British Columbia Dragoons
Based on excerpts from a history provided by. M. Vincent Bezeau
Based in Kelowna and Vernon, the British Columbia Dragoons is a Primary Reserve armoured reconnaissance regiment of the Canadian Forces and are part of 3rd Canadian Division’s 39 Canadian Brigade Group.
The British Columbia Dragoons traces its beginnings to one of two independent squadrons of mounted rifles – a type of cavalry – formed in interior British Columbia in 1908. Two more independent squadrons were organized in 1910, and, with four new ones, were amalgamated to form two regiments of British Columbia Horse in 1911 – the date of origin of the current regiment. After regrouping on a geographic basis, the 1st, later 30th Regiment was located in the northern half of the Okanagan Valley and stretched east of Vernon to Lumby.
WWI and post-war
The regiment raised the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles during the First World War. It served overseas as both cavalry and infantry, winning battle honours in the latter role.
Post-war reorganization localized the regiment’s squadrons in Vernon, Lumby, and Penticton, with, later, a troop in Kelowna. The Lumby squadron was relocated to Kelowna in 1926, placing the regiment’s squadrons in the three major Valley cities. Over the same time period, infantry companies of The Rocky Mountain Rangers, which had stretched south from the Kamloops-Revelstoke railway corridor to cover this area, withdrew from the Valley except in the far north at Armstrong. This left The British Columbia Dragoons (BCD) – as the cavalry unit became known after further title changes – as the Okanagan Valley’s own regiment. (The Rocky Mountain Rangers briefly expanded to Vernon and Kelowna again in 1940-1941, before withdrawing permanently from these locations.)
The outbreak of the Second World War and Canada’s declaration of war on 10 September, 1939 saw the regiment enter the next important phase in the regimental history. The regiment had been placed on active service on local protective duties on 1 September, 1939. Originally mobilized as the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment, on 24 May, 1940 it was redesignated the British Columbia Dragoons after conversion to an armoured unit on 9 February, 1941. It was again redesignated the 9th Armoured Regiment (British Columbia Dragoons) on 11 February, 1941. After training in Canada the regiment was embarked for overseas duty in November, 1941. The regiment arrived in England for further training as a regiment within the 2nd Armoured Brigade of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.
The Canadian Armoured Corps was reorganized in 1943 and when the regiment landing in Italy in December of 1943 it was as the junior regiment in the 5th Armoured Brigade of the 5th Armoured Division.
Italy during WWII
The regiment fought in a number of major actions of the Italian campaign including difficult battles against the determined German defences of the Gothic line. As the BCDs moved through the wartorn Italian countryside they liberated villages and towns fighting tank on tank battles, attacking dug in defences and supporting infantry assaults always looking out for the deadly German 88s, a devastating anti-tank gun.
The Regiment fought in Italy until February of 1945 when it was transfered to North-Western Europe with the 1st Canadian Corps and saw service in Holland. The Regiment was deactivated from wartime duty in 1946 and reverted to a reserve unit.
After the war, the regiment converted to an armoured reconnaissance role, before returning to armour. It regained its historic title of The British Columbia Dragoons. The unit trained in the Okanagan with the later versions of the Sherman tank with heavier armament and improved mobility.
When the army reorganized again two decades later and shrank in size, the regiment disbanded its Penticton squadron. The regiment continued in service to Canada during the post-war/Cold War period, with members of the regiment serving with the Canadian Forces overseas on NATO exercises and as members of Canadian UN peacekeeping operations.
The regiment is currently engaged in training to be re-equipped with the newly acquired G Wagon, in a light reconnaissance role under the auspices of a major reorganization of Canada’s army reserves. Its most recent operation was its contribution to the Canadian Forces effort countering the wildfire crisis that threatened local communities in 2003. The regiment is currently based in the central and north Okanagan cities of Kelowna and Vernon. Members of the regiment continue the long regimental tradition as the “Okanagan’s own” in service to Canada.
RG 31 – 86B at Forward Operating Base Masum Ghar
Cpl Brett Hunt, MCpl Glenn Duffield, WO Bill Mikkelsen
British Columbia Dragoons in Afghanistan
The British Columbia Dragoons contributed 33 personnel to serve with the Task Force Afghanistan for the International Security Assistance Force – Afghanistan (ISAF). Members used the RG 31 Nyala and the LAV 3 with the Remote Weapons System to patrol from Forward Operating Bases Marsum Ghar and Wilson in the Kandahar province of Afghanistan in 2009.
LAV 3 RWS-86B at Forward Operating Base Wilson
Cpl Graeme Barber, Cpl Brett Hunt, WO Bill Mikkelsen, Cpl Ian Lang
British Columbia Dragoons WWII Battle Honours
Pozzo Alto Ridge
1908 | Vernon
B Independent squadron, Canadian Mounted Rifles (unofficially: “Okanagan Mounted Rifles”)
1910-20s | Armstrong, Coldstream, Kelowna, Lumby, Vernon
British Columbia Horse (independent & amalgamated squadrons)
1910-1920s | Armstrong, Kelowna, Lumby, Vernon
1st Regiment, British Columbia Horse
1910-20s | Armstrong, Enderby, Kelowna, Lumby, Vernon
30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse
1910-20s | Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
The British Columbia Mounted Rifles
1929-1941 | Kelowna, Keremeos, Penticton, Summerland, Vernon
The British Columbia Dragoons
1941 | Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
9th (Reserve) Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)
post-1958 | Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
9th Reconnaissance Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons)
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