Primary Arms Odyssey 2023

Canadian Army Returns to Traditional Rank Insignia, Names and Badges

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the Canadian Government is restoring the Canadian Army’s traditional unit designations as well as ranks and insignia. Just two years ago, the Canadians restored their traditional service names to Canadian Army, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Canadian Air Force from the the Land Forces Command, Maritime Command and Air Command that they adopted in 1968. I think is pretty cool news for the Canadian Army to return to its roots. After all, what is the military without tradition? Oh yeah, the US Air Force.

(below from the DND/CF backgrounder):

When the Government of Canada announced that it was reinstating the historical name of the Canadian Army in August 2011, it restored an important part of the Canadian Army’s heritage. The restoration of traditions related to the historical identity of the Canadian Army appropriately reflects the re-designation of the institution.

The proposed changes include the re-introduction of divisional nomenclature and patches for the current Land Force Areas; traditional rank insignia for officers; corps shoulder titles following the restoration of traditional titles to a number of Canadian Army corps in April 2013; and the Canadian Army’s secondary badge. Further, the Minister of National Defence announced the intention to restore the historical Army rank names for non-commissioned members.

Divisional Nomenclature and Patches

Land Force Areas will be renamed as divisions and Canadian Army personnel will wear appropriate division patches. Formations will be renamed as follows:

Land Force Quebec Area will be referred to as “2nd Canadian Division”;
Land Force Western Area will be referred to as “3rd Canadian Division”;
Land Force Central Area will be referred to as “4th Canadian Division”;
Land Force Atlantic Area will be referred to as “5th Canadian Division”; and
Land Force Doctrine and Training System will be referred to as “Canadian Army Doctrine and Training Centre”.

There will be no change to 1st Canadian Division Headquarters.

Corps Shoulder Titles

Following the restoration of the Canadian Army’s corps in April 2013, corps metal and cloth shoulder titles will be produced.

Army Rank Names

The historical rank names for non-commissioned members, which have long been used informally, are being considered for formalization, at which point they would change as follows:

Privates of the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps will be referred to as “Trooper”;
Privates and corporals of the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery will be referred to as “Gunner” and “Bombardier” respectively;
Privates of the Corps of Royal Canadian Engineers will be referred to as “Sapper”;
Privates of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals will be addressed as “Signaller”;
Some Privates of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps will be referred to as “Fusilier,” “Rifleman” or “Guardsman”, depending on their type of unit; and
Privates of the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers will be referred to as “Craftsman”.

In addition, the second lieutenants and warrant officers in Guards regiments will be addressed as “Ensign” and “Colour Sergeant”, respectively.

Traditional Insignia for Officers

In line with the formalization of historical rank names for non-commissioned members, the traditional army officer rank insignia – with the stars, or “pips,” and crowns – are being restored. This ranking system is more than a hundred years old and continues to be used by armies the world over. Historically, the variations of the stars and crown were used to delineate rank so that officers could recognize each other on the battlefield. Canadian Army colonels and general officers will also wear the traditional gorget patches.

Canadian Army Secondary Badge

The new Canadian Army secondary badge is based on the historical Canadian Army badge used during and after the Second World War. It features the crossed swords, overlaid by three maple leaves conjoined on one stem. A crown is placed atop the maple leaves. The secondary badge will be displayed on the Canadian Army ensign and pocket badge.


28 Responses to “Canadian Army Returns to Traditional Rank Insignia, Names and Badges”

  1. orly? says:


  2. Canadian says:

    As a career regular Army NCO, I am disgusted, and so are the combat soldiers in the rest of the Army.

    What these press releases should really say “The Canadian Army hasn’t had new combat uniforms to issue for over a year” (That goes for the ENTIRE Army), also “The CAF as a whole has no boots to issue”. I’m not joking, I have been on a waiting list for 15 months now (size 9, not some weird size), and clothing stores said “you’ll just have to buy your own”. Even RSMs can’t get issued any kit, and soldiers show up in garrison with uniforms that are worn through and sewn together, but for the first time in history it’s really not their fault.

    We also have no indirect fire support weapons left smaller then the 81mm mortar. Yep, the 60mm was replaced by a POS C16 (h&k 40mm deal) that DOES NOT WORK. I am qualified, have instructed it, and as of less than one month ago the small arms cell released a new memo stating that even the updated software does not work for either direct or indirect fire targets. Oh, and the T&E we bought for the thing has no markings so we can’t even record the old school way.

    Lastly, they just took away our .50 cals, why? That POS grenade launcher supposedly replaced them.

