History of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets


All cadet corps in Canada have a distinguised history of service to the communities in which they are located. Togerther, these same cadet corps are making history as part of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets (RCAC).

The earliest reference to a military unit organized in a school dates from 1861; six years before Confederation! The Militia General Orders of June 3, 1861 authorized a Volunteer Militia Rifle Company, Class B to be called "Trinity College Volunteer Rifle Company". Although this rifle company was more of an Officer Training Coprs than a cadet corps, the beginnings of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets had been laid.

On November 28, 1879, the Militia General Order Number 18 authorized the formation of "Associations for Drill in Educational Institutions". These Drill Assoctiations were organized for young men over 14 years of age still enrolled in studies at school. This date is recognized the official founding of the RCAC, as the earlier units were a militia sub-unit for men between the ages of 18 and sixty rather than a cadet corps as we know it today.

Eight years later in 1887, the Regulations and Orders for the Militia authorized the loan of rifles and associated equipment to schools which were interested in training students over 12 years of age as long as drill and military training become part of the school schedule. As part of the deal, the school had to find suitable officers and provide a uniform for the students to wear.

The term "Cadet Corps" first appeared in 1898 under an agreement with the Province of Ontario. The agreement also provided that a member of the teaching staff whould become the permanent instructor for the cadet corps rather than a temporary instructor detailed from the local militia unit.

A Cadet Corps' affiliation with a local militia unit dates from 1899 when the General Order Numbers 60 and 61 indicated that such an affiliation was possible as long as the cadets were between the ages of 14 and 19. The Militia Bill of 1904 authorized boys over 12 years of age to be formed into school cadet corps and young men over 14 years of age but under 18 years of age to be formed into senior cadet corps. In this way, there would be a group of junior and a group of senior cadets.

The first regualtions for cadets were issued in 1906 in General Order Number 32. This order allowed the organization of three types of cadet corps based on the status of the cadets themselves:

a. students in schools controlled by the provincial governments,

b. students in schools not controlled by the provincial government, and

c. boys who wished to join a cadet corps not connected with a school.

The last group is considered the forerunner of the present day "Open Cadet Corps".

In an agreement with the Province of Nova Scotia (August 1908), the Minister of National Defence agreed to pay a bonus to those qualified teachers who instructed cadet corps. This atreement represented a big step forward for the cadets and a strengthening of the bonds between educational institutions and the Minister of National Defence.

The next important development in the growth of the cadet movement came in 1910 with the Strathcona Trust Agreement. The trust is named after Lord Strathcona who was the High Commissioner for Canada in Great Britain at that time. Lord Strathcona was interested in promoting cadet training in schools. He set up a trust fund of $500 000 with the Dominion Government. The investment profits were to be administered by a central committee.

Two direct results of the Strathcona Trust Agreement were:

a. the creation of the Cadet Services of Canada which would form the the fifth component of the Canadian Army under the National Defence Act, and

b. the payment of an instructional grant and uniform allowance.

This trust fund is a testiment to Lord Strathcona and his generous good faith in the youth of Canada.

During the years before the First World War and until its conclusion, the cadet movement thrived in Canada. In 1918 there were over 64 000 cadets enrolled and upwards of 40 000 ex-cadets had voluntarily enlisted to serve their country. After the "War to end all Wars", there was a decline in interest in the cadet movement. The uniform allowance was cancelled in 1931 and the instructional grant for junior cadets was cancelled. This post-war period created difficult times for even the strongest of cadet corps.

As everyone had expected, the dawning of the Second World War brought a renewed interest in the cadet movement. In 1942, His Majesty King George VI conferred the title "Royal" to the army cadets. The Royal Canadian Army Cadets become the official designation; one that we still use today. His Majesty also accepted the appointment of Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh holds this appointment today. There was an enormous expansion in the movement during the war and 115 000 boys enrolled as cadets. The grants that had been cancelled earlier in the century were reinstated and a standard pattern uniform was established at a very reasonable cost. In 1943, an Inter-Service Cadet Committee was set up to study common matters among the three elements. In May 1944 a new Army Cadet Flag was introduced in Army General Order 219.

In 1948 a review of the rules and regulations took place. This review brought the Canadian Army closer to its cadet corps than ever before. Trades training was introduced to the RCAC in 1948. This was training in addition to local training as it was conducted during the summer period rather than during the school year. Thus the beginnings of our present day summer camps. A trial camp was set up at Camp Ipperwash, Ontario. Courses common to all arms of the service were selected, such as driver mechanics and signaller. Another camp was established during the summer of 1948 and that was the National Cadet Camp located in Banff, Alberta. It was to be a special award camp offered to those cadets who had demonstrated excellent proficiency in army cadet skills by reaching a Master Cadet rating. The course was three weeks in duration.

In 1956, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth authorized a new design for the RCAC crest, including the motto "ACER ACERPORI" "As the maple, so the sapling". This same crest was incorporated into the design of the new Army Cadet camp flag in 1957. In 1962 an exchange programme was begun with the Caribbean.

During the period 1964-66 the Canadian military underwent a complete reorganization. The end result was the unification of the three services into the Canadian Forces. Some of the changes that resulted were:

a. The Canadian Army disappeared as it was previously known and the RCAC lost it major sponsor.

b. The Cadet Service of Canada disappeared and became the Cadet Instructor List (now the Cadet Instructor Cadre) whose officers have served as the movement's instructors ever since.

c. Many summer camps were closed down, such as those at Farnham, Quebec; Aldershot, Nova Scotia; and Clear Lake, Manitoba.

More recent changes that have affected the RCAC are the following:

a. A 1967 centennial project introduced an inter-provincial exchange programme during the summer months.

b. The Army Cadet League was formed on April 1, 1971 to work in partnership with the Department of National Defence in the running of the Army Cadets.

c. In May 1972, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth approved a new design for the Army Cadet Flag by replacing the Union Jack with the National Flag of Canada.

d. In November 1974, the Army Cadet training programme was once again revised. The star system of training was introduced, replacing the 1948 local training and trades training programme.

e. In 1974, the summer exchange programme with the Caribbean was replaced by two exchanges, one to Britain and the other to West Germany.

f. The air rifle shooting programme was introduced to army cadets in 1974.

g. On July 30th, 1975, Bill C16 was given Royal Assent. This Bill amended the National Defence Act, thus allowing girls to join the cadet movement.

h. During 1977 a new green uniform was introduced to the Canadian Cadet Organization.

j. The 100th Anniversary of Army Cadets occured on the 28th November 1979.

k. In 1985 the Royal Army Cadet Banner was presented by HRH Prince Philip, Duke of Edinbugh.

m. The enrolment age for cadet was reduced to 12 years old in 1987.

n. In September 1990 the revised Army Cadet Training Programme was introduced. It built on the Star Programme of 1974, but introduced user friendly handbooks and a reduced mandatory training programme to allow cadet corps to take advantage of local expertise in optional subjects.

( from Red Star Handbook, Fundamental Training)

ACER ACERPORI

"As the maple, so the sapling."


For more information contact Capt Donna Jean Pardoe at co5518@wwdc.com

Return to the Orderly Room

These pages do not necessarily represent or express the offical views of the Department of National Defence or The Army Cadet League of Canada.
© Copyright 1996, Nathan T. Brown