Our Colonial Status

[Original flag images © Claudio Divizia/Dollar Photo Club]

As a part of the British Empire we, like all others submitting to the Monarch, were referred to as “Colonials”. And so long as we were under the protection of Great Britain and bound to her both politically and economically, we held that subservient status.

Had it not been for the obstinacy of such as Sir Sam Hughes in 1914 and General AGL McNaughton in 1939, our forces would have been piecemeal absorbed into British formations. As it was much of the RCAF and the RCN were so absorbed or integrated!

There are still many in the Halls of English power who fail to recognize or accept Canada’s national and military independence – to them we are still “Colonials”!

I have had at least two personal experiences of this “Colonel Blimp” attitude.

1]       In 1955 I was stationed with HQ 2CIB in Soest, Germany. I was Senior Liaison Officer, a role for which there was little call in Garrison. As a result when in Garrison I acted as the Brigade Sports Officer.

In 1956 we received an invitation from the British Army to enter a Canadian team in the British Army Championship competitions for winter sports – Cross-country skiing in particular.

I arranged a four-man team comprising an officer from the R22eR, two Other Ranks from the PPCLI and on OR from the Service Battalion. A week or so before the competitions in Winterberg, in the Hartz Mountains, we were informed that Norwegian Langlauf cross-country skis were the appropriate equipment. Our four had never heard of such a ski, but I managed to acquire four set – they had a week to rehears!

The Competition was held and – Lo and Behold – our Canadian Team won!

I attended the formal Brit Army presentation and took with me the head of the Canadian Army Europe [CBC] radio service since I thought  it newsworthy.

At the presentations the Brigadier making the presentations announced the Cross-country winner as a Brit team!

I immediately approached the stage and asked why the Brits and not us – he said “after all you are merely guests!” I replied that we were invited as participants and that I had with me the Rep of the CBC –  either he give the prize to our Team or I would guarantee that the false treatment was broadcast all across Canada within 12 hours!

The Brit Corps Commander, General ‘Windy’ Gale, overheard and directed the Brigadier to give us the Trophy and “stop being such a damned fool!”


2]       It was 1957 and I was back with 4 RCHA in Hemer, Germany as a Troop Commander.

The CO, John Drewry detailed me to be Acting CO for a NATO Exercise to be held as he and the Brigade Commander had been called to Paris. The Brigade Major was detailed tot be Acting Brigade Commander.

At the Corps Briefing in Bielefeld Don McLellan and I sat in the front row.

The scenario was that the Soviets had broken through 1 [Br] Corps and their withdrawal was critical. The Brit Brigadier briefing officer said they were taking the Cdn Brigade’s vehicles from 2 CIB to bring the vehicle-short Brits out of the line ….. leaving the Canadians to fair for themselves!

Don let to his feet and said “Like Hell you will! You try to take our vehicles and leave our chaps to be overrun and I guarantee no Canadian will ever again fight for you bloody Brits. I will be onto Ottawa within the hour!”

General Gale was sitting to thee side of the stage; “Now now Don, no such thing will happened.”

Turning to the Brit Brigadier Staff officer conducting the briefing he said, “Don’t be such an Ass! You would be throwing away the very best troops we have – their Brigade is better than any British Division!”

The matter was straightened out!

What a wonderful lesson it was for me to see the imperative of standing up for “right” regardless of the consequences!


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