Veterans Guard of Canada
Veterans Guard of Canada Cap Badge
With the outbreak of war in Europe in the fall of 1939, thousands of Canadians flocked to enlistment stations to do their part in the upcoming conflict. Among them were veterans of the First World War, the majority now in their forties, who once again were willing to serve their country. First told that they were too old for active service overseas, many of these veterans were turned away in favour of the young, able-bodied enlistees. The veterans, however, were not deterred; these men persisted with their attempts to enlist and eventually their voices were heard. The Canadian government agreed that their military experience could not be tossed aside and therefore established the Veteran’s Home Guard, later renamed the Veterans Guard of Canada, in May 1940. Following the example of the British Home Guard, the Veterans Guard of Canada was initially established as a defence force in the case of a German or Japanese attack on Canadian soil. Organized into numbered companies of approximately 250 men, the Veterans Guard included both Active and Reserve companies. Those in Active Companies served full-time and were rotated throughout the country while reserve companies served a militia role and generally remained in one location. Recruiting across the country, the Veterans Guard eventually reached its peak strength in June 1943 with 451 officers and 9,806 other ranks on Active service.
No. 23 Company, Veterans Guard of Canada. Lieut. Colin "Scotty" Mann is kneeling, front left.
In addition to serving as a defence force and guarding military installations, the Veterans Guard also assumed the responsibility of guarding Canadian internment camps. Taking over from the Canadian Provost Corps, the Veterans Guard helped free up younger Canadians for overseas service. Thirty-seven active companies and seventeen internment camp staffs were eventually raised for these duties. While the vast majority of the Veterans Guard remained on Canadian soil for the duration of the war, a small number of companies were dispatched around the globe. The General Duty Company was attached to the Canadian Military Headquarters in London, England, companies were dispatched to the Bahamas (No. 33 Coy.), British Guiana (No. 34 Coy.), and Newfoundland, and a smaller group escorted a shipment of mules to India.
In the later years of the war and as the threat of foreign invasion diminished, the reserve companies of the Veterans Guard were disbanded and the men returned to civilian life. For those on Active Duty, they continued with their duties around the country. With the end of the war and as Prisoners of War were slowly transferred back to Great Britain between 1945 and 1947, the Active companies were also disbanded. Those remaining assisted in escorting PoWs across the Atlantic. The Veterans Guard of Canada was official struck off active service in 1947.