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Canadian Army Auxiliary Services 1939-1945

September 6, 2013

Bill Alexander © 2012

In November of 1939, four national volunteer service organizations, the Canadian Legion, Knights of Columbus, the Salvation Army and the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) were asked to provide “auxiliary services” for the Canadian armed services. These services included, but were not limited to, “organizing sports and dances, providing movies and concerts, reading and writing and recreation rooms, libraries, mobile canteens, and tea vans … and establishing leave hostels and information bureaus for troops on leave”. Members of these organizations both served overseas and at home throughout the war.[1]

Supervisors of the YMCA (left) and Knights of Columbus Catholic Army Huts (right)

Supervisors of the YMCA (left) and Knights of Columbus Catholic Army Huts (right)

The Auxiliary Services were staffed by civilians, but due to their unique duties, were paid by the government. Two classes of Auxiliary Services personnel were employed. One group were granted the status of officers, assigned the rank of captain, and were addressed as Supervisor. The other group of Auxiliary Services personnel were classified as Civilian Helpers, with no military rank. Commensurate with their role, the Auxiliary Services officers wore modified service dress and later, all Auxiliary Services personnel were granted permission to wear battledress uniforms.[2]

An officer of the YMCA Auxiliary Services wearing Service Dress, May 1943. Photo Library and Archives Canada.

An officer of the YMCA Auxiliary Services wearing Service Dress, May 1943. Photo Library and Archives Canada.

Initially, officers in the Auxiliary Services wore service dress uniforms with no epaulettes, without rank, and no Sam Browne belts. They were to be identified in two ways. First a black armlet, 3 ½ inches wide with CDN AUX SER in ¾ red inch lettering, was to be worn on the left arm.  In addition to the armlet:

“A cloth distinguishing patch will be worn on each sleeve of the khaki jacket placed 1 in below the shoulder seam. The patch will be 2 ¼ ins by 3 ins and will have embroidered thereon the authorized insignia of the organization concerned.”[3]

 

BESL Royal Canadian Legion

BESL Royal Canadian Legion

In mid-1940, the four service organizations, the Canadian Legion, Knights of Columbus, Salvation Army and YMCA, adopted patches representative of their organizations. Unlike military cloth titles, the design of the patches was created solely by the service organization, subject to review and acceptance by military authorities.  The coloured embroidered patches were to be worn on the mid upper arm sleeve of the service dress or battledress. The basic designs of the respective organizations patches remained the same for the remainder of the war, with minor variations resulting from subsequent orders from various makers.

Supervisors soon found themselves in an odd situation:

Whereas the said supervisors have been granted the status of officers for messing purpose and other amenities of service…and:

Whereas a good proportion of such voluntary personnel have held commissions either in the last War or subsequently in the Canadian Militia, it is considered by them to be a mark of certain inferiority not to be entitled to wear shoulder straps on the type of uniform as laid down for their wear…:

May approval be granted whereby these said supervisors be permitted to wear a shoulder strap, with a band of navy blue cloth encircling the outer edge of the shoulder strap with the wording “AUXILIARY SERVICES” embroidered in gold thread thereon…[4]

The request was approved and, effective with Routine Order 370, 14 October 1940, the Auxiliary Services were granted permission to wear uniforms with shoulder straps. In February of 1941, permission to wear battledress was granted, extending the issue of shoulder straps to that uniform.

The Auxiliary Services shoulder strap was to be 1 ¼ inches wide dark blue cloth, embroidered in ¼ inch gold thread. A memo noting the shoulder strap approval also outlined the sequence of insignia to be worn by the Auxiliary Services. The blue band would be worn on the shoulder strap, with the regulation worsted “CANADA” one inch below the shoulder seam, and the patch of the service organization, below the nationality title. Finally, the Auxiliary Services armlet was withdrawn.  Both Supervisors and Helpers were to follow these practices.[5]

A variety of AUXIIARY SERVICES shoulder strap titles as worn by the Canadian Legion, the Catholic Army Huts (Knights of Columbus), Salvation Army and YMCA.

A variety of AUXIIARY SERVICES shoulder strap titles as worn by the Canadian Legion, the Catholic Army Huts (Knights of Columbus), Salvation Army and YMCA.

The Auxiliary Services contributed in many ways to the comfort and entertainment of the soldiers of the Canadian Army. Over 300 auxiliary services supervisors and a similar number of civilian helpers served the forces during the war. Their insignia was an important element of their identity, which assisted the Auxiliary Services in the delivery of their important contribution to the comfort of the fighting services and ultimately the war effort.

Knights of Columbus armband

Knights of Columbus armband

Wire embroidered cap badge for the Knights of Columbus. Courtesy Marway Militaria

Wire embroidered cap badge for the Knights of Columbus. Courtesy Marway Militaria


[1] (C.P.Stacey, 1955, pp. 421-422)

[2] (Routine Order 115, 1940)

[3] (Routine Order 115, 1940)

[4] (J.M. Humphrey, 1940)

[5] (C.R.S. Stein, 1941) and (Routine Order 115, 1940, p. Ammendment 7 Oct 40)

Bibliography:

C.P.Stacey. (1955). Six Years of War. Ottawa: Minister of National Defence.

C.R.S. Stein, L.-C. A. (1941, February 10). Memo-Dress National Voluntary Organizations. Dress – National Voluntary Organizations . Library and Archives Canada Volume 24 Volume 10164.

J.M. Humphrey, S. O. (1940, September 9). Letter Dress Regulations National Canadian Volunteer Organizations Supervisors. Library and Archives Canada Record Group 24 Volume 10164 .

Routine Order 115, C. A. (1940, May 28). RO 115. Routine Order 115 Status and Dress Representatives Voluntary Organizations . Canadian Army Routine Orders.

From → Cloth insignia

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