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 The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals
Soldier Apprentices 1952 to 1965 


The RCCS Soldier Apprentice Plan started in the Fall of 1952 with the 1st intake (E-1 and E-2, 1952-1954) consisting of 42 "16 year old" members. The 2nd intake (E-3 to E-8, 1953-1955) consisted of 3 separate intakes, 2nd-A, E-3 & E-4, 2nd-B, E-5 & E-6, and finally 2nd-C, E-7 & E-8. Thereafter the intakes were as follows:

3rd intake:   E-9 & E-10 (1954-1956). 
4th intake:   E-11 & E-12 (1955-1957). 
5th intake:   E-13 to E-16 (1956-1958) (The first "4 troop" intake). 
6th intake:   E-17 to E-20 (1957-1959). 
7th intake:   E-21 to E-24 (1958-1960). 
8th intake:   E-25 to E-28 (1959-1961). 
9th intake:   E-29 to E-32 (1960-1962). 
10th intake: E-33 to E-36 (1961-1963). 
11th intake: E-37 to E-40 (1962-1964). 
12th intake: E-41 to E-44 (1963-1965). 
13th intake: E-45 & E-46 (1964-1966). 
14th intake: E-47 (1965-1967). 
The program ended in 1967 with the graduation of the 14th Intake.

There was a post war Soldier Apprentice Plan in the Canadian Army (Active Force). Certainly this was not the first time that youths were enrolled in the Army. During the 1930s, a "Boy Soldier Plan" existed, and a number of these "Boy Soldiers" were later employed (by accident or design) as instructors in Number 5 Squadron (The Apprentice Squadron) at the Royal Canadian School of Signals, Vimy Barracks at Barriefield, Ontario.

Post war recruiting of Soldier Apprentices commenced in 1952. At this time the plan was limited to:

The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals (RCCS) (Barriefield, Ontario); 
The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps (RCOC) (Hochalaga, Quebec); 
The Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC) (Camp Borden, Ontario); 
The Royal Canadian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (RCEME) (Barriefield, Ontario); 
The Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) (Chilliwack, British Columbia) and; 
The Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps (RCAMC) (Camp Borden, Ontario)
and;
The Royal Canadian Artillery (Camp Shilo, Manitoba)

The RCAMC is a little known fact and there were approximately 9 original Apprentices. The RCAMC Soldier Apprentice Plan was discontinued for reasons unknown.

The Department of National Defence apparently looked down the road, so the speak, in their long range planning. The idea was to get a boy who possessed good potential for a career in the Canadian Army - give him a trade, make him a good soldier, and offered him a good academic education. The Canadian Army certainly achieved all of this. This was the most dynamic and successful training program ever undertaken by the Canadian Army.

The initial engagement was for 7 years, with an option of obtaining a release after 5 years, if one applied 180 days prior to the exact date of release. The initial 6 months was devoted to recruit and general military training in the basic skills required of every soldier. This was followed by two six-month segments of concentrated secondary school education. During this phase of the training the candidates could upgrade themselves by two or more full years of High School credits. During the last 6 months, the Apprentices received in-depth training in one of three trades pertinent to the role of their respective Military Branch. The RCCS Apprentices were trained as Operators, Linemen or Radio Technicians.

Upon completion of the two year training period, the now ex-apprentices were often sent to operational Army Units to take their place in Canada's fighting force. As a result of their extensive training, they found themselves to be among the most effective members of their respective units.

In essence, the plan was designed to groom these young men to become Senior Non-Commissioned Officers and Warrant Officers and achieved this aim quite admirably. In fact, a considerable number of graduates obtained the Queen's Commission. In all there were approximately 1,144 RCCS Apprentices and probably the same number in the other Apprentice Programs. A good estimate would be between 5,000 and 6,000.

The Canadian Army was obviously not the only element of Canadian Society that benefited from this plan. Many of these young men, after serving their initial five or seven year engagement, re-entered civilian life and currently enjoy very successful civilian careers.

In the RCCS, all of the first intake enrolees were trained as Operator, Wireless and Line (OWL), renamed to Radio and Telegraph Operator (R&TG OP) in 1958 and now renamed to Radio Operator (RAD OP - 211). However, the sequence of training was Basic Military Training, Academic Training and finally Trade Training within a few months of their arrival. Thereafter the plan covered a two-year period during which the new recruits received an extremely heavy dose of General Military Training, along with the Academic and Trade Training.

All Apprentices wore the same uniform as the "Regular Force" personnel with the exception that a prominent Green (Flash) Cloth Tape was mounted on each epaulette. Apprentices were only allowed out three evenings a week, the latest being 2330 hours on Saturday nights. Initially they could not wear Civilian Clothes in their first year. Some time later this order was rescinded and a special form of "mufti" could be worn if the Squadron Commander approved it. Apprentice also worked every Saturday morning and were not allowed to drink alcohol during the two-year training. Discipline was exceptionally strict. The pay was $38.40 per month until you turned 17, then the pay doubled. The Soldier Apprentice Plan was advertised as "The Way To A Fine Future" and certainly not a way to get "rich"!

The first intake Officers and NCOs were:

Commanding Officer: Capt R. Carl Bindoff 
(Promoted to Major shortly after the arrival of the first intake) 

2 I/C: Capt Doigh 

Troop Officer (E-2): 2Lt George Gauthier 
Troop Officer (E- ): Lt Vince Hulbert 
Troop Officer (E- ); Lt Brian Simons 
Troop Officer (E-1) 2Lt George D. Simpson 
Troop Officer (E- ): Lt Don Strong 

SSM: WO2 William (Bill) McInnis 

Troop Sgt (E- ): Sgt Harold. J. Guy 
Troop Sgt (E- ): Art Leclair 
Troop Sgt (E- ): John E. Robertson 
Troop Sgt (E- ): Gord Strachan 
Troop Sgt (E- ): Elvin Veale 
Troop SSgt (E- ): Bill Willett 

Troop Cpl (E-1): Cpl Mickey P. Farquhar 
Troop Cpl (E- ): Tom O'Neill 
Troop Cpl (E- ): Cliff Worrall 
Troop NCO (E- ): L/Cpl Tom Reynolds 
Troop NCO (E- ): L/Cpl Norman Villeneuve 

Squadron Clerk: Cpl Parson 

Civilian Instructor: Mr. R. Carter (Retired Petty Officer, Royal Navy)

Now that the Soldier Apprentice Plan has finished, it is often thought that perhaps the Military should have continued this superb program.

Like any such fraternity, there is a very tight bond between ex-apprentices regardless of their background or Corps. To have endured the demanding training at such a young age, and ultimately achieve success as a professional, is not taken lightly. It is clearly a brotherhood with a very elite membership whose respect for one another is boundless.

Although the first intake Apprentices are now reaching 65 and the fourteenth intake Apprentices are now in their early 50s, you can be assured that when they get together at any reunion, they will all be sixteen years old at heart and go over many stories that quite often have already been told to their grandchildren.

This compilation consists of a document written by Wayne T. Marshall, E-1 (1952-1954) and the press release in 1982 after our 30th anniversary of the RCCS Apprentices and submitted to the Signal Apprentice Web Site by Raymond (Ray) S. Clowes, E-16 (1956 to 1958)
 

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