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Army Cadet Motto
"As the Maple, so the Sapling"

The Early History

The Royal Canadian Army Cadets (RCAC) can trace back their history to the creation of Drill Associations in 1861, predating confederation by 6 years. Great Britain had also formed cadets in 1860. These associations were linked to local schools. The American Civil War and the threat of the Fenian Raids motivated their creation in Upper and Lower Canada. These early cadet units, called drill associations, mark the beginning of the Canadian Cadet Movement, one of the country's oldest youth programs.

Trinity College Volunteer Rifle Company was formed June 1, 1861 in Port Hope, Ontario. Bishop’s College Drill Association was formed in Lennoxville, Que on December 6, 1861. Another fourteen of the early cadet corps called "Drill Associations" or "Rifle Companies" stood up in Ontario and Quebec. Canada's oldest continually serving cadet corps is No. 2 Bishop's College School Cadet Corps in Lennoxville, Quebec, its roots firmly in the previous drill association.

These early "drill associations" accepted members ranging in age from 13 to 60. The distinction between high school cadets and the adult militia became clear in 1879, when authorization was given to form 74 "Association for Drill in Educational Institutions". Young men over 14 years of age where invited to participate and would not be employed in active service.

These associations included:

* 34 in Ontario
* 24 in Quebec
* 13 in the Maritime provinces
* 2 in Manitoba
* 1 in British Columbia. 

Public Support

An increased support, motivated in part by the Northwest Campaign during the Riel Rebellion of 1885, increased the issue of uniforms, weapons and other equipment to schools providing military training.

By 1887, the name cadet corps was recognized as designating the associations providing the training to boys over the age of 12.
Early Sea Cadets

The Navy League of Canada was founded in 1895 in order to support the lobby to create the Canadian Navy. Beginning in 1902, the League sponsored Canada's first Boys and Girls' Naval Brigades. The first official Sea Cadet Corps was #859 Winnipeg Boys Naval Brigade Cadet Corps formed in November 19, 1920 in Winnipeg. In 1942 all the remaining Sea Cadet Corps were transferred to Navy League and renumbered accordingly.

The Officer Cadre

The year 1908 marks the creation of a cadre of commissioned officers, the Corps of School Cadet Instructor (militia), trained and paid by the Department of Militia and Defence to conduct drill and physical training in participating schools. Formed primarily of school teachers, this officer cadre was disbanded in 1921 during a period of reorganization. It reappeared on 1 June 1924 as the Cadet Services of Canada; it was a component of the Canadian Army and the forerunner of the current Cadet Instructor Cadre. This arrangement between the Federal Government and local school boards contributed significantly to the development of physical education programs in Canadian schools.

Strathcona Trust

In 1910, Sir Donald Alexander Smith—Lord Strathcona—the Canadian High Commissioner to Britain, deposited in trust with the Dominion Government the sum of $500,000, bearing annual interest of 4%, to develop citizenship and patriotism in cadets through physical training, rifle shooting, and military drill. He is remembered today with the Strathcona Medal.

The World Wars

Forty thousand former army cadets and several thousand former sea cadets served in His Majesty's forces during World War One. By the end of the war there were 64,000 boys enrolled in Army Cadet corps across Canada.

The Navy League authorized the creation of Girls Naval Brigades as early as World War One. The girls benefited from a training program providing, as much as possible, a parallel training to that of the boys.

During the twenty years following World War One, cadet training came to a standstill. Many corps survived these hard times, but the Depression and the lack of public interest caused the cancellation of the uniform grant for Army Cadets in 1931 and the instructional grant for 12 and 13 year olds in 1934. In Alberta, only a couple of corps functioned beyond 1934. This was clearly some of the darkest days for cadet corps.

The beginning of World War Two brought a renewed public interest in cadet training. An astounding amount of  cadet corps were formed in high schools across the country. During the war, the Royal Canadian Navy began its partnership with the Navy League in sponsoring Sea Cadets and their officers were taken on the payroll to the Royal Canadian Navy.

The Air Cadet League of Canada was formed in 1940, and raised its first squadrons in 1941. The first air cadet unit was #1601 Air Force Cadet Corps formed in Vancouver on April 13, 1939. It stands alone as being the only air cadet unit formed within the army cadet system, the corps was transferred to the new Air Cadet League in 1943. From the outset, the Air Cadet League enjoyed a partnership with the Royal Canadian Air Force, which enrolled Air Cadet instructors as commissioned officers. By the end of World War Two, they had raised 374 squadrons with an enrolment of 29,000 Air Cadets.

