On 1 February 1968, the three former Services, which had been for four years proceeding through various stages of integration, became a single, unified Service called the Canadian Armed Forces (more often called, simply, then Canadian Forces). Overnight, the legal entities known as the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force ceased to exist in favour of the new single force. In the near-decade since that day, many of the wrinkles in the new all-green fabric have been ironed out, producing an even more smooth and efficient product.

However, in such a drastic reorganization of a centuries-old system, which in the past had served so well, it was recognized by the defence staff that there was a danger of creating a vacuum in a realm of the old Services - customs and traditions - unless positive steps were taken to inform the officers, men and women of the meaning and value of this aspect of their heritage. This book is the result of one of those steps.

At the outset, it was readily apparent that in treating such a vast subject, the major challenge would be the setting of limits. While history is an indispensable tool in discussing the origins of custom and tradition, there was to be no attempt to present the history of the Canadian Forces or its units. Fundamental to the work would be a discussion of customs and traditions as they exist and are observed today. It was also decided that areas such as dress distinctions and unit badges, though related to the subject of this study, are too extensive for the present volume, and guidance to the reader as to where such material may be found should be provided in footnote form.

On the matter of documentation, it was felt that the casual reader could readily disregard the footnotes, but that the serious student might profit from full citations throughout the work. Full chapter notes are listed at the end of this text.

Most works of this kind in the past have been designed primarily for the commissioned officer. The treatment here is hoped to be of interest to all ranks and the public at large.

In the researching and writing of this work, I have been most fortunate in the assistance I have received. In their wisdom, senior officers in National Defence Headquarters made it my good fortune to be attached to the Directorate of Ceremonial, whose director, Lieutenant-Colonel N.A. Buckingham (ret'd), and staff, have unstintingly shared their knowledge of my subject as well as clerical and stenographic help, in a truly cheerful, co-operative manner.

The task of researching this study would have been doubly difficult had I not had the fullest co-operation of the staffs of the Library of the Department of National Defence and the Directorate of History.

In addition to books and primary source documents, a very important, indeed indispensable, reservoir of source material is the current knowledge and living memory of Service people, active and retired. I am greatly indebted to the hundreds of people, from general officer to corporal, whom I have interviewed in establishments, units and ships, and to those who took the time and trouble to answer so fully my numerous written queries.

My obligations also include those patient, interested people who graciously read the manuscript at various stages of the writing and saved me from many a slip and error: Lieutenant-Colonel N.A. Buckingham (ret'd); Mr. P.A.C. Chaplin; Rear-Admiral J.A. Fulton; Colonel Strome Galloway; Major General G.A. MacKenzie; Lieutenant-General H. McLachlan; Captain (N) J.W. Russell; and Lieutenant Commander N.J. Russell (ret'd). However, in defence of my critics, I must record that errors of fact, inferences drawn and opinions expressed, are my own.

E.C. Russell
NDHQ Ottawa
1 January 1979

Report a problem or mistake on this page
Please select all that apply:

Thank you for your help!

You will not receive a reply. For enquiries, contact us.

Date modified: