From Cold War to Present Day


An Accordion Force

De Havilland-Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk T.1 trainer, Royal Canadian Airforce, 1965

Caption: De Havilland-Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk T.1 trainer, Royal Canadian Airforce, 1965

The Korean War and the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would soon change this perspective. Between 1950 and 1953, the strength of the Regular Force increased from 47,000 to 104,000. The 1947 budget was multiplied tenfold, reaching $1.9 billion in 1953.

The navy, which needed good technicians, would not reach its newly authorized strength until the late 1950s. The air force would also take a few years to reach strength, since it was once again starting with phased-out combat equipment. In 1952 the army revived the historic red rectangle of the 1st Division, worn high on the sleeve near the shoulder. This patch would disappear a few years later to return once more in the 1980s.

As we have seen, several militia regiments would be transferred to the Regular Force, including the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada and the Black Watch. There would be an attempt to rewrite history by creating the Regiment of Canadian Guards with four battalions, a unit with no historical basis in Canada. From 1955 on, exercises at the divisional level would be held at Gagetown, New Brunswick, a newly acquired camp with an area of 440 square miles.

With the Conservatives' return to office in 1957, national defence budgets began to shrink again, from $1.8 billion that year to $1.5 billion in 1960. In 1963, however, the Regular Force still had 120,871 personnel, a peacetime record. In 1967 this figure was cut to 110,000. The following year, all the new battalions added to the order of battle in 1953, except for the 2nd and 3rd battalions of the Royal 22e Régiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal Canadian Regiment, were returned to the reserve. In the 1970s the military membership of the Regular Force fell to approximately 80,000 before rising to 88,000 in the 1980s. In 1999 this figure would fall to 60,000. Budgets would be frozen in the 1960s at around $1.5 billion before increasing to more or less parallel the rate of inflation. They levelled off at $12 billion in the early 1990s before falling towards $9 billion at century's end.