Okanagan Military Museum
06) The Cold War 1951 -1991
106) 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
3The 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.
5Within 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.
10By 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.
17Ferret equipped recce troop out on a route reconnaissance exercise.
Somewhere in the Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada
23In 1971, the Dragoons were honoured with the 'Freedom of the City' of Vernon in conjunction with the province's Centennial celebrations. In attendance were the Provincial Minister of Tourism, Honorary Colonel MGen Pearkes and Honorary LCol., Commander J. Bruce Smith.
In September 1972, 'A' and 'B' Squadrons vied for the Ogopogo Lake Challenge Trophy awarded to the 15 man crew of a rubber raft from each squadron who completed the two-day paddle on Okanagan Lake, from Okanagan Landing to Kelowna - a distance of 30 miles - in the shortest time. The teams departed on a Saturday morning to paddle the 24 miles to Wilson's Landing. The next morning the somewhat stiffened crews were once again on the water for the final stretch to Kelowna, where the rafts were landed at the boat-launch ramp and portaged to finish line at the Armoury several blocks away.
In the 1970s the BCDs sent two formed troops to Germany. In 1978 the second troop's deployment, its commander, Lt. Bruce MacLean, was killed in an accident. He was the first fatality since Brig. H. Angle had died in the Kashmir. In honour of Lt. MacLean, there is a trophy awarded annually for the best junior officer in the unit. In 1977, the Regiment won the coveted Worthington Trophy for the unit that attained the highest overall standard in the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps. A national competition, it is presented in honour of MGen. F. F. Worthington, who was the first commander of the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicles Training Centre and the "Father" of the Corps.
The Dunwoody trophy was awarded to the Militia unit attaining the highest overall standard in the Prairie and Pacific Areas. The BCDs won it in 1966 and again in 1975 and the next three years straight.
In 1978 and 1979, the Regiment won the Murphy Trophy, in honour of BGen. W. C. Murphy who was a former wartime Commanding Officer of the BCDs. This trophy was first presented in 1953 to the best unit at the summer camp in Western Command and was for a time thereafter, conferred upon the unit found to be the finest Recce regiment in the country. Latterly, it has come to be awarded to the runner-up to the Dunwoody Trophy winner.
Mayor J. Hindle of Kelowna presented the City of Kelowna Flag to the Regiment to mark the unit's 70th Anniversary in 1978.
In 1981, after several years as Recce, the BCDs once again became a tank regiment. Its tasking with respect to the Lord Strathcona's Horse (RC), (LdSH), a western Canadian Regular unit that the BCDs would augment in an emergency, was modified to require the Regiment to provide half a tank squadron, as well as Recce troops.
The signal that the Dragoons would be converting, to some extent from 'sneak and peek' Recce tasks to a full battle tank role was the arrival in the summer of 1981 of the four Cougar Armoured Vehicle, General Purpose (AVGP) tank trainers. These became the focus of unit training. The Cougar is a based on a Swiss designed, Canadian built, six-wheeled armoured vehicle with a British Scorpion Turret with a 76mm main gun. The three-man crew consists of a Driver, Gunner and Crew Commander/Loader. The vehicle was fully amphibious and powered in water by two permanently mounted propellers. Its engine is silent to the human ear at 100 metres and will accelerate from 0-50 kph in 10 seconds with a recommended top speed of 90 kph, although legend has it that a Washington State Highway Patrol trooper once clocked a BCD cougar doing about 100 kph (or 70 mph) on the road approaching the Yakima Gunnery Range. LCol. E. B. Collet, who was a former BCD trooper, was the chief of the research team that studied the Swiss Mowag design and recommended it for the Canadian Army.
28In January 1981, a modern two storey brick building on the same site, behind the 'temporary' Kelowna Armoury, replaced the old Atco modular Headquarters building. The Armoury was originally a school and was purchased as a temporary facility that has been utilized to the present day. In 1980, the Regimental Armouries were named and dedicated to two former Commanding Officers of the Wartime unit, who had achieved the rank of Brigadier. Kelowna's became the Brigadier Angle Armoury and Vernon's became the Brigadier Murphy Armoury.
It was in April 1982 that the Regiment had its first armoured Gun Camp in many years, with six gunners firing 200 tank rounds in the new Cougars, on the US Army's Yakima Range, in Washington State.
In May 1983, a contingent of former and current members of the BCD travelled to Veendam, Holland, and Kelowna's sister city. There was an official welcome in the Veendam City Hall Chambers, a tour of the City, a visit to their museum, and the opening of an exhibit documenting the German occupation of 1940-1945. Later, there was an evening commemoration service, and a walking visit to the City's cenotaphs, to lay wreaths of Remembrance. Recall that the BCD's were billeted in this city after VE-Day. A Polish armoured unit actually liberated it in May 1945.
