The Canadian Forces’ Decoration
Written by renowned Canadian honours historian Christopher McCreery, MVO and produced by the Directorate of Honours and Recognition, this special historical project was undertaken to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the CD by King George VI. This book highlights the long history of this decoration and pays tribute to the extraordinary men and women of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces who have earned this honour and wear it with pride and distinction.
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Table of Contents
- Foreword - His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT, PC, OM, GBE, AC, QSO, GCL, CD, ADC
- Preface - General Walter Natynczyk, CMM, MSC, CD
- Author’s Note
- Chapter 1 - Early Long Service Decorations and Medals in Canada
- Chapter 2 - Two-Pronged Plan: The Canadian Forces’ Decoration and the Canadian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
- Chapter 3 - Delayed Success: Establishing the Canadian Forces’ Decoration
- Chapter 4 - Evolution of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration
- Chapter 5 - Logistics of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration
- Chapter 6 - Royal and Vice-Regal Recipients
To the members of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces, past and present, who have been recognized by the Crown for their service to Canada.
by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT, PC, OM, GBE, AC, QSO, GCL, CD, ADC
The desire of Sovereigns and Governments to recognise long and faithful service by members of the Armed Forces throughout the Empire goes back many years. The first medal specifically for Canadians was introduced in 1934, at the instigation of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It was, therefore, only natural that Canadian Governments would wish to take over this responsibility in respect of Canada’s Armed Forces in due course. The introduction of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration in 1949 was the result.
This very carefully researched book traces the origins of the Decoration, and describes the intriguing and complicated process of defining its purpose, design and introduction.
Having been associated with Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces since 1953, I was delighted to have been awarded the Decoration, and it now proudly carries four ‘clasps’. I know that all the holders of the Decoration are proud that their long service has been recognised in this way, and I am sure that all Canadians will be interested in the story told in this book.
by General Walter Natynczyk, CMM, MSC, CD Chief of the Defence Staff
Whether they are guarding our coastal approaches on the choppy waters of the Atlantic, defending our air space with our allies, affirming our sovereignty in the North or patrolling the dusty trails of Afghanistan, our men and women in uniform face challenges and hardships with great determination every single day on behalf of their fellow citizens.
Offering appropriate recognition to those who serve in the defence of their country is important to every society around the world. Recognition is a key element of morale building in a military environment; one that fosters esprit de corps and creates role models for others to emulate.
Established by King George VI in 1949, the Canadian Forces’ Decoration is by far the most recognizable honour worn by members of the Canadian Forces. Awarded for twelve years of long service and good conduct, the bestowal of the CD is one of the most important benchmarks in a military career. The CD has come to symbolize the devotion to duty and sacrifices that characterize life in Canada’s military. It is a token of gratitude from Crown and country for the loyalty, dedication, and professionalism consistently displayed by the members of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces.
It is therefore with great pride and satisfaction that I welcome this new publication which highlights the long history of this Decoration and honours all those who earned it and wear it with great distinction.
In the writing of this work, the author, by the terms of his commission, was given full access to all relevant extant documents in the possession of the Canadian Forces as well as documents related to the Canadian Forces’ Decoration held at Library and Archives Canada, the Department of National Defence, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General and The National Archives in the United Kingdom. The facts used by him have been verified from official sources, but he was left free to select and arrange the material. The inferences drawn and opinions expressed are those of the author himself.
The author is grateful to a host of friends who assisted in the research, writing and editing of this work. Their ongoing support and interest in revealing the fascinating origins, history and development of the Canadian honours system continues to be a source of energy and drive.
I am grateful to His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, KG, KT, PC, OM, GBE, AC, QSO, GCL, CD, ADC, for having kindly agreed to provide a foreword for this work. As a long-serving member of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces, His Royal Highness has demonstrated a keen interest in this project and his contribution enhances the prestige of the resulting publication. I am also grateful to General Walter Natynczyk, CMM, MSC, CD, Chief of the Defence Staff, for commissioning me to write this work on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of King George VI’s having created the Canadian Forces’ Decoration. That this humble decoration, usually found at the end of a row of ribbons or group of medals, has been awarded to more than 150,000 members of the Canadian Forces, including some of our most famed sailors, soldiers and air personnel, is reason enough to delve into the history of one of Canada’s first national honours. Those who wear the red and white ribbon of the CD are linked to the likes of Major-General the Honourable George R. Pearkes, VC, PC, CC, CB, DSO, MC, CD, General the Right Honourable Georges P. Vanier, PC, DSO, MC, CD, Air Commodore Leonard J. Birchall, CM, OBE, DFC, OOnt, CD, Rear-Admiral William Moss Landymore, OBE, CD, and the longest serving member of the Canadian Forces, Her Late Majesty Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, LG, LT, CI, GCVO, GBE, CC, CD. Indeed, one is hard pressed to think of a person who better exemplified the sense of service that the CD seeks to recognize than the late Queen Mother, one of the first recipients of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
The author cannot claim to have devised the concept for this work on his own. Indeed, this project was concocted by Major Carl Gauthier, CD, who after reading the manuscript of Maintiens Le Droit: Recognizing Service, a History of the RCMP Long Service Medal, decided that a similar work should be prepared to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the creation of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
Support was generously offered by Lieutenant-Colonel André Levesque, OMM, CD (Retired), and Lieutenant-Colonel Dan MacKay, OMM, CD (Retired), both of whom have played an important role in the administration of honours within the Canadian Forces.
At the Canadian Heraldic Authority assistance was graciously given by Saint-Laurent Herald, Bruce Patterson – the consummate proof reader and editor of my various works – Assiniboine Herald, Darrel Kennedy, and the Chief Herald, Dr. Claire Boudreau. Lieutenant-Commander Scott Nelson, MVO, always keen to bring a naval perspective to things, was quite helpful in editing the content of this work. Juliane Martin and Corporal Patrick Berrea, MSM, CD from the Department of National Defence’s Directorate of Honours and Recognition helped coordinate this project.
The Canadian Secretary to the Queen, Kevin MacLeod, CVO, CD, Joyce Bryant, CM, BEM, Bruce Beatty, CM, CD, Glen Hodgins, Mark Reid, CD, and Jonathan Shanks also provided ample encouragement and support.
James McKelvey of the Royal Canadian Mint was instrumental in commissioning photographs of the manufacture of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, and for this the author and the Department of National Defence are grateful.
I must also acknowledge the support of my boss the Honourable Mayann E. Francis, ONS, Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. Her Honour’s interest and involvement with the Canadian Forces is a testament to the importance of the continuing relationship that exists between the Crown and those who defend our country. The author is grateful to the Department of National Defence for the opportunity to undertake this important project. Throughout all of my various projects related to the Canadian honours system, DND has been unwavering in its support and willingness to assist.
Lastly, grateful thanks are owed to my parents, Paul and Sharon, who have now endured the writing and publishing of eight books. Whether it be while on holiday at the family cottage or at home in Kingston, their support and interest remains highly valued and appreciated.
Christopher McCreery, MVO
The process of creating an indigenous Canadian honours system was one that transpired over a period of nearly half a century, beginning in 1934 when King George V signed the Royal Warrant constituting the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Long Service Medal. Further additions were made in 1943 when King George VI assented to the creation of the ill-fated Canada Medal and the widely distributed Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, and in 1949 when the Canadian Forces’ Decoration (CD) was created. The RCMP Long Service Medal and the Canadian Forces’ Decoration constitute the oldest continuously bestowed honours in the Canadian honours system. Together they served as the foundation stones upon which our modern honours system has been constructed.
The creation of honours specific to Canada alone – and not Commonwealth-wide in their application – inaugurated the long process of supplanting British honours in Canada with new national honours. This process began with the adoption of the Nickle Resolution in the last days of the First World War, which saw a virtual end to the bestowal of all honours in Canada until the beginning of the Second World War. It was a process that was at the leading edge of the growth of Canadian nationalism and the idea of a colony-to-nation transformation. It was also a change that would be mirrored in most of the Commonwealth in the decades that followed. In Canada this transformation did not turn its back on heritage or tradition, for while the British connection declined, the personal relationship with our shared Head of State – the Sovereign – was enhanced and expanded in the person of the King of Canada as a Canadian entity and as the personification of the Canadian state.
Prior to the establishment of the CD, members of the various Regular and Reserve branches of the Canadian Armed Forces were eligible for myriad different medals or decorations which varied depending on rank, length of service, branch of service and time of service. By the end of the Second World War, Canadians were eligible for no fewer than ten different long service awards requiring anywhere from 12 to 20 years of service. Officers in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) were totally unrecognized for their long service because the Victorian idea continued to prevail that holding the Queen’s Commission was a sufficient enough honour to recognize long service. Aside from the issues obvious in this patchwork approach to recognizing long service, there were a host of administrative issues related to calculating time served. For example, a non-commissioned officer in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve (RCNVR) who transferred to a Reserve Army regiment following the Second World War would be eligible for the Efficiency Medal after only a short period of service, while the same person joining the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) would have to wait an additional six years. Matters became totally convoluted when an individual managed to spend a bit of time in each of the three services, something that was not unusual in the period following the Second World War when all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces were being consolidated and reorganized.
The creation of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration was not a swift event, for it took nearly five years to agree upon the design, regulations and overall program. Disagreements between representatives of the three services – the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force – played a role in the slow progress, as did friction between the Department of National Defence and the Office of the Governor General at Rideau Hall. As the fount of all official honours, and a keen student of orders, decorations and medals, King George VI took a very personal interest in the creation of honours, and he played a central role in the creation and design of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
The original proposal for a “Canadian Reserve Decoration” was introduced in 1946 by the Chief of Naval Personnel. As the Navy moved towards merging the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve and the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve into the Royal Canadian Navy (Reserve), there was a perceived need to create a long service award for officers of the merged reserve naval services to replace the pre-existing ones, namely the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve Officers’ Decoration and the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve Officers’ Decoration. At this point it was a navy only and officers’-only concept, one that quickly broadened into a proposal for the entire Canadian Armed Forces, as the Canadian Forces were then known. The RCN’s 1946 proposal served as the embryonic idea behind what would become the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
By the time the first CDs were presented in 1951, the proposal had moved away from the plan to create two awards, the Canadian Forces’ Decoration for service in the Reserve Forces and the Canadian Long Service Medal for service in the Regular Forces, to become instead an idea to create a single medal open to all members of His Majesty’s Canadian Armed Forces.
Over the last sixty years, many Commonwealth countries have followed the Canadian lead towards a single long service award for all armed services. In the context of the development of the Canadian honours system, five years was not an eternity, especially when one considers that it took twenty-five years for proposals to create a national order to come to fruition with the establishment of the Order of Canada in 1967.
The original Terms of Reference that served as the basis of the Order in Council that brought the CD into being have been altered over time to improve clarity and administrative details; however, the spirit behind recognizing long and meritorious service has remained unchanged. While the CD went through a slight aesthetic change with the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne, the overall design has remained largely the same – a decagonal medal, gold in colour, bearing on the obverse the uncrowned effigy of Canada’s Head of State and on the reverse symbols representing the three elements of the Canadian Forces.
Today, members of the Canadian Forces are eligible for many different awards for bravery, meritorious service and operational service; however, this is a recent phenomenon. For many years the CD was the only medal that members of the CF could receive aside from the occasional commemorative medal or UN medal for service in Cyprus. For this reason the CD has always held a special place in the minds of CF members and many veterans.
Often the Canadian Forces’ Decoration is looked on as a medal that “comes up with the rations” or is awarded for “12 years of undetected crime”. This self-deprecating attitude towards honours is emblematic of the humility and modesty with which members of the Canadian Forces have discharged their duty for decades. It is an ethos that takes its origins from the Canadian Militia that so ably demonstrated its courage and mettle during the War of 1812 and on numerous occasions since.
Credit for the creation of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration lies with a number of individuals, some well known and others not. Most were veterans of the two world wars of the last century and include such individuals as Lord Alexander, the Governor General; Major-General H.F.G. Letson, the Secretary to the Governor General; Brooke Claxton, the Minister of National Defence; and Colin Gibson, the Secretary of State: all were decorated war heroes who had personal experience with the honours system at a high level.
Through the story of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, we can glean a great deal about the development of the modern day Canadian Forces as well as about the creation of Canadian symbols and traditions. While much of the history of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration involves Sovereigns, Ministers of the Crown and brass hats the real value of the story lies in the desire to serve and the devotion to duty demonstrated by those who proudly wear the red and white ribbon of the CD on their breast.
Early Long Service Decorations
and Medals in Canada
Whereas it is Our desire to recognize the long and meritorious services of Commissioned Officers of Our Colonial Auxiliary Forces
That the Canadian Forces’ Decoration and Royal Canadian Mounted Police Long Service Medal constitute the two oldest continuously bestowed medals in the Canadian honours system is reflective of the important role long service have always played in our honours system. The history of honours in Canada included rancorous public debate, debate that lead to four decades of the twentieth century when there was a near total prohibition on civil and military honours in Canada, save those awarded for long service. Honours systems exist in every country around the globe, and while their structures vary quite significantly from place to place there is one constant throughout: medals awarded to members of a uniformed force to recognize long service and good conduct.
It was not until 1972 that Canada established an entirely Canadian honours system including orders, decorations and medals unique to Canada. Prior to that time, Canada made use of the various British orders, decorations and medals that were prevalent throughout the Commonwealth. It was a system that was complete in terms of having the versatility to recognize all types of civil and military services. Nevertheless, during the period immediately preceding and following the Second World War, Canadian authorities invested energy into creating Canada-specific honours. This process began in 1934 with the establishment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Long Service Medal by King George V, and was followed nine years later by the creation of the Canada Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal. Following the War, interest in creating a Canadian honours system dissipated in officialdom and the public showed only peripheral interest. Yet within the Department of National Defence there remained an appetite for creating new honours.
The development of honours in Canada, like our system of government and our military, has been heavily influenced by the British institutions. Given that Canada employed the British honours system for most of the past two hundred years, this is understandable. Indeed, Canada is not alone using much of the British honours system as a template. Most countries of the Commonwealth – both monarchies and republics – have shared a similar history in honours development; amongst the other realms where the Queen is Head of State, Canada has been the leader.
The first Canada-specific medals, that is, medals created solely for recognizing service in Canada, were both related to military engagements that occurred within the borders of the Dominion. The North West Canada Medal was created in 1886 to recognize those members of the Canadian Militia and British Army who served in quelling the second North West Rebellion, which had taken place in 1885. This medal bore a diademed, veiled effigy of Queen Victoria on the obverse and a flourish of maple leaves with the legend “North West Canada 1885” on the reverse. The second was the Canada General Service Medal, 1866-1870, which was not created until 1899. It was awarded to members of the Canadian Militia, Royal Navy and the British Army who served in Canada during the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870 and to those who participated in suppressing the first North West Rebellion of 1870. These medals were specific to events in Canada and were created by Queen Victoria on the advice emanating from British officials, the Governor General and the Prime Minister of Canada. Despite being awarded for actions that took place in Canada, these medals were part of the broader British honours system, and were awarded to members of the Canadian Militia, the Royal Navy and the British Army.
During most of the Victorian era, only men and non-commissioned officers in Britain’s Regular Army and the Royal Navy were eligible for a long service medal. Late in Victoria’s reign, members of what we would today call the Reserves began to be recognized for long service. It was not until 1934 that the RCMP Long Service Medal was created, becoming the first medal specific to Canada for services in Canada – coincidentally one of the earliest symbolic acts following Canada’s attainment of independence from the United Kingdom in 1931 through the Statute of Westminster.
Some elements of long service medals remain unchanged such as the requirement to serve for a set period of time with a certain level of good conduct, the fact that all long service medals are named (engraved or impressed) and the placement of long service medals towards the end of the order of precedence for wearing orders, decorations and medals. We can divide the development of long service medals into four distinctive but occasionally overlapping stages: Early British, Colonial, Commonwealth and Canadian. Elements of the decorations and medals awarded during each of these stages continue to permeate the Canadian and Commonwealth’s modern honours systems.
Early British Long Service Medals
Every long service medal that has ever been awarded to a Canadian, including the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, can trace its roots back to the British Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the Royal Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Created in 1830 and 1831 respectively, these medals hold the distinction of being the oldest continuously bestowed medals in the world. The Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was initially awarded for exemplary conduct over 21 years of service in the infantry or 24 years in the cavalry. By 1870 the qualifying period was reduced to 18 years in the British Army. The Royal Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was initially awarded for 21 years of exemplary conduct in the Royal Navy; this period was later lowered to ten years, and then increased to 15 years. Both were circular silver medals hung from ribbons. Within two decades of being established, each adopted a standardized design: a suspender bar, the obverse of the medal bearing the effigy of the Sovereign and the reverse including a legend “For Long Service and Good Conduct.” In the case of the Royal Naval Long Service Medal, a relief representation of HMS Victory was also included. While Canadians who served in the Royal Navy and the British Army did receive these medals, members of the Canadian Militia and the permanent Canadian Army were not eligible until early into the twentieth century.
