Skip to content

Shoulder Titles of The Royal Canadian Regiment

January 1, 2021

This article was first published in The Royal Canadian Regiment’s Annual Journnal, Pro Patria, ed 2019.

Capt R.J.S. Law

Most members of The Regiment may not be very familiar with our own coloured shoulder titles considering they were last worn with the unpopular Garrison dress, but like many of our dress items, what is old is new again. The Regimental Executive Committee proposed in December 2017 that The RCR re-introduce cloth shoulder titles for wear in DEU, a proposal which was supported by the Regimental Senate in December 2018 and supported by the Canadian Army Dress and Ceremonial Committee on 12 July 2018.[i]

Some may wonder what the significance of this title means to us now. If it has been forgotten for so many decades, why bother returning to this old tradition? In some ways, a similar argument was discussed in 1941.

Although cloth shoulder titles had been introduced for some units in the First World War, The RCR generally wore metal shoulder devices denoting our Regiment. The introduction of the Battle Dress uniform in 1939 brought on the challenge of unit identifiers and this was overcome, initially, with drab wool slip ons with the abbreviated R.C.R. worn in conjunction with a “CANADA” title and sewn onto the epaulette.  These titles were only to be worn in Canada by the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF) and by Other Ranks, Officers were precluded as to not interfere with the placement of rank badges on the shoulders.[ii]

Worsted RCR shoulder titles, locally produced (top) and issued pttern (bottom), the latter also existed with tan embroidery. Author’s collection.

In an effort to make Canadian soldiers more easily recognizable in the UK, in 1940 the Division patches were introduced, Red signifying the 1st Canadian Division of which The RCR belonged. While overseas many regiments went about adopting Regimental titles unofficially, of which The RCR was a culprit in the Fall of 1940. These first badges were procured and produced in the UK. As the Canadian HQ in London learned of units making up their own badges memorandums were disseminated informing that formal approval had to be sought through the correct chains before any badge could be introduced.

Examples of the first pattern badge, both British made (top and bottom), and Canadian made (middle). Author’s collection.

Concurrent to this, the policy of wearing coloured badges back in Canada was still forbidden, leaving many members feeling somewhat unattached to their units. Members returning to Canada from the UK were supposed to remove their coloured badges but often did not as a point of pride of having already been overseas creating a quasi two-tiered feeling in the ranks.

Then Maj S. Galloway mentioned the adoption of cloth shoulder titles in his book, A Regiment At War, “It is interesting to note at this point that the “flash” of blue, amber and black, bearing the words THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT, was first issued to be worn on battledress shoulders just previous to the move from Charlwood. Originally it was introduced to distinguish those actually serving, or who had served with the Field Unit, from those numerous reinforcements stationed at Bordon in Hampshire, or otherwise employed in the United Kingdom. Gradually this custom died, however. and to all those who wore the V.R.I. went the right to put up the regimental “flash.”[iii]

Variants of the second pattern with bias ends. This pattern continued to be used until the late 1960s. Author’s collection.

In Late 1941, the matter was brought to the attention of Ottawa. LCol W. Neilson, Officer Commanding No. 1 District, with the support of other senior Royal Canadians who were of the same opinion, requested that members employed domestically be permitted to wear the coloured regimental titles. Among the justification, he stated these “these titles would (i) increase the morale of the older members, (ii) Offer newly enlisted personnel to take pride in their own unit, (iii) maintain uniformity in dress, (iv) tend to stimulate recruiting, and (v) increase Regimental esprit-de-corps”.[iv] At this time, only the Other Ranks wore an R.C.R. worsted title in Canada, while Officers had nothing to demonstrate their affiliation less their cap badge. At the time a few units were already wearing authorized titles in Canada, including the PPCLI, the GGFG, the CGG, Provost Corps, and Veteran Guard, while many others wore them without Ottawa’s blessing, as Brigadier D.J. MacDonald pointed out in his letter of support. After much back and forth between NDHQ and many units, districts and corps, Ottawa ceded that coloured shoulder titles, specific to each regiment could be procured at public expense and worn regardless of where soldiers of the Active Force were, as of January 5th, 1942.

The third pattern, produced at the end of the was was printed on canvas. Author’s collection,

As the years progressed, the Regimental title continued to be produced in the shape of the second pattern. Described as “Cloth. On a blue background with a 1/8” black border, the words “THE ROYAL CANADIAN REGIMENT” in gold letters 3/8” high. Dimensions – height 1 ½”, width 5”. Worn by all ranks on the battledress and armlet. The title will be machine sewn on the battledress even with the shoulder seam, with the letter “R” in the word “ROYAL” centrally positioned.”[v]

A privately purchased Japanese made example dating from the Korean War. Author’s collection.

