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Okanagan Military Museum





A short history of the British Columbia Dragoons
Based on excerpts from a history provided by. M. Vincent Bezeau

British Columbia Horse - the first Okanagan military units

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 Recruiting poster
1914-15 Star

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.)

Canadian made RAM tank
used for armoured unit training

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.

Canadian armoured troops with
their Ram tanks.

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 or the 5th Armoured Division.

Allied Shermans landing in Italy

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.

Canadian Sherman tank commander observes Italian valley
Canadian infantry ride into battle on the tanks
A Sherman advancing through heavily treed Italian countryside
Canadian armour and infantry advance along an Italian country road. A Canadian Sherman advances through the ruins of an Italian village. Canadian infantry prepare for an assault in an Italian village

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.

5th Armoured Division insignia
Sherman tank, the mainstay of
Canadian armoured units in Italy
and Northwest Europe during WWII.
Italian Campaign Star

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.

Improved post war Sherman
used by the BCDs in the 1950s

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.

NATO Service medal
A cougar AVGP (Armoured Vehicle General Purpose) used by the BCDs as a training vehicle since the 1970s.
Canadian Peacekeeping Service Medal

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.

New Canadian Forces Mercedes G-Wagon


British Columbia Dragoons WW II Battle Honours
Liri Valley
Melfa Crossing
Gothic Line
Pozzo Alto Ridge
Lamone Crossing
Naviglio Canal
Fosso Munio
Italy 1944-1945
Delfzijl Pocket
North-West Europe1945

The chronological order of the regimental titles is as follows, with a list of the Okanagan Valley towns were sub-units were located:

B Independent squadron, Canadian Mounted Rifles (unofficially: "Okanagan Mounted Rifles") 1908 Vernon
British Columbia Horse (independent & amalgamated squadrons) 1910-20s Armstrong, Coldstream, Kelowna, Lumby, Vernon
1st Regiment, British Columbia Horse 1910-1920s Armstrong, Kelowna, Lumby, Vernon
30th Regiment, British Columbia Horse, 1910-20s Armstrong, Enderby, Kelowna, Lumby, Vernon
The British Columbia Mounted Rifles 1910-20s Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
The British Columbia Dragoons 1929-1941 Kelowna, Keremeos, Penticton, Summerland, Vernon
9th (Reserve) Armoured Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons) 1941 Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
9th Reconnaissance Regiment (The British Columbia Dragoons) Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
The British Columbia Dragoons (9th Reconnaissance Regiment): Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon
The British Columbia Dragoons - post-1958 Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon

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