During and after World War Two, you could find a cadet corps that paraded a female platoon or company. But these unofficial female cadets could never lawfully be trained, kitted, fed or transported and were not allowed to attend summer camp. Despite that, the girls proudly wore their uniform and trained as best as they could primarily in school corps. 

The Post-War Years

In recognition of the significant contribution of former cadets to the war effort, His Majesty King George VI conferred the title royal to the cadet program, creating the Royal Canadian Sea Cadets, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets, and the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. It is estimated that nearly 230,000 former sea, army and air cadets served in His Majesty's forces during World War Two.

After World War Two, quotas were imposed reducing Canada's total cadet force to about 75,000 members. Many of the closed corps, those with membership restricted to boys in one particular school, were disbanded; some of them became open corps, training in militia armouries or in Legion halls; others, like many corps sponsored by the Navy League, acquired their own buildings.

The Korean War stimulated growth among open corps in the early 1950s. Many school corps moved to armouries and drill halls. After 1954, Korea veterans staffed the Area Cadet Offices that began to manage these corps and the summer camps that trained them.

Unification of the Canadian Forces

Following the unification of the Canadian Forces in 1968, a number of changes occurred in the Cadet world:

* Sea and Air Cadets came more fully under the control of the Canadian Forces in order to standardize the three Cadet organizations;
* A directorate of cadets was established in Ottawa to set policy and co-ordinate the activities of the Sea, Army and Air cadets;
* The Army Cadet League of Canada was formed in 1971 in order to give the Army cadets a civilian voice comparable to that of the Navy League and the Air Cadet League;
* Sea Cadet officers became commissioned members of the Canadian Forces. Before this date, sea cadet officers were created by means of a warrant from the Navy League of Canada; and
* The Cadet Services of Canada was superseded by the Cadet Instructor List, which was later redesignated the Cadet Instructor Cadre.

Girls in the Cadet Program

Girls have participated unofficially in cadet training almost from the beginning. Shortly after the Highland Cadet Corps was stood up at the Guelph Grammar School in 1882, a female cadet company called the Daughters of the Regiment, was also raised.

On the 30 July 1975, parliament amended the relevant legislation by changing the word boys to persons, therefore permitting girls to become members of the Royal Canadian Sea, Army, and Air Cadets. At long last, girls could finally do everything the boys had been doing for so many years. The biggest change was at the camp level. What had been for so many decades an exclusively male environment changed dramatically at Vernon, Ipperwash, Valcartier, Argonaut and Banff. In short time the girls adapted. 

2004 - 125th Anniversary

2004 marked the 125th anniversary of the Royal Canadian Army Cadets. The Army Cadet League of Canada purchased and issued a 125th Anniversary pin to be worn by all 25,000+ army cadets across the country. Canada Post honoured the cadets with a stamp of it's own unveiled in Ottawa in March 2004. Many parade honouring the century and a quarter of cadets occurred across Canada, there were Freedom of the City parades in Vernon, Oromocto and Calgary as well as other locations. The original Royal Banner was laid up in Vernon during the final battalion parade on August 19 at the ACSTC, and the new Royal Banner was paraded in front of 1500 cadets and 2000 members of the audience. 


We hope you will have many hours of enjoyment from the information through out this extensive web site.


ca. 1895 Cadet button Queen Victoria period, brass


1943 pattern King's Crown RCAC Hat Badge, plastic


1956 pattern Queen's Crown RCAC Hat Badge, brass


1924 pattern, King's Crown Cadet Services of Canada hat badge, blackened brass


1954 pattern, Queen's Crown Cadet Services of Canada hat badge, brass


1974 pattern, Queen's Crown Cadet Instructor's List (CIL) Tri-Service hat badge, brass


1983 pattern, Queen's Crown Cadet Instructor's List (CIL) land element hat badge, brass enamel and white metal


1983 pattern, Queen's Crown Cadet Instructor's List (CIL) land element hat badge, cloth and gold wire

Army Cadet Stamp, issued March 26, 2004 by Canada Post