Of the other Dominions and colonies, only New Zealand created its own long service awards, with the remainder of the British Empire being content to work within the British honours system as directed by London and the Colonial Office. There is no evidence that Canadian officials wanted to emulate the New Zealand example. The honours creation process required that the government of a Dominion make a proposal to the Colonial Office which then had to be approved by the Sovereign, and with a few exceptions this was the process to which most Dominions and colonies adhered. The history of honours in New Zealand was unusual in that its government created a number of honours to recognize long service and even gallantry, but without the sanction of the Crown. The first New Zealand award for long service was the New Zealand Long and Efficient Service Medal, which was created in 1887. Awarded for 16 years of continuous service in the volunteer and permanent militia of New Zealand, it was issued until 1931 when it was replaced by the New Zealand Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. New Zealand also established two additional long service medals in the period between 1902 and 1912.
Colonial Long Service Decorations and Medals
The first long service medal to be awarded to Canadians was the British Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Non-commissioned officers in the permanent (this term was used to designate what we now refer to as the Regular Force) Canadian Army were made eligible for the medal in 1896, with a special Canadian issue being struck by the Royal Mint in London. This medal was identical to the British one except it bore the word “CANADA” on the reverse – this was the first step towards creating a standard medal with the same regulations for use throughout the British Empire, with a slight modification to add the name of the Dominion or colony on the medal itself. Similar medals were struck for Australia, New Zealand and India. This medal was created by Royal Warrant on 31 May 1895 and it would appear that it was only awarded to Canadians between 1902 and 1909, when it was superseded by the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service Medal.
It was events in the United Kingdom that spurred on the creation of other long service medals that would come to be awarded to Canadians. The system of long service medals began to grow with the creation of the Volunteer Officers’ Decoration (VD) by Queen Victoria on 25 July 1892. The Volunteer Officers’ Decoration – colloquially known as the Volunteer Decoration – was initially intended to “reward long and meritorious services of officers of proved capacity in Our Volunteer Forces in Great Britain.” The award of the VD was extended to officers of the various Dominion and colonial volunteer forces (militias) on 24 May 1894. The regulations were further amended on 18 May 1899 to create the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration. This was the first award for long service that was accompanied by a post-nominal designation (VD, based on the name of its predecessor); it was also the first time that officers were recognized for their long service, there previously having been no analogous award. The VD was awarded to 2,700 Canadians between 1899 and 1931.
The provision of recognition for officers in the volunteer forces was followed closely thereafter by the creation of the Volunteer Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1894. Awarded for 20 years long service in the ranks of Britain’s volunteer force (Army Reserve), the medal consisted of a silver disc bearing an effigy of Queen Victoria on the obverse and a simple text on the reverse. Canadians were not eligible for this medal, but it served as the model for the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal that was created in 1899 to recognize long service in the colonial auxiliary forces (militias) throughout the Empire. More than 6,500 Canadians were awarded this medal, and until the Second World War it was the most common long service medal to be seen on the chests of Canadian militiamen. This medal was also awarded to a few members of the RCNVR and the RCAF Auxiliary Forces.
In terms of imperial defence, Dominion and colonial militias began to take on increasing importance. This was proven during the South African War, which broke out in October 1899. The conflict brought together soldiers from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and Ceylon (modern day Sri Lanka) and demonstrated to the British government the potential for far-flung militias to serve in overseas conflicts.
The next development in long service medals came at the end of King Edward VII’s reign with the creation of the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service Medal. Instituted by Royal Warrant in 1909, this medal recognized long service and good conduct in the wide variety of permanent forces of the British Dominions and Colonies. It was not awarded for long service in the United Kingdom but was unique to the “Empire beyond the seas”. The period of service required was 18 years and it was limited to enlisted men, non-commissioned officers and warrant officers. It was awarded to members of the Canadian Army and RCAF. It was unusual in that while it was initially intended for only the Army, it was broadened to include the RCAF. From its inception until 1932, only 839 were issued to Canadians.
While members of the RCN were technically entitled to earn the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service Medal, none were ever issued to members of the senior service. In 1925 members of the RCN became eligible for the Royal Canadian Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, which was identical to the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal awarded to members of the Royal Navy. This was the same medal that traces its origins to 1831. Awarded to sailors and petty officers for 15 years of service, over 800 were issued to Canadians between 1925 and 1954.
While all of these medals and decorations were created by Royal Warrants issued by the British Government, the actual administration of each award was delegated to the Canadian government. British officials did not vet or examine recommendations for awards as it was left to Canadian officials to ensure that the required service was met before a medal was issued. The Department of Militia and Defence – later the Department of National Defence – submitted recipient lists for processing to the Royal Mint in London where the medals were named and then posted to Canada. This had several advantages, the main one being economies of scale. The Royal Canadian Mint (RCM) was not established until 1908, and it was not until 1935 that the RCM began striking and naming medals. The Royal Mint in London was responsible for striking and naming almost every medal awarded throughout the British Empire and was able to undertake this task cheaply. Another advantage was that Canadians received the same recognition as their counterparts in Australia, New Zealand, India, South Africa and other Dominions and colonies, and the medals were recognizable throughout the Empire.
Commonwealth Long Service Medals and Decorations
The 1930s and 1940s brought about a significant change to the range of long service medals and decorations for which Canadians were eligible, with specific medals created for the Royal Canadian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve, Canadian Army, Canadian Militia, and Royal Canadian Air Force (permanent and non-permanent). By the time the Canadian Forces’ Decoration was created in 1949, members of the Canadian military were eligible for ten different long service awards. Each of these had a different set of criteria and was administrated separately by the RCN, the Canadian Army and the RCAF.
With the change in Canada’s constitutional status following the end of the First World War, which was fully realized with the Statute of Westminster in 1931, Canada became an independent country. The King became in legal fact the Sovereign of Canada and was required to act upon the advice of his Canadian ministers in relation to Canadian affairs, just as he was required to act upon the advice of his British ministers when it came to British affairs. This meant that from 1931 onwards the government of Canada had the ability to create medals without having to first seek the approval of the British government.
The most commonly awarded long service awards in Canada were the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration. These names were no longer appropriate given that Canada had long ago ceased to be a colony. The Officers’ Decoration had an additional awkwardness about it given that it carried the unfortunate post-nominals “VD”, which was also the acronym that had become synonymous with Venereal Disease, a serious public health concern that emerged during and following the First World War. Some recipients of the decoration were loath to place the letters after their name.
The impetus for a change in the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration came from none other than the King himself. Throughout his reign, King George V always had a keen interest in honours. He was, after all, the proverbial “fount of honours” in whose name every order, decoration and medal was awarded. George V was particularly enthusiastic about empire-wide honours. The period immediately following the First World War saw a number of colonies create their own military and police long service medals – not always with the assent of the King – and there remained a number of New Zealand long service medals never formally approved by the Sovereign. There was also a desire to reduce the amount of service required for a non-commissioned officer in the militia to earn a long service medal.
A solution was devised that miraculously respected Dominion autonomy and provided a certain level of uniformity throughout the Commonwealth. On 23 September 1930, King George V signed Royal Warrants creating a trio of new honours: the Efficiency Decoration (ED), the Efficiency Medal and the Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military). The first two were created to recognize service in the militia, while the latter was awarded to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men serving in the permanent Canadian Army.
The Canadian Efficiency Decoration, as it would come to be known in the King’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Army, replaced the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration, and the criteria were very similar. To be eligible for the decoration an officer had to complete 20 years of service as a commissioned officer. The decoration, like the VD, was oval in shape and carried in the centre the Royal Cypher of the Sovereign. The ED included a silver top mounting bar brooch that bore the legend “CANADA.” The ED was issued throughout the Commonwealth and bore the name of the specific Dominion on the top mounting bar.
Simultaneous with the creation of the ED came the establishment of the Efficiency Medal, known in Canada as the Canadian Efficiency Medal. Like the ED it was oval in shape. The obverse bore an effigy of the Sovereign, while the reverse carried the legend “FOR EFFICIENT SERVICE.” The suspender bar carried a scroll bearing the legend “CANADA.” Like the ED, the Efficiency Medal was awarded throughout the Commonwealth, each Dominion having its own issue. Awarded for 12 years in the non-permanent active militia, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men were eligible. During the Second World War, war service counted as double time towards earning the Efficiency Decoration and the Efficiency Medal.
With the establishment of the Efficiency Decoration and the Efficiency Medal, the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration were made obsolete. There remained the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service Medal to be replaced. This was done with the Canadian Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military). Approved on 23 September 1930, this medal, like its original British Counterpart, was awarded to warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men in the permanent Canadian Army for 18 years of long service with good conduct. Unlike the Efficiency Decoration and the Efficiency Medal, this medal was circular in shape, but as with the Efficiency Medal, it carried an effigy of the Sovereign on the obverse and a legend “FOR LONG SERVICE AND GOOD CONDUCT” on the reverse, and the suspender bar carried a scroll bearing “CANADA”.
The Royal Canadian Navy and its Reserve components the RCNR and the RCNVR possessed the most diverse array of long service awards. For officers serving in the RCN, long service was unrecognized by a decoration or medal. There were two reasons for this. The first was that as officers they were expected to act with good conduct at all times, therefore they did not require recognition for good conduct. This was coupled with the old tradition of looking upon the King’s Commission and the continuing ability to serve as being sufficient reward for long service. This mentality also permeated the regular Canadian Army and the permanent element of the RCAF where officers remained un-recognized. Officers serving in the RCNR were eligible for the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve Decoration, which was established in 1937. Awarded for 15 years of service as an officer in the RCNR, only 37 were issued. An officer serving in the RCNVR was eligible for the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve Officers’ Decoration after 20 years of service as an officer in the RCNVR. Only 47 of these decorations were awarded. These two officers’ decorations were identical in appearance aside from the design of the ribbon.
As previously noted, petty officers and men of the RCN were eligible for the RCN Long Service and Good Conduct Medal upon completion of 15 years of service. Beginning in 1938, petty officers and men in the RCNR were eligible for the RCNR Long Service and Good Conduct Medal after 15 years’ service. Their counterparts in the RCNVR received the RCNVR Long Service and Good Conduct Medal after only twelve years’ service. The varying lengths of service required to earn the various awards available to members of the RCN, RCNR and RCNVR speak to the complexity of the long service awards for which Canadians were eligible.
Members of the RCAF were the last to receive a long service medal specific to their service. Members of the Permanent Air Force (today known as the Regular Force) were originally eligible for the Permanent Forces of the Empire Beyond the Seas Long Service Medal (1909-1930) and the Canadian Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military) (1930- 1944). For reservists there was the Efficiency Decoration and Efficiency Medal, (1931-1942).
The first step to creating a distinctive air force long service medal came in 1942 with the establishment of the Air Efficiency Award (AE) for reservists of the Royal Air Forces throughout the Commonwealth. Upon establishment, this award was immediately opened up to members of the RCAF Auxiliary and Auxiliary Active Air Force (Reserve) who had served ten years. This was another Commonwealth-wide award that was bestowed upon members of the various Dominion air forces. It is interesting to note that the Air Efficiency Award, unlike every other long service medal and decoration created up to this point, was awarded to officers, warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men. For the first time, those without an officers’ commission were receiving the same recognition as their superiors. Although officers were entitled to the post-nominals AE, the same right was not extended to non-commissioned personnel.
In 1944, the RCAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was created, based entirely upon the RAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal established in 1919. The criteria for the RCAF were identical to that outlined for the RAF. Awarded to non-commissioned officers and men of the RCAF for 18 years of service, the original announcement of the medal made reference to it including a bar bearing “CANADA” similar to that attached to the Efficiency Medal. However, such a bar was never added to the RCAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.
Canadian Long Service Medals
The initial idea to create a Canadian long service medal came from the RCMP and not from the Department of National Defence nor any of its component services. Although not part of the Canadian military, the RCMP helped to pioneer the first entirely Canadian long service medal; indeed, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Long Service Medal (RCMP LSM) was the first honour created by the King in Right of Canada, and in retrospect, it marked the first step towards creating our national honours system. In 1925, Commissioner Cortland Starnes of the RCMP proposed the creation of a long service award for members of Canada’s national police force. He had little initial success, but in 1927, the King’s Privy Council for Canada approved the creation of the RCMP Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the RCMP Officers’ Decoration. This medal and decoration were based on the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration. Frustratingly, the project stalled due to a lack of political will at the highest level. It was revived in 1932 and Major-General Sir James Howden MacBrien, Starnes’ successor, managed to see through a modified version of Starnes’s proposal. On 6 March 1934, King George V signed the Royal Warrant constituting the RCMP Long Service Medal. This medal continues to be part of the Canadian honours system and is awarded to any member of the RCMP “who bears an irreproachable character who has completed not less than twenty years service.”
The RCMP Long Service Medal also became the first medal to be struck in Canada, a detail that would become important in the development and manufacture of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
The system of Commonwealth Long Service Medals that were “Canadianized” was complex, lacked uniformity, and in the eyes of some, remained “British”. On the positive side, despite its complexity, it was a system of recognition understood by members of the RCN, Army and RCAF. Long service was recognized with one of a variety of long service awards, and although exactly how much service was required to earn a specific medal was not necessarily well known, that sort of detail was not significant given that few members were able to recount the criteria for the Atlantic Star, Defence Medal or any number of the campaign and service medals awarded during the Second World War. From a financial point of view, the system of Commonwealth Long Service Medals was inexpensive. The insignia were produced by the Royal Mint in London and the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa at the very reasonable cost of only a few dollars per insignia. Also, the British government covered the cost of having dies engraved for those medals struck in the United Kingdom.
It was not administrative complications that propelled the creation of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, rather it was the amalgamation of the RCNR and the RCNVR into the RCN(R) in January 1946 that would lead to discussions about the creation of a new honour to recognize long service in the newly created Reserve component of the RCN. The next chapter will examine the emergence of the concept that would eventually grow into the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
A Two-Pronged Plan:
The Canadian Forces’ Decoration
and the Canadian Long Service
and Good Conduct Medal
The Committee discussed a proposal by the Navy… to introduce a new medal to be known as the Canadian Reserve Decoration.
The establishment of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration (CD) was far from straightforward or swift. Indeed, the idea for this honour began as two separate long service medals and was never intended as a replacement for all of the Commonwealth long service awards that had been available to Canadian service personnel during the preceding decades. That the concept for the decoration came from the most traditional of the three services, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), was more a result of coincidence than design. The resulting honour created in the form of the CD was significantly different from what the RCN had originally intended.
The Second World War brought about a heightened sense of nationalism and a desire for uniquely Canadian symbols. This resulted in changes including the adoption of the Canadian Red Ensign – in place of the Union Jack – as the official flag of the Government of Canada in 1944, the addition of CANADA shoulder titles to the uniforms of the RCN in 1942, the creation of the Canada Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal, and other innovations both military and civil. While all of these changes fit quite well into a narrative of a growing sense of nationalism, they were not part of an official or centralized plan. Indeed, the creation of the CD was partly due to necessity and to the desire to implement a more uniform and universal system of recognition for members of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force.
The creation of the CD involved junior officials such as the Secretary of the Personnel Member’s Committee of the Department of National Defence – who did much of the administrative work – through the chain of command up to the Minister of National Defence and then to the senior most officials of the Canadian State, including the Secretary of State, the Prime Minister, the Governor General and even the King himself.
The CD was only the fourth medal that had been established by the King in Right of Canada, and the creation of the medal encountered a number of difficulties. The first medal created solely for award to Canadians for service in Canada was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Long Service Medal, which had been established by King George V in March 1934 following a request from the Prime Minister of Canada acting upon a proposal devised by the Commissioner of the RCMP, Major- General Sir James Howden MacBrien. The creation of the RCMP Long Service Medal occurred only a few years after promulgation of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, which granted Canada full independence from the United Kingdom. This was highly relevant in the area of honours creation as it left Canadian authorities free to advise the King directly, independent of opinions from the various British departments that were involved in the creation of honours.
The process of establishing the RCMP Long Service Medal began in 1920 when the Royal North West Mounted Police Association passed a resolution “urging all ex-members of the R.N.W.M. Police (now R.C.M.P.) who have served the necessary period of 20 years or longer be granted a long service medal.” The grassroots nature of the campaign to establish the RCMP Long Service Medal remains unique in that it came from the rank and file, not senior officers or ministers. In 1925, the Commissioner of the newly constituted RCMP began the process of having a special long service medal created for long-serving members of the Force. From the project’s inception to the presentation of the first RCMP Long Service Medals by Lord Bessborough in early 1935, nearly a decade had elapsed. The creation of honours in Canada was far from a fluid or speedy process, in part on account of the various departments that were involved and a certain level of official reluctance at the highest level to see orders, decorations and medals created. While the RCMP example would have provided an excellent template for the Department of National Defence (DND) to follow in proposing the creation of new honours, DND paid little attention to this fact.
