From Cold War to Present Day

Reorganizing the Military

Planning the Postwar Forces

Volunteer, Canadian Rangers, 1988

Caption: Volunteer, Canadian Rangers, 1988

Canada's defence forces had stagnated in the period between the wars. During the Second World War the committee of senior officials studying the problems that might follow in the wake of the conflict suggested staffing levels that would enable the military to survive on its own-to adjust and develop.

The post-1945 professional army would reach a strength of 25,000 personnel - the Mobile Striking Force - and the reserve a strength of 180,000. The air force would consist of 16,000 service personnel and 4,500 auxiliary personnel with eight professional and 15 auxiliary squadrons. The navy would have 10,000 personnel with two aircraft carriers, two cruisers and 10 to 12 destroyers.

These professional armed forces totalling some 50,000 personnel had to be ready for any military eventuality - war, support and assistance to the civil authorities, militia training, and the maintenance and operation of communications systems in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Above all, they were responsible for the defence of Canadian sovereignty, which included numerous exercises in the north and the development of appropriate equipment.

A lesson the politicians had learned from the 1930s was that international co-operation was of little use in maintaining peace without the means to enforce it. The generation born in the 19th century and then of retirement age knew only too well, as did their successors, that there could be no peace without the forces to safeguard it, withdrawal would not make the problem go away, all peoples were interconnected and Canada had to maintain a presence on the international scene. After 1945, therefore, Canada would have more troops than it did after 1918, and it would revisit the idea of having the three services run by a single minister, whereas during the Second World War each had its own minister. This return to the principle of unification presaged much more radical changes 20 years down the road.

The army would keep its military regions with their headquarters and staffs that in theory could each serve a division. The training sites were still there, along with the administrative staff and militia instructors. The reserve had to have sufficient basic strength to operate six infantry divisions and four armoured brigades. This army, when mobilized, would have two corps plus coastal defence units. However, the armed forces were generally as unattractive after 1945 as they had been before the war. In 1949 the Regular Forces were short several thousand personnel, while the reserves were, as usual, well under strength.