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Reserve Bdes - 1941-1945

13 Cdn Infantry Training Bde

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Auxiliary Services

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Unit Listings by Corps/Branch

Armoured Units 1940-1945

Cdn Dental Corps 1939-1945
Cdn Intelligence Corps 1942-45

Cdn Provost Corps 1940-1945

Infantry Battalions 1939-1945

RCOC 1939-1945


Auxiliary Services

Auxiliary Services were organizations who provided amenities for Canadian soldiers overseas.

Boer War

The Military Service of the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) began work with the Canadian military as early as 1866, providing services to the camps of men fighting against the Fenian Raids following the US Civil War. In 1871, the YMCA began to service Militia training camps, providing letter writing supplies, reading rooms, general entertainment, lectures, sports equipment, providing canteens and facilitating religious meetings. YMCA Staff went overseas in 1899 to support Canadian soldiers involved in the Boer War.

First World War

A variety of national organizations did volunteer and charity work during the First World War, including the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE), the Red Cross, the YMCA, the YWCA, and the Women's Patriotic Leagues.


The YMCA established services overseas again in the First World War, as did British and later American chapters of the YMCA, setting up canteens and other services in the vicinity of the battle front for soldiers. Those services were broadly divided into five major areas; business, athletics, entertainment, education, and religion. While not identified with any particular church, the YMCA also worked initially in conjunction with the Canadian Chaplain Service to provide spiritual support.


Personnel of the YMCA were subsidized by the Canadian government, and operating funds came from canteen profits as well as public subscription. Operations in Canada tended to concentrate of raising funds for the overseas organization to provide services to soldiers in England (newly arrived soldiers from Canada, troops in training/training establishments, and convalescents returned from France and Flanders).

While six YMCA Secretaries had accompanied the First Contingent to the UK (with the honourary rank of Captain), there was great reluctance on the part of the British to permit them to go to the Continent. However, according to David Love's book A Call To Arms, "within a year they were able, through example of service and hard work, to justify their presence." The British War Office thereafter alloted six YMCA officers per Canadian division, while simultaneously refusing their inclusion in war establishments. The YMCA did not have Other Ranks on establishment so any help from non-commissioned personnel were borrowed from military units as needed and available until May 1917. At that time, a formal establishment overseas of 114 commissioned members and 265 non-commissioned personnel was approved, and increased over time as additional facilities opened, both on the Continent and in the UK. Some officers received pay and allowances from the YMCA, others from the Canadian government. In 1918, the Canadian Government formalized the role of the auxiliary services (see below). As part of the formal military establishment, the YMCA began to be administered as a department at Canadian Corps headquarters, with control of its own stores, equipment and offices, and the Senior YMCA officer taking his place in the chain of command, reporting to the Deputy Adjutant and Quartermaster General (DA & QMG) of the Corps.

Internal Organization

Internally, the YMCA had an Executive Committee composed of department heads, senior officers in each Canadian Division, and the Senior Officer, who in turn reported to the Chief Supervisor, Canadian YMCA in London, who in turn reported to the National YMCA Council at home in Toronto.


The YMCA War Services offered soldiers much in the way of moral and physical comfort, helping provide entertainment, facilities and sports equipment for recreation, religious programs, as well as reading rooms, canteens, stationery and supplies for writing home, and reading material. The YMCA War Services were especially known for their tea service, where staff distributed hot tea (during both World Wars, tea was the staple beverage among military servicemen, as it was in the British Army) and biscuits, writing paper, reading material and other amenities, sometimes right in the front lines by the creation of YMCA dugouts.

The YMCA created the Red Triangle Club to provide overnight accommodations at minimal cost to Canadian soldiers on leave in French, English and Canadian cities, where writing rooms, travel information and services, storage for personal equipment, banking services, bathing facilities and barbers were made available.

The Canadian YMCA War Services also organized a "Dramatic School" in 1916, as part of their entertainment services to the troops; this school eventually created 19 separate shows which toured France and the UK, including the famous "Dumbells Singing Troupe".

The Canadian YMCA War Services raised $500,000, and with assistance from universities in Canada founded Khaki College (also known as Khaki University) in 1917, to assist veterans returning from the war to upgrade their education and employment skills to assist transition to civil life. According to the YMCA website, over 50,000 Canadian servicemen benefited from this program.

YMCA Canteen, July 1917. PAC 001410.

YMCA Canteen, Aug 1917. PAC 001648.

Formalization - 1918

The Canadian Government redefined the roles of the Auxiliary Services in 1918; the Canadian Chaplain Service was given sole responsibility for religious and spiritual matters, while the YMCA, Salvation Army, and Knights of Columbus Catholic Army Huts were authorized to handle all recreational matters.

Second World War

There were four primary National Voluntary Organizations active during the Second World War, following a Government announcement in Nov 1939:

  • Canadian Legion War Services

  • Knight's of Columbus Canadian Army Huts

  • Salvation Army Canadian War Services

  • Canadian Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) Overseas

The objective of these organizations was to care for the physical welfare of the men (while the Canadian Chaplain's Service cared for the spiritual welfare).

Civilian representatives of the services were permitted to serve in the field with units of the Canadian military, and wore uniforms with appropriate insignia; they did not hold rank in the armed forces and were referred to as "Supervisors", though they enjoyed officers' priviliges and were paid by the Government the same salary as a captain in the Army.