The move to create the CD came about as a byproduct of the myriad of changes experienced by the Canadian Armed Forces during the period immediately following the end of the Second World War. With peace achieved, demobilization began apace by early 1946 and the government struggled to find the appropriate peacetime size for the RCN, Army and RCAF. Up to this point, Canada’s naval forces consisted of three parts: the Royal Canadian Navy, which was the permanent force; the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve, made up of those with previous naval or maritime service; and the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve, made up of reservists. The two reserve forces were merged into the RCN(R) on 1 January 1946 as a cost-saving measure. This change also brought about uniform rank insignia for both the Permanent and Reserve elements of Canada’s navy.
The Minister of National Defence (DND), Brooke Claxton, a decorated veteran of the First World War, was anxious to unify the various support elements, training and services of the Canadian Armed Forces and most importantly to “consolidate and save money.” Claxton would be one of the driving forces behind the creation of the CD, although his refusal to adhere to some conventions ultimately delayed the project. Aside from being an able administrator, Claxton had an interest in fostering Canadian symbols and, by extension, a Canadian sense of identity. His first act as Minister of National Defence was to replace the Union Jack with the Red Ensign on all government buildings under his authority.
The established view of the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) in the period following the Second World War was one of a tradition-focused officer corps firmly devoted to the “British is best” mentality. It seems counterintuitive that Flag Officers of the RCN were the first to broach the topic of creating a long service decoration specific to Canada; however, the CD created in 1949 was significantly different from the one initially envisioned by the RCN.
The system of “Canadianized” Commonwealth long service awards worked well, save for the fact that Regular Force officers in the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the RCAF received no recognition for long service at all. The Victorian mentality that holding the King’s or Queen’s Commission was sufficient enough of an honour held firm. The existing long service awards were not uniform in their criteria, and each branch of the Canadian Armed Forces administered their own recognition programs. This could become quite complex when a person transferred between the Regular and Reserve Force, or between different branches of the Canadian Armed Forces.
During the Second World War, two honours specific to Canada were created. The first was the Canada Medal, which was supposed to be a sort of national order awarded for “specially valuable and meritorious service of a high standard [or]… special service of a high degree of merit, such as discharging special duties superior to the person’s ordinary work.” Established in August 1943 by King George VI, the Canada Medal would never be awarded and was abolished in 1966 to make way for the creation of the Order of Canada. The second Canadian medal created during the Second World War was the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal (CVSM), which was awarded to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces who served 18 months in uniform during the War. The CVSM was created in October 1943 and by the end of the War, more than three-quarters of a million Canadians had been awarded it.
Like the RCMP Long Service Medal, both of these medals were integrated into the broader Commonwealth-wide honours system that was administered in London. Throughout the War, Canadians were awarded various British gallantry awards, distinguished service awards, war medals and were appointed to the non-titular levels of the British orders of chivalry, most notably the Orders of the Bath, St. Michael and St. George and British Empire. The creation of an entirely Canadian honours system to supplant the Commonwealth honours system was not something seriously considered by the Government or general public at this point. Canadians were familiar with Commonwealth honours, and such a drastic break at this juncture would have been highly problematic for any government. The rancorous Nickle Resolution debates of 1918-1919 that had brought a virtual end to the bestowal of honours for everything except long service remained fresh in the minds of many, but the Second World War played an important role in reminding many of the important role official recognition could play in fostering unity and common purpose. Nevertheless, the official view was that “the subject of honours is hydra headed. It should be kept submerged… and hopefully in that way it will be gotten rid of.”
Following the end of the Second World War, a final Dominion Day Honours List was issued in 1946. After this, the pre-1939 policy of no civil or military honours – save those for gallantry and long service – returned. The topic of honours faded into the distance with the end of the War. While the Royal Commission on the National Development of the Arts, Letters and Sciences, most commonly known as the Massey Commission, examined the need for the creation of a Canadian honours system, the proposal was suppressed by the government of Louis St. Laurent, honours being viewed as having the potential of creating controversy and political strife.
The role of the Department of National Defence in the development of the Canadian honours system is a well established fact. Historically, the military has been at the leading edge of honours policy creation even at times when the remainder of the government had taken little more than a peripheral interest in orders, decorations and medals. Indeed, the military in Canada has been one of the few elements of officialdom that has held any understanding of how an honours system operates.
Honours policy was one of the few areas where both the Sovereign and Governor General were personally involved. In the realm of honours, the authority – and experience – of these incumbents of the most ancient offices in the Canadian state were immense and carried great weight. At the national level, honours policy was the purview of the Prime Minister, who was advised in turn by the Awards Coordination Committee (ACC). In actual fact, the Prime Minster rarely involved himself in the decisions of the ACC. Within the Department of National Defence, questions related to honours were dealt with by the Personnel Members Committee (PMC), a body made up of senior officers from the three services: the Chief of Naval Personnel, the Adjutant General of the Army and the Air Member for Personnel. These officers held the rank of Commodore, Brigadier, Air Commodore or above. The PMC had the ability to propose the creation of honours, and these proposals were submitted to the Awards Coordination Committee.
The Canadian Reserve Decoration
With the amalgamation of the RCNR and the RCNVR into the RCN(R) on 1 January 1946, the RCNR Officers’ Decoration, known as the RD, and the RCNVR Officers’ Decoration, known as the VRD, ceased to exist as their respective services had been restructured. While the two decorations were identical in physical appearance – oval in shape surrounded by a cable tied into a reef knot at the base and displaying in the centre the Royal Cypher “GRI” – they had different ribbons and very different criteria. An officer in the RCNVR became eligible for the RD after only 15 years of service as an officer, while counterparts in the RCNR had to serve 20 years as officers in that service in order to become eligible. Herein lay one of the administrative difficulties with the series of ten Commonwealth long service awards that Canadians were eligible for at this time: different criteria for similar services.
The change in the structure of the naval reserve caused the issue of recognition for members of the new RCN(R) to be considered by the Chief of Naval Personnel, who brought forward a proposal to the PMC on 19 July 1946. At this meeting it was proposed to create “a new medal to be known as the Canadian Reserve Decoration.” At this point the proposal – if it can be called that – was simply for a new decoration to reward long serving members of the RCN(R), but both the Army and the RCAF saw an opportunity to simplify the system of long service awards with the creation of a decoration “for award to all officers and men of the Reserves of all Services.” The PMC outlined that:
- a new medal common to the three services was to be instituted for award to Reserve officers and men for long services. This was to supersede the Efficiency Decoration, Efficiency Medal, Air Efficiency Award, Volunteer Decoration and Reserve Decoration.
- The Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC were to draw up plans with regard to the
- Name of the medal,
- Design of the medal and medal ribbon,
- Suggest regulations for award of the medal.
With this, the general concept for the CD was born, although it had many more committee meetings to endure before being realized as a Canadian honour. The entire matter was referred to the Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC for consideration.
The RCN was not entirely satisfied with the direction that their initial, service-specific proposal had taken, and at the ACC a lengthy discussion ensued. As a result, it was decided that each of the services should study the matter and submit a proposal. By the end of August the Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC met to discuss the various proposals. Much thought was put into selecting the name of the award:
- Canadian Reserve Forces Award
- Canadian Forces Award
- Canadian Services Award
- Canadian Forces Medal
Discussion of the criteria also transpired and was almost entirely focused on the length of service. At the 95th meeting of the PMC, held on 6 September 1946, it was decided that the name of the new decoration should be the “Canadian Forces’ Decoration.” The project had been moved along with great enthusiasm on the part of the Army and RCAF, and the RCN was enthralled with the plan. The Senior Sub- Committee of the ACC was directed to prepare terms of reference and a preliminary drawing for the new decoration. Although they were not designated as such, the terms of reference were in reality a draft set of regulations for the CD.
At the 29 January 1947 meeting of the PMC, a near fully developed proposal including criteria, regulation, ribbon and insignia design was completed and submitted. The proposal called for a decoration to be awarded to:
all ranks of the Reserve Armed Forces of Canada who in an approved capacity have completed a period of 15 years of service.
Along with the criteria, an insignia design was included that called for a circular silver medal bearing on the obverse a naval crown, three maple leaves and an eagle, while the reverse was to display a beaver sitting atop a dam with the Aurora Borealis in the background and with the entire design encircled by oak leaves and laurel leaves. Unfortunately, it appears no copy of this design has survived. Two options were proposed for the ribbon; either red and white, the heraldic colours of Canada, or red, yellow and green, known as “autumnal colours.” Not surprisingly, the issue of what the insignia was supposed to look like became a point of significant debate. The remainder of the proposal detailed the administrative requirements to earn the award.
In seeking direction, the Adjutant General, Major- General W.G. Weeks, who was supportive of the proposal, wrote to his superior, General Charles Foulkes, the Chief of the General Staff. Weeks noted that there was increasing reluctance on the part of the RCN to proceed, while the Army and RCAF “hold the view that in these democratic times there is no basic reason why there should be a different medal for officers than for other ranks. In support of this contention I have in mind that all ranks of all services are eligible for the VC.”
The Navy remained unhappy with the concept that both ratings and officers would be awarded the same honour in recognition of long service. At the following meeting of the PMC on 31 January 1947, a proposal was introduced to create a companion to the Canadian Forces’ Decoration to be awarded to non-commissioned officers of the Regular Forces. This medal was to have the designation The Canadian Long Service Medal and it was initially to be awarded only to non-commissioned officers in the Regular components of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Committee reasoned that it could hardly press forward with a new honour for members of the Reserve Forces and not implement a similar strategy for the Regular Forces as well. For the time being, it was the issue of the Decoration for the Reserve Forces that received priority. It was not until March 1947 that the Personnel Members Committee returned to discussing the CD, which was to be limited to members of the Reserve Forces, and the Canadian Long Service Medal, which was to be awarded to members of the Regular RCN, Army and RCAF. At this point the proposal for the CD and the Canadian Long Service Medal became fused; that is, they were essentially the same honour in terms of length of service required and insignia design, with a different designation and ribbon.
While the Army and RCAF were pleased with the proposal, the RCN viewed the awarding of the same medal to officers and ratings as “definitely not acceptable” and the Chief of Naval Personnel, Commodore G.R. Miles, suggested that “if officers were to receive this decoration that the qualifying time for officers should be increased to 30 years and left at 15 years for other ranks.” This innovation would have resulted in very few officers receiving the CD. The Army and RCAF were patently opposed to creating different criteria for personnel on the basis of rank, and henceforth formed a united front against the RCN’s fixation on rank and differentiating between regular and reserve service.
The issue of the Decoration and the Medal languished for several months, and on 2 May 1947, the RCN was mollified with a proposal that saw the qualifying period for officers raised to 20 years, five more than required for a non-commissioned officer to receive the same medal. Less than a week later, the PMC agreed “that immediate action should be taken to have the Canadian Forces’ Decoration approved,” while the issue of the Canadian Long Service Medal was again left in abeyance. The project was handed over to the Judge Advocate General, Brigadier R.J. Orde, to develop the necessary legal documents and to advise on how to push the project forward on the administrative front. On 20 June 1947, Orde advised “we are of the opinion that approval of the regulations governing the proposed medal must be granted by His Majesty the King.”
The project was again delayed when the RCN reintroduced its objection to awarding one medal for all ranks. Nevertheless, pressure from the Army and RCAF propelled the creation of the CD forward, and by the end of July the Senior Sub-Committee of the Awards Coordination Committee set out the path forward to creating the medal. A four-step process was outlined requiring the proposal be submitted to the ACC by the Minister of National Defence, and after approval by the ACC it would be placed before the Cabinet Defence Committee. This would be followed by a submission from the Prime Minister to the Governor General and on to King George VI. Finally, after Royal approval was obtained, an Order in Council was to be drafted.
Brooke Claxton, the Minister of National Defence, submitted the Canadian Forces’ Decoration proposal to the ACC on 14 August 1947, the document having been signed by himself; the Chief of Naval Personnel, Commodore G.R. Miles; the Adjutant General, Major-General E.G. Weeks; and the Air Member Personnel, Air Commodore D.E. MacKell. The Chairman of the ACC, Ephraim Coleman, acknowledged receipt one week later and the ACC subsequently approved the entire proposal. Two significant administrative hurdles had been overcome in quick succession. It was now up to the Cabinet to weigh in on the thorny issue of honours. The Cabinet Defence Committee “approved a recommendation for the institution of a Canadian decoration for award to all ranks of the Reserve Forces of Canada” at its 15 October 1947 meeting. Clearly the Cabinet of Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, which had hitherto been very cautious when it came to honours policy, had no issue with the creation of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration. Given that the medal was for long service and only being awarded to Reserve members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the proposal was void of the controversy that had long been associated with civil honours in Canada. There was also no element of political involvement in selecting who would receive the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, which must have given some comfort to those more cautious members of Cabinet. In all, half of the Cabinet had served in the First World War, and thus the importance of formal recognition for long service in the military was not an unknown subject. Indeed around the table there were no fewer than three highly decorated soldiers with a Victoria Cross, Military Cross and Distinguished Conduct Medal between them. With the proposal approved, it was now up to the Privy Council Office to draft the necessary letter for the Prime Minister to place before King George VI for consideration.
While the CD was in the process of being approved, the PMC decided to “defer further discussion of the Canadian Long Service Medal until the Canadian Forces’ Decoration had been finally approved by higher authority.” It was a fortuitous delay given the inevitability that red tape would delay the creation of the CD.
Brooke Claxton was anxious to see the CD created in an expeditious manner. Although Cabinet had approved the establishment of the CD in October 1947, by Christmas, Claxton was dissatisfied with the pace at which the process was moving and he proposed a short cut to create the honour. In October, the King had approved new Letters Patent constituting the Office of the Governor General. These Letters Patent authorized the Governor General to exercise – on the Sovereign’s behalf – many of the powers of the King. Being a lawyer, Claxton was aware that the implications gave the Governor General a much wider scope to act on the Sovereign’s behalf. What Claxton was not aware of was the fact that the King had specifically asked to retain control over a number of elements of the Royal Prerogative, and included in this list was the power to create honours. Nevertheless, Claxton felt that the Letters Patent offered him a rapid way to have the CD created. On 23 December 1947 Claxton wrote to the Clerk of the Privy Council, Arnold Heeney, to ask that the Prime Minister write to the Governor General and request that the CD be created. Henney responded one week later noting a letter that was exchanged between Prime Minister Mackenzie King and the Private Secretary to King George VI, which clearly outlined that the authority and power to create new honours was to remain in the hands of the King and be delegated to the Governor General only when “exceptional circumstances made it necessary to do so.”
As Minister of National Defence, Claxton developed a penchant for involving himself in various issues related to honours and had an aversion to being told “no” by anyone – even by the King himself. Although well meaning, Claxton’s attitude did not help the overall situation and would result in significant friction between Claxton, the Secretary to the Governor General, Major General H.F.G. Letson, and the Governor General, Lord Alexander. The process of forwarding any proposal to the King required it to pass through the office of his representative in Canada, the Governor General. In writing to Letson, the Clerk of the Privy Council noted in the final paragraph of his submission:
I shall be grateful if you will request His Excellency to have the submission placed before His Majesty the King as soon as it would be possible to have this done. Should His Majesty desire to have any changes in the proposed arrangements, or should His Excellency wish to make any suggestions, I shall be obliged if you will let me know.
As the most senior bureaucrat in the land, and one with much experience, Heeney knew that his final paragraph was much more than a courtesy – it was a request for guidance. Lord Alexander and Letson examined the proposal and found no issue with it: “His Excellency examined the proposed arrangements and has no changes to suggest.” On 18 February 1948, Letson made the submission to the King’s Private Secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, who himself had served as Secretary to the Governor General of Canada from 1931-1935. Letson noted:
The Governor General recommends that His Majesty may be graciously pleased to approve the establishment of this decoration […] Should His Majesty desire to make any changes in the proposed arrangements, I would be obliged if you would let me know.
His Majesty Desires Changes
King George VI was a keen student of honours and took his role as the proverbial and legal fount of all honours in his various realms very seriously. He had a lifetime of experience in matters related to orders, decorations and medals: this was quite literally part of his role as Sovereign.