Minor changes were made over the following decades, generally regulating the colour of thread used for the embroidery, or the construction method, but it can generally be accepted that the title remained more or less the same until they became obsolete with the introduction of Olive Drab combat uniform in the early 1960s. During the 1950s, when The London & Oxford Fusiliers amalgamated with The RCR to form 3 RCR they wore a distinctive patch below the Regimental title, more information on this distinctive badge can be found in the article “Badges of The Royal Canadian Regiment Shoulder Flashes and Titles” By Capt Michael O’Leary, in the 2009 edition of Pro Patria.[vi]

CF Service Dress with bright gold (top) and Work Dress with old gold (bottom). Author’s collection,

As CF Service Dress was introduced in 1968, and an initial desire for sanitizing uniforms as part of unification, no unit identifiers were to be worn. However; by 1980 the Regimental Standing Orders specify two new shoulder titles with the Regiment’s title in full, one made in “bright gold” embroidered on Service Dress material for wear on the Service Dress, and one made of “dull gold on work dress material” for the work dress jacket.[vii] With the introduction of Distinctive Environmental Uniform (DEU) in 1983, and the introduction of epaulettes, the wearing of cloth shoulder titles once again slipped away as the metal shoulder title returned.

The short-lived Garrison dress shoulder title. Author’s collection.

Then, in 1989 the ever-so-hated Garrison jacket was introduced. A camouflaged polyester uniform to be worn in garrison only sported full colour regimental titles. Described in the 1992 RSOs, as “full title in regimental colours,” it was similar in design than previous wool versions but was larger and made of more modern materials. As the uniform was hung up to the pleasure of many in 1994, the use of coloured shoulder titles also ended.

Although the Regiment ceased wearing them, the tradition of coloured titles continued with our affiliated cadet corps, 12 cadet corps totalling over 1500 youths when the badge was taken into wear. Although many of their badges were old stock from the Regiment, a cadet specific pattern was also produced. Approved in 1978 these titles were complete embroidered in rayon thread.[viii]

The cadet specific pattern was fully embroidered compared to the traditional RCR titles. Author’s collection.

Most recently; however, the enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group, Roto 10, led by 1 RCR wore a similar shoulder title but printed on PVC and made with black writing in relief on an olive background.

The PVC title worn by 1 RCR during their deployment to LAtvia in 2018, it has Velcro on the reverse to be worn on ths sleeves of the CADPAT shirts. Author’s collection.

Which leaves us in our new chapter about the Regiment’s shoulder title. In the supporting documentation for us to return to our familiar and distinctive badge it was noted “the easily recognisable shoulder insignia will provide our soldiers with an improved feeling of identity including past serving members who recognize the traditionally worn items of their era.” Much like Second World War policy, as “Canadian” is featured in the title the wearing of the “Canada” badge of DEU will now become obsolete for The RCR. The wearing guidelines describe that “the cloth shoulder title is to be worn on both sleeves of the DEU jacket.  It is worn in the position of the current Canada cloth titles with the bottom of the title aligned in the same position.  The title should be centered on the sleeve utilizing the “R” in the word Royal, center-line with existing insignia and titles.  It is not necessary to align the center of the title with the existing shoulder straps of the DEU since they are not centered on the shoulder seam due to the varying sizes of tunics and design of the shoulder cut.  The variances in cut and design in men’s and women’s jackets will also affect the positioning.” The new badges will measure 4.5” long and 1.16” at their widest point. Regimental members can expect to see these being issued in the coming months.

The new RCR title will be positioned lower on the sleeve compared to previous uniforms. Photo courtesy Maj. T. Robinson.

Addendum: The first issue of titles took place starting in September 2020, with one pair issued free of charge to every serving member of The RCR.

[i] 5250-1(G1 Dress and Ceremonial) Minutes of the CADCC Meeting 01/18 held on 19 June 2018, dated 12 July 2018.

[ii] Alexander B. Fabric of War, 2019

[iii] Galloway S., A Regiment at War, 1979

[iv] LAC, R112, Vol 29711, Letter, Regimental Shoulder Titles, The Royal Canadian Regiment, 29 Nov 41.

[v] RCR Regimental Standing Orders, 1960.

[vi] O’Leary M., Badges of The Royal Canadian Regiment Shoulder Flashes and Titles, Pro Patria, 2009.

[vii] The Regimental Standing Orders for The Royal Canadian Regiment, 1980.

[viii] Memorandum, Insignia Shoulder Sleeve, Army Cadet, 19 Nov 79

Leave a Comment

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: