17/38 Service Battalion – Brief History
The current version of 38 Service Battalion traces its roots to the first Louis Riel Rebellion (Resistance) of 1870 when Canada sent an expedition to the Red River settlement under command of Col Garnet Wolseley to quell the rebellion. Many soldiers of the Wolseley expedition, including some of those with logistics expertise, settled in the Winnipeg area.
The main logistics lesson learned from this expedition was about the difficulty in moving a large force over often-difficult terrain.
By the second Riel Rebellion (the North-west Rebellion) in 1885, the nearly complete Canadian Pacific Railway made troop transportation much easier. A 3,000-soldier column from eastern Canada under General Frederick Middleton deployed. Local infantry, cavalry and artillery units organized to join his expedition. Two individuals, Capt Samuel Bedson and Capt Herbert Swinford, who had come to Manitoba with the 1870 Wolseley Expedition, were in charge of the 150-wagon supply column and Commissariat.
With some practical lessons learned from the Riel Rebellions and the Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902), The Canadian Army Service Corps (CASC) formed on 01 November 1901. The first CASC Company in Winnipeg, #11 Service Company, authorized on 03 July 1905, officially stood-up in 1907. The second CASC Company, #18 Service Company, stood up in St. James in April 1912.
The first Commanding Officer of #11 Service Company was now-Major Herbert Swinford. The first Commanding Officer of #18 Service Company was Major A. R. Correlli, Clerk of the Manitoba Legislature. Major Correlli was also a veteran of the North-west Rebellion.
The role of these companies was to train in support roles and to support militia camps when initially hundreds, and later thousands, of militiamen attended training during the spring-to-fall period. Initial training near Winnipeg was at St. Charles and Sturgeon Creek.
By 1910, Military District #10 Training Camp established at Sewell Camp, about 10 kilometres west of the town of Carberry. In the first year, 1,472 officers and men as well as 1,042 horses participated during a 12-day camp. #11 Service Company, CASC, supported this training.
In 1913, the first historical use of motor transport by the CASC in Winnipeg occurred when #18 Service Company rented two trucks to transport feed to the horses throughout the camp. In 1914, over 6,600 men and 3,500 horses concentrated at Sewell in what was the final peacetime camp.
The name of Camp Sewell was changed to Camp Hughes in 1915. In 1916 at Camp Hughes, at the midpoint of the First World War and supported by #11, #18 and #20 Service Companies of the Canadian Army Service Corps as well as the #1 Overseas Training Depot (OSTD):
- The camp Bakery produced 25,000 loaves of bread daily;
- CSS troops processed 70 tons of food daily and issued 32,000 daily rations;
- The Postal group handled 6 million letters, 52,730 registered letters and 9,123 money orders that year;
- The Pay group handled wages distribution and 30 unit canteen audits;
- Ordnance issued 3,000 bell tents and 500 marquee tents for five brigade camps;
- Veterinarian staff looked after 3,000 horses passing through and 400 in camp;
- Dental staff performed 27,162 operations;
- Medical staff admitted 3,815 to a 350-bed hospital; and
- Provost returned 498 AWOL soldiers and deserters to camp.
The #1 OSTD also provided 53 Officers and 2,614 other ranks for overseas service. Over 17,000 Service and Ordnance Corps members supported the First Canadian Corps in France and Belgium including about 100,000 troops. About 25,000 horses and mules were used overseas.
During the Second World War, Winnipeg raised three combat service support companies: 3rd Division Ammunition Company, RCASC; 1 Motor Ambulance Convoy (1 MAC), CASF; and 4th Division Supply Column, RCASC. All three of these companies, representing about 1,200 men, served overseas. The CSS element, primarily comprising transportation and supply at that time, represented about 35,000 Canadian troops in the Second World War.
Following the Second World War, the Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force decreased their numbers significantly. The possibility of nuclear war after the Soviet Union acquired nuclear technology in 1949 assumed Winnipeg as a potential target. The local militia units repurposed to study nuclear impacts. This was dissatisfying for many in the militia and the strength of the Militia decreased even further.
In 1960, The Royal Commission on Government Organization (the Glassco Commission) concluded there was much duplication and inefficiency in numerous government departments, particularly the Defence department. This led to the integration and unification of the Army, Navy and Air Force under one unified command.
One of the early experiments with integration and unification was combat service support. In 1963 an experimental “service battalion” comprising several former CSS corps was formed in Gagetown. In 1964/65 Militia Service Battalions were formed. The Winnipeg Service Battalion formed on 01 January 1965 under the leadership of LCol Ken Langridge. Langridge later became the Hon LCol (1992-97) and Hon Col (1997 – 2009) of 17 Service Battalion.
In April 2010, the former 16 (Saskatchewan), 17 (Winnipeg) and 18 (Thunder Bay) Service Battalions were amalgamated to form 38 Service Battalion.