Canadian Parachute Units, Post Second World War

Canadian parachute units after the end of the Second World War

The 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion existed from 1942 to 1945. The First Special Service Forces existed from 1942 to 1944. For a few years after the Second World War there were no official parachute units in Canada. The Special Air Service Company existed from 1947 to 1949. The Mobile Striking Force existed from 1948 to 1958. The Defence of Canada Force served from 1958 to 1968. The Canadian Airborne Regiment and Battle Group existed from 1968 to 1995. These units were supported by the Canadian Airborne Centre (CABC) School and the Canadian Forces Parachute Maintenance Depot (CFPMD). Today, there are four Canadian Forces Jump Companies actively engaged in military Parachuting. The Canadian Forces Parachute Team, the Sky Hawks, have two separate pages on this web site. The author earned his jump wings in 1975, and was a member of the Sky Hawks from 1977-1979. He later served as the Regimental Intelligence Officer for the Canadian Airborne Regiment from 1986 to 1989.

Canadian Special Air Service Company

In 1947, the Canadian Special Air Service Company (CSASC) was created with former members of the 1st Can Para and FSSF at its core.  It was commanded by Major Guy D'Artois, a Canadian veteran of the Royal 22e Regiment, First Special Service Force and "F" Section Special Operations Executive with battle experience alongside the French Maquis.

More detail on the CSASC can be found in this article in Canadian Military History magazine, Volume 10, Issue 1, Article 3, 1-24-2012 A Military Engima: The Canadian Air Service Company, 1948-1949, by LCol Bernd Horn, PhD, Royal Military College of Canada.  (Horn, Bernd (2001) "A Military Engima: The Canadian Air Service Company, 1948-1949," Canadian Military History: Vol. 10 : Iss. 1 , Article 3. Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol10/iss1/3).


(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3586981)

Captain Lionel Guy d'Artois, who served with the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, the First Special Service Force and with the Special Operations Executive (British Army), with Mrs. d'Artois, who also trained and served with the SOE, London, England, ca. 1944-1945.  

Guy d’Artois was a Savat (foot fighting) instructor with the combined Canada-USA First Special Service Force, and served with them during operations at Kiska, in Alaska.  It was after his service with the FSSF that he went on to serve with SOE in France.  After the war, he raised and commanded the Canadian Special Air Service (SAS) Company, and served in Korea with the Royal 22nd Regiment (Van Doos). Colin Stevens, 24 Sep 2004.

Major d’Artois impressed his training officers as being the perfect example of a soldier of fortune.  “The armies of General Wallenstein probably contained many men like him,” commented one of his officers.  Major d’Artois gave a further example of his Gallic temperament by falling in love with a British woman agent whom he subsequently married and took to Canada.  He was finally dispatched to the field and dropped near Amberieu with the task of acting as Lt to a famous Resistance leader known as “Tiburee” in the hilly country north of Lyons.  When Tiburee was put out of action, Major d’Artois took over the area and at one time commanded three Battalions of Resistance Troops, making up a grand total of some 2,400 men.  Not content with leading this force of Brigade strength in the field in a number of pitched battles, he established an efficient counter-espionage net which, in the course of its activities, arrested 115 collaborators.  30 members of the staff of this special organization were female agents who appear to have been devoted to the dashing commander whom they knew as “Michel le Canadien.”  Most SF agents were well supplied with money but Major d’Artois, finding himself short of cash during one period of his mission, hit on the ingenious plan of holding wealthy collaborators to ransom.  By this means he was able to finance the activities of his force to the tune of a million francs.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3599776)

Seven repatriated parachute-qualified Canadian officers, who took part in Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) missions prior to and following D-Day, on a troopship arriving at Halifax, Nova Scotia.  In the first row, left to right: Lieutenant Joseph Earnest Fournier, Lieutenant Paul-Emile Thibeault, Captain Henri Adelard Benoit.  Rear row, left to right: Major Paul Emile Labelle, Captain Leonard Jacques Taschereau, Captain L.Guy Artois, Captain Jean-Paul Archambault.

Seven Canadian agents were dropped into France from the UK during the weeks immediately before and immediately after D-Day.  These included Captain Jean-Paul Archambault, MC; Captain Pierre Charles Meunier; Lt (later Major) Joseph Henri Adelard Benoit, MBE; Lt (later Major) Lionel Guy d’Artois, DSC, Croix de Guerre; Capt Leonard Jacques Taschereau, MC, Croix de Guerre; Capt Paul-Emile Thibeault; Lt Marcel Veilleux, MBE.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3191621)

Sonja D'Artois and many other women in the Canadian, British and Allied forces served with the Special Operations Executive (SOE) during the war.  They took part in British parachute training at the Royal Air Force Training School, Ringway, Cheshire, England.

The Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) was a British civilian organisation set up during the Second World War and headquartered at White Waltham Airfield in the UK.  ATA aircrews ferried new, repaired and damaged military aircraft between factories, assembly plants, transatlantic delivery points, maintenance units (MUs), scrap yards, and active service squadrons and airfields, but not to naval aircraft carriers.  It also flew service personnel on urgent duty from one place to another and performed some air ambulance work.  Notably, a number of its pilots were women, and from 1943 they received equal pay to their male co-workers, a first for the British government.  Representatives of 28 countries flew with the ATA.

This photo is of two of the first eight female ATA pilots in 1940, Rosemary Rees and Joan Hughes MBE.  The photo was taken at White Waltham, ATA HQ , near Maidenhead in the UK.  Joan Hughes is on the right.  She flew solo at 15 gained her pilots license at 17 and was later a flying instructor for ATA and one of the first women pilots to qualify on four-engined heavy bombers.  There is an SOE link in that Monique’Aggie’ Agazarian, an Ex VAD and ab initio ATA Pilot had two brothers serving in the RAF, both killed, one in Libya, the other was an SOE agent, his wife was also an SOE agent.  Both were executed by the Gestapo.  (Sally B. McGlone)

On 14 November 1939 Commander Pauline Gower, MBE was given the task of organising the women's section of the ATA.  The first eight women pilots were accepted into service on 1 January 1940, initially only cleared to fly de Havilland Tiger Moths from their base in Hatfield, UK.  They were: Joan Hughes, Margaret Cunnison, Mona Friedlander, Rosemary Rees, Marion Wilberforce, Margaret Fairweather, Gabrielle Patterson and Winnifred Crossley Fair.  During the Second World War, 166 women pilots served, amounting to one in eight of all ATA pilots.  They volunteered from Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, the Netherlands and Poland.  Fifteen of these women lost their lives in the air, including the British pioneer aviator Amy Johnson and Joy Davidson.  Two of the women pilots received commendations; one was Helen Kerly.  

A notable American member of the ATA was legendary aviatrix Jacqueline Cochran, who returned to the United States and started a similar all female organization known as the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP).  These women pilots were initially restricted to non-combat types of aircraft (trainers and transports), but they were eventually permitted to fly virtually every type flown by the RAF and the Fleet Air Arm, including the four-engined heavy bombers, but excluding the largest flying boats.  Hawker Hurricanes were first flown by women pilots on 19 July 1941, and Supermarine Spitfires in August 1941.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3302137)

Parachute instructors from Camp Shilo, Manitoba's A-35 Canadian Parachute Training Centre (Canadian Army Training Centres and Schools) at Kingston, Ontario, Canada, 9 August 1945.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 3584152)

Douglas CC-129 Dakota with Canadian paratroops, Rockcliffe, Ontario, 19 July 1948.

In 1950, Canada was once again mobilizing, this time for Korea and NATO Europe. Each of Canada's three traditional Regular Force regiments (The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and Royal 22e Régiment) expanded to three battalions. A brigade commitment, consisting of airborne and air-delivered troops to defend Canada's North, was undertaken. Battalions of this Brigade were all airborne. It was structured, over the next 20 years, into the "Mobile Strike Force" and subsequently reduced in size to the "Defence of Canada Force". This parachute role, was switched from one battalion to another within each of Canada's regular infantry regiments, as they rotated to and from Korea and, subsequently, to Europe. The brigade's elements remained garrisoned in their respective bases across the country and seldom exercised as a complete brigade.

Each of the battalions was trained to fly into Canada's North, and seize an airhead or location that could be developed for airlanded operations. When the role changed from one battalion to another, within each regiment, a small nucleus of specialized instructor-planners and riggers generally transferred over to the new battalion; however, the rest of the unit quickly undertook the requisite parachutist qualifications, generally with much enthusiasm; the requirement that parachutists be "volunteers" was rarely an issue in converting these tightly-knit infantry units. There were also airborne artillery, signals, medics, and engineer elements in the brigade.

In 1958 the "Mobile Strike Force" was restructured as "The Defence of Canada Force", resulting in a reduction to one parachute company in each battalion. At this time the airborne artillery was disbanded and other support elements reduced. The parachute component in each battalion consisted of battalion tactical headquarters, and a large company group (i.e. four platoons) with support detachments of mortars, machine guns, pioneers and reconnaissance detachments. A large reserve of trained parachutists was built up in the other companies.

In 1968, many of the officers and soldiers of the "Defence of Canada Force" provided the nucleus of expertise for the new Canadian Airborne Regiment, being created at CFB Edmonton, Alberta, with its French-speaking element at CFB Valcartier, Quebec.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234443)

Jump Tower training at CFB Shilo, Manitoba in the 1960s.

