The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps
The RCOC was responsible for procuring all of the material goods required by the army, from weapons to clothing to mechanical transport (MT, or motor vehicles). The Corps also fulfilled the related functions of scientific development, including weapons research, inventory accounting, and, until 1944, maintenance and repair. In February of that year another corps, the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, was created to maintain all mechanical, electrical, and technical equipment, including all tanks and other fighting vehicles. Army formations such as divisions or corps were supplied from depots in Canada or the United Kingdom through Ordnance Field Parks, which carried everything from spare parts to spare vehicles and artillery pieces.
Another responsibility of Ordnance was to anticipate the army’s needs and place orders through the Department of Munitions and Supply. Canadian government policy was to equip the army, as far as possible, with Canadian manufactured goods. Before 1939 Canadian capacity for manufacturing munitions was virtually nil, but by the war’s end important installations like the Dominion Arsenals at Quebec and Valcartier, the Lindsay Arsenal, the Respirator Container Assembly Plant in Ottawa, and the Long Branch Arsenal near Toronto were producing much of the military equipment required by the Canadian Army. The RCOC stored and distributed all technical fighting equipment from a central depot at Longue-Pointe in Montreal’s east end, which employed more than 2800 military and 7000 civilian workers.
One area where a special contribution was made by Canadian manufacturing was the supply of mechanical transport to the Allied field armies. Difficulties in meeting early demands for approximately 300 vehicle types led to standardization of design and the production of Canadian Military Pattern trucks, which featured a basic chassis and cab to which a variety of body types could be fitted. About 400,000 of these right-hand-drive vehicles were produced, and by 1942 they not only filled all the requirements of the Canadian Army but were also issued to our allies.
Although Ordnance is usually discussed in reference to weapons and ammunition, the RCOC also provided some of the comforts which made life bearable for soldiers in wartime, whether that meant mosquito netting in the Mediterranean theatre or sporting goods like football uniforms and baseball equipment for periods of recreation.
Perhaps the most important such service was rendered by RCOC Mobile Laundry and Bath Units in Italy and Northwest Europe, which offered front line soldiers a hot bath or shower and clean socks, shirts, underwear, and uniforms. Sometimes they could even sleep the night in tents. The importance of something so completely taken for granted today cannot be underestimated in a context where men could go for days on end without even taking their boots off.
- William F. Rannie, ed., To the Thunderer his Arms: The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps, Lincoln, ON: W.F. Rannie, 1984.