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Marksmanship Badges of the Canadian Militia

August 30, 2016

Clive M. Law

Napoleon famously stated that an army marches on its stomach. It can also be said that an army is motivated by peer-recognition and nowhere is this more evident than in the awarding of insignia – ‘bling’ in modern parlance.

The Canadian Militia in the early 1900s certainly recognized this and, emulating the British Army, instituted a number of skill and prize badges which could be worn by Militiamen of Permanent Force. At the time the PF consisted of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD), Royal Canadian Mounted Rifles (RCMR), Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA), Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery (RCGA), the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) and The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR). The various Corps (Service Corps, Veterinary Corps, Ordnance Stores, etc..) were not eligible.

Most recognizable are the badges awarded for shooting and the 1905 Musketry Instructions outlined criteria for several levels of skill badges (awarded to all who met a standard) as well as prize badges (awarded to the top competitors).

Several years establishing the criteria, the Department of Militia and Defence (M&D) issued the “Regulations for the Clothing of the Canadian Militia – Permanent Force” which provides the modern researcher with details of the competitions and descriptions of the awards.

The basic badge was that of the Marksman. This consisted of a pair of crossed rifles and was awarded to each man who qualified by attaining a set score. This was a skill at arms badge.

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Marksman’s badge

The remaining shooting badges are prize badges which required the winner to be the top shooter within his Company, Battery or Squadron. Only marksmen were able to compete for these badges.

Best shot in company, etc…  A badge consisting of crossed rifles and star. Limited to a squadron, battery or company in which not less than thirty men have competed, and will be awarded to that marksman who makes the highest score. Casuals or men attached from other units or companies were not eligible.

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Best shot in Company, Battery or Squadron

Best shot of Sergeants and Lance Sergeants. In the RCA, RCE, and RCR*, a badge of crossed rifles and crown surrounded by a wreath of bay leaves. This badge was awarded to the winner of a competition agreed to by the Officers Commanding RCA, or RCR, as well as the officer administering R.C.E., with a view to test all round shooting skill, and was open to all Sergeants and Lance-Sergeants of these arms of the service who were marksman.

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Best shot of Sergeants and Lance Sergeants

Best shot of Corporals and Privates, in RCA, RCE, and RCR*  A badge consisting of crossed rifles and star surrounded by a wreath of bay leaves. The terms were the same as for Sergeants and Lance-Sergeants (above).

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Best shot of Corporals and Privates

For the prize badges a winner was selected from each company.

Once awarded, they were to be taken into wear as soon as possible after they had been won, and would be worn until the next year’s awards had been published in unit orders. The badges were ordered to be worn on the left fore-arm.  When a soldier had won a prize badge he would no longer wear the marksman’s badge but he could, if earned in the same year, wear any combination of the three prize badges concurrently.

By 1909, when Service Dress had been fully issued to the PF, badges were of worsted material but the badges were also available for the coloured serge frock and tunic, in gold embroidery for Sr. NCOs and worsted yellow embroidery for the rank and file. This was later changed to gold embroidery for all ranks.

Commanding officers were responsible to ensure that the badges were only issued to or worn by men whose names were published in the unit’s orders, a copy of which was to be attached to the issue roll for the month in which the issue is made.

As the rate of issue was a single badge to each qualifier (others could be privately purchased by the soldier) Commanding officers would indent in the usual way on nearest ordnance depot for only such badges as have been qualified for.

  • No mention is made in the instructions concerning the RCD or RCMR but it is assumed that they qualified on a similar basis.

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