Lascelles responded: “before laying the submission before His Majesty I should be grateful for your comments on the following points”. It seems highly likely given the King’s previous involvement on many matters related to honours that Lacelles was simply transferring the King’s comments, without actually saying so, thus to prevent any embarrassment to the King. Three key concerns were raised. The first related to the non-appearance of the King’s effigy on the CD: all of the various long service medals and decorations that were being replaced by the CD carried either the Royal Cypher and Crown or an effigy of the King, but the CD proposal had neither. The second issue related to the use of the word “Decoration.” Lascelles rightly noted that “decorations”, save the Victoria Cross and George Cross, were traditionally restricted to officers and warrant officers. The last concern related to the inclusion of post-nominals with the award of the CD. The proposal submitted to the King noted that every recipient of the CD was to be entitled to the post-nominal designation “CD”. Up to this point, only long service decorations, which were awarded to officers alone, were accompanied by post-nominals. Lascelles observed “there might be demands for it to be expanded to holders of the I.S.M, the L.S. & G.C.M, the R.C.M.P.L.S.M., [Imperial Service Medal, Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, RCMP Long Service Medal,] etc.” The points were all valid, but they also reflected a certain level of rigidity.
Letson passed along Lascelles’ comments to Heeney with his own comments. While he agreed that the effigy of the King should probably appear on the obverse of the medal, Letson was not terribly concerned about the use of the term “Decoration” nor the inclusion of post-nominals. “My feeling in this regard is that I cannot see why other ranks should not be allowed to use an initial after their names if the award to them is the same as that to an officer.” Heeney immediately wrote to Claxton to outline the potential difficulties, and suggested that the proposal be re-examined and augmented.
A month later, the PMC considered the three issues and drafted a letter for the Minister of National Defence to send to the Clerk of the Privy Council. The letter refuted each of the three objections. On the issue of the absence of the King’s effigy from the CD, the Committee noted that the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal did not bear the King’s effigy. The use of the term “decoration” was noted as important to “keep this medal on as high a plane as possible and it is therefore considered that it should be known as the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.” The last point relating to post-nominals was similarly dealt with: “it is considered equally fair that they [non-commissioned officers] should be permitted the same privilege [of the post-nominals CD].”
Heeney again wrote to Letson to pass along Claxton’s explanation, which was in turn forwarded onto the King’s Private Secretary. The response was a stern but friendly letter from the King’s Private Secretary to the Governor General. The letter has all the hallmarks of King’s personal concerns and it provides a rare window into his very personal connection to Canada, both as Sovereign and as an individual.
I put forward that this medal should bear on the obverse The King’s effigy… The King sets great value in his personal relationship with the members of his Forces… Might I suggest also this other aspect of the question? On their side, Members of His Majesty’s Canadian Forces have always set great store on this association with The King; would not they too expect to find on this decoration, given them for long and efficient service, some appropriate symbol of it having been awarded by authority of The King. It is of course, entirely right and proper that the Decoration should be essentially distinctive of Canada, bearing Canada’s national symbols; but that surely should not altogether exclude any symbolic reference to Canada’s Sovereign.
The other points related to the use of the term “decoration” and post-nominals were no longer an issue, Lascelles commenting “I feel sure that The King would readily acquiesce to them.”
Alexander and Letson had a lengthy discussion about how the proposal for the CD could be advanced in such a way as to meet The King’s requirements. Letson proposed a few changes, the first being that the medal should not be circular as it would be easily confused with service medals: “a nine sided medal (one side for each Province) might be worthy of consideration.” Newfoundland had not yet joined Confederation; thus, there were only nine provinces at the time. The CD, it was suggested, was to carry the Royal Cypher or the Royal Arms of Canada, “as presently proposed the medal would bear no indication that it carried Royal recognition or recognition of the Canadian Government.” Letson went on to propose that the obverse carry the Royal Cypher and the reverse the Royal Arms of Canada.
Letson’s proposals were well received by Heeney, but the PMC was not so enamoured and rebuffed all of them. Letson, himself a retired Major-General, was about to pull rank on a whole series of officials, something that did not endear him to the Minister of National Defence; however, he was acting on behalf of the King and Governor General, two men not unacquainted with questions related to honours, one the fount of all honours, the other one of the most highly decorated military leaders of the Second World War. Claxton, while disappointed in the delay, did agree to one of Letson’s suggestions and subsequently directed that the Royal Cypher be included in the design of the medal.
The officers of the Department [of National Defence] agree with your suggestion that Canada ’s relationship with the British Commonwealth and its link with the Crown should be shown. They have accordingly had the design altered by superimposing the Royal Cypher on the overall design of the obverse.
This information was relayed to Letson and the Governor General through the Clerk of the Privy Council. The Clerk went on to provide information about the proposed Canadian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, “for the permanent components of the Canadian Defence Forces.” It was also noted that the design for this new medal would be similar to that of the CD “in the interest of economy.”
Almost simultaneous with the various difficulties associated with the CD, the PMC considered and approved the proposal for the Canadian Long Service Medal for consideration by the ACC. The proposal for the Canadian Long Service Medal was almost identical to that of the CD, save that it was to be awarded for 15 years in the Regular not Reserve Forces. Other differences included the ribbon which was to be gules (red), divided into four parts by thin argent stripes, and the insignia itself was to be silver-gilt in colour.
The PMC submitted their proposal to the Defence Council and the Council reviewed the proposal for the Canadian Long Service Medal at their 21 May 1948 meeting. It was decided that “this matter should be held in abeyance pending the observations, if any of His Majesty The King.” Despite the decision of the Defence Council, the PMC continued to consider the matter of the Canadian Long Service Medal. At their 3 June 1948 meeting they concluded that the new medal should “be extended to include officers.” It was a significant departure in terms of honours policy given that the PMC wanted the Canadian Long Service Medal to be awarded to both officers and non-commissioned officers. The long absence of a long service award for officers of the Regular components of the Canadian Armed Forces was coming to an end.
In an effort to eliminate the endless exchange of letters between the Office of the Governor General, the Clerk of the Privy Council and the Department of National Defence, Letson convened a meeting at Government House with Adjutant General E.G. Weeks to discuss the overall project. The meeting was also attended by J.F. Delaute, Assistant-Secretary to the Governor General, and Captain H. Evans of the Honours Awards Section, Canadian Army. Weeks and Letson had served together in the First World War and were longtime friends, and this fact helped to smooth the waters. Letson continued to push for his ten-sided design (Newfoundland had recently voted to join Confederation); he also objected to the use of a beaver on the reverse as he felt that “although the Beaver was accepted as symbolic of Canada, it has never been officially recognized as such.” Letson also continued to insist that the Royal Arms of Canada should appear on the reverse of the medal, or at the very least “some other symbol such as a Maple Leaf.” The various concerns were relayed back to the PMC, Letson refusing to place the revised proposal before the Governor General until the Committee had again considered the issues related to design.
At the 28 September 1948 meeting of the PMC, the Committee agreed to consider Letson’s proposal for a decagonal-shaped insignia, although they were not prepared to consider Letson’s other suggestions related to the design of the obverse and reverse of the CD. The Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC was tasked with considering Letson’s suggestions and agreed to a change in the shape of the CD from circular in form to a decagonal shape. One internal memo noted “in view of the strong views held by General Letson, a change in design [has] been made” to the shape of the CD. The PMC also decided that the suspender bar for the CD should be the same as that of the pre-existing Canadian Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military), which bore the word CANADA on the suspender, and allowed for the engraving of the recipient’s name on the reverse of the suspender. Additionally, Letson had raised concerns about the length of service required to earn the clasp to the CD. For reservists the time period was set at six years, the same as the Efficiency Medal, while early proposals for the Canadian Long Service Medal stated that clasps would be awarded after an additional 15 years service. Letson asked that the time period be standardized to 10 years for all clasps, to both the CD and the Canadian Long Service Medal.
Major-General Weeks would inform Letson of the Committee’s agreement to make certain changes on 5 November 1948, most notably the change in the shape of the CD. Weeks explained the PMC’s decision and pleaded with Letson to “discuss this matter further” before writing directly to the Minister of National Defence. Letson replied with a friendly but firm letter: “I feel that the proposals I have put forward, are, in general, those which would meet with the approval of the Governor General, and that this approach [to write directly to the Minister] will not delay matters but should expedite the institution of these two service awards.” Letson was certainly acting on his own views in terms of changes to the criteria, but on the issue of design, he was only motivated in part by his own ideas. When we consider that both he and the Governor General raised no objections to the original proposal for the CD, we must conclude that he was primarily acting on the concerns raised by the King’s Private Secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, who was in turn acting on the concerns of George VI.
Discussion at the 9 December 1948 meeting of the PMC focused on the inability to please Letson. Realizing that little progress was being made, the PMC agreed to invite Letson to their next meeting, a highly unusual step. Given the foreseeable difficulties and costs related to the creation of two awards, it was finally agreed that there was to be one award entitled “The Canadian Forces’ Decoration”, and that it was to be awarded to both the Regular/Permanent and Reserve components of the Canadian Armed Forces. A silver version of the CD would be awarded to reservists, while a silver-gilt version of the CD would be awarded to Regular members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The ribbon was to be gules (red) and argent (white), with red being the predominant colour. The number of argent stripes on the ribbon would be different for the Reserve and Regular Force CD. The qualifying period for the CD was set at 12 years, with bars being awarded for 10 additional years of service. With agreement reached – Letson getting his way on most fronts – the Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC was directed to prepare the necessary documents to advance the revised proposal.
By mid-January 1949, Claxton had signed off on the newly expanded CD, and the proposal was again sent forward to the ACC for approval. “In addition to recognition of the Reserve Armed Forces of Canada it is now the intention that this decoration will also be for recognition of the Regular Forces […] may this proposal be considered by your Committee, and if concurred in, passed to the Cabinet for approval.” The ACC met on 28 February 1949 to discuss the CD, and all of the changes were agreed upon, save one. The Under-Secretary of State, C.J. Stein, insisted that the proposal be sent to the Prime Minister through his Minister, the Honourable Colin Gibson. Agreement was arrived at and the proposal was left with Gibson.
A veteran of the First World War, Gibson had been awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in the field, and he had also spent more than 30 years in the Canadian Militia. While he was not opposed to the concept of the CD, Gibson was horrified that the insignia was not going to carry the effigy of the King. Gibson first discussed the project with Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent, who encouraged him to discreetly survey members of the Cabinet and ex-service members of the Government.
In every case it was strongly urged that the head of His Majesty should be on the obverse of the medal. There was considerable criticism of the proposed reverse portraying a Beaver, and it was generally considered that the proposed obverse could be suitably used for the reverse […] There would be considerably more criticism if the King’s head was eliminated than would be the case if it was included.
There was also considerable feeling that the recipients of the award would appreciate having the head of HM on the obverse as an indication that it is a decoration awarded on behalf of HM.
Within two weeks Claxton had the design altered to have the King’s effigy placed on the obverse, while the original obverse was converted to become the reverse. By this point Claxton must have been quite perturbed with the ongoing delays: while early on in the project he had been reluctant to accept any significant changes, he became much more focused on compromise that would see the CD created.
St. Laurent heartily agreed to the new changes and the necessary documents were prepared. On 2 August 1949, the Clerk of the Privy Council wrote to General Letson requesting that the revised proposal for the CD be transmitted by the Governor General to the King for his consideration. The submission from the Prime Minister to The King was succinct.
August 2nd, 1949.
The Prime Minister of Canada presents his humble duty to His Majesty The King.
It is expedient to provide for the establishment of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration for the recognition of service in the Armed Forces of Canada.
The Prime Minister, accordingly, humbly petitions His Majesty graciously to approve the making of an Order by the King’s Privy Council for Canada to make provision for the establishment of The Canadian Forces’ Decoration.
The Prime Minister remains His Majesty’s most faithful and obedient servant.
Louis L. St. Laurent
Approval for the CD came via coded telegram on 20 August 1949, from the King at Balmoral Castle. “August 20th stop Your letter 4th August stop The King has approved Prime Minister’s submission covering terms of reference and design for Canadian Forces’ Decoration stop Letter follows.”
With the King’s approval, it now fell to the Privy Council to draft an Order in Council creating the CD. The Department of National Defence took more than a month to turn around the paperwork; it seems entirely likely that they simply thought that once the King approved the creation of the CD, it was established. The ACC met on 14 October to discuss a variety of details, from the drafting of the Order in Council and arranging for the Royal Canadian Mint to strike the first 13,500 CDs, to what sort of box the CD should be presented in. By 22 November 1949, Claxton made a formal submission of the “Arrangements for the establishment of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.” On 15 December 1949, Lord Alexander signed Order in Council 6335 approving the establishment of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration. With this, the CD came into legal being. It would still be some time, however, until the first insignia would be pinned on the uniform of a Canadian service man or woman.
Delayed Success: Establishing the
Canadian Forces’ Decoration
We are of the opinion that approval of the regulations governing the proposed medal must be granted by His Majesty the King.
With the Canadian Forces’ Decoration formally established by the King on 15 December 1949 through Order in Council 6335, it was assumed by all involved that the decoration would be awarded shortly thereafter. This was, however, not the case, and it was not until 1950 that the CD began its medallic life in earnest. As we have seen, the original plan for non-commissioned officers serving in the Regular RCN, Army and RCAF to receive the Canadian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, with reservists to receive the CD, was quickly altered. In addition to the change in purpose of the CD, it was found that a number of logistical details were completely overlooked. The creation of honours was a new experience for all involved, save for King George VI. An established procedure for honours creation did not exist; indeed, it was something that was pioneered by the CD, most of which remains in place to this day.
Following the creation of the CD, concern about the design of the ribbon for the Reserve division of the CD was raised by senior Air Officers. The Chief of the General Staff (CGS), General Charles Foulkes, was perturbed at the proposal to change the ribbon. Foulkes was concerned that a request to change the ribbon would result in a delay of up to a year. The Canadian Army was in the process of adopting patrol dress uniforms, known as “Blues”, and the CGS was concerned that “in a few months the Army will be issued with new blue uniforms and that if a new medal ribbon is not available when the issue is made, every recipient of the medal [CD] will be forced to change his ribbon at his own expense.” With this in mind Foulkes suggested “that we adopt the previously approved Active Forces ribbon for all Forces, both Active and Reserve”, in light of this the Adjutant General, W.H.S. Macklin reflected “I was never fully convinced that a distinction between the Active and Reserve Forces ribbons is desirable.” The PMC met on 8 June 1950 to discuss the matter and they agreed that the ribbon and insignia awarded to both the Regular and Reserve Forces should be the same.
Claxton wrote to Letson on 13 June 1950 about the desire to merge both the Regular and Reserve Force divisions of the CD into one decoration with the same appearance and ribbon. “It is now desired that the insignia and the ribbon for The Canadian Forces’ Decoration be identical for both the Permanent and Reserve Forces.” With this change, the silver-gilt insignia and ribbon originally approved for the Regular Forces were to be adopted as the CD insignia. Such a significant change had to be approved by the King, and a submission was made on 14 June 1950, with the King agreeing to the changes on 21 June 1950. Subsequently, Order in Council 3143 was signed by the Governor General formalizing the changes.
The creation of the CD was announced on Saturday 15 July 1950:
A distinctly Canadian decoration for Canada’s Armed Forces, known as the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, has been approved by the King and will soon be available to servicemen of the Navy, Army and Air Force.
The long and arduous journey to establishing the Canadian Forces’ Decoration was complete after nearly four years of work. At last Claxton had won a long administrative battle to have the CD created, while Letson, Gibson, the Governor General and the King had all triumphed on the question of the symbolism associated with the newest Canadian honour.
One insignia-related detail totally overlooked was the design of the clasp for the CD. This issue was raised by Wing Commander W.J. Brodribb, who served as Chairman of the Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC. The Committee decided that the “clasp should take the form of a solid bar with the shield from the Canadian Coat of Arms superimposed.” The actual design was devised by the Royal Canadian Mint. The design for the CD clasp would not be submitted to the King until the end of February 1950. The Governor General approved the design on 1 March 1951 and the package was sent on to George VI with Royal approval coming on 8 March 1951. This was the beginning of a number of changes that would be made to the overall CD programme in the coming years. The important administrative details related to the criteria were still being worked out.
The first CDs were delivered to the Deputy Minister of National Defence, C.M. Drury, by the Master of the Royal Canadian Mint, Walter C. Ronson, on 19 March 1951. The insignia that landed on Drury’s desk were silver in colour as it was still up to Birks of Montreal to gild the CDs. The Mint had refused to gild or gold plate the CDs out of a concern that The CD clasp as issued until 1957 A Canadian Forces’ Decoration before gilding the plating would easily wear off, thus tarnishing the reputation of the Mint, which was renowned for its quality of product [see Chapter Five]. The sample CD clasp was delivered shortly thereafter and the Senior Sub-Committee of the Awards Coordination Committee (ACC) approved the sample on 22 March 1951. There had been some earlier difficulties with the clasps. The holes drilled into each corner were not large enough “for the passage of a needle”, and thus the bar had to be slightly re-designed to allow for larger holes. With these details finalized, the Mint began striking CDs, and after numerous design changes, a broadened criteria and altered purpose, the decoration came to life in a medallic form at long last.
