1958-1970 (Regular)

1958-1970: The Regular Regiment

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In the autumn of 1958 the Department of National Defence determined that a fourth armoured regiment should be added to the Regular Army. On 10 October 1958 the Armoured Corps Association declared that the new regiment would be named The Fort Garry Horse, to be based in Camp Petawawa. Lt. Col James Gardner was appointed as the Commanding Officer. The Militia regiment in Winnipeg was now designated the 2nd Fort Garry Horse and the new regiment the 1st Fort Garry Horse.

Newly painted Centurion tank - Hemer 1964On 19 November of 1958 the regiment’s first Centurion tank, crewed by the CO, RSM E.J. Armer, and driver Tpr F. Goebel, was issued and rolled past the Minister of National Defence in a ceremony marking the formation of the regiment. Over the next few months manpower and equipment were brought up to strength.

Training continued throughout the winter and spring of 1959 while the Recce Squadron prepared to depart for a one-year tour of UN duty in Egypt.

In January 1960 the “1st and 2nd” designations were changed to The Fort Garry Horse, and The Fort Garry Horse (Militia).

In the spring of 1960 the Centurion’s guns were fired for the first time on the Meaford ranges with excellent results. In the autumn of 1960 at the request of Col Gardner, a version of “Red River Valley” was adopted as the Regimental Slow March. The Recce Squadron returned from a very successful UN mission in March of 1961. In August 1961, Lt Col W.R.C. Little took over command of the regiment from Lt Col Gardner. In late 1961 it was announced that the Garrys would be moving to Germany to join 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group.

In December of 1962 A,B,C,HQ Squadrons and Regimental Headquarters moved to Germany and were located in Fort Beausejour, near Iserlohn, while the independent Recce Squadron was located 30 miles away at Fort Chambly near Soest.

Tank training continued and the Recce Sqn had the new addition of a helicopter troop to work with their Ferret scout cars. Training with the regiment’s 60 Centurions took place on the Hohne tank ranges and in the Sennelager area in 1963. Close ties were made with German and Belgian units and the Garry’s allied regiment, the 4/7th Royal Dragoon Guards of the British Army.

In July of 1963, the Centurion tanks were upgraded from the 20 pdr (84mm) gun to the new NATO 105mm gun, and an excellent shoot was completed on the Hohne ranges. In the fall the Garrys participated in exercise Keen Blade, a major multi-national NATO exercise. History was not forgotten however, and in November a detachment visited the city of Cambrai where “B” Squadron had fought in November 1917, and received a commemorative medal from the city. In January 1964, the citizens of Woensdrecht in Holland, celebrating the 20th anniversary of their liberation, presented a medal to the regiment and a street in the city was named Garry Horse Straat.

Troop of Centurions in the snow 1960The summer of 1964 was spent in concentration with the Brigade in Sennelager. On 14 August 1964 the Garrys had the honour of being presented with their Guidon in a fine ceremony at Fort Beausejour. During the fall the Garrys worked up for and participated in Exercise Treble Chance, where they played part of the “enemy forces”. They were so successful in this role that the current defensive strategy of NATO Divisions had to be revised as a result. The “friendly” forces, expected to hold for 36 hours, were defeated in 5 1/2 hours.

In November 1964, command of the regiment passed to Lt Col H.E. Theobald. Throughout 1965 the regiment continued its armoured and individual training, with concentration in Sennelager and Brigade exercise in Soltau. In October, a detachment from “C” Squadron went to Doetinchem in Holland and re-furbished the Garry tank that had been left as a memorial by the regiment in 1945. Also, in the same month, a cairn was dedicated at St. Aubin-Sur-Mer, Normandy, where “C” Squadron had landed on D-Day in 1944.

Soon the tour in Germany came to an end and the Garrys returned to Canada in December 1965, to a new home in Calgary. Settling into its new home, the regiment continued in its armoured training while absorbing new men and preparing “A” Squadron for a tour of duty in Cyprus. In July of 1966, command passed to LCol D.A. Nicholson, and “A” Squadron left for Cyprus in September. In 1967, Canada’s Centennial year, “B” Squadron took part in Exercise White Bear, operating their tanks under conditions of extreme cold. “A” Squadron returned from Cyprus in April, and “C” Squadron was formed for the next rotation to Cyprus, to take place in October.

FGH tank monument Doetinchem, HollandChanges in Defence planning called for the conversion of the Garrys to a “Light Armoured Regiment” to be equipped with air-portable tanks and equipment. Such vehicles did not exist in Canadian inventory, so the regiment made do with its tanks and Armoured Personnel Carriers. “C” Squadron returned from Cyprus in April 1968, and were relieved by “B” Squadron. “C” Squadron was employed as a training squadron for the summer reserve concentration and was disbanded in August 1968. At the same time, LCol G.J. Martin took command of the regiment in time for the new Lynx command and reconnaissance vehicles to come into service. “A” Squadron and RHQ participated in Exercise Vacuum, a chemical warfare exercise held in Suffield, Alberta.

In early 1969, “A” and Headquarters Squadron took part in Waincon 69, perfecting winter doctrine and successfully eliminating an airborne dropzone within 23 minutes of being alerted. In May 1969, eighteen members of the Garrys took part in Exercise Worthy Venture, an exercise which included a climb of Mount Worthington in the Yukon. The ascent was a success, but tragically, on the descent, LCol Martin was killed in an accidental fall. He was buried with full military honours by his Regiment. Command passed to LCol R.O. Conover in July.

Lynx Command and Reconnaisance vehicleAfter a summer of training in Wainwright, it was announced in October of 1969 that the regiment would be disbanded in 1970 due to an overall reduction in the Armed Forces. As a result of this sad news, the Guidon was paraded past the Regiment one last time on 21 November, 1969. Training still continued throughout the winter of 1969-70, particularly in Exercise Polar Bear in which the temperature dipped to -47 degrees. In the summer, the Garrys moved to summer concentration in Wainwright.

Meanwhile, on 6 June 1970, the Guidon was moved to Winnipeg to be deposited in the Manitoba Legislature. At the ceremony, the identical Guidons of the Militia and Regular Regiments were paraded together, and the Regular Regiment’s Guidon was presented to the Lieutenant Governor of the Province for safekeeping. The remaining members of the Garrys, still training in Wainwright, were absorbed into Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians).

Garry reunion 1992 Calgary