The distinctively coloured cuffs, collars, linings and lapels became known as "facings" in the red-coated British infantry; most units also had lace patterns peculiar to each regiment. Shades of yellow, green, blue or buff were the usual facing colours. The impression that the whole British army was in red coats should be dismissed: artillery wore blue with red facings, as did some support services. Green was also adopted by some light infantry and rifle corps from the end of the 18th century, notably Queen's Rangers (1791-1802) who served in Upper Canada.
The militia of New France had no official uniform. Only the officers were expected to wear gorgets and swords. When the Americans besieged Québec in 1775, the town's militia provided itself with green coats with buff waistcoats and breeches, the first instance that a sizable body of Canadian militiamen took to wearing a uniform. During the WAR OF 1812 and the REBELLIONS OF 1837, militiamen wore what they could get until proper uniforms arrived from England. Apart from the British army and the militia, some units were raised in Canada and dressed as regular troops. Until the 1850s a few units composed of wealthy militiamen uniformed themselves splendidly at their own cost. Canadians feared hostilities during the AMERICAN CIVIL WAR and, in response to government encouragement, formed hundreds of companies. Rifle units usually wore green, artillery and cavalry blue in central Canada. On the Atlantic coast, the variety also extended to grey in many units. During the 1860s infantry units adopted scarlet with blue facings, rifle units green with red facings, artillery blue with red facings, and cavalry blue with buff facings. These are still the colours of the full-dress uniforms of most Canadian units. From the 1880s white pith helmets were popular. Highland dress also became established in several units. The SOUTH AFRICAN WAR brought khaki uniforms to the Canadian contingents, but tradition died hard and some newly raised western cavalry regiments could be seen in scarlet around 1910. With WWI and WWII, khaki and steel helmets (from 1916) became universal because the greatly increased accuracy of weapons made easy targets of brightly coloured uniforms. The Canadians usually adopted patterns similar to the British.
Royal Canadian Navy uniforms resembled those of the British Royal Navy from 1910, the distinction being "HMCS" instead of "HMS" on the caps. The Canadian Air Force first had dark blue dress in 1920 but adopted the British Royal Air Force's blue-grey in 1924. "RCAF" (Royal Canadian Air Force) replaced "RAF" on the uniforms, and all 3 services had "Canada" on the upper sleeve. With ARMED FORCES unification in 1968 came the "CF Green" uniform which was the subject of controversy until the reversion to separate uniforms since 1984.
Associated with smartness and efficiency in the 19th century, uniforms became the fashion in certain civilian occupations. Post office, customs, marine service, railway, steamship and hotel employees, prison guards and even milkmen were often dressed in dark blue. Nurses wore only white until recently. Policemen in Canada have usually worn dark blue, except for the famous scarlet of the ROYAL CANADIAN MOUNTED POLICE. The basic styling was of British inspiration, although American influence has lately been considerable.
Author RENÉ CHARTRAND
W.Y. Carman, British Military Uniforms (1957); D. Ross, Military Uniforms from the Collections of the New Brunswick Museum (1980); J.L. Summers and René Chartrand, Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970 (1981).
Links to Other Sites
Canadian War Museum
The Canadian War Museum in Ottawa is dedicated to the men and women who served with valour and distinction in Canada’s armed services. Their website features a virtual tour of the museum and multimedia online exhibits that depict how Canada met and overcame wartime challenges throughout its history.
THE MEMORY PROJECT
The website for The Memory Project, a major initiative dedicated to recording and preserving Canadian veterans' first-hand accounts of their military service during the Second World War and Korean War. Click on "The Memory Project Link" to access this remarkable online collection to hear interviews with individual veterans from all branches of the Canadian Armed Forces. See also related digitized artefacts and memorabilia. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Canada at War
A very detailed information source about Canadian military activity in the First World War and the Second World War. Also features an extensive database of Canadian soldiers who died in battle.
The Archives of Ontario Remembers the Home Front
In honour of the 60th anniversary of D-Day, the Archives of Ontario presents this stirring retrospective of Ontario’s extraordinary Home Front contribution to the war effort. Check out the personal stories, photographs, posters, video clips and other multimedia.
Library and Archives Canada: Military and Peacekeeping
Check out the online exhibits about the history of Canadian military and peacekeeping operations featured at the website for Library and Archives Canada. View paintings by Canada's great war artists, gripping photographs of war on the frontlines, war diaries and stories, multimedia, and much more.
Canadian Military History Gateway
Search this website for authoritative information about Canadian military history. Provides links to websites for Canadian museums, libraries, archives, and other heritage organizations. Also features an online glossary of military terminology, educational resources and much more. From the Department of National Defence.
From Colony to Country: A Reader's Guide to Canadian Military History
An extensive online bibliography concerning Canadian military history. From Library and Archives Canada.
The Canadian Army 1939 -1945
An illustrated and detailed history of Canadian military action in the Second World War. From the Government of Canada.
Canadian Military Journal
The online edition of the "Canadian Military Journal." Many articles about contemporary military issues, compelling history features, book reviews, and much more.