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Revised from: A-PD-050-058/PT-004 Physical Education and Recreation Branch Handbook


PART 1 - Background        PART 2 - RCN         PART 3 - Army         PART 4 - Air Force      PART 5 - The PER Branch



The development and conduct of physical training programs in early Canada is closely related to military drill. In the 1800’s and early 1900’s, during peacetime, the Drill and PT instructors of the Canadian Militia were often loaned to local school boards to instruct students in drill and rudimentary calisthenics, particularly when a school sponsored a Cadet Corps Unit. However, in times of war, when there was a rapid expansion of the Canadian Forces (CF), civilian volunteers of such Auxiliary Services as the YMCA or Red Cross were attached to military camps to organize sports and provide recreational and other welfare services.  As non-military personnel a number of these volunteers accompanied Canadian Military Contingents to South Africa during the Boer War and to all overseas theatres of operation during the two world wars.

Although the Canadian Forces Physical Education and Recreation Branch was established in 1980, its history can be traced through the three single services to the pre-first world War era. Unfortunately official records on the history of physical education and recreation in the RCN, Army and RCAF are scarce; the information in this article is based primarily on personal recollections of a number of retired members who served in the Branch, or in its pre-unification elements. It is acknowledged that some of the information dealing with historical events may not be complete or entirely accurate. It is hoped that this page will prompt others to fill in the missing information or correct any inaccuracies and thus enhance the content of this page.

Some archival background on the role of Physical Training in World War 1 is found in the following:

  • Excerpt From The Biography of Percy Nobbs (a renown Canadian architect)

The architect's skill with pointed weaponry included the bayonet, an interest he had first acquired as a small boy enthralled by the bayonet fighting drill at the St. Petersburg garrison. He went to England when the Great War broke out to join the Northumberland Fusiliers, but relates that a bad eye caused him to be sent back to Canada where he took charge of the bayonet fighting and physical training program at Valcartier Camp in Quebec, subsequently organizing similar military training all over Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Eventually Nobbs managed to get himself posted back to Europe as a camouflage expert with the Royal Engineers of the Imperial Forces in France. Here he created "two of the finest bits of camouflage work at the front [which concealed] Canadian Corps headquarters in what was practically No Man's Land during the open fighting. He attained the rank of major during his war service.”


  • Maj Nobbs must also have set up a school in BC as attested by the following certificate awarded to Sgt Corner (see Last Post) from the Bayonet Fighting and Physical Training School in Victoria BC, dated Feb 1917.  John Saunders (see Last Post) qualified on a course held at Long Branch ON in 1917 and Billy Adkin (see Last Post) was an Instructor at one of these Schools during WW 1.




RECOMMENDED READING                                

The following civilian publications are recommended as useful references to the serious student of the history of physical education and recreation (PE&R) in the CF:

  • “A History of Physical Education in Canada” by Frank Cosentino and Maxwell L Howell 1071, General Publishing Company, Don Mills Ontario –

This book traces the development of physical education and recreation in Canada from the early eighteenth century up to the 1970’s. It specifically deals with the military influence on physical education during the early 1900’s and the transition from drill to modern fitness training methods. In addition, it contains appendices with interesting reprints from historical documents and prescribes the types of exercises that were included in PT programs, which existed in Canada around the time of confederation


  • “The Canadian YMCA in World War 11” by Allan M Hurst, Goodfellow Printing Company Ltd-

This book provides detailed information on the YMCA War Services Operations with the Armed Forces of Canada during the second world war. it also contains a number of historical photographs related to the conduct of sports and games in wartime military training camps, as well as in overseas theatres of war; and


  • ”Mr 5BX - Canadian Fitness Pioneer” by John J Jackson, 1982, Sono Nis Press, Victoria, BC-

This is a biography of Dr William AR Orban, the man who developed the 5BX program for the RCAF in 1958. In addition to recording the 5BX story in considerable detail, the book presents an excellent overview of developmental trends in PE&R in Canada during the period of 1950-1980.





Prior to World War 11, Physical and Recreational Training (P and RT) in the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) was modeled on the British Royal Navy (RN) programs P & RT Instructors (P&RTIs) obtained training at the RN P&RT School in England until 1940 when the RCN established its own P&RT School at Halifax.  Some of the officers who qualified at the RN P&RT School were: C MacDonald; Briggs; J Arnott; W. Smith; C Sweet; R Dewhirst; R Mylrea; C. Cockrill and W. Peakman.



