Canadian Airborne ForcesWho We Are

Today's Canadian paratroopers can trace their roots back to two highly distinguished units: the first Canadian Parachute Battalion and the First Special Service Force.


With the commitment to NATO in 1949, the Army increasingly focused its attention on large mechanized units and the “inevitable” war against the Soviets in Europe. As a result, Canada’s paratroopers were continually pushed to the margins of military importance. The lightly armed and equipped airborne soldiers were seen as an anachronism in a world dominated by heavy mechanized formations. However, by the mid-1960s, a changing global environment soon changed perspectives.

Allard stressed strategic mobility. Specifically, he wanted a completely air-portable unit that could deploy with all its equipment into a designated operational theatre within forty-eight hours. Therefore, on 12 May 1966, the MND publicly announced that “FMC would include the establishment of an airborne regiment whose personnel and equipment could be rapidly sent to danger zones.” The regiment was designed to fill a gap in the Canadian strategy - it would provide an immediate response that could deploy immediately and provide a presence until the heavier mechanized forces, if required, arrived in theatre.

The unit was to be radically different. Except for aircraft, it was to be self-contained with infantry, armour, artillery, engineers, signals and supporting administration. The new Regimental Commander-designate Colonel Don H. Rochester stated that “all were to be volunteers and so well trained in their own arm or service that they could devote their time to specialist training.”

The Regiment’ s mandate was impressive. The Canadian Airborne Regiment was to be capable of performing a variety of tasks which included: the defence of Canada; the UN stand-by role; peacekeeping operations; missions in connection with national disaster; Special Air Service (SAS) type missions; coup de main tasks in a general war setting; and responsibility for parachute training in the Canadian Forces. The respective Canadian Forces Organizational Order (CFOO) stated that

the role of the Canadian Airborne Regiment is to provide a force capable of moving quickly to meet any unexpected enemy threat or other commitment of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Unfortunately, the Cdn AB Regt experienced disciplinary problems in theatre that detracted from their actual performance. Objectively examined, the Regiment’s actual contribution to the amelioration of the suffering in Somalia was extremely laudable. Their unremitting physical presence soon created an atmosphere of control, dominance, and security. The Airborne program was so successful that the Belet Huen HRS was declared ‘secure’ by UNITAF Headquarters in a period of less than three months. Its humanitarian effort was even more effective.

Our Regiment Today

Nonetheless, even upon its return to Canada, the Regiment was clearly tainted by Somalia. On the week-end of 4-5 March 1995, the elaborate and well-attended final disbandment ceremonies were conducted in Garrison Petawawa (then CFB Petawawa). The cycle had come full circle. On 6 May 1968, during Colonel D.H. Rochester’s opening address to the Regiment, he declared, “ahead lies the great adventure of this new regiment.” And so it came to pass - the end of an era, the end of the great adventure.

The Parachute Companies, within their respective Light Infantry Battalions, represent the nation’s current airborne capability. Although a shadow of its former self, this capability ensures that the art, skill, and more importantly, the airborne spirit survive.

In 1905, Canadian Forces Base Petawawa was established in response for the need for a training range for larger guns with a greater range of fire. A variety of  Regiments and Units have called Camp Petawawa home: the Canadian Airborne Forces (CAR), Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), The Canadian Guards, 427 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (427 THS), the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD) and most recently the Canadian Special Operations Regiment (CSOR).

The stories of some of these and other illustrious Regiments and Units, and the men and women who have proudly served Canada are told in the Garrison Petawawa Military Museum.


Looking for New Acquisitions

The Museum considers new acquisitions when they meet our collections policy. If you have items you would like to donate, please contact the Collections Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Each artifact is assessed to ensure it meets our mandate. Please provide as much information as possible when donating, including the history of the item, the person who owned/used it and how you came to own it. All of this information is kept within our system for use in future displays and research.

Museum Mission:

The mission of Garrison Petawawa Military Museum is to collect, preserve and interpret the history of the individuals and units of the Canadian Armed Forces in Petawawa since 1905.

As a rule, the museum should hold no more than three identical objects, unless they are significant to the history of Garrison Petawawa or any individual or units having served there.The following points will be considered when acquiring artifacts:

  • The provenance (history of use) must relate to the mission of Garrison Petawawa Military Museum. If the artifact is not of interest to the Garrison Petawawa Military Museum, the Museum reserves the right to refuse the gift, but may suggest alternate repositories.
  • The condition of the artifact must be considered when acquiring artifacts. If the artifact is of historic interest but is in such fragile condition that the Garrison Petawawa Military Museum cannot provide adequate care, the donor will be directed to a suitable institution.
  • Proof of legal ownership is of primary importance. All donors will be required to sign a certificate of gift stating that they are the rightful owners of the artifact(s), enabling the Garrison Petawawa Military Museum to assume legal and valid title to, or custody of the artifact(s).
  • The cost for conservation, storage and display must be considered when acquiring any objects. An object that may require significant monetary expenditure, or require exorbitant amounts of staff time and expertise, may be refused. If the object is of significant historic interest, the donor may be directed to another institution that may have the necessary abilities to care for the object.



427 Squadron, also known as the “Lion Squadron” was formed on 7 November 1942 at Croft, Yorkshire. Between 1942 and 1945 the Squadron completed 3277 operational sorties, flying Wellingtons, Halifaxes, and Lancasters, and assisted in the liberation of Allied prisoners of war. During the Second World War, the squadron had strong connections to Hollywood, and was supported in their activities by a bevy of Hollywood starlets.