Parachute training, RCAF Station Rivers, Manitoba.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234630)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234442)

Canadian Army Parachutists preparing to board a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar at RCAF Station Rivers, Manitoba, in the 1960s.  (Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234442)

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234633)

Parachute exit position for a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, RCAF Station Rivers.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234634)

Parachute training, Mock Tower, RCAF Station Rivers, Manitoba.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234635)

Parachute training, RCAF Station Rivers.

(Library and Archives Canada Photo, MIKAN No. 4234636)

Parachute training, RCAF Station Rivers, Manitoba.

(Jim Stanton Photo)

2 PPCLI soldiers serving as part of the Defence of Canada Force being briefed for parachute assault on Nome Alaska in February 1962.  They jumped out of US Air National Guard Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcars, because they had not all been trained on the "new" Lockheed CC-130 Hercules.  Jim Stanton who provided the photo, noted that he is "the cold looking fellow on the far left.  I believe I am the only one still alive!"

Lieutenant General Stanley C. Waters (1920-1991), Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Airborne Regiment (1971-1976)

The Colonel of the Regiment is an honorary title reserved for former officers of distinguished service.  He is responsible for fostering esprit-de-corps in the Regiment, advising NDHQ on Regimental matters and advising the Regimental Commander on matters such as dress and custom within the Regiment.  The Colonel of the Regiment provides a link to previous generations of Airborne brothers and a measure of continuity within the Regiment.

Born 14 June 1920 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Stanley C. Waters received an education in Edmonton at Strathcona High School and the University of Alberta. In 1941 he received a commission with the 14th Army Tank Battalion and was then posted to the First Special Service Force. In 1943, while part of the FSSF, Waters led his unit up the Monte la Difensa to attack entrenched German forces. In February 1944 he landed at Anzio with Allied forces, where he temporarily took command of a battalion due to casualties sustained during the course of the battle. Deciding to remain in the post-war Canadian Army, Waters rose steadily through the ranks before ending his military career as Lieutenant-General (CD) and Commander of the Canadian Forces Mobile Command in 1975. In 1982 Waters became a founding member of the Reform Party of Canada, and while he did not run as a Reform Party candidate, he did become one of the party's most popular spokesmen. In 1990 Waters became the first person to be elected by a provincial population to be appointed by the Prime Minister to the Senate. Waters died September 25, 1991, of complications resulting from a brain tumor. He left behind his wife Barbara and four children, Claudia, Mark, Virginia, and Caroline.

(Author Photo)

The last 100 yards statue, Combat Training Centre, 5 Canadian Division Support Base Gagetown, New Brunswick.

(Author Photo)

The Airborne Forces Monument, located at the entrance to the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario, was dedicated on 28 August 1988.  It was constructed in memory of the Canadian Airborne Forces, including the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, The Canada/USA Special Service Force, and Defence of Canada Parachute Units, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Airborne Regiment.

The Canadian Airborne Regiment commissioned this monument to mark its 20th anniversary and to honour all past and present Canadian operational parachute units.  Colonel Andre D. Gauthier (CF Ret'd) of Orleans, Ontario, designed and sculpted this 8 foot high bronze statue.  The artist named the sculpture "INTO ACTION" and it depicts a contemporary Paratrooper in winter gear who has just landed on a frozen lake drop zone, shed his parachute harness (seen at his feet), picked up his rifle and is heading "into action".  The dedication ceremony involved an Honour Guard from the Canadian Airborne Regiment, a Flag Party of Canadian and USA Veterans, a Canadian Forces band, and numerous guests and veterans of Airborne Forces.  Although the Canadian Airborne Regiment was disbanded in 1996, the Airborne role lives on in three Light Infantry battalions (3 PPCLI, 3 RCR and 3 R22eR) which each have a Parachute Company; the monument remains under the care of the Parachute Company of 3 RCR in Petawawa.

Airborne Coin

In the pocket of every member of the Airborne Regiment, if you are lucky enough to be allowed to see it, you will find his most prized possession, his coin. The Airborne coin is not something that is easily obtained, it must be earned.  An Airborne soldier must carry his coin with him at all times. At any time, another soldier can “coin” you by producing their coin. If you can’t produce your coin, you must buy a round of drinks for every soldier who produces a coin in response to the challenge. If however, everyone produces a coin, it falls on the challenger to buy the round.

Current parachute capability of the Canadian Forces

After the disbandment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment in 1995, the Canadian army reverted to its former practice of maintaining a parachute company within one of the battalions of each of the regular infantry regiments. The commandos, at that time, returned to their regimental "homes" and became a company of the light battalion of each of their regiments (the 3rd Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment, the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the 3rd Battalion Royal 22e Régiment).

In April 2005, the Canadian government's new defence policy statement was made public. It included a concept of first responders for international tasks consisting of "special forces" (such as Joint Task Force 2) supported by one of the light battalions (presumably on a rotational basis), including the parachute capability of its integral para company.

As a result, the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR) was formed.