Canadian troops attend a ceremony in Halifax August 16, 2011, where Minister of Defence Peter MacKay announced the traditional names of the Royal Canadian Navy, The Royal Canadian Air Force and the Canadian Army were being reinstated as a matter of restoring military pride. The names of the three forces were changed in 1968 when they were joined and wore one uniform.
Credits: REUTERS/Sandor Fizli
In the military, what goes around seems to come around. Again.
Word out of Ottawa is that "Royal" is once again in fashion for the navy and air force - banned, as the term was back in 1968, when land, sea and air forces were amalgamated.
It may not be intended this way, but it's surely another slap at the late Pierre Trudeau who, as prime minister, neither liked nor understood the military. He reduced the size, cut the DND budget, gave soldiers short shrift.
One wonders what Paul Hellyer thinks of it, since he was mastermind of the integration that offended (and still offends) many in the military. He brought in the green dress uniform that many equated with what bus drivers wear. Hellyer was not anti-military - he was trying to preserve it.
According to Defence Minister Peter MacKay, it's back to Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) from Air Command, and Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), foregoing Maritime Command.
Why stop there? Land Forces now return to being the Canadian Army, which makes sense. But why not "Royal" Canadian Army?
Longtime veterans will probably relish the change back. Once again, men and women in the army will become "Soldiers of the Queen."
And how about the regiments? Will the artillery become the Royal Canadian Artillery? The Royal Vandoos? Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC)? Royal Canadian Army Medical Corp (RCAMC)? Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (RCEME)? And so on?
The RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment) never lost it's "Royal" nomenclature, so now will it expect to add another "Royal" to its name?
No active Canadian military person ever served under the old "Royal" name. Even to this day, RCN and RCAF have greater symbolic meaning than Maritime or Air Command.
With this return to past symbolism, one wonders if the army flat hand salute will be revived to replace the tilted hand, navy salute? If not, why not?
I've always felt a bit privileged that when I joined the Princess Pats during the Korean War, I was in service of the King (George VI), and when I was discharged, I was a soldier of the Queen.
As an aside, at Queen Elizabeth's coronation, British troops in Korea unleashed an artillery barrage of red, white, and blue smoke at Chinese positions in celebration of the event.
We Canadians tended to regret that innovative gesture, because the Chinese answered with an artillery barrage on Commonwealth positions, as if to show they weren't amused.
With the three main services now distinct and different, one wonders if the uniforms will now go back to what they once were - navy blue and bell bottoms, air force blue and wedge caps, battle dress for the army? In those days soldiers, sailors and airmen looked like soldiers, sailors and airmen.
To most Canadians, the re-introduction of "Royal" to the military won't mean much, but it may raise hackles among Quebec sovereignists,
most of whom are ambivalent towards the military anyway.
Canadian troops leaving Afghanistan have earned respect of their peers in other armies, and adding "Royal" to whatever branch they are in, simply confirms their new status as arguably the best small army in the world.