    In summary, we don’t have boots, combat uniforms, or proper support weapons, BUT they are designing new badges and bringing back a tradition that NOBODY wants.

    After a decade of WAR in Afghanistan, the system as it stands IS our tradition, and nobody died in the desert because some officer had a different rank insignia then the Army had in Korea. Men died because they were in combat. We should focus on our ability to project combat power- NOT project historical periods of dress.

    • Andrew says:

      I think you may be stepping out of your bounds on this one. This change is to bring back the old familiarity of combat arms ranks. the pride in units and to help soldiers identify with each other. understood your point may be valid on the issues and yet your points do nothing to change the fact when it was brought up here.

      There is a lot of talk around my unit here on this topic and most seem fine with the changes if not happy to be able to better identify themselves from other trades and components. Cheers to Minister McKay for allowing this to happen, jsut a shame it took so long to implement.

      • Canadian says:

        Why do you need to better identify yourselves from other units? Do you get confused?
        What “old familiarity”?
        Who was in the Army in 1968 and is still in to be so “familiar”?

        Now we have a system that will have to waste time updating files and computer software so that someone can be called “trooper” OFFICIALLY, instead of unofficially as it currently stands.

        Why does that matter to me, well myself and thousands of others have been told that we will wait up to 18months for our severance package buyout (as with ALL CAF members) as there aren’t enough clerks to process it any quicker. I am owed quite a bit of money from my mandatory buyout. “Different people do that”, right? That will be the argument, and as such my point is made- we are spending man hours doing unnecessary activities, instead of completing tasks already inprogress.

        The USMC has far more personnel then the entire CAF, and they are fine with one single uniform and rank structure.
        I’m not saying that we should go back to the old standard of one uniform for the entire CAF, my point is that our system works just fine as it stands and has far more “tradition” then it needs.

        Our mandatory messes, and “traditions” that lock soldiers into geographically located regiments and won’t allow them to get posted without a “rebadge” are a strong enough grasp on our time and resources. The twenty minutes I will have to spend learning and instructing new ranks to my men, is yet ANOTHER twenty minutes wasted. It’s just more on top of the 1812 nonsense, and on top of the parade square foolishness. On top of a system heavy with tradition that has no substance.

        It’s as though our nation wants to forget the last ten years in Afghanistan so badly that it is trying to reverse time to the late 1960s. A time in which no currently serving regular force member was even in the Army.

        • Captain Smoof says:

          You won’t hear an argument from me. CCA was here yesterday talking about this and it sounded like a lot of smoke and mirrors.

          They seem to be micro-managing the small stuff, rather than the important issues. But hey, at least the LtGen had a swanky new uniform with the super sized flag!

        • Matthew says:

          Perhaps you’d prefer it if your military became privatised, lost all of it’s traditions and history, and you all just became members of essentially what would be a huge security company, with the added bonus of optionally belonging to a workers union? I dare say that as a corporate entity, there’d be just as much, if not more, red tape to cut, resulting in maybe even less of a successful outcome.

          I fully sympathise with your frustrations, and agree that money and effort could be better spent on getting service personnel what they need to get their job done, but unfortunately your criticisms will not help the matter, unless of course you’re in a real position of influence, which I’m assuming you’re not.

          • Andrew K says:

            What a pointless comment.

          • Canadian says:

            I would prefer if we kept RELEVANT traditions. For example, I fully respect the appropriate study of past battles through the use of battle honours- specifically as it can be used to learn about previous success and failure.

            However I don’t believe in locking soldiers in to a “regiment” which is no longer based on where they are from in Canada, nor does it have anything to do with who they are- it’s simply the number that the recruiter gave you when you signed up- unless you put up a fight about which half of the country you wanted to be posted to- even then it’s a divisive and ineffiecient system.

  3. Strike-Hold says:

    Why get rid of the maple leaf insignia? Its a better reflection of the identity, traditions and values of modern Canada than the British Crown is.

    But on the other hand, why bother with this “window-dressing” at all when there are clearly more pressing issues….

    • MCG says:

      The crown is not the issue. It can be found in our ranks already and it remains a strong Canadian symbol. It is the pip, the Star of the Order of the Bath, which is most unpatriotic. Why select the image of a British order, within which Canadians are excluded from promotion since 1935, to serve as a sign of rank within the Canadian Army? We are only allowed in at the lowest level (and even that has not happened since the Korean War when it was awarded to a single Canadian), and yet we want to use it as the symbol of authority within our Army? It kind of suggests we have a subservient position next to the British officers who are actually permitted to ascend the levels of the order which we have selected to represent authority within our Army.

  4. majrod says:

    Why was it changed in the first place?