The first CD presentation ceremony took place at Rideau Hall on 7 June 1951. The Minister of National Defence, Brooke Claxton, handed a small brown leatherette case to Lord Alexander, the Governor General. The brief ceremony was not a formal “investiture” as it would have been inappropriate for the Minister to assume the responsibility of the King’s representative and invest someone with the CD – especially when the person being invested was the Governor General. Alexander became the first recipient of the CD, and this was the 39th ribbon on his chest. In addition to presenting the Governor General with his CD, Claxton gave Lord Alexander a box containing nine CDs, which he asked Alexander to give to King George VI and a number of other members of the Royal Family.
Death of The King
On 6 February 1952, the father of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration died in his sleep. An arduous reign of 16 years, nearly half of which had been consumed by the Second World War, had taken their toll on Canada’s King. With the demise of the Sovereign, the design of the CD had to be changed to bear the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. It was decided early on that all personnel who qualified for their CD during the King’s reign would be “granted medals bearing the effigy of his late majesty King George VI.” The Department of National Defence set to determining the new design for the CD. It was realized by all involved that only the effigy of the reigning Sovereign could be displayed on a medal. The Minister of National Defence, Brooke Claxton, subsequently wrote to the Governor General, Vincent Massey, to request that he approach the Queen for approval of a new effigy.
It is now considered desirable in accordance with past policy on long service and efficiency awards to redesign the obverse of this decoration [the CD] to bear the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.
The Queen subsequently assented to the inclusion of her uncrowned effigy on the obverse of the CD.89 Throughout 1952 and into 1953, The Right Honourable Vincent Massey, PC, CH, CC, CD discussions continued about the design of the CD. The PMC in consultation with the Inter-Service Awards Committee – the successor body to the Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC, decided upon a number of changes. These included removing the ornate CANADA suspender, which was considered by some members of the PMC to be “very heavy and awkward in appearance.” It was also decided to place the word Canada with the Queen’s titles, so it was no longer necessary to have it on the suspender bar. The Royal Cypher was removed from the reverse as it was deemed unnecessary. The original reason for the inclusion of the Royal Cypher of King George VI had been the lack of the effigy of the Sovereign on an early design of the first issue of the CD. The last recommendation was to cease striking the CD in .800 silver and to begin striking it in tombac, which could be gold plated. Although the memo did not state the official reason for this last change, it came down to cost. The minutes of the PMC would later note that the change in metal composition was to “reduce the cost of manufacture.”
The new design was approved by the Queen and promulgated through Order in Council 1953-1869 of 3 December 1953. In addition to changing the design of the CD, a new clause was added related to “grant, forfeiture, restoration and other matters in amplification of these regulations as may be given from time to time by the Minister of National Defence.” This last clause would save a great deal of administrative work, as small changes to the regulations could now be made through amplification of the CD regulations, which did not require additional Orders in Council. By February 1954, the first batch of 9,000 CDs with the Queen’s effigy had been awarded, at an estimated unit cost of $1.50 each.
During the first few years of the CD’s existence, the regulations underwent minor changes. The first augmentation took place on 1 March 1951 through Order in Council 1000. This allowed for members of the Canadian Armed Forces who had served on a full-time basis in any Commonwealth navy, army or air force, to use previous service towards earning the CD once they had spent five years in the Canadian Armed Forces. This criteria was further broadened to include members of the auxiliary forces of the British Commonwealth through Order in Council 6675 of 19 December 1951.
The next change came to accommodate Canadians serving in the Korean War. The Regulations at the time did not allow for a reservist to count time served with the Regular Force towards earning the CD. Thus, those reservists who transferred to the Regular Force for the duration of the Korean War were handicapped in that they could not count their wartime service towards earning the CD. The Regulations were amended to read that reservists “enrolled in the Regular Forces of Canada for a special limited engagement in consequence of Canada’s support of the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization shall be permitted to count their service whilst specially enrolled as either Regular or Reserve Force service.” This change was promulgated by Order in Council 1953-319 on 5 March 1953. This was the beginning of a long term situation that disadvantaged those members of the Canadian Armed Forces when they transferred between the Regular or Reserve Force or vice-versa.
Raising of Standards
The ten long service decorations and medals that were replaced by the CD had different criteria, in terms of both of length of service and level of requisite “good conduct”, and these variations caused some difficulties during the five years that followed the creation of the CD. The CD regulations, as they pertained to conduct, were of particular concern to the Awards Coordination Committee (ACC) and the PMC. At its 28 September 1951 meeting, the ACC discussed the requirement that applicants for the CD had to be “efficient and in every way deserving of the award.” The RCN, Canadian Army and RCAF were aware of the CD Regulations, and while they adhered to the required 12 years of service; they continued applying their own standards to the “good conduct” criteria.
It has been ascertained in practice […] that some recommending authorities are being very rigid in interpreting this clause, while others are being most lenient and are basing their recommendations only on length of service.
As if to emulate the pre-existing stereotypes of the different branches of the Canadian Armed Forces of the period, it was the RCN that was overly strict with the interpretation of the rules, while the RCAF was quite lax. These concerns were raised in late 1951 and would continue to be regular topics of discussion at various meetings of the PMC and the Inter-Service Awards Committee (ISAC).
Under the old rules for long service medals, the award was made to other ranks only if their character assessment was very good or exemplary. There was no desire to reinstitute the “old rules for service awards.” No recommendation would be submitted for any officer or man who was sentenced to dismissal or misconduct or who had been convicted of an offence such as treason, sedition, mutiny, cowardice, desertion or a disgraceful offence against morality (homosexuality or rape). For those who had been convicted of other offences, a sliding scale of CD deferral was proposed. This was not unlike the system used by the RCMP to defer awards of the RCMP Long Service Medal for those members of that Force with offences on their record.
The path to strengthen the criteria was established with Order in Council 1869 of 3 December 1953 when the Queen Elizabeth II issue of the CD was formalized and permitted the Minister of National Defence to issue “such directions as to grant, forfeiture, restoration and other matters in amplification of these regulations.” The PMC continued to discuss the issue of the conduct required to earn the CD. There was general consensus that “an officer or other rank must have ‘Very Good’ conduct before he may receive the award.” The issue arose about just what constituted very good conduct. By late 1954, the PMC began a campaign to revamp the Amplification Regulations related to the CD; this project was known as “Raising of Standards.” A sliding scale of punishment and CD deferral was proposed.
|Punishment||Service to be forfeited - Officers||Service to be forfeited - Men|
|Detention||(officers were never detained)||Three months for each complete period of five days|
|Reduction in Rank||Four years||Two years|
|Forfeiture of Seniority||Four years||Two years|
|Fines (over $25.00)||Three months for every $5.00 over $25.00||One month for every $5.00 over $25.00|
|Severe Reprimand||15 months||One year|
|Reprimand||One year||Six months|
The standard established was much more severe for officers than for non-commissioned officers. Offences such as treason, sedition, or mutiny “shall cause the offender to forfeit all previous service.” It was not only crimes that the PMC was concerned with but also inefficiency. Officers who were on probation because of inefficiency were not to be recommended for the CD until their probationary period was completed. The RCN was fully on board with the more stringent regulations, but they wanted the period of service required to earn the CD to be extended to 15 years. This last proposal was not approved. By the end of November 1954, the PMC approved of the new interpretation and the issue was passed onto the Defence Council for a final decision, with the Defence Council being urged to consider that “if definite ‘conduct’ regulations were brought into force the value of the decoration [the CD] would be raised to a much higher level.”
The Defence Council met on 10 December 1954 and prepared to advise the Minister of National Defence on the program to improve the image of the CD, from one of an award given out automatically after 12 years to a highly valued decoration similar to its antecedents in the honours system. The PMC recommended that a member of the Canadian Armed Forces had to have “very good” conduct before he received the CD; a certificate of service authorizing the CD nomination to be approved would not be signed if the individual had been convicted of an offence (aside from minor punishments and fines) by a service tribunal during the last six years of service; for each year during which punishment was received, a year would be forfeited in time counted towards earning the CD; those on probation because of inefficiency would not be recommended for the CD until they had successfully finished their period of probation; and if a Commanding Officer was about to report adversely upon an officer or non-commissioned officer, he was not to sign the recommendation until such time as the reason for the adverse report had been remedied and the individual was again the subject of a satisfactory report. The appropriate Chief of Staff was authorized to mitigate these rules in exceptional cases. All three service chiefs felt that the regulations should be “made a little stiffer” and General Guy Simonds wanted the conduct of recipients to be “Exemplary.” After a protracted discussion, the Council approved the recommendations of the PMC with the exception that instead of the last 6 years of an individual’s service having to be clear of offences, the period was set at 8 years. It is from this decision that the mantra about the CD being awarded for 12 years of service, of which 8 years had to be for “undetected crime”, originated.
The appointment of honorary Colonels and honorary Lieutenant-Colonels had a long tradition in the Canadian Militia which spread to the regular Canadian Army following the First World War. Under the regulations governing both the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers’ Decoration and the Efficiency Decoration, those holding honorary ranks were entitled to receive either the VD or ED once they had completed the required period of 20 years’ service. Secretaries of the Canadian Defence Association were also allowed to accumulate time towards the VD and later the ED as part of the “Active List.” In 1946, the Canadian Army was reorganized and the “Active List” ceased to exist. Henceforth, those holding honorary appointments and Secretaries of the Canadian Defence Association were carried on the “Supplementary Reserve List.” Service on the Supplementary Reserve List could not count towards the ED or the CD which superseded it. The Secretaries of the Defence Associations were anxious to see “such periods count towards the award of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.” Early in the discussions surrounding the CD criteria, it was decided to delete references to holders of honorary appointments being permitted to use their service time towards earning the CD.
At its 1951 annual general meeting, the Canadian Defence Association passed a resolution calling for holders of various honorary appointments, namely, the Secretary to the Governor General, Secretaries of the Defence Associations, Honorary ADCs to the King, Honorary ADCs to the Governor General and Honorary ADCs to the Lieutenant Governors, all be able to count their service towards earning the CD. One cannot help but be amused at the inclusion of the Secretary to the Governor General as one of the people included in the list. Letson had many orders, decorations and medals and was not likely to be swayed to support such a proposal merely because it held the potential to garner him yet another gong.
The Personnel Members Committee (PMC) examined the issue at its meeting of 5 April 1951 and agreed to defer a decision until they could hear from the Adjutant General. In March 1952, the PMC decided that there was to be no change in policy as it related to honorary appointees counting their time in service towards earning the CD. It would not be until August 1954 that the issue of honorary appointments using their service as time towards earning the CD was resolved. The PMC agreed that Colonels-in-Chief, Colonels Commandant, Honorary Colonels and Honorary Lieutenant-Colonels and their RCN and RCAF equivalents would be made eligible for the CD. ADCs to the Sovereign and Her representatives, Secretaries to the Defence Associations and the Secretary to the Governor General were not included in the list. The Minister of National Defence approved of the changes on 9 September 1954.
Return of the Long Service and Good Conduct Medals
Up until 1957, ratings and petty officers in the RCN who had joined the navy before 1 September 1939 continued to qualify for the RCN Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, while they had the option of receiving the CD, many preferred to wait to receive the familiar RCN-specific medal. While the 1 September 1939 rule allowed members of the Canadian Army and RCAF to continue to qualify for the pre-CD long service decorations and medals, most opted for the CD. The reasons for this are difficult to discern, but the shorter qualifying period and the right to use post-nominals were certainly motivating factors.
The RCN wanted to reintroduce the Long Service and Good Conduct Medals for the three services because “they have tradition,” and were harder to earn than the CD and are “therefore held in higher esteem.” In October 1954, the PMC began examining the potential of allowing non-commissioned officers to choose between receiving the CD or waiting to receive one of the old Long Service and Good Conduct Medals. The RCN had never been happy with the CD, and it was the Minister of National Defence that had to haul them into line with the other two services on a number of CD-related issues when the CD was still in an embryonic state. The fact that the same award was being presented to officers and ratings alike rankled senior officers in the RCN, so with this in mind, the navy pushed to reintroduce a Long Service and Good Conduct Medal for non-commissioned officers.
This time the RCN reintroduced the notion of reviving the RCN Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, the Canadian Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal and the RCAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. By 1954, when this idea was raised by the RCN, more than 10,000 CDs had been awarded. The navy vacillated between reintroducing the three branch-specific long service medals and reviving the proposed single Long Service and Good Conduct Medal that had been envisioned as the companion piece to the CD – the CD would continue to be awarded for Reserve service, while the Long Service Medal would be awarded to noncommissioned officers of the Canadian Armed Forces – once again cutting officers in the regular RCN, Army and RCAF out of receiving recognition for long service. A wide variety of other objections to the reintroduction of the Long Service Medal were outlined, notably that the Minister of National Defence had already ruled on this issue and the fact that the “Navy never wished officers to get the “CD […] although there were some representations against the “CD” in the early days everyone now seems reasonably content with it […] insofar as the Army is concerned.” The length of time it would take to have a new medal approved was also noted as an obstacle to proceeding. Lastly there was a concern that creating the Long Service Medal “would put Canada in the position of more or less admitting that the Canadian Forces’ Decoration had not been a good idea.”
The PMC examined the issue in November 1954, the Army and the RCAF members of the committee did not “consider it feasible to reintroduce the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal.” The RCN’s plan to reintroduce the Long Service Medal was unsuccessful. The final conclusion was “it is not considered that it would now be feasible to re-institute the old long service and good conduct medal.” The logistical difficulties were insurmountable, and the policy and political consequences were highly undesirable and certain to be met with disdain by the Minister of National Defence who increasingly grew weary of the infighting between the different services.
The changes made to the CD Regulations over the first five years of its existence were far from a seamless or instant process. Rather it was one of growth, debate and evolution as the initial kinks were smoothed out. The CD insignia and criteria that we know today came into being over this period.
Evolution of the
Canadian Forces’ Decoration
I find the current CFAO discriminatory to any member of the Regular Force who has had prior Reserve Service.
Throughout the first forty years of the CD’s existence a number of criteria and logistical issues came to be altered. In the history of Canada’s honours system, every long service medal and decoration has endured changes in criteria and sundry administrative details, and this is part of the evolution of any honours system. The CD is no exception to this, and along with the RCMP Long Service Medal it remains the award that has experienced the largest number of changes, although the vast majority of these have been relatively minor in scope.
Within five years of being created by King George VI, the Order in Council constituting the CD was amended five times [see Appendix Five]. These amendments broadened the qualification criteria to include service in the armed forces of a Commonwealth country (both regular and reserve/auxiliary), permitted reservists serving in the Korean War as part of the Regular Force to count their service towards earning the CD; and lastly to alter the design of the CD following the accession of Queen Elizabeth II to the throne.
As early as 1956, complaints were received by the Department of National Defence (DND) related to the regulation that required former members of the Regular Force who became members of the Reserve Force to serve five years in the militia before they could count their Regular Force service towards earning the CD. This regulation meant that when transferring from the Regular Force to the Reserve Force a person might have to serve a total of 17 years before being eligible for the CD. This became known as the “split service” issue.
The issue was raised at a meeting of the Personnel Members Committee (PMC) in November 1956. The Committee was not sympathetic to the plight of reservists who had previous service in the Regular Force. Opposition to changing the regulations focused around the fact that none of the various decorations or medals that the CD replaced allowed a person to count service in the Regular Force towards earning a long service award while in the Reserves. The PMC was also concerned that “personnel of the Regular Forces released with less than 12 years’ service could enroll for just sufficient time to complete their qualifying service” to earn the CD. After a short discussion all members of the PMC concurred that the regulations should remain unaltered. It is worth noting that reservists who transferred to the Regular Force were similarly disadvantaged and required to serve five years in the Regular Force before they could count their Reserve service towards earning the CD. There is a certain irony to the fact that the very same men who vigorously supported the creation of a single decoration for all service in the Canadian Armed Forces – whether it be regular or reserve; navy, army or air force – were so rigidly tied to regulations associated with the old Efficiency Medal and Efficiency Decoration that the CD had replaced.
A review of the CD was undertaken by the Inter-Service Awards Committee (ISAC) and its parent body the PMC in the Fall of 1960. The review found that “the CD has accomplished the standardization purpose for which it was intended.” The PMC agreed that no changes were necessary for “recognizing long and efficient service by members of the Regular and Reserve Forces of Canada.” The issue of Regular and Reserve service time not counting towards earning the CD if an individual had transferred between the two elements was not raised.