Brigadier W.W. Foster went overseas in late 1939 to co-ordinate the activities of these organizations, though it was "some time" according to the official Army history before "adequate Canadian services could be provided for the troops." In the interim, the British Navy, Army and Air Force Institute (NAAFI) canteens were used extensively by Canadian soldiers overseas. Canadian regimental funds were entitled to portions of profits made by NAAFI canteens patronized by Canadians in the same manner as British regimental funds.

A Directorate of Auxiliary Services, as part of the Adjutant-General's Branch, was established at Canadian Military Headquarters in the UK. Matters involving Army personnel in general were grouped under the Assistant Adjutant General (Personnel) including promotions, enlistments, discharges, prisoners of war, welfare, and Chaplain and Auxiliary Services.

A staff report by the Historical Officer C.P. Stacey outlined early organization in Jan 1941.

The Auxiliary Services in the UK were headed by Senior Officer, Auxiliary Services, who co-ordinated the various activities undertaken by a variety of voluntary patriotic organizations in Canada, including but not restricted to those mentioned above, as well as others located in the UK. Co-ordination of efforts was aimed at eliminating duplication and waste.

The Senior Officer, Auxiliary Services in 1941 was Major J.M. Humphrey, MC of The Canadian Grenadier Guards. His branch was designated section AG 7 of the Adjutant-General's Branch of Canadian Military Headquarters (CMHQ). Officers of the branch were combatant officers, including four Staff Captains (Auxiliary Services), one located initially at I Canadian Corps Headquarters and three for the 1st Canadian Division, 2nd Canadian Division, and Base Units.

The basic activity with which the Senior Officer, Auxiliary Services was concerned was the supply of comforts and entertainment for forces in the field.

The four "National Voluntary Organizations" listed above each had an executive officer with an office located in the same building as the Senior Officer. They oversaw the work of their Supervisors in the field. Despite being paid, the supervisors did not qualify for military pension benefits, which was a sore point for some who resigned over that point.

On 25 Jan 1941, the number of Supervisors in the UK was

  • Salvation Army,17

  • YMCA, 15

  • Canadian Legion, 14

  • Knights of Columbus, 13

At the end of Mar 1941, 65 supervisors in total were servicing 64,506 Canadian soldiers of all ranks in the UK, and by the end of 1943, there were 268 Army supervisors in total.

The services set up libraries, writing rooms (providing stationery to write home with), supplied motion pictures to units in the field, etc.

Two Auxiliary Services Supervisors were captured at Hong Kong with the Canadian contingent there in Dec 1941.


The YMCA eventually established 50 tea cars overseas, and 15 in Canada, to deliver hot tea and biscuits (the staple beverage of the Canadian Army in both wars, for soldiers in training.

According to the Canadian YMCA website:

  • The Canadian YMCA also organized activities such as discussion groups, art groups, musical appreciation gatherings as well as talent nights, poetry and essay contests.

  • The YMCA delivered sports and athletic programs to soldiers and pioneered the first mass program in handicraft work, providing resources and instruction to create handiwork in wood, metal, leather, plastic, and textiles.

  • The Canadian YMCA and the Canadian Red Cross were the only two organizations were permitted to visit Prisoners of War in the camps to ensure prisoners were treated humanely, as prescribed by the Geneva Convention.

  • By 1943, close to 70 million soldiers had participated in YMCA Military Service programs.


First three images courtesy of Bill Alexander, showing various Auxiliary Services insignia and brassards. Sleeve insignia on 3rd Canadian Infantry Division Battle Dress courtesy of Bruce Parker. Image at right courtesy Dwayne Hordij, showing 1st Canadian Infantry Division armlet as worn on Khaki Drill uniform.



In 1968, following the approval of the Defence Council granted the year before, the Canadian Forces Exchange System (CANEX) commenced business as a division of the Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency (CFPSA) tasked with supporting the Canadian Forces (CF) operational effectiveness, contributing to morale, esprit de corps and unit cohesion.

CANEX operated merchandising operations (retail outlets) on military bases, similar to the American Post Exchange (PX). The aim of the CANEX was to ensure the availability of services and products priced competitively as well as generating revenue for their parent Bases, Wings (on Air Force installations) or Units.

CANEX was a unit of the Canadian Forces, and owned wholly by the Department of National Defence and government by policies coming directly from National Defence Headquarters unti 1990. In Mar 1990, CANEX was restructured as a line organization and began operation as a field unit of the Assistant Deputy Minister (HR-Mil). The NPP Board of Directors, which provided overall direction, was chaired by the Chief of the Defence Staff and included representation from all Commands of the Canadian Forces, with daily operations overseen by Regional Managers. CANEX continued operation into the 21st Century.


  • Hurst, Alan M. The Canadian YMCA in World War II.

  • Knights of Columbus. War services of Canadian Knights of Columbus, 1939-1947: A History of the Work of the Knights of Columbus Canadian Army Huts. (Montreal, printed by Gazette Print. Co., 1948.) 260 pp. Also published in French under the title Services de guerre des Chevaliers de Colomb canadiens, 1939-1947: l'œuvre des huttes militaires des Chevaliers de Colomb.

  • Love, David W. "A Call To Arms": The Organization and Administration of Canada's Military in World War One. (Bunker to Bunker Books, Winnipeg, 1999.) ISBN 1894255038.

  • Young, Scott. Red Shield in Action: A Record of Canadian Salvation Army War Services in the Second Great War.(Toronto, F.F. Clarke, 1949) 149 pp.

  • Young Men's Christian Associations, Canada. National Council. War Services Executive. With Arthur Jones through 5 Years of War: a Report of Canadian Y.M.C.A. War Services. 28pp.

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