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The Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps

The Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps
Created: 2 Nov 1910.
Disbanded: 2 Nov 1940.

The Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps was an organizational corps of the Canadian Army, organized in 1910 and in existence until the final mechanization of the Canadian Army after the outbreak of the Second World War.


Before 1910 veterinary surgeons were either Non-Commissioned Officers or commissioned officers serving directly with mounted and artillery units.

On 2 November 1910, the Army Veterinary Service (AVS) was created, composed of qualified veterinary surgeons serving as officers, with other rank supporting personnel. The AVS consisted of:

  • Canadian Permanent Army Veterinary Corps (CPAVC) (veterinary officers, NCOs and privates)

  • Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (CAVC) (veterinary officers detailed for duty with mounted corps of the Militia

  • Regimental Veterinary Service (RVS) (a short-lived service composed of officers already on the regimental staff of mounted corps).

There was thus a Permanent Force and a Militia component, with the senior officer of the CPAVC administering the AVS as a whole.

Beneath him were the principal veterinary officers of military districts or divisions. There was a Veterinary Remount Establishment and schools for training enlisted men. In 1912 the Militia Council published regulations specifying the duties and functions of all officers, veterinary schools and hospitals, and other facets of the Canadian Army Veterinary Service.1


First World War

The Canadian Army Veterinary Corps was organized as follows in 1914:

  • The Canadian Army Permanent Veterinary Corps

    • Director of Veterinary Services (Militia Headquarters, Ottawa)

    • Deputy Director of Veterinary Services (Militia Headquarters, Ottawa)

    • Assistant Directors of Veterinary Services located at Divisional Headquarters

    • Director of Remounts

    • Five Detachments (Toronto, Kingston, St. Jean, Quebec, Winnipeg

  • Canadian Army Veterinary Corps

    • 9 Sections, each with 1-2 officers and 6-24 other ranks2

Within three months of the outbreak of the First World War, veterinary surgeons were dispatched to Europe as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. A Remount Service was also created to provide reinforcement horses to the CEF.

Canadian veterinarians served in the CEF as well as the British Army, with about 300 Canadian vets eventually seeing service in locales ranging from Europe to India, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Russia. In 1915, Canadian veterinary students in their final year were permitted to skip their final exams in exchange for enlisting in the British Army to help ease the shortage of trained veterinarians. Those that agreed were enlisted in the rank of Second Lieutenant and graduated automatically.

Horse casualties were moved by mobile sections to evacuation stations, and surgical and other treatment was done at base hospitals. Special hospital were also set up to combat Mange. After the First World War, some veterinarians remained in Europe to oversee the disposal of animals, with the last officer returning in 1920. The remaining Canadian horses were eventually used for work animals or as food.

In all, veterinary personnel of the CEF had included 72 officers and 756 other ranks, who managed to treat some 24,000 horses. On 3 Nov 1919, the Permanent Force component was rewarded for its war service by the award of the "Royal" designation. On 17 Jul 1936 the corps was once again renamed as The Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps.

By 1929, establishments for the two corps were:

  • Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps (RCAVC): 12 officers and 38 other ranks, in 6 detachments.

  • Canadian Army Veterinary Corps: 100 officers and 55 other ranks, in 11 sections.

Motorization of the Canadian Army underway by the 1930s and accelerated by the outbreak of the Second World War led to the disbandment of both corps on 2 November 1940. While the military retained a handful of veterinarians, the majority were involved in biological warfare experiments.

Uniform Insignia

Rank Insignia

In 1940, coloured backings were adopted throughout the Canadian Army for officers' rank insignia. The corps did not receive its own colour.

Cap Badges

Both the Canadian Army Permanent Veterinary Corps and Canadian Army Veterinary Corps adopted the cap badge illustrated below left in 1910.

The cap badge of the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps approved by General Order 46/1922 was patterned after that of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps of the British Army, which depicted, within a laurel wreath surmounted by a Crown, the figure of Chiron. The Canadian badge substituted a wreath of maple leaves for the laurel wreath. The badge was bi-metal with Chiron in white metal and the remainder in brass.

In Greek mythology, Chiron ("hand") was a centaur superior to all others. While centaurs were imagined to be uncultured, heavily indulgent drinkers, wild carousers, and prone to violence when intoxicated, Chiron by contrast was intelligent, civilized and kind.


Mazeas: MS.30 Mazeas: S.9

CEF Cap Badges

Veterinary troops of the CEF used four different badges, according to Babin.


Clockwise from top left:

Babin: 11-1; Babin: 11-2; Babin: 11-2A; Babin: 11-2B.


Collar Badges

Mazeas: MS.30 Collar badges corresponding to MS.30 are shown here in brass, mirrored. Image courtesy Marway Militaria.
Mazeas: S.9 Collar badges corresponding to S.9 are illustrated in Mazeas as being mirrored.

Metal Shoulder Titles

Mazeas shows two three different badges with MS.30 (the 1910 cap badges) - the CPAVC wore both straight and curved shoulder titles, and the CAVC a straight title. The CAVC presumably wore this shoulder title up to 1940.

When the CPAVC was renamed to become the RCAVC, a curved shoulder title as at left is illustrated in Mazeas, presumably included in General Order 46/1922.



Smylie lists three different types of button in use from 1910 to 1940.

1910-1923 1923-1936 1936-1940
Smylie: C-9a Smylie: C-9b Smylie: C-9c



  1. C.A.V. BARKER, The Canadian Encyclopedia 2006 Historica Foundation of Canada

  2. Love, David W. A Call to Arms: The Organization and Administration of Canada's Military in World War One (Bunker to Bunker Books, Calgary, AB, 1999) ISBN 1894255038 1999-present