In the period leading up to the unification of the Canadian Forces, one of the key policy directions was the integration of the Royal Canadian Navy, Canadian Army and Royal Canadian Air Force into a more administratively efficient and effective organization. The desire to eliminate duplication of functions and services was one of the reasons why the CD was created. Former Minister of National Defence Brooke Claxton championed the multi-year project to establish a single award to recognize a set period of time in any of the services – whether it was in the Reserve or Regular Force – largely in an effort to create more uniformity amongst the three services. The discrepancy between recognizing personnel who spent their career in the Regular or Reserve Force and those who had split service was quite glaring. Major-General Bruce Macdonald broached the topic with Air Vice-Marshal A.C. Hull in the hopes that it could be easily resolved. Macdonald was concerned that service in the Reserve Force was not being properly recognized, noting “although Reserve service is admittedly part time, it is usually in addition to a full time civilian job and to persevere for twelve years requires outstanding dedication and exceptional devotion to duty”. Hull was sympathetic to the difficulties experienced by those with split service, but he was more interested in seeing a revamping of the entire CD criteria, primarily in the realm of number of years required to earn the CD. Hull proposed to the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jean Victor Allard, that the CD be awarded for 10 years of service, and bars for 18 and 25 years, a silver maple leaf for 30 years service and finally a gold maple leaf for 35 years of service. While Hull was supportive of solving the split service problem, he believed that there was a “need for differentiation between Regular and Reserve services.”
Other senior officers were equally concerned about the split service issue. Lieutenant- General William Anderson wrote to the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jean Victor Allard, to express his desire to see all members of the Canadian Forces treated equally in the time counted towards earning the CD. Anderson noted that there were “inconsistencies in the prerequisite for qualifications for awards […] therefore there is a set of standards for the Regular Force and another for Cadet and Reserve personnel.” Anderson had been alerted to the anomaly following a meeting of the Canadian Defence Association (CDA) in January 1968 at which a resolution was passed related to the matter:
Now therefore be it resolved that a member of the Forces who serves in both the Regular and the Reserve Forces be awarded the Canadian Forces’ Decoration on completion of twelve years of satisfactory service, thus eliminating the penalty of extra time for split service.
Despite the concerns raised by the CDA and a number of senior officers, the split service issue remained unresolved. Allard was loath to tinker with the length of service required to earn the CD that had been proposed by Hull, and the issue was shelved. The only unification-related CD issue that was addressed related to officers in the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet (RCSC) Corps. Prior to unification, Sea Cadet Officers were appointed by the Minister of National Defence and not issued with a Queen’s Commission. With unification, serving Sea Cadet Officers were Commissioned to bring them in line with their counterparts in the Army and Air Cadets. With this change, officers in the RCSC were permitted to count their service towards earning the CD. This change was made in 1969 through Order in Council 2019. The thorny issue of interchangeable service between the Reserve and Regular Force remained unresolved.
It was a disgruntled navy Lieutenant who helped reintroduce the need to remedy the discrepancy experienced by members of the Canadian Forces with split service. In a memo entitled “Discriminatory CFAO”, Lieutenant(N) R.J. Cadieu used his own experience as a member of the RCN(R) who eventually transferred to the Regular Force. Under the existing regulations, Cadieu, who had joined the RCN(R) in 1961 and then transferred to the Regular Force, would qualify for the CD in 1978, by which time he would have served 17 years in the Canadian Forces. Had he remained a reservist he would have qualified for the CD in 1973. Cadieu noted “I find the current CFAO discriminatory to any member of the Regular Force who has had prior Reserve Service.”
Cadieu’s cause was taken up by the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jacques Dextraze, who supported a change that would allow Regular Force members to count service with the Reserve Force towards earning their CD. Dextraze commented that the issue of split service “has given rise to much dissatisfaction and defeats the intention of the award to recognize twelve years of service and good conduct in an approved capacity.” The Privy Council Office prepared the necessary documents to make the change to allow service in the Reserve Force to count towards earning the CD as a member of the Regular Force. This amendment was made through Order in Council 2599 on 21 October 1976. Oddly, the issue of prior Regular Force service being able to count towards earning the CD as a member of the Reserve Force remained unresolved.
The following year, another amendment was made to the clause related to Reserve and Auxiliary service in the forces of the Commonwealth and allowing this previous service to count towards earning the CD. The amendment removed the requirement that Reserve service in a Commonwealth force could only count towards Reserve service in the Canadian Forces, and Regular service in a Commonwealth force could only count towards Regular service in the Canadian Forces.
A final resolution to the split service issue was not achieved until August of 1981. Order in Council 2310 of 19 August 1981 at last allowed members of the Reserve and Regular Forces to count all of their service towards earning the CD. Members of the Reserve Force who had previous service in the Regular Force were now permitted to count their Regular Force service towards earning the CD without the requirement of serving five years in the Reserve Force. It remains unclear why the issue of split service was not dealt with as a single package. At last “conditions of qualifying for the Canadian Forces’ Decoration will as consequence [of the amendment] be the same in both the Regular and Reserve Forces.”
The Canadian Rangers
Founded in 1947, the Canadian Rangers have always been eligible to earn the CD; however, because only paid service with the Regular Force or Reserve Force was considered as qualifying period, no Ranger had qualified for the CD, despite some individuals having more than 30 years of service. The reason for this was that Rangers average only a few days of paid training each year. The Commander of Maritime Command, Vice-Admiral J.A. Fulton, proposed to make Ranger service similar to that rendered by members of the Cadet Instructor List (CIL). CF members on the CIL qualified for the CD by being maintained on the list. This change did not require an alteration to the CD Regulations, but rather a much simpler amendment to the Canadian Forces Administrative Orders. It was a simple and expedient solution to a longstanding discrepancy. In building his case for the change, Fulton remarked:
Rangers are volunteers in the purest sense in that they are always in readiness, yet do not qualify for pay except in exceptional circumstances.
The proposal was supported by Brigadier-General J.A. Cowan, Director General of Reserves and Cadets, and Major N.A. Buckingham, the Director of Ceremonial at National Defence Headquarters. Chief of the Defence Staff Ramsay Withers approved the proposed change to the CFAO on 26 February 1982.
All honours systems must deal with issues such as forfeiture, the refusal to accept an award, the return of an honour and other similar issues. Refusals to accept the CD have been extremely rare. The first occasion when a member of the CF refused to accept the CD occurred in June 1973 when a Corporal told his Commanding Officer that he had no desire to accept the CD or wear the undress ribbon. At this time, a policy was devised whereby the Commanding Officer would “advise the member that should at a later date he request his medal it will be available.” There was no way to force a member of the CF to accept an honour. By the early 1990s, the policy had been refined slightly and today if an individual refuses to accept an honour “we ask that the refusal be put in writing […] once a military honour is refused it is never offered for that circumstance again.”
From time to time, recipients of the CD return their insignia. The reasons why a person returns a rightfully earned honour are wide and varied. Occasionally, it is in protest of a decision made by the government, a pension dispute, etc. It was only in 2003 that a policy was developed to deal with returned honours. Returned and rejected medals are destroyed after being held for a short period of time. In the event that the individual wishes to have their medals back at some future date, “they would have to request and pay for a replacement.”
As the Canadian honours system grew throughout the 1970s and 1980s, there was a general desire on the part of senior officials in the Privy Council Office and in the Chancellery of Honours to centralize the administration of all federal honours into one office and to regularize the processes for national honours. The natural place to centre all honours was in the Chancellery of Honours at Rideau Hall, which was already responsible for almost all of Canada’s various orders, decorations and medals. The Chancellery was interested in assuming “post-recommendation administration” of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration. This related to the procurement of insignia, the naming of the CD, presentation and other related logistical details. At first, the Department of National Defence showed interest in transferring certain CD-related responsibilities, but interest on both sides began to wane: DND was concerned about losing control over the CD while Rideau Hall was worried about the significant cost of the program. The project was revived in 1995 by the Chancellery of Honours as the Canadian Heraldic Authority became more involved in the design of military badges. Again the proposed transfer was left in abeyance. The RCMP was similarly approached; however, they too declined the opportunity to lodge administration of their long service medal outside their organization.
Until very recently, recipients of the CD were not permitted to concurrently accumulate time towards other long service medals such as the RCMP Long Service Medal or one of the six Exemplary Service Medals. The rules related to what is known as “dual recognition” made it clear that a person could not qualify for two of the Sovereign’s long service medals for concurrent services. Thus, a member of a municipal police force or volunteer fire brigade who was also a member of the Canadian Forces had, as a Reservist, to choose which honour he or she wished to earn. This rule was often ignored as there was no easy way to ensure that a recipient of one long service award, such as the Police Exemplary Service Medal, had not already earned the CD. In 2007, the Honours Policy Sub-Committee solicited organizations such as the Canadian Forces, the RCMP, the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and other groups that were eligible for the various Exemplary Service Medals for their views on the issue. The overwhelming reply was that in addition to being unenforceable, it was not fair to deny a long service medal on account of concurrent service in more than one protective service. Indeed, such civic-minded service to Canada and its communities was something to be encouraged.
The Committee subsequently decided to “broaden the interpretation of the principle of duplicate recognition to allow the award of more than one long service medal for concurrent service.” This policy was approved in January 2009 and was backdated to January 2004.
Logistics of the
Canadian Forces’ Decoration
There was also considerable feeling that the recipients of the award would appreciate having the head of His Majesty on the obverse as an indication that it is a decoration awarded on behalf of His Majesty.
The physical insignia of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration was one detail that took a significant amount of time to devise and resulted in much discussion. A great deal of effort went into the design, creation and manufacture of not only the Canadian Forces’ Decoration insignia, but also the ribbon and case. It is these “objects” that give an honour its physical identity, while the Terms of Reference, regulations and character of those who are recognized with the CD give it a public persona and confer a certain amount of symbolic capital upon the rightful wearer. This chapter examines, in detail, every logistical detail of the CD from the earliest concept of the honour to its present design.
Commonwealth long service decorations and medals have come in a variety of shapes and have carried a number of designs since the first standardized long service medal was created in 1830 for long serving men and non-commissioned officers of the British Army. The creation of the Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal was followed closely by the establishment of the Royal Naval Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1831. As discussed in Chapter One, it is from these very early honours that much of our modern honours system evolved. By the end of Queen Victoria’s reign, every long service medal in the Empire displayed on the obverse an effigy of the Sovereign, while the reverse usually carried a legend with a description of what the medal recognized: “For Efficient Service”, “For Long Service and Good Conduct”, etc. There were exceptions to this, notably the Royal Canadian Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, which displayed Nelson’s ship, HMS Victory, on the reverse. With the various Commonwealth-wide long service medals adopted in 1930, there developed a tradition of many medals carrying the name of the Dominion or Colony on the suspender bar. Thus for the Efficiency Medal and Canadian Medal for Long Service and Good Conduct (Military), the two most frequently bestowed long service medals in Canada prior to the establishment of the CD, both bore the word CANADA on the suspender. Long Service Decorations intended for Reserve officers, such as the Efficiency Decoration, were oval in shape and bore the Sovereign’s Royal Cypher in open work on the obverse and had a plain reverse where the recipient’s name was engraved. These various design concepts helped to influence the design of the CD.
Early Insignia Designs
The first description of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration was submitted as part of the 1947 Terms of Reference and indicated that the medal was to be silver, circular in form, bearing on the obverse a naval crown for the navy, maple leaves for the army and an eagle for the air force. The reverse was to depict a beaver on a dam with the Aurora Borealis in the background, the entire design encircled by oak and laurel leaves. The Personnel Members Committee (PMC) considered that the beaver, a dam and Aurora Borealis design were “emblematic of Canada”, while the oak leaves denoted long service and laurel leaves denoted merit. As discussed in Chapter Two, this proposed design was significantly altered, with the effigy of King George VI being placed on the obverse, surrounded by his Canadian style and titles, while the reverse remained somewhat similar to the original obverse design. A panoply of senior officials from the King and Governor General down to members of the PMC and Awards Coordination Committee (ACC) became involved in the design process. It was Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent and the Secretary of State, Colin Gibson, who ensured that the Sovereign’s effigy was included on the CD.
Design of the Decoration
There have been two issues of the CD since its creation, the King George VI issue and the Queen Elizabeth II issue. The general shape of the CD has remained decagonal, each side representing one of the provinces that make up Canada. The shape of the CD, as a decagon, was devised by the Secretary to the Governor General, Major-General H.F.G. Letson. The obverse of the King George VI issue bore an uncrowned effigy of King George VI circumscribed by his titles GEORGIVS VI D : G : BRITT : OMN : REX : FID : DEF, while the reverse bore, from the top, a naval crown, three maple leaves and an eagle representing the three branches of the Canadian Forces, with small fleur-de-lys in each upper corner. A scroll in relief is displayed at the bottom bearing the word “SERVICE”. Over the three maple leaves on the reverse is superimposed the Royal Cypher of King George VI “G VI R.” The design of the CD was approved by King George VI on 20 August 1949 at Balmoral Castle. The various early drawings and the final design of the CD were devised by Warrant Officer Bernard (Barry) Reddy, whose initials continue to appear on the reverse of the CD to this day. The effigy of King George VI was designed by British engraver Thomas Humphrey Paget, and appeared on all Canadian coins issued between 1937 and 1952.
The Queen Elizabeth II issue of the CD is slightly different. The obverse bears a youthful uncrowned effigy of Queen Elizabeth II circumscribed by her titles ELIZABETH II DEI GRATIA REGINA CANADA. The effigy was designed by sculptor Mary Gillick. The reverse of this issue is identical to the King George VI issue with the exception that the Royal Cypher is not present. The Elizabeth II CD design was approved in stages. The first step was to seek permission to use the uncrowned effigy of the Queen on the obverse of the medal. This was received on 31 July 1952.
“Her Majesty very readily gives Her approval to the use of Her Majesty’s uncrowned effigy on the obverse of this decoration.”
It was the same effigy, designed by the British sculptor Mary Gillick, which was to appear on all Canadian coinage from 1953 to 1965.
The next step saw the suspender changed to remove the straight suspender bar, and to also alter the reverse, removing the Royal Cypher of King George VI. Just why the Queen’s Royal Cypher was not used on the reverse relates to an earlier design of the CD on which the obverse was identical to what became the reverse of the King George VI issue. The original design did not have the Royal Cypher, an effigy of the Sovereign or the Royal Arms of Canada; thus, it was decided to place the Royal Cypher on the medal. Prime Minister St. Laurent and the Secretary of State, Colin Gibson, later insisted that the Sovereign’s portrait be included on the obverse of the medal, and quite by accident, the Royal Cypher of King George VI was left on the reverse of the CDs issued bearing his effigy. An administrative note simply stated “the Royal Cypher is not considered as necessary for the reverse” of the current Queen’s issue. On 3 December 1953, an Order in Council was issued formalizing the new design:
The decoration shall be gilt in colour and in the form of a decagon, each of the ten sides being representative of a province of Canada. It shall bear on the obverse the uncrowned effigy of the Sovereign encircled by the Canadian Royal Title with the word CANADA on the lowest side. On the reverse shall appear a crown, maple leaves and an eagle representative of the navy, army and air force respectively. The name of the recipient will be engraved around the edge of the Decoration.”
The first Queen Elizabeth II CD was presented to HRH The Duke of Edinburgh. The honour of presenting the first EIIR insignia fell to the Governor General, Vincent Massey, who invested The Duke of Edinburgh with the decoration at the Citadel in Quebec City in August 1954. The second CD was presented to Vincent Massey in October 1954. It would not be until 1 April 1955 that a large batch of CDs was struck for issue. The first full investiture of the EIIR CD took place on 30 September 1955 when HRH The Princess Royal, the sister of the late King George VI, presented a small number of CDs to members of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals at Valcartier, Quebec. The oldest member of the Canadian Forces to receive the CD was Major-General James George Ross, who had joined the Canadian Militia in 1879 and rose to become Paymaster General of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the First World War. As Honorary Colonel of the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps from 1948 to 1955, Ross qualified for his CD and was invested with the insignia on 5 March 1956 at 95 years of age and having spent more than half his life in the service of the Crown.
The King George VI version of the CD had a straight plaque suspension bearing the word CANADA in relief on the obverse, while the reverse of the suspension was left plain for engraving the recipient’s details. This suspension bar was attached to an inverted fleur-de-lys, which was riveted to a hidden post protruding from the top of the medal disc. This design of the suspension was taken directly from the Canadian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Military), which in turn had taken its design from the British Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, and the various Dominion and Colony specific issues that had been used throughout the Commonwealth beginning in 1931.
Following the accession of Queen Elizabeth II in 1952, the design of the CD was changed to include the Queen’s effigy on the obverse. At this time it was decided to change the suspension to a cut out loop in place of a straight suspension bar. The reason for this was largely economical. The elimination of the straight plaque suspension removed the necessity for a separate die to strike the bar; it also eliminated a step in the manufacture of the medal, namely, the riveting of the bar to the disc. The new obverse containing the Queen’s effigy also included the word “CANADA” on the disc of the medal, and thus there was no reason to include it on a suspension bar. There has long been a theory that the suspender was changed because the straight plaque suspension was prone to breaking if bent, although there is little evidence to support this.
