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Clarification on Terminology...

November 1 2008 at 7:48 AM
Bill A 

I believe Ed has addressed this before, but I can't find any reference for the proper titles for units. For example, it is 1 CER or 2 PPCLI, not 1st CER, or 2nd PPCLI. What are the "rules" for the official naming of Canadian units?

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Unit Numbering Terminology

November 1 2008, 1:53 PM 

I am sure there must be an official document on this somewhere, but as a rule of thumb the units are not known for their sequencial numbers although infantry battalions are. Here are some examples for the modern, ie post 1970 units:

1st Canadian Infantry Division also known as 1 Div but not as 1st Div

1 PPCLI but not 1st PPCLI as it means 1st Battalion, Princess Patria's Canadian Light Infantry. The same goes for the other infantry battalions such as 2 IRC which is 2nd Battalion, Irish Regiment of Canada not 2nd IRC.

Engineer Regiments are 1 CER, 2 CER which means 1 Combat Engineer Regiment not 1st Combat Engineer Regiment.

89 CLU was 89 Canadian Logistics Unit with the number coming from the year it was formed, not that it was the 89th CLU.

Air Force Squadrons are 427 Squadron not 427th Squadron.

I hope this does not add to the confusion.

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Bill A

Fair to say....

November 1 2008, 2:57 PM 

It is fair to say then, that "st" "nd" "rd" are never used in unit designations for current units, no matter the level or arm. When did this the practice begin? In Korea, further back? Stacey uses 1st, 2nd Div etc in the Victory Campaign, and the numbered units such as the 10th Independent Machine Gun Company and of course the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion have the suffix. Nicholson uses the same terminology in his history of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
It seems that many are now using the titles 1 CID, 5 CAD, which would appear to be inconsistent with the historic record.

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Find a copy of..

November 1 2008, 8:37 PM 

..."Staff Duties in the Field". This addresses unit abbreviations and their written form. It also outlines the use of numbers for formations, i.e., 1st Division, First Army

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Unit Designations

November 1 2008, 9:06 PM 

The practice has been in use since the mid-1970s.

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Roge Lucy

Formation numbering

November 2 2008, 6:22 AM 

It has always been my impression that the traditional way of ennumerating higher formations in histories and on maps (I know Stacey does not use it,but Goodspeed does) is that Divisions are in Arabic numerals (1st Canadian Division), Corps in Roman numerals (II Canadian Corps) and Armies are spelt out (First Canadian Army).

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Corps in arabic numerals - Canadians had to be different

November 2 2008, 6:38 AM 

Stacey aside, I have seen some contemporary documents showing that the corps themselves apparently used arabic numerals also.

In fact, the Canadians seemed to do things differently than the British almost on purpose.

It was always "1st Canadian Army" with the ordinal ahead of the nationality, whereas in other armies, the nationality came first - "British 8th Army" or "U.S. 5th Army".

British and U.S. corps (especially the latter, a strong tradition dating back to at least the ACW) were designated by Roman numerals - U.S. I Corps, British XXX Corps, etc. Again, the Canadians put the nationality in after the ordinal - II Canadian Corps, or sometimes 2nd Canadian Corps.

Since the British adopted names for many of their divisions, they went after the ordinal - 51st (Highland) Division, whereas we adopted functional titles - 2nd Canadian Infantry Division, and for some reason, armoured formations were designated with brackets - 4th Canadian (Armoured) Division. No one else did this, either. We get 2 CID and 4 CAD from this.

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Stacey and the Army weren't on the same wavelength

November 1 2008, 9:13 PM 

I've seen "1st Canadian Corps" and "I Canadian Corps" used interchangeably in contemporary documents - ditto "1st Canadian Infantry Division", "1st Canadian Division", "1 Can Div", "1st Division", "1 Cdn Div", "1st Cdn Div", etc. in various "official" histories and documents of the 1940s and 1950s. I am sure there was an attempt to impose a single abbreviation - I think I even have one of the memos outlining such a thing - but actual practice seems to have been divergent from the best intentions, and I think even the Historical Section, General Staff did not always meet up with the intent of the Corps of Military Staff Clerks or whomever felt they were the "keeper of the keys" at the time of the Second World War.

I have just been privy to a very interesting conversation within my regimentabout what a QMSI is. There was some question as to whether it means Quarter Master Sergeant Instructor or Quarter Master Senior Instructor. Precedent has been set in the British Army, but the three regular Canadian Regiments all use different appointments - PPCLI have a QMSI, the RCR have a DSM if I recall correctly and the Van Doos have a French appoint title for same. The Militia regiments have been left to create tradition as best they can.

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Doug Townend

QMSI means . . .

November 2 2008, 3:31 AM 

Quartermaster Sergeant Instructor and has ever since I was in the military but was dropped on unification. I am surprised to learn that it has been resurrected because it was an anachronistic rank designation from before WW I, used to describe WO2s in certain employment positions. It did not apply only to instructional duties.


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Not universally

November 2 2008, 6:29 AM 

That was the problem in a recent conversation...

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