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What is Old is New Again: Formation Signs of the Canadian Army 2015

December 18, 2016

by Bill Alexander

In 2011, the Land, Sea or Air Elements of the Canadian Forces were re-designated as the three traditional services, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army. Unification of the Canadian Forces was officially ended. The Canadian Army continued with re-structuring and in 2013 the LAND FORCE (LF) Areas of Canada were renamed divisions, with each of the four land force areas named after one of the overseas divisions of the Second World War.

Under the new structure, 1 Canadian Division, re-organized in 2010 as a regular force command and control headquarters retained its designation while the other four divisions were distributed across Canada by renaming the existing LF areas:

  • LF Atlantic Area became 5 Canadian Division,
  • Secteur du Quebec de la Force Terrestre (SQFT)/LF Quebec Area, 2e Division du Canada,
  • LF Central Area, 4 Canadian Division, and
  • LF Western Area was re-named 3 Canadian Division.

Concurrent with this re-designation, formation signs were authorized for wear by each division.[i]

Following the army precedent for formation patches since the First World War, the new division signs are made in the standard size of two by three inches. The patches were to reflect the colours used for the Second World War division signs. Using a Pantone system, colours were selected based on the historic division signs. The new division formation signs are made of a Melton material with an embroidered border bonded to a second layer of plastic backing.  The patches are trimmed along the embroidered edges.


1 Canadian Division had been organized and disbanded twice between 1950 and 1999 and it was reactivated for a third time in 2010. With the 2014 re-organization, it was indicated that the new pattern division signs would be provided for 1 Cdn Division shortly. The implication was that the latest incarnation of 1 Cdn Division was not wearing a patch or they were using another pattern. The division sign was the traditional crimson red worn by all previous iterations of 1 CID. 2e DC adopted a medium blue colour, more similar to the Second World War pattern than the dark blue of the First World War division patch. Some problems crept into the grey colour selected for 3 Canadian Division. The initial choice was determined to be incorrect in the shade of grey and a second slightly darker grey was selected; only a small number of the incorrect patches were issued. 4 Canadian Division adopted a medium green patch and 5 Canadian Division, a shade of maroon. The new melton materials reflect different shades of the chosen colours depending on lighting. The new formation signs came into wear in 2014 and the issue was to be complete by 2015.


The new division signs are worn on the army DEU and the introduction of the new signs required some modifications to dress regulations.  The Land Force Areas had been organized into ten brigade groups in 1997. The brigade structure continued under the new division organization and personnel wear both their appropriate brigade patch and the new division sign. The brigade patches are worn 7 cm below the shoulder seam on the right sleeve of the army DEU uniform. The division signs are to be worn 7 cm below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve.


At the same time that new division signs were approved, the Canadian Army HQ (CA HQ) and the Canadian Army Training and Doctrine Centre (CATDC) were also authorized formation signs. Drawing on historic precedent, the Second World War First Canadian Army formation sign, a diamond shape with a central blue bar on a red field became the basis of the new CA HQ sign and the CADTC uses the sign of 1 Cdn Corps, a plain red diamond. Manufactured in the same manner as the division signs, with embroidered cut edges and, a fully embroidered blue bar for the CA HQ, these formation signs are worn on the left sleeve of the DEU. New formation signs are strictly controlled and issued in limited numbers to personnel.  In the last year (2016), Level 1 and Level 2 formation headquarters commanders and RSM began wearing the Div patch on the right arm of the CADPAT uniform.[ii]


The new patches are an interesting revival of formation signs and provide continuity for the historic formations of the Canadian Army. Though somewhat arbitrary in the assignment to geographic areas, the new division signs recognize the past organization of the Canadian army and perpetuate their insignia in the contemporary army.


[i] 1 Canadian Division could be the formation that refused to die. First organized in World War One, the division was reformed in World War Two, again disbanded and reformed in the 1950’s and again in the 1990’s. The latest incarnation was authorized in 2010.

The re-designation of LF areas to Divisions creates some interesting anomalies. During the war, the order of battle of the overseas divisions was not drawn on a regional basis. Today, each of the regions has regiments that served in several of the five overseas divisions. For example, in the Maritime provinces, the Princess Louise Fusiliers and Cape Breton Highlanders served in 5 Canadian Armoured Division, while the Royal New Brunswick Regt (Carleton & York Regiment) and West Nova Scotia Regiment were in 1 Canadian Infantry Division, the North Shore Regiment (New Brunswick) and North Nova Scotia Highlanders were in 3 Canadian Infantry Division and the New Brunswick Rangers perpetuated by the Royal New Brunswick Regiment served in 4 Canadian Armoured Division.

[ii] Level 1 includes the army HQ and CADTC and Level 2 includes division headquarters command officers and RSM’s.

  1. Excellent article, Bill! And thanks for bringing it to us, Clive.

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