changed. Like its predecessor, the badge resembled its British counter part with the exception of having “RCAC” on the gauntlet.
The new RCAC cap badge
In the late 1940s the raise of communism made many Western countries fear the the Soviet Union would continue their aggressive expansionism. In this environment, several western countries came together and formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in an effort to guarantee collective defense, should the USSR decide to move further west.
As Canada and NATO was planning for the defense of Europe, the communist North Korean Army invaded South Korea in 1950. Once again, Canada would go to war, this time on a much smaller scale that it had in 1939. Canada would send troops that would fight in the British Commonwealth Division. These troops included elements of the RCAC in the Sherman tank.
Sherman tank in Korea
Meanwhile, NATO, seeing the invasion of South Korea as a feint to draw Western forces away from Europe, sped up the deployment of troops. Canada sent the 27th Infantry Brigade. In 1952, the Sherman was replaced, in regular force units, by the Centurion. This British tank had been designed at the end of the Second World War and had built a good reputation while in use with British forces in Korea. Canada bought 274 Centurions for service with our troops in Europe and here at home.
57 ton Centurion Tank
With the death of His Majesty, King George VI, the badge of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps changed. The Tudor (or king’s crown) was replaced with the St Edward (or queen’s crown)
Canada and the world was entering into a very interesting time. With two great super-powers and the military alliances they helped to guide engaged in a Cold War, many small proxy wars were fought around the world. In October of 1956 a crisis erupted on the Sinai. Egypt had nationalized the Suez Canal and Israel, along with Britain and France went to war to retaken the Canal Zone. This brought condemnation from around the world. Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs, Lester Person proposed that a neutral force from the United Nations be inserted into the area to allow the opposing forces to withdraw peacefully. Canada’s contribution to the United Nations Emergency Force was the 56 Canadian Reconnaissance Squadron. Originally equipped with Ferret Scout Cars, they patrolled the zone of separation.
photo from the internet
Shoulder flash of the 56 Canadian Reconnaissance Squadron in the red and yellow of the RCAC
Sports has always played a part in military life. Below is a photo of a RCAC sports patch for a winter coat. If anyone can shed a little more light on its origins, please contact the museum here.
In 1968 Canada unified the three arms of service in the military. This brought an end to the distinctive uniforms and the death, in name only, of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. It was replaced by the Armour Branch. In fact though, the term Royal Canadian Armoured Corps stayed on in common use as the espirt de corps was strong among the black hatters.
Royal Canadian Armoured Corps should title for the unified forces green uniform
Slowly the Regimental identifiers crept back into use and in the 1980s, the Conservative government brought back distinctive uniforms for the army, navy and air force. It would be well into the 21st century before traditional ranks and nomenclature were returned, again under a Conservative government.
The October Crisis in 1970 saw the army deploy in Quebec and Ottawa in response to the terrorist threat from the Frontier de la Liberation de Quebec. Units of the RCAC deployed for vital point security and VIP protection, and patrolling.
The next big deployment came with the summer Olympics in Montreal. Units of the RCAC conducted patrols and vital point security.
The ferret was replaced with the Lynx. This fully tracked vehicle was manufactured by FMC corporation in the U.S.
Lynx with Cougars in the background
By the mid-1970s the Centurion Tanks were showing their age and replacement parts were hard to come by. Canada decided on replacing the 274 Centurions with 114 Leopard 1 tanks which arrived between July 1978 and July 1979.
Canadian Leopard 1
While enough equipment was hard to come by for the regular force, the militia faired far worse. The reserve army used the Sherman tanks until 1972 and when they went away, the militia continued to train with jeeps in a RECCE roll. Opportunities to train with regular force equipment certainly helped but there wasn’t enough to go around.
It wasn’t until 1979 when Canada finally started to re-equip the army with new armoured vehicles. The Armoured Vehicle General Purpose project was completed and vehicle started to arrive. The Cougar was very warmly welcomed, especially by militia units who could start training in tank warfare once again.
Cougars on the firing pad in Meaford, Ontario
The Cougars were designed as tank trainers and never intended for combat operations however, the Cougars were deployed to Somalia with the Royal Canadian Dragoons and to the Former Yugoslavia, particularly Bosnia-Herzegovina.
With the new millennium came new threats and new terminology. Canada found itself fighting a new enemy, one without uniforms or massed armies. The new asymmetric threat from terrorism forced the army into new ways of thinking and new strategies. Some people started to believe that this new warfare left no room or need of tanks so in the early 2000s the RCAC got out of armoured warfare and every regiment became RECCE. The Leopards were mothballed and many became monuments. The regular force used the Coyote Light Armoured Vehicle while the militia went back to using small unarmoured vehicles. The Iltis and then the G-Wagon were used by the reserves to practice the old RECCE by death doctrine of the 1960s.
During operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban insurgents, a group with no armour actually helped bring about a return of the tank to the Corps. A favourite hiding place of the insurgents were the grape drying structure that dot the province. The walls are very thick mud construction that bakes to a cement like hardness in the unrelenting Afghan sun. The main gun on the light armoured vehicles, the 25mm chain gun was not powerful enough to punch through the walls. A call went out for tanks! The problem was that Canada didn’t have anymore operational tanks left to send. A mad scramble to retrieve the tanks from monuments and prepare them for war. The old Leopard 1s served well but we needed up-dated tanks. Canada leased, and then bought, the new Leopard 2A6M for use in Afghanistan. Arguably the best tank in the world, the new Leopards were welcomed by the Corps with open arms.
Canadian Leopard 2 in Kandahar, Afghanistan