    Sounds like PC is being recognized for what it is. Returning to one’s roots is good. Best of luck Canadians.

  5. Bradkaf308 says:

    I like old traditions. But don’t cut our combat effectiveness. This isn’t an issue of one or the other.
    I think when it comes to choosing new wpns systems no one above the the rank of Sgt should be involved in the Army. Eryx pos. getting rid of the 60mm wtf. now the .50 are you people crazy? Seriously?! Is it just because the ammo is expensive?
    Window dressing, while cutting the budget. This CDS was brought in to be a manager not a leader. We had 2 Army war Generals, now time for budget cuts and to forget about Afghan. Back to the ’70s.
    Like I said I like the old traditions. Bring them back…. To our modern well kitted out Army. Well kitted out first, niceties later.

  6. Matthew says:


    We have the same issue here, in the UK, in regards to postings and their relevance to the units that occupy them, although I imagine that in a country as vast as Canada, the problem is amplified. Look at it this way, let’s imagine that a particular battalion, historically from Scotland, and recruiting from Scotland, is based in a particularly inaccessible part of the Highlands. What good will they serve in that location? Sure, the soldiers may be close to home, boosting morale, but logistically it is inefficient, and the needs of the Army come first, but the needs of the troops, and their dependants, comes a close second. Also, neither of our Armed Forces are large enough these days to let units stay in their ‘home’ location, or give soldiers from Infantry battalions the luxury of multiple postings.

    I am dismayed to read about the equipment issues – I thought that ten years in Afghanistan had squared away equipment deficiencies for modern Western militaries. Compare a British soldier invading Iraq, to one in patrol nowadays in Sangin. The changes are massive, and nothing but good.

    I completely agree with Strike-Hold that removing the Maple Leaf, in exchange for the Crown, is a poor decision. Colonialism died a long time ago, isn’t that right, America?

    • Bradkaf308 says:

      The clothing problem is we are getting new uniforms and they slow to come then the boot problem. We were to go to a new brown boot but the Army rejected the lot I guess for QC issues. The system doesn’t want to buy anything to fill the gap till the new stuff comes on line. There is a dept in the gov that does all of the purchases, I don’t if this is always the way to go. In the reserve world we frequently face these problems (re clothing) even in good times.

    • Canadian says:

      I don’t mean that we should have a thousand little regiments everywhere. As an example, the Canadian Army has 9 regular force Infantry Battalions (3 for each Regular Regiment). ONLY 9! Oh, and three of them are French- meaning that their full operational language is French and they are in Quebec. That means that an English speaking soldier from the West could easily (and often does) end up on the complete other side of the country.
      Does the Army come first? YES.
      However, when said soldier’s parents are dying, or he gets divorced (happens often as we all know), and his wife takes the kids back home- guess what, it’s generally 8-12 hours of travel BY AIR to cross the country (including all the airport bullshit). It’s not a simple train ride. Often good soldiers just get out because they can’t handle the needless separation. It’s also not like ANY Canadian unit is at full strength, postings can be had.

      My solution is to number all units, period. Engineer regiments cease to exist and become units 1-3. Infantry Bns become Bn 1-9 of the Infantry Corps. Armoured units get the same treatment. Any organization classed as a “Unit” gets a number and it’s administration falls under it’s orginating corps for man management. The support trades have done it that way and it can work. That way if soldier “A” wants to get posted to Eastern Canada, the RSM doesn’t have grounds to shit all over him and fight to stop his rebadge because it’s “disloyal”.

      Not actually arguing from personal issues here, I am fine with my current posting- however I’m sick of seeing fine soldiers get out of the Army because somebody somewhere said that they can’t go home more than once a year because the guys out their wear a different shape on their hat.

      The Army doesn’t deploy as lone regiments. We deploy as conglomerations of different groups, from different Bns and even different regiments in the same Bn. We fight that way, but on returning to Canada “such and such” unit is too different for us to associate with. It’s inefficient and divisive.

  7. bman says:

    I dig it… Now to throw a quick dig at the air force comment, wouldn’t it be nice to the mighty Army Air Corps?

  8. J J says:

    Now, last, final gesture, would be returning back to pre-1965 Red Ensing.

  9. MajV says:


    We’re back to pips and crowns. Stop whinging and accept it. It’s a political decision.

    NOT having pips and crowns does NOT equal more or better kit. it doesn’t mean the moeny’s allocated any differently. It doesn’t mean you’ll get your boots, or an upgraded LAV, or PLD.

