From Cold War to Present Day

The Army Since 1945

The Role of the Reserves

The Canadian Army Reserve Force had by far the greatest historical resonance of all Canadian forces. Its tradition went back to the French regime - representing, by the end of the Second World War, almost 300 years of officially recorded history. Since Confederation, the reserve had been the backbone of Canada's defence at home and overseas. Its manpower and organization, deeply rooted in both small communities and large cities, had made it indispensable in the two great mobilizations of the 20th century. Beginning in 1945, the professional army that had been so disparaged by the militiamen of the 19th and 20th centuries was supplanted, for the emergence of technologies necessitated a thorough review of army strategies and deployment.

In 1946 the militia was more or less restored to its pre-1939 position. Nuclear weapons existed, but their full potential was largely unknown. Could an army formed in two years virtually from nothing, as was the case in 1914 and 1939, be viable in a conflict fought far from its bases? It would quickly be realized that a total war might be terminated before such a "coalescing" army could be deployed.

In 1952 the Chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant-General Guy Simonds, who had just seen to the rapid formation of two infantry brigades, for Korea and the Federal Republic of Germany, concluded that the militia would be incapable of responding to crises. War might be brief and highly technical. In order to wage it, an army required perpetually battle-ready, overtrained professionals. In Western Europe, where after 1951 Canada maintained a brigade, any invasion would have to be stopped within weeks. In such a case, no purpose would be served by organizing six divisions of militia.

In 1953 Simonds, having secured the support of the Conference of Defence Associations, handed the job of studying militia reform to a commission. Its task was to review the rationale and operating budget for the entire reserve. In its report, presented in April 1954 and written by Major-General Kennedy, the commission recommended the elimination of divisions and brigades along with their headquarters and most coastal defences and anti-aircraft batteries. The number of armoured units would rise from 18 to 22, while infantry units would drop from 66 to 54. Training standards would not be reduced, but reservists would be given more time to meet them. Reserve units would be teamed with Regular Force units for a week or two every year.