In addition, Penticton awarded the Regiment the 'Freedom of the City.' After a ceremony at City Hall, a parade, led by the band of the 15th Field Regiment, RCA, of Vancouver, marched down the wrong way on a one-way street, to Penticton High School. This seemed an appropriate way to verify that Freedom. The Dragoons were accompanied by a large group of the "Old Guard" from the BCD Whizzbangs Association (Whizzbangs), led by the Honorary Col. D. Kinloch. This was a major element of the unit's 75th Anniversary celebrations marking the founding of the unit. In April, the Regiment hosted a Gala Ball at the Parkinson Recreation Centre following a parade through the streets of Kelowna.
On 1 May 1985 in the Veendam City Hall Square, the Dragoons, accompanied by a contingent of Whizzbangs, and the Pipes and Drums of the Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 26 (Kelowna) Pipe Band, received the 'Freedom of the City.' Over 400 members of the Regimental family, consisting of the veterans and their spouses and serving members of the unit, attended. In the Square, the Chief Constable halted the advancing parade, led by the CO of the day, Lt. Col. M. Hughes. The Chief then knocked three times on the doors of City Hall. Burgomaster Boekhoven emerged with the entire Veendam Council to greet the Regiment and to proclaim the Freedom. A detachment of the Regiment then entered City Council Chambers where LCol. Hughes received a ceremonial parchment, and addressed the Council on behalf of the current and past members of the unit. This trip once again demonstrated the genuine love and respect felt by the Dutch people for the Canadians in general, and by the citizens of Veendam and area in particular, for the Dragoons. At Loppersum, for example, a memorial service attracted 2,400 Dutch anxious to convey their thanks. For their part, many Whizzbangs were able to revive old memories with visits to the families with whom they had billeted in 1945. A visit was arranged to the garden, in Veendam, in which a mere sapling of a Maple had been planted in 1945, where a mature tree stands proud today.
29The Guidon of the BCDs is marched on parade during the Okanagan Military Pageant.
18 mai 1980
Kelowna Memorial Arena, Kelowna, BC, Canada
37During this period, weekend field training exercises on a squadron level consisted of two Recce troops in Jeeps, a four-car Cougar troop, an infantry troop and an echelon component. Trained personnel manned the Recce and Cougar troops. New recruits and the untrained generally started in the infantry troop.
Since the national survival period, summer camps, or "Milcons" (Militia Concentrations) as it has come to be known, has occurred mainly at Wainwright, Alberta. This Camp has ranges large enough to accommodate the firing of most forms of ordnance and all the equipment used by the Regiment is available there for gunnery and Recce training. The US Army facility at Fort Lewis, Washington was adequate for Recce training but after the Regiment went Armoured that facility was simply too small to accommodate live fire gunnery practice. This meant that the Dragoons began to make ever more frequent trips to the much larger range at Yakima, Washington, in addition to attending Milcons in Wainwright.
Over the years, the high standards maintained by the unit was rewarded with overseas postings to UN peacekeeping missions in Cyprus, deployment of 30 personnel to Montreal, Quebec for the 1976 Olympic Games for security, and personnel have regularly been seconded to the LdSH and the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCDs), on NATO missions in Lahr, Germany.
Since 1977, the Dragoons have maintained their presence in competitions, winning the Howard Trophy in 1984 as the most improved Militia unit in the country. This honour was perhaps, in large measure, due to the Regiment's excellent showing at the Ramshead Gunnery Competition at CFB Gagetown in June of that year. This was the first time this competition, normally restricted to Regular Force units, was open to the Militia or 'Reserve' units. The BCDs won the Howard Trophy again in 1987.
Started in the mid-1980s and run intermittently, LCol. Peter Nichita instituted a regimental sports day, usually scheduled as close as possible to 1 April to mark the anniversary date of the formation of the unit. The event is often held at Vernon because the various facilities nearby. Intended as a training day, the BCDs and their families play baseball, soccer and the like while socializing, finishing the day with a barbeque.
43These are some of the 'B' Squadron Cougar Troop at Camp Vernon on a weekend training exercise.
Vernon, BC, Canada
45Recce training with the jeeps complemented the armoured training on the Cougars.
Vernon, BC, Canada
49A Cougar practising fire and movement on the Yakima Ranges.
Yakima Firing Centre, Yakima, Wash. USA
55An old Sherman tank is the target of the day for the shoulder fired anti tank weapon training.
Near Chilliwack, BC, Canada
57A BCD contemplates the effects of the anti tank weapon's shot on this old Sherman tank chassis.
Near Chilliwack, BC, Canada
59Regimental Sergeant Major Kevin Cmolik recieves his Commission Scroll from Lt. Col. Peter Nichita.
Kelowna, BC, Canada
60Next chapter: Into the 21st Century 1991 -2004
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