Calgary's Military History

By Amanda Ducheminsky

The Beginnings:

One of the city’s first military footprints can be traced back to Fort Calgary in 1875. The Fort housed a mix of both national police and military known as the North-West Mounted Police. The force was deployed by John A. McDonald to help protect Canada’s sovereignty, decrease illegal trading, and resolve increasing conflicts between settlers and northern Indigenous peoples.

The North-West Mounted Police were deployed in Rupert’s Land to ease northern tensions. They acted as a model for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia

The North-West Mounted Police were deployed in Rupert’s Land to ease northern tensions. They acted as a model for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Photo credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia

Calgary’s military roots would continue to grow with numerous reserves, bases and supporting units appearing across the city in the 1900s.

Expansion and Growth:

In 1910, soldiers began training for WWI on SW Calgary land. Those who served within the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) battalions are still recognized today by the Signal Hill stone number displays. 

Some CEF Canadian recruits, who were sent to Europe, fought among a collective of soldiers known as the Canadian Corps. The Canadian Corps was the force that captured Vimy Ridge in 1917. Photo credit: canadiansoliders.com

Some CEF Canadian recruits, who were sent to Europe, fought among a collective of soldiers known as the Canadian Corps. The Canadian Corps was the force that captured Vimy Ridge in 1917. Photo credit: canadiansoliders.com

In 1933, Currie Barracks opened. The base actively trained WWII infantry, army, and air force personnel. In September of 1939, the base, as well as many of Calgary’s other military units, were mobilized for battle.  

Although many of the units have since closed or been consolidated after the Second World War, Calgary still houses a substantial amount of military presence.

Post War Presence:

There are numerous corps and over 15 training units still active in Calgary.

The Calgary Highlander’s recently deployed 125 soldiers to the war in Afghanistan, while The King’s Own Calgary Regiment (RCAC) continues to expand, with members partaking in missions both locally and around the world.

Killarney-Glengarry also houses HMCS TECUMSEH, one of the three Reserve Bases in Calgary.

Local Military Presence:

HMCS TECUMSEH is a Naval Reserve, which is home to Calgary’s Naval Reserve Division, 746 Communications Squadron, Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Corps Undaunted, Navy Cadet Corps Captain Jackson, and the 2509 Signals Army Cadet corps. The Reserve was established in 1923, enlisting over 4,500 WWII recruits. Of those enlisted, 52 were lost in duty.

Lt Robert Hampton Gray, RCNVR was the last Canadian in the Royal Navy fleet to be awarded Britain’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. He trained at HMCS TECUMSEH and passed in 1945, leading an attack against the Japanese. Photo credit: Vintage Wings of Canada

Lt Robert Hampton Gray, RCNVR was the last Canadian in the Royal Navy fleet to be awarded Britain’s highest military honour, the Victoria Cross. He trained at HMCS TECUMSEH and passed in 1945, leading an attack against the Japanese. Photo credit: Vintage Wings of Canada

The base was named after Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee tribe who served with the British Army and Canadian Militia in the War of 1812. Photo credit: The War of 1812 Website

The base was named after Chief Tecumseh of the Shawnee tribe who served with the British Army and Canadian Militia in the War of 1812. Photo credit: The War of 1812 Website

A large part of the Killarney-Glengarry community was originally comprised of war veterans and personnel. It is estimated that over 22 per cent of sailors in the Second World War originated from the prairie provinces. After WWII, property lots within the area were sold to returning soldiers for just $25 to help them re-establish their lives after combat.

TECUMSEH’s reservists have also served in both the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan War, while participating in numerous disaster relief efforts, such as the 1997 Manitoba floods and most recently the Fort McMurray fires.  

The Calgary location is a part of 4,500 Royal Canadian Navy Reservists who actively commit to defending our nation and its people.

To learn more about the city's military linage and the people who served visit: The Naval Museum of AlbertaThe Military Museums and The Calgary Military Historical Society.