Arctic Adventure 35 – Canadian Rangers

Badge of the Canadian Rangers

Badge of the Canadian Rangers

Over the years I had heard and read a bit about the Canadian Rangers but now having direct contact with them in the community has lead to further research and, as usual, an interesting story to tell !

In March 1942 the Pacific Coast Militia Rangers (PCMR) was created and consisted of up to 15,000 volunteers who patrolled, performed military surveillance, and provided local defence of the coastline of British Columbia and in the Yukon against the wartime threat of a possible Japanese invasion. After WWII ended the PCMR was disbanded and in 1947 the Canadian Rangers Patrol Group (CRPG) was formed as a reserve unit of the Canadian Forces to continue providing a military presence in Canada’s sparsely settled northern, coastal, and isolated areas.

The 1st CRPG is the group that covers the Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut and consists of 1,500 volunteers made up of Inuit, First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginals so is not exclusively a First Nations entity. (There is also a Junior Rangers program just like Cadets to encourage and train young people to get involved.) The primary role of this part-time force is to conduct surveillance or sovereignty patrols as required. They also conduct inspections of the North Warning System (NWS) sites and act as guides, scouts, and subject-matter experts in such disciplines as wilderness survival when other forces are in their area of operations.

Each Canadian Ranger is issued a red Canadian Ranger sweatshirt, pants, combat boots, baseball cap, safety vest, rifle and navigation aids. They are expected to be mostly self-reliant regarding equipment however, they are also provided with a small amount of patrol-level stores – tents, stoves, lanterns, axes, etc. They are paid according to the rank they hold within their patrol and reimbursed for the use of personal vehicles and equipment.

The most enduring feature of the CRPG is that their standard issue rifle is the bolt action .303 British calibre Lee Enfield No 4 rifle, with each user being provided with 200 rounds of ammunition every year. The reason it became the standard issue is that after WWII there were plenty of them around, its bolt-action was simple to teach, and the actual weapon is all but indestructible in the harsh Arctic condition. Despite media and politician scorn over the years of a group ill-equipped to meet a sophisticated military force, the primary reason for carrying the weapon is for subsistence and protection against predators, rather than with the expectation of engaging an enemy force. (The .303 is immortalised on the CRPG badge and is the same gun that I cut my teeth on as a hunter in my youth in Africa !!)

With the Lee Enfield no longer in production there is a hunt on for a replacement. As with most equipment procurements by the Canadian military this has become a long drawn-out process fraught with political interference and no doubt costing much more than it should – see Canadian Ranger Rifle Replacement 

These photos are not mine but gleaned from the Internet unfortunately most without the names of the photographers for me to acknowledge.

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