Between 1945 and the present day, the Lions have flown as a strike/attack squadron, tactical helicopter squadron and most recently, a special operations squadron, flying Sabre Mark III jets, the famous “Starfighter”, the L19 “Bird Dog”, the Kiowa, Twin Huey, and Griffon helicopters. Today it provides tactical airlift of troops and equipment, casualty evacuation, and logistical support.

The Silver Dart, Petawawa ONCanada’s love affair with aviation began on a winter’s day in Nova Scotia, when a fragile plane took off from the ice-covered Bras d’Or Lake and flew for a half mile. The flight, on 23 February 1909, became an iconic moment in Canadian history.

What is little known is that this same plane, the Silver Dart, flew what is now considered the first military flight trials in Canada at Petawawa.

The story of the Silver Dart began with man’s desire to free himself from the bonds of earth. For hundreds of years, man had tried, with varied degrees of success, to gain flight. The French had succeeded with balloons in the late 17th and early 18th centuries and the great Leonardo da Vinci seriously considered the possibility of flight with his drawings for aircraft, including the Ornithopter, in the 15th century.

This gallery is a amalgam of eight support units – 1 Canadian Field Hospital, 2 Field Ambulance, 1 Dental Detachment, Central Medical Equipment Depot, 2 Service Battalion, the Chaplains, 2 Military Police Platoon, and Headquarters and Signals Squadron – which provide support to the front line units and troops, and are vital to the success of any battle plan.

1 Canadian Field Hospital is the oldest medical unit in Canada. Formed in 1885 at the outbreak of the North West Rebellion, it was the first Canadian field unit to deploy to war since Korea when it deployed to the Gulf War in 1991. The Hospital has the capability to do everything a large urban hospital can, and with a full complement of staff, with the added luxury of being fully mobile.

The Royal Canadian RegimentThe Regiment was raised on 21 December 1883 as Canada’s first regular forces infantry regiment. Since then, Royal Canadians have served Canada in five wars, on four continents and in many crises and emergencies at home and abroad.

The first two deployments of the Regiment were to Saskatchewan to quell the Riel Resistance in 1885, and to the Yukon in 1896 to assist the North West Mounted Police in maintaining peace, order and good government during the Gold Rush. Three years later, hostilities between Great Britain and the Boer States erupted, and the Royal Canadians sailed immediately for South Africa, finally seeing action on a foreign battlefield on 1 January 1900.

The Royal Canadian DragoonsThe Royal Canadian Dragoons is the senior armoured regiment with the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps, and has continually served since its formation in 1883.

The Royal Canadian Dragoons was called in to quell the Riel Resistance in 1885, and won a battle honour for its actions. The Regiment served with distinction during the Boer War. During the Battle of Leliefontein on 7 November 1900, three Victoria Crosses were awarded to members of the Regiment for gallantry – a feat unmatched by any other Canadian regiment.

The history of modern artillery spans thousand of years, with the earliest and most primitive types of artillery being the ballista and the catapult. Continual innovation resulted in massive, complex weapons – like the Russian Great Mortar of Moscow - and then a gradual return to the smaller, more mobile artillery pieces we are familiar with today.

On 1 September 1905, by General Order 200, the Royal Canadian Field Artillery became the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery - support cavalry rather than infantry. The Regiment served honourably during the Boer War, at the battles of Mafeking, Faber’s Putt, Belfast Station and Leliefontein. The Regiment continued to serve its country during the First and Second World Wars and the Korean Conflict. It was at Vimy Ridge in 1917 that the Regiment truly shone.

The Regiment of Canadian Guards was formed in 1953. It was truly a national regiment, with men being recruited from sea to sea. The Regiment used national symbolism in its identity – the use of 10 points on its cap badge (for the 10 provinces), the adoption of Canada’s motto, the use of the national colors in the shoulder flashes and bearskin plumes. The Colonel in Chief, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, took a personal interest in the development of the Regiment and the design of the uniforms.

Engineers perform a multitude of tasks, including mine clearance, providing clean, usable water, road construction and maintenance, and minor building construction.

Formed as 1st Field Company Royal Canadian Engineers in 1931, 2CER is the senior regular force engineering unit in Canada. It served with distinction in Sicily, and North-west Europe during the Second World War. After the war it was renamed 23rd Field Company Royal Canadian Engineers to honour the wartime 23rd Canadian Field Company, which was responsible for the evacuation of over 2000 soldiers of the 1st British Airborne Division during Operation Market Garden. This evacuation is highlighted in the gallery through an interactive diorama.


Canadian Forces Museums hold an amazing array of objects relating to Canada’s military heritage, and the Museums at Garrison Petawawa are no exception!
At the Garrison Petawawa Military Museum you will learn:

  • Why does the Garrison Petawawa Military Museum have a small wooden box made by Adrien Arcand, the leader of the Christian Nationalist Socialist Party?
  • Why are artillery shells made by a local Canadian foundry, marked with Russian Cyrillic text?
  • What did Garrison Petawawa and Sir Alexander Graham Bell have in common?
  • What is the connection between Hollywood and 427 Squadron?

Canadian Forces Museums hold an amazing array of objects relating to Canada’s military heritage, and the Museums at CFB Petawawa are no exception!
As a visitor to the Canadian Airborne Forces Museum, you will:

  • Discover top-secret maps of Monte la Difensa and Kiska Island.
  • View the war booty taken from German prisoners by Allied soldiers.
  • View aerial photographs of glider landings during the Invasion of Normandy.
  • Who did the Germans call the “Black Devils” and why?
  • Discover the heroic story of Cpl Fred Topham, who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his actions during Operation Varsity.
  • Learn about the heart wrenching story of Somalia and the demise of the Canadian Airborne Regiment.


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