    For one, I welcome the move. Smoke and mirrors? So what. It’s a recognition of our Historical roots. Not all bad, at all, really. Funny that most RegF guys seem to hate it, and most ResF guys support it…of course, given that many reserve units pre-date the RegF (except for an act of parliament), I’m not too surprised about it…

    Got complaints about kit? Send memos up the chain. Beat up your CQMS. Start writing your MP. But don’t blame endemic failures on the system on a cosmetic change to the Army.

    • Canadian says:

      That is NOT how you get equipment changes. Gear changes are done through UCRs, AARs, ECRs. All of which I actively submit.

      The DND budget DOES have a finite amount of money- so the fact that MORE money is being added to the accoutrements budget IOT design and procure new division patches, and that new rank badges will have to be designed, contracted/approved, and purchased in large quantities (all of which takes man hours to work on), means definitively that money which could otherwise be spent making sure that I have more than one pair of combat pants without holes in them is spent for a “good show”.

      How about puttees? No?
      How about the palm forward salute?
      How about the old grooming regulations that allowed bushy sideburns?
      What about the old pizza pie sized berets? (look at any WWII photo)

      My point is that we are picking and choosing which traditions are important- whithout consulting those who are directly effected by the COST and EFFORT required to make the changes.
      Sentimentality does not win wars.

  10. Sheldon says:

    I think people are misunderstanding a lot of this. The Maple leaf isn’t going away as a symbol in the Army. It will still feature prominently in many badges, patches and buttons. What is going away is the much hated Navy style rings on the sleeves and shoulders of officers and the pips and crowns are returning. Pips and crowns existed on the Army’s uniforms for the majority of it’s existence and LONG after Canada became independent. So the “colonial return” is just hogwash. Harper’s critics are making much to do about nothing and most of the criticism is simply politically motivated.

  11. Filter says:

    I’m currently serving in the CF and currently deployed in Afghanistan. If we are to switch back, the only loss of the maple leaf is from the Master Corporal and the Sergeant ranks. I don’t see that as a big hit to the Maple Leaf, as we still wear the Canadian flag on our left shoulder. I’m very proud to be who I am and even prouder to share the rank structure of the men and women who served before me. Lets not use this as a reason to bitch about the government.


  12. Filter says:

    Sorry, I did not mean to leave the Generals out of the list of ranks losing the Maple Leaf, I am having mixed feelings about them losing the leaf though.

    Hoping for the best.

  13. Ric Law says:

    This whole debate about losing the maple leaf is absurd. Re-read the release, NCO ranks are not changing – the leaf will remain for MCpls and Sgts. The only thing changing are the badges of rank for officers, and further to that instead of adopting the British pips styled from the Order of the Bath, the pips will be emblazoned with a a purely Canadian Order (most likely the Order of Military Merit). Generals will likely retain the maple leaf on their ranks, the changes will likely only affect OCdt-Col.

    Further, the “British Crown” as someone labelled it, is the same as the Canadian Crown…remember, The Queen is the Queen of Canada as well!

    Finally, pips are logical compared to bars. More NATO countries use a pip/star-based system for officer ranks (GB, Aus, NZ, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Belgium, Hungary, Denmark, Estonia, Austria, Lithuania, Netherlands, the list goes on) than bars (France, Portugal, Romania).

    • Canadian says:

      Actually, if you look at traditional Canadian and British officer uniforms, you will see that the Army originally wore pips AND bars on the sleeves. Google it- I’m not making it up. So when Canada decided that ranks should be equivalent for all services, LOGICALLY since the RCN and RCAF wore bars, why not simply remove the pips and keep the bars for the Army.

    • MCG says:

      Rick Law, your information is not correct. The CA is returning to the Star of the Order of the Bath as its pip.

  14. Philip says:

    “After all, what is the military without tradition? Oh yeah, the US Air Force.”

    Sadly, the AF does feel like it has “traditions” — that’s the reason I’m given as to why we still wear a uniform with ginormous rank chevrons on the arms; and why I’m expected to press hard creases into a supposedly wash & wear utility uniform…

  15. MCG says:

    Every Canadian Army person who I have spoken with has viewed this negatively on a spectrum of disbelief that effort is being squandered up to resentment over “the powers” being so disconnected from what actually matters to serving personnel. The evidence (anecdotal as it may be) suggests the moral effect will be neutral at best but more likely it will be mildly negative on the whole. The change is unnecessary, unwanted, unhelpful, wasteful, and occasionally supported under an insulting message.

    The world over (universally within NATO but with some exceptions external to the alliance) military ranks are distinct to a nation and they often contain imagery and symbolism of national pride. Just as a flag is linked with the identity of its nation, so too is the rank insignia and uniform of the military. The current common rank insignia is uniquely Canadian and it incorporates elements from the former services.