The Queen Elizabeth II version of the CD has a cut-out suspension with a natural maple leaf that connects the suspender loop to the medal itself. This produces a gathered drape style of ribbon. It is the only insignia in the Canadian honours system that has this style of suspension. The Elizabeth II suspension was designed by Flight Sergeant Bruce Beatty. The original dies for the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth II issues of the CD were engraved by Thomas Shingles, Master Engraver at the Royal Canadian Mint.
Metal of the Medal
The CD has been struck from a number of different types of metal. All King George VI issues of the CD were struck in .800 silver, with the medal being gilded by Birks of Montreal. The Royal Canadian Mint refused to gild the original CDs out of a fear that the gilding would wear off and the Mint would be blamed for poor craftsmanship. The Queen Elizabeth issues of the CD have been struck from four different types of metals. From 1955 to 1993, the CD was struck from tombac, an alloy composed of 12% zinc and 88% copper. In June 1993, the metal was changed to gilding metal, which was composed of 95% copper and 5% zinc. Over the following period and until 2007 a number of other types of metals were used by some private manufacturers without the permission of the Department of National Defence. Some manufacturers simply used whatever inexpensive metal could be obtained and hold a finish. Since the Royal Canadian Mint resumed striking the CD in 2007, the medal has been struck from gilding bronze.
Finish of the Medal
As noted, all of the King George VI issues of the CD were gilded by Birks of Montreal. After being struck, the medals were sandblasted lightly and then gilded. Birks and at least one other private firm continued to gild the CDs until 1969 when the Royal Canadian Mint developed its own reliable process for gilding. Today, the CD is still lightly sandblasted and then electro-plated in 24 carat gold.
The design for the CD ribbon was the earliest design element to be decided upon in terms of the general colour scheme. Initially, two options were considered: one with what was described as autumnal colours, the other with the heraldic colours of Canada. The autumnal colours were to consist of red, yellow and green in a watered format, representing the different colours of the maple leaf. This same ribbon had been considered for the ill-fated Canadian Decoration of Honour, which was proposed by the Awards Coordination Committee in 1943 as Canada’s preeminent honour for meritorious service in the civil or military fields.
The other option proposed a combination of the official colours of Canada: gules and argent (red and white). These colours had been bestowed on Canada by King George V in 1921 when he proclaimed the Canadian coat of arms. The colours find their origins in the ribbon of the Canada General Service Medal, which had been awarded to members of the Canadian Militia, Royal Navy and British Army for service in the Fenian Raids of 1866 and 1870, and also in the Red River Rebellion of 1870. The ribbon for this medal was made up of three equal parts, red, white and red. Not coincidentally, this would play a role in the colour scheme for the national flag of Canada that was adopted in 1965 to replace the Canadian Red Ensign.
The 1947 proposal for the Canadian Forces’ Decoration opted for some combination of red and white, it being considered more suitable “as the colours could be more consistently held in manufacture.” As the Canadian Forces’ Decoration was originally to be awarded in two forms, one for the Reserve Forces and one for the Regular Forces, two different ribbon designs were adopted. For the Regular Forces the ribbon was to be 38 mm wide, gules (red) in colour divided into four parts by 2 mm stripes of argent (white). For the Reserve Forces the ribbon was to be 38 mm wide, gules (red) in colour, divided into two parts by a 2 mm stripe of argent (white). The proposal for a Reserve and Regular Force CD was dropped by June 1950 and so was the ribbon for the Reserve Force CD. This latter ribbon was problematic as it was similar in composition to the ribbon of the military division of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) and the British Empire Medal (BEM), which had been awarded to thousands of Canadians during the Second World War. The CD ribbon was designed by Sir John D. Heaton- Armstrong, Chester Herald at the College of Arms in London.
This choice of colours was ideal as the colours have become synonymous with Canada since the adoption of the Maple Leaf Flag. Aside from the ghastly appearance of red, yellow and green in a watered ribbon, it was fortuitous that the autumnal colours were not chosen. These three colours would go on to become the pan-African colours and have been used in the flags of no fewer than 20 African countries and since the late 1950s have been firmly associated with various independence movements in Africa.
The ribbon was originally manufactured by Stark Brothers Ribbon Corporation of Canada. Since 1968, the ribbon has been manufactured by Toye, Kenning and Spencer of England, the oldest and largest ribbon manufacturer in the world. Two different ribbon types exist, the pre- 1968 version that is faded red, and the post-1968 version that is bright red. The exact reason for the change in the intensity of the red colour is unknown, although it may be associated with the fact that the red colour of the ribbon post-1968 closely resembles the red used in the national flag of Canada adopted in 1965.
The clasp denoting an additional period of service was one detail completely overlooked by the Awards Coordination Committee and the Personnel Members Committee at the Department of National Defence. The proposal for a clasp to denote an additional ten years of service was not examined until 14 October 1949, nearly two months after King George VI approved the Decoration. The clasp was designed by Mr. Edwards of the Royal Canadian Mint. King George VI approved of the clasp design on 8 March 1950.
The clasp has always consisted of a rectangular bar measuring 38 mm by 6 mm with a small hole drilled into each of the four corners. The centre of the clasp displays the shield of arms from the Royal Arms of Canada surmounted by the Royal Crown. Three different versions of the CD clasp have been issued. The first type was struck in .800 silver gilt and bore a Tudor Crown over a scalloped shaped version of the shield of arms from the Royal Arms of Canada that were in use from 1921 to 1957. This type was used until 1958, and all of the clasps were struck by the Royal Canadian Mint. The second type continues to be awarded and is struck in gilding metal, sandblasted and gold plated. It bears a Royal Crown and the shield of arms from the 1957-1994 version of the Royal Arms of Canada. The third version of the CD clasp was used for presentation purposes only and was issued from 1980 to 1989. Prior to 1980, clasps were not usually presented at a formal parade; rather, they were simply handed to the recipient in a small envelope in an informal environment. In an effort to heighten the significance of the CD clasp, it was decided that it should be presented at the same parades where the CD was being presented. Due to the fact that the CD clasp is sewn to the ribbon, pinning the bar on to the recipient was not feasible. A temporary CD bar design was developed that permitted “the presiding officer to execute the gesture [of slipping the clasp on] quickly, and in a manner to enhance the dignity of the occasion.”159 Prototypes of the temporary CD clasp were prepared by March 1978 and were approved by the National Defence Ceremonial and Dress Committee in February 1979. It would not be until 1980 that the hairpin clasp came into use because “there were no funds for national procurement.” The front of the clasp looks identical to the regular issue CD clasp, with the exception that there are no mounting holes drilled into the bar. The reverse is in the form of a hairpin that allows the clasp to be slid onto a lose ribbon.
The temporary CD clasp was gradually phased out beginning in 1989. As court mounting of medals became more common and eventually mandatory throughout the Canadian Forces, the use of a temporary clasp that slid onto the ribbon became impractical: because the medal ribbon tended to be attached to a board with glue, attaching the temporary clasp was impossible.
The award of the clasp to the CD is denoted on the undress ribbon with a small silver device in the form of a heraldic rose, referred to as a rosette. The rosette had been used to denote the bestowal of a second award in the case of many gallantry decorations, and with the creation of the Efficiency Medal in 1930 and the Canadian Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Military) it also came to denote receipt of a bar to these long service awards. The use of rosettes was approved by the ACC on 16 November 1949. The rosettes are worn symmetrically on the argent (white) stripes of the undress ribbon, until an individual receives a fourth rosette, when the rosette is worn on the gules (red) portions of the ribbon. The quality of the rosette device has varied over time depending on the manufacturer. It was originally made of silver but more recently it has been made of base metal and features a lower relief than previously.
A number of different manufactures have produced the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, although the majority of those insignia produced since 1950 have been struck by the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa. All CDs were struck by the Royal Canadian Mint from 1950 until 1987, when, as part of a government-wide policy of using the lowest bidder, the contract to strike the CD was put out to public tender. While some private manufacturers did a quality job, others produced a substandard insignia, and this would become a recurring problem. The manufacturers used between 1987 and 2005 included the Lombardo Mint, Rideau Ltée, Nemo Ltd, Carat Médailles Inc, Bond Boyd Ltd and Maple Leaf Stamping Ltd.
During the period 1987-2005, issues about quality arose related to almost every aspect of the medal’s striking. In 1994 an internal memo noted “in the past few years the quality [of the CD] has been dropping drastically to the point that the last order of 10,000 had to be returned.” The problems were almost limitless, from poor relief of the effigy of the Queen, gold plating that flaked off when the recipient’s name was engraved on the rim, rough finish, poor quality edge finish, discs that were either too thin or too thick, medals struck from the wrong type of metal and even CDs that cracked on account of improper annealing.
In March 2007 the Royal Canadian Mint again resumed striking the Canadian Forces’ Decoration. The bar for the CD has been produced by the Royal Canadian Mint, Rideau Ltée, Bond Boyd and William Scully Ltd of Montreal. It is expected that the RCM will start manufacturing the clasp again in 2010.
The presentation of long service awards in cases was a practice that, prior to the CD, had been limited to the decorations awarded to officers. Long service medals awarded to non-commissioned officers were awarded in white cardboard cartons that were either blank or simply bore a black Crown on the lid.
The design and appearance of the case that accompanies the Canadian Forces’ Decoration has varied little since its creation. The CD has invariably been presented in a rectangular metal case covered in a dark brown leatherette material. The outside lid is embossed in gold with the Royal Arms of Canada, with the word CANADA below the arms, and the perimeter of the lid decorated with a gold border. The interior of the case where the CD rests is black velour, while the interior lid has been lined with a satin type fabric of a cream colour, light salmon or pure white in colour. Five different versions of the CD case have been issued:
- Type I
Issued between 1950 and 1958, bearing the 1921-1957 version of the Royal Arms of Canada on the lid, the case measuring 60 mm x 106 mm
- Type II
Issued between 1958 and 1994, bearing the 1957-1994 version of the Royal Arms of Canada on the lid, the case measuring 60 mm x 106 mm
- Type III
Issued between 1994 and 2003, bearing the present version of the Royal Arms of Canada on the lid, measuring 54 mm x 104 mm
- Type IV
Issued from July to October 2003, bearing the 1957-1994 version of the Royal Arms of Canada on the lid, measuring 60 mm x 105 mm (2000 of these cases as well as 500 white cardboard boxes and generic burgundy service medal boxes were issued as a temporary measure in the Fall of 2003 until the Type V case became available)
- Type V
Issued from 2005-present, bearing a larger representation of the present version of the Royal Arms of Canada on the lid, measuring 60 mm x 106 mm
The clasp for the CD was originally presented in a small brown or Manila envelope. In 1976, Brigadier-General J.B. Tucker proposed a new container for CD clasps and accompanying rosettes. Tucker was dissatisfied with the small envelope in which the bar was presented because the award of a bar denoted an additional ten years of service, something viewed as significant given the fact that there was a whole “generation of service members who may end their career having received only this one medal.” Thus, it was decided that “the clasps and rosettes be upgraded to a meaningful CD ribbon with clasp and rosette mounted and secured in the current CD medal case.” The National Defence Ceremonial Directorate Committee also considered the creation of a certificate to accompany the award of each CD clasp, but this proposal was shelved on account of the projected cost. In May 1977, the plan to award the CD clasp and rosette in the CD case was approved and implemented. The presentation of the CD clasp in the CD case ceased in 2004 when there was a shortage of cases, and since that time it has been presented in a maroon cardboard box that is embossed with the Royal Arms of Canada on the lid.
The CD case was also used for the 1967 Centennial of Confederation Medal, and the Royal Canadian Mint briefly used a black leatherette version of the CD case for awards of the Medal of Bravery in the early 1980s.
The origins of the CD case date back to 1946 when many Canadians were being invested by the Governor General with the Distinguished Conduct Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, Military Medal and the British Empire Medal. All of these medals were struck and named at the Royal Mint in London and shipped to Canada in cardboard cartons. Officials at the Department of National Defence and the Office of the Governor General felt that the plain cardboard boxes lacked elegance and were inappropriate containers for such significant honours. A brown leatherette case bearing a Tudor Crown in gold on the lid, and with a gold border, was manufactured by the Farrington Manufacturing Company of Toronto to house the medals. The “Farrington Box” as it became known served as the model for the CD case, which was approved by the Senior Sub-Committee of the ACC on 8 December 1949. The Committee decided that “this type of container would be satisfactory for the Canadian Forces’ Decoration. In view of the fact that it is the first purely Canadian decoration it was agreed that […] the box might [have on the lid] the Coat of Arms.”
Historically, in the Commonwealth certificates have not been presented with long service medals, and this is the likely reason why no plan for a certificate was developed in relation to the CD. The topic did arise, but not until the late 1970s, and at that point a certificate was only considered for awards of the CD clasp and not the CD itself. In 1977, as a result of discussions surrounding the presentation of clasps to the CD and how to better recognize the significant milestone of an additional ten years of service in the Canadian Forces, a proposal to issue certificates with each clasp was developed. While the National Defence Ceremonial and Dress Committee was enthusiastic about the certificate idea, more senior officials thought the idea to be unnecessary. Lieutenant-General James Smith, Assistant Deputy Minister of Personnel, noted “I frankly do not see the need for such a certificate.” Smith also disagreed with the idea of presenting a certificate with the clasp, when no such similar document was presented with the medal itself. Another factor that saw the CD certificate shelved was the projected annual cost for the programme, which was estimated at $38,000 in 1977.
Since its inception, every Canadian Forces’ Decoration awarded has been officially named. The naming has always consisted of the recipient’s abbreviated rank, initials and surname. The King George VI issues were named on the reverse of the suspension bar, while the Elizabeth II issues are named on the edge of the medal in block capitals. The tradition of naming dates back to the first long service medals instituted in 1830 and 1831 for the British Army and Royal Navy respectively. Every long service medal and decoration ever awarded to a member of the Canadian military has been issued named, although the style and exact details of the naming has varied to occasionally include the regimental or service number, the name of their unit and post-nominal designations as well.
How the Medal is Made
The method by which the Canadian Forces’ Decoration is struck today has changed little since the first CDs were struck by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1950. Traditionally, the design of a medal was sculpted in plaster and, through several steps, reduced into a die. Today, however, the dies are created by the Royal Canadian Mint using a Computer Numerical Controlled machine (CNC machine) and a programme called ArtCAM. The CNC machine carves the design of the obverse and reverse of the medal into blocks of steel. The die is then hand carved to perfection by a master engraver.
Planchettes are struck out of bronze by a punch; these blanks have the rough shape of the CD. The planchettes are placed into an annealing furnace to soften the metal, and then they are burnished. The burnished planchette is set into place between two dies where the image of the medal is struck onto the planchette. The medal is trimmed to remove the unwanted metal that has been pushed to the outside of the medal’s perimeter. The CD is cored, whereby the metal is punched out of the area where the ribbon passes through. The edge of the medal is milled to create a smooth edge, and the CD is then placed under a wire brush to remove oils and tarnish from the surface. It is then sandblasted to achieve a fine finish. Once sandblasted, the medal is electroplated with gold to give it the appropriate finish before being engraved with the recipient’s name. Once this is done the ribbon and a suspender are attached and the CD is placed into its case.
All of the long service decorations that preceded the CD entitled the recipient to use certain post-nominal letter, thus indicating that they had earned a decoration. Recipients of the Efficiency Decoration were afforded the dignity of “ED” after their name, while recipients of the RCNVR Volunteer Officer’s Decoration could use “VRD”. Of course these decorations were only awarded to commissioned officers. Non-commissioned officers, petty officers and warrant officers received long service medals, none of which entitled the recipients to use post-nominals. Thus, a sergeant who had earned the Efficiency Medal could not place “EM” after his name. With the establishment of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration, the tradition of having separate long service awards for officers and non-commissioned officers came to an end. Initially, the secretary to King George VI, Sir Alan Lascelles, indicated that the King would object to all ranks using post-nominals, but this concern was overcome, Lascelles noting “I feel sure that The King would readily acquiesce to them [post-nominals].” The CD remains the only modern Canadian honour awarded for long service to be classified as a ‘decoration’, and therefore it entitles the recipient to use post-nominals as well as grants the recipient heraldic privileges which will be described more fully below.
In 1960 a strange request came from the RCAF, “to obtain authority to discontinue use of the initials ‘CD’ after the name of personnel who are awarded the Canadian Forces’ Decoration […] since it is such a commonplace award.” This issue was discussed at the Inter-Service Awards Committee meeting in September and it was decided that “there is no apparent justification for taking such action […] unless similar action is taken with respect to the discontinuation of the use of all initials denoting the grant of decorations or medals.”