    After nearly a half century of proud service, the current rank insignia is what current serving service personnel identify with. Referring to pips & crowns as our traditional rank is inaccurate – it is our historical rank, but our tradition has changed. Tradition is something that evolves, sometimes consciously, sometimes not, sometimes out of desire, and other times out of necessity. After two generations, the current tradition (the rank the Army now identifies with) is the current system of rank.

    This is an important reality that must be accepted over the argument that the move rights a wrong of unification because the move actually repeats the wrong. In 1968 the government reached into the Army and, against the desire of most members and the expressed wishes of Army leadership, the in-place symbols of identity/rank were thrown out the window and new ones imposed. Today the government is reaching into the Army and, against the desire of most members and Army leadership, the in-place symbols of identity/rank are again being thrown out the window and new ones imposed. If it was wrong in 1968, it is wrong today.

    Not only is the current rank now our tradition and change unwanted, the current rank insignia are more functional than the historical ranks. It facilitates communication across the environments because, even though service pers may not be able to name the rank, all CAF members can recognize the rank of any other CAF member. If you go into a coalition environment today, you will find a great mix of every nations’ army, navy, air force, marines and gendarmerie – the common CAF rank actually helps in this setting because our allies only have one rank system to learn. Amongst those nations that use a pips system for rank, there is no common convention for depicting all ranks and there are a substantial number of allies who do not use a pips rank system including USA, France, Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal, Slovenia. In the end, the only way we will ever see a rank that truly improves recognition in a coalition environment will be if we successfully lobby for pan-NATO Joint rank insignia … that notion is probably several bridges too far. Sticking closer to home, we could preserve the enhanced ability to communicate across environments which is provided by our current rank system. Simplicity is a principle of war – design to the lowest common denominator and minimize potential points of failure. Leaving things as they are makes good military sense while the announced change does not.

    Because the change is unwanted and unhelpful, the waste going into this really stands out. The announcement is being described as one that will pay for itself, but this argument is arrived at by taking a convenient slice of the whole change and focusing on that to the exclusion of the whole announcement. Renaming the CA, RCN and RCAF has already cost over $1 million as reported in the press. How much more will this cost to implement? I am not convinced this will eventually pay for itself – instead of sewing a ribbon of rank onto just the officer uniforms, we will sew divisional patches on the sleeves of every member in the Army (and have tailors rotate these patches on any number of postings every summer). How much will it cost to embroider pips and crowns onto the dress shirt slip-ons as opposed to sewing on the strip of ribbon? How will costs compare to embroider the more intricate pips & crowns onto operational clothing slip-ons as opposed to embroidering the simple bars now? What is the cost of changing the Army command pin, and introducing new division flags? What is the cost if the public purse picks-up and maintains separate stocks of desired regimentally unique pips & crowns?

    Regardless, the biggest wastes in this whole thing is not money but effort. For all the staff effort that will go into this in Ottawa, a person (or persons) could probably have been found to instead push through a few minor equipment projects or help accelerate a major project to get soldiers operationally needed clothing or equipment. Or maybe this person could have updated some years out of date CFAOs on military careers and promotion (resulting in useful improvements to how personnel progress through the ranks). When a decision is made on the design of the new ranks, that is going to take-up the purchasing time of a item and supply managers working for soldier systems in ADM(Mat) – that means these people will be postponing the buying of potentially more relevant soldier kit. In all the time that the MND and his staff spent discussing, planning, and presenting the various little bits of these silly aesthetic identity changes – what files were marking time? Where is the solution to the housing problem in Cold Lake? Where is the solution to the families that have lost tens of thousands because the housing markets were less than favourable when the CAF ordered a move? How many expenditures requiring ministerial approval time expired?

    And if it wasn’t enough for this change to be unnecessary, unwanted, unhelpful, and wasteful – soldiers are treated with the additional (unintentional) slap in the face of being told this will restore lost pride. Lost Pride?! That very statement implies some lack or want of pride over the last decades. Go look an Afghan vet in the eyes and tell him “you guys lacked pride over there.” There was no shortage of pride amongst the guys fighting over there.

    The ranks are established in the National Defence Act, but their official use must also be directed through QR&O. This has not been the case and the widespread use of these rank titles has been officially informal. I will admit that authorizing the use of historical branch titles for the private rank was the right thing. As those rank titles continued to be used in practice, they remain a tradition that soldiers identify with. However, I would not see the National Defence Act amended in Parliament just to add the desired missing ranks of Colour Sergeant and Ensign.