One retired RCAF Wing Commander, who had earned the RCAF Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, wrote to the Director of Ceremonial at DND requesting that he be allowed to exchange his medal for the CD. The reason for this petition was to gain post-nominals. “I always envied men who gained ‘letters.’” The Wing Commander wanted his grandchildren to read the letters CD on his gravestone and “no doubt think it was for some meritorious air exploit.” The request to exchange long service awards was sympathetically denied by the Director of Ceremonial, who noted “I can appreciate your feelings as expressed in your letter [however] I regret to inform you that it is not permissible to exchange one award for another.”
A complaint about the perceived unilingual nature of the post-nominals CD was lodged with the Commissioner of Official Languages in the fall of 1995, immediately preceding the 1995 Quebec Independence Referendum. In French, the name of the award is “Décoration des Forces canadiennes” and an attempt was made to have the post-nominals changed to “DC” for Francophones, while CD would have remained in place for Anglophones. Only four Canadian honours had dual post-nominals. Upon further investigation, it was found that post-nominals did not always associate with either official language; witness Members of the Order of Canada, who are entitled to the designation CM. Indeed many post-nominals for academic and processional designations do not directly translate into either official language, as they are simply chosen as a convenient way to denote an honour, degree or profession. The suggestion that “DC” be used in addition to CD was abandoned because the postnominals DC had been used for many decades to denote Chiropractors as “Doctors of Chiropractic”.
Order of Precedence
From its inception, it was decided that the CD should take precedence immediately after the RCMP Long Service Medal at the end of the Order of Precedence for orders, decorations and medals. In the Commonwealth, long service awards have historically been ranked at the end of the Order of Precedence, after Coronation and Commemorative Medals and ahead of foreign awards. Long service awards are ranked in order of their creation, the earliest having precedence. For this reason, the RCMP Long Service Medal, created in 1934, ranks ahead of the CD, which was created in 1949, while the various Exemplary Service Medals are placed after the CD.
The CD in Heraldry
Recipients of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration have been permitted to include a representation of their CD insignia as part of their coat of arms. Arms are awarded to Canadian citizens of good standing who petition the Chief Herald of Canada for a grant. In Canada, a grant of arms is an honour bestowed under the Queen’s royal prerogative. Only duly recognized orders and decorations are traditionally displayed as part of a grant of arms. As the CD is a decoration, it may be appropriately displayed hanging from the rightful recipient’s shield of arms. Clasps to the CD may also be displayed on the ribbon. Recipients of the Efficiency Decoration have also been permitted to include the insignia of that decoration as part of their coat of arms.
Royal and Vice-Regal Recipients
His Excellency has been pleased to recommend that His Majesty the King may graciously approve the acceptance of this award.
The awarding of a long service decoration to members of the Royal Family and the Sovereign’s representative at the federal level, the Governor General, is a tradition unique to Canada, and it is not emulated in any of the Queen’s other realms. The practice of bestowing the CD upon Royals and Vice-Regals came about serendipitously.
At the 1951 New Year’s Levée held at Rideau Hall, the Secretary to the Governor General, Major-General H.F.G. Letson, bumped into the Adjutant General of the Army, Major-General W.H.S. Macklin. Both had been deeply engaged in the project to create the CD. The two men discussed the project and Macklin mentioned to Letson that the former Commanding Officer of the Queen’s Own Rifles had recently written to Queen Mary’s private secretary indicating that Her Majesty (the widow of King George V) was entitled to the Canadian Efficiency Decoration as a result of her service as Colonel-in-Chief of that regiment, an appointment she had held since 1928. It was the only regiment for which Queen Mary was Colonel-in-Chief. Both Letson and Macklin were doubtful if the mother of the King was entitled to the ED; nevertheless, Macklin quickly set to investigating the matter. Macklin concluded that “our opinion is that Queen Mary is not, in fact, entitled to this decoration [the ED],” and he went on to quote the Royal Warrant constituting the decoration. The entire issue brought about the idea of presenting the CD to members of the Royal Family and the Governor General as well:
I may say that we hope, when the insignia of the new Canadian Forces’ Decoration is available, to request His Majesty the King and the Governor General to accept this award and if the Minister agrees, Queen Mary and such other members of the Royal Family as might be considered advisable.
Macklin continued to discuss the idea with Letson. The issue of whether or not the King should be offered the CD was also broached by Macklin. “I assume that we do not offer the CD to His Majesty because I assume that His Majesty being in fact the founder of the Decoration, is entitled automatically to wear it and that it would be a breach of etiquette for us to offer it to him.” After an informal inquiry to Letson, who in turn queried the King’s Private Secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, it was decided to grant the CD to the King. This is interesting, as normally, the King or Queen, as Sovereign of all orders, wears the insignia associated with these orders; however, they do not award themselves medals (such as their own coronation and jubilee medals), although it has been known for monarchs to wear campaign medals for which they qualified.
The Personnel Members Committee (PMC) subsequently agreed to a plan to recognize members of the Royal Family and the Governors General at its 320th meeting on 22 March 1951. The CD was to be granted to members of the Royal Family who were serving as Colonels-in-Chief of Canadian regiments or who held similar appointments in the RCN and RCAF. In addition to King George VI, the list contained eight names:
- Her Majesty the Queen
- Her Majesty Queen Mary
- Her Royal Highness the Princess Royal (sister to the King)
- Her Royal Highness Princess Elizabeth, Duchess of Edinburgh (the future Queen Elizabeth II)
- Her Royal Highness Princess Margaret
- General, His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester (brother to the King)
- Her Royal Highness the Princess Alice (a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and the wife of the Earl of Athlone, the former Governor General of Canada)
- Lady Patricia Ramsay (formerly Princess Patricia, the daughter of the Duke of Connaught, the former Governor General of Canada and a son of Queen Victoria)
At this meeting, it was also agreed that “it would also be most appropriate for His Excellency the Governor-General, and all subsequent Governors-General, as Commander-in-Chief […] to be granted the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.” The reasons for deciding to present the CD to the King, members of the Royal Family and the Governor General were two-fold. The first was that all were members of the Canadian Armed Forces, as either Colonels-in-Chief of certain army regiments and other similar positions in the RCN and RCAF and there was a real desire to recognize them for their very special service. The second reason was to instantly raise the profile of the newly created decoration. None of the old long service decorations or medals had been awarded to members of the Royal Family, so the bestowal of the CD on such high profile members of the Canadian Armed Forces offered the decoration instant status.
The Chairman of the Personnel Member’s Committee, Air Vice-Marshal J.L. Plant, wrote to Letson to formally suggest that the King, members of the Royal Family serving with Canadian regiments and the Governor General be awarded the CD automatically. The Governor General and Letson approved of the plan and set out that the Awards Coordination Committee should first approve of the awards and then have the Minister of National Defence forward the recommendation to the Governor General through the Clerk of the Privy Council. Letson also suggested that the Governor General could present the CDs to the King and other members of the Royal Family during his upcoming two month visit to the United Kingdom.
Claxton wrote to the Governor General on 1 May 1951 to confirm the arrangements, adding that “on behalf of the Government of Canada, I would be most pleased if you would accept the Canadian Forces’ Decoration as Commander-in-Chief of Canada.”
Field-Marshal Viscount Alexander of Tunis, Governor General of Canada from 1946 to 1952, was the first recipient of the CD. As Commander-in-Chief of Canada, he was deemed a fitting inaugural recipient of the decoration. It was also convenient that Alexander was one of the most highly decorated men of the twentieth century. The presentation of the CD to the Governor General began the long tradition of every Governor General accepting the CD, usually shortly after their installation as the Sovereign’s personal representative in Canada. Lord Willingdon, who served as Governor General from 1926 to1931, had been awarded the Territorial Decoration in 1927 and was permitted to use his service as Governor General to count towards the award, but this was a British award.
It was Lord Alexander who suggested that the CD be presented to the Governor General by the Minister of National Defence in the Governor General’s study at Rideau Hall. Vincent Massey waited almost two years before receiving his CD. Massey was appointed Governor General by George VI only five days before the death of the King. While Massey was entitled to the King George VI issue of the CD, he decided to wait until the Queen Elizabeth II issues were struck. Massey became the second recipient of Queen Elizabeth issue of the CD. Both Massey and Roland Michener received their CDs from the Minister of National Defence, and in the case of Michener, it occurred shortly after his installation as Governor General.
General Georges Vanier had already earned the CD prior to being installed as Governor General, and thus there was no presentation, although his service as Governor General did count towards earning a second clasp to his CD. It became customary for the Minister of National Defence to write to the newly installed Governor General and offer to present the CD:
If Your Excellency agrees to accept this award, I would be honoured to present it to you at your pleasure.
Roland Michener was particularly delighted to receive the CD. Writing to the Minister of National Defence, Leo Cadieux, following the presentation, Michener remarked “I am deeply appreciative of the honour of the Canadian Forces’ Decoration.”
Michener’s successor was not nearly so keen on orders, decorations or medals. Jules Léger was installed as Canada’s twenty-first Governor General on 14 January 1974 and two weeks later the Minister of National Defence, James Richardson, wrote to offer him the CD. The Secretary to the Governor General, Esmond Butler – himself a former officer in the RCNVR – explained to Léger that it was customary for every Governor General to accept the CD. Butler wrote an extensive memo explaining the tradition, but this did not impress Léger. At the bottom of the memo Butler scrawled “speak to Dextraze.” General Jacques Dextraze was a long time acquaintance of Léger’s and at the time was also Chief of the Defence Staff. Dextraze met with the Governor General and explained the situation. Finally, on 15 March 1974, Léger wrote to the Minister of National Defence to accept the offer of the CD. It would not be until 15 February 1975, more than a year after it was first offered, that the CD was presented in the traditional fashion at Rideau Hall in the Governor General’s study. During the intervening period between Léger’s acceptance of the CD and its presentation, some amount of discussion arose with regards to who would present the CD. The Governor General’s administrative secretary, Edmond Joly de Lotbinière, suggested that the CD be presented by the Minister of National Defence at an upcoming Order of Military Merit investiture on 29 June 1975, but this proposal was shelved by the Secretary to the Governor General.
It is worth noting that Léger only ever wore his insignia as a Companion of the Order of Canada. He had been invested as a CC by the Queen prior to becoming Governor General. Léger believed it was the only official honour he had truly earned, so he refused to wear his insignia as a Commander of the Order of Military Merit, his CD and his commemorative medals.
All of Léger’s successors have worn the CD with regularity throughout their time as Governor General. Prior to Roméo LeBlanc’s installation as Governor General, there was some discussion about integrating the presentation of the CD into the ceremony when the Chancellor’s Chains of the Order of Canada and Order of Military Merit were presented to the Governor General, but it was decided by the Deputy Secretary to the Governor General, Lieutenant- General James C. Gervais, to continue with the tradition of having the CD presented in the study at Rideau Hall. Roméo LeBlanc was the first Governor General to be presented with his CD by the Chief of the Defence Staff. As early as 1975, Esmond Butler had raised concerns that it was inappropriate for a Minister of the Crown — a politician — to be presenting any insignia on behalf of the Crown. As the commander of the Canadian Forces, it was decided that the Chief of the Defence Staff would be the most appropriate person to present the CD. The CD presented to Michaëlle Jean by General Rick Hillier on 21 October 2005 was only the second one to ever be presented on a bow.
The Duke of Edinburgh received his CD from Vincent Massey at the Citadel in Quebec in 1954, and since that time many other members of the Royal Family who serve as Colonels-in-Chief of various Canadian Forces units have been awarded the CD and clasps. The Duke of Edinburgh did not wear the CD presented to him in 1954, and it would not be until he was presented with a new CD by the Royal Canadian Regiment in 1983 that he would start wearing the honour. The reason for this is not clear; however, it is possible that His Royal Highness did not wish to wear a decoration until such time as he had served the same number of years as other recipients. His eldest son would later emulate this practice. The record for most number of clasps remains Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who earned five clasps to her CD. The only other recipient of the CD with five clasps remains Air Commodore Leonard J. Birchall, CM, OBE, DFC, OOnt, CD, who is therefore the second-longest serving member of the CF. He received his fifth clasp from the Governor General during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 1999. Her Majesty the Queen has worn her CD (which she received as a Princess); however, unlike her father, the Queen has not awarded herself any clasps.
An interesting case of a member of the Royal Family refusing to accept the CD occurred in 1983 with His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, who was Colonel-in- Chief of five different Canadian regiments at the time. One enterprising Honorary Colonel from the Royal Regiment of Canada began a small campaign to see The Prince of Wales awarded the CD in advance of his completion of twelve years of service. While the 1951 agreement allowed for members of the Royal Family to qualify for the CD instantly upon taking up an appointment as Colonel-in-Chief of a Canadian regiment – in much the same fashion as the Governor General receives the CD upon taking office – this provision had not been used for members of the Royal Family since 1954. In fact, despite the 1951 agreement, the regulations for the CD have always stated that only the Sovereign and the Governor General are automatically entitled to the Decoration upon coronation or appointment. All other holders of Royal appointments calculate their time in a similar manner as Regular or Reserve Force personnel. Under the CD regulations, which allowed members of the Canadian Forces to use time in Commonwealth navies, armies and air forces, His Royal Highness would have also qualified for the CD on account of his service in the Royal Navy. Nevertheless Prince Charles declined.
He positively prefers to be on the same basis as everyone else […] The Prince of Wales asked me to say that he would be touched and honoured to accept to wear the decoration on all appropriate occasions after he had completed his 12 years of service from his appointment as Colonel-in-Chief [of the Royal Regiment of Canada] but that he would really not wish to take advantage of the waiver provision or indeed of the technicality arising out of his service in the Royal Navy since 1971.
The Prince of Wales accepted the CD in 1989 upon completion of twelve years in the Canadian Forces. He has since been awarded two clasps to the CD, the most recent one having been presented during his November 2009 Royal Tour of Canada, shortly after his appointment as a Vice-Admiral in Canada’s navy and as a Lieutenant- General in both the army and air force.
The Canadian Forces’ Decoration is much more than just a symbol for members of Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces and veterans. The CD is emblematic of the quiet yet essential services rendered by those who devote a significant part of their working lives to the preservation and defence of Canada. Without the security and assistance rendered by members of the Canadian Forces past and present, citizens would be unable to enjoy much of the stability that is so sought after in countries around the globe. Our values of peace, order and good government have come to be something that Canada is renowned for and the Canadian Forces have played no small part in exporting these values to countries in distress around the world. Much of Canada’s reputation on the international stage can be traced directly to the conduct and good work of the men and women who serve in the Canadian Forces beyond our borders.
As an honour that is national in scope, the creation of the CD by King George VI in 1949 helped to lead the way towards the establishment of the modern-day Canadian honours system. It is a system that has been emulated in a wide variety of countries throughout the Commonwealth and beyond. That Australia, New Zealand and a number of other Commonwealth countries have, in one way or another, followed the Canadian lead in the realm of honours is a testament to how versatile, fair and equitable the Canadian honours system is.
Over the past sixty years, the CD has grown to become an important part of our national symbolic lexicon. Worn by tens of thousands of members of the Canadian Forces, it is much more than an outward representation of service; it is tangible evidence of a country’s thanks for service well rendered, in times of both peace and war. The familiar gold decagon suspended from a red and white ribbon has been worn by generations of Canadian service personnel. Twelve years is a significant period of time in any individual’s life, especially in uniform with all the stresses and strains that military service necessitates. While it is occasionally derided (almost exclusively among recipients), it remains a familiar and venerable mark of service. Its placement at the end of the Canadian Order of Precedence is by no means an indication of insignificance; rather, it is a bookend that has been worn on the breasts of many of our greatest sailors, soldiers and air men and women.
As we mark the sixtieth anniversary of the creation of the CD, we should not forget the efforts of those who put significant energy into the founding of a decoration that has come to be presented to members of every branch of the Canadian Forces, officer and non-commissioned member alike. While today it seems quite natural that service in the Canadian Forces should be recognized in a uniform manner, it was a unique concept in the period following the Second World War when the idea came to life. The determination of the Minister of National Defence, Brooke Claxton, to see the CD created, as well as the eye for detail and knowledge of the nuances of honours that King George VI and Governor General Lord Alexander contributed continue to permeate the modern-day CD. The role played by Major-General H.F.G. Letson in ensuring that the wishes of the King and Governor General were not marginalized was central to the success of the CD when the details of the new honour were first being discussed. Most of all, it is the more than 150,000 Canadians who have received the CD who give the decoration meaning and symbolic value. They are responsible for the high reputation the Canadian Forces enjoy, and the Crown rightly recognizes them for their devotion and service to Canada. It is certain that whatever Sovereign has appeared – or will appear – on the CD, it will continue to be a symbol of service to Crown and country.