The RCN had no physical education or equivalent corps or branch.  Selected officers of the Executive Branch, after having qualified on a P&RT course with the RN, served a fixed tour on P&RT duties and then returned to their ship/unit for normal sea/shore employment. In the case of other ranks (Naval Ratings) the RN concept of 1st and 2nd class P&RTIs was followed until 1949 when the RCN adopted the trade grouping system. At this time the P&RT trade was established at the Trade Groups 1 and 2 levels (TG 1 and TG 2). All 2nd class P&RTIs were assigned to TG1 and all 1st class P&RTIs were assigned to TG2 rating.

Entry into RCN P&RT trade occurred through the remuster process. Prior to remuster, the candidates had to qualify for their Leading Seaman rating and successfully complete the TG 2 P&RT Qualifier Course. The trade was upgraded to TG 3 level in 1951 and finally in 1956 the TG 4 level was approved. Rank was not tied to trade qualification, however the TG level was included in the short rank title designation as the following examples show:

  • C1PT4 identified a Chief Petty Officer 1st class as a TG 4 P&RTI;

  • P2PT3 identified a Petty Officer 2nd Class as a TG 3 P&RTI; and

  • LSPT3 identified a Leading Seaman as a TG 3 P&RTI.



The program for recruits involved a progressive series of 12 sets of exercises known as PT Tables based on the Swedish system and employed calisthenics as well as exercises on basic apparatus. Each table was of 45 minutes duration. The exercises were designed to develop agility, speed, balance and strength with a great deal of emphasis on rope climbing. Trained sailors participated in Daily Exercises (DEs), a modified form of the PT Tables, designed for use where little space and time was available on board ship. The program was heavily supplemented by inter-divisional games and sports competitions.


The School was founded in September 1940 and closed in 1967. It was originally located in the Dockyard Gymnasium in what was then known as HMCS Cornwallis. The first Officer-In-charge was CMD Bos’n C MacDonald. The first qualifying class consisted of AB “Scoop” Blades, LS J Rowland, LS P Rochette, LS A Wardell, LS Stevens and LS McKeever.

In September 1942 it moved to the Drill Shed in HMCS Stadacona and in March 1943 the School moved to Deep Brook NS as part of the newly established HMCS Cornwallis. Until the new gym was completed the School was housed in Jupiter Block, Bldg 34-10. Three RN P&RTI’s, CPO Evans, PO Olford and PO Morgan were loaned to the new School. CPO Evans was later drafted to HMCS Stadacona for duty with the Shore Patrol and subsequently transferred to the RCN.

The move to the new gym occurred in July 1944 and was combined with a special Assault-at Arms event to commemorate the occasion.  The staff was increased to 12  and was headed by Cdr Redmond, on  loan from the RN.  CMD Officer MacDonald  was promoted to Lt and CPO Bob Dewhirst joined the School Staff  as the Chief Instructor. Except for the three swimming pools, which remained in use until the Base closed, the building was destroyed by fire in 1945.  From various sources of information it appears that the School moved  back to HMCS Stadacona in September 1945;  however the first post-war class (35th P&RT Qualifier) did  not start until November 1946.

  • 1st Officer's long P&RT Course - 16 Mar-16 May 1942.   RCNVR officers: Lt AW Park; Lt Ft Cook;  SLt RH Perowe; SLt JD McCormick; Lt JN Agnew; Lt JP Dean; Lt RM Greene; Lt S MacKnees; Lt HR Pierce; Lt GG Thomas and Lt JP White.

  • 2nd Officer's long P&RT Course - 30 Sep 1944.   RCNVR Officers: Lt R Rathie; Lt J Edwards; Lt A Monahan; Lt S Abbott;   and Lt H Stevens.

The following officers took a 20 week post World War 2 course at the School: LTs R Greene; F Pettit; H Taylor; R Carlyle;

H Addison; D Atkinson; R Savage; S Shakell; R White; R Coell; M Wilson; J Gautheir; W Robinson; J Mahar; and B Kidd.

  • 1st Class P&RT Qualifiers:   (* indicates top man in class)

1st Quals 

18 Oct – 22 Dec 1940 

AB L Blades;*

LS J Rowland;

LS P Rochette;

LS A Wardell; and

LS McKeever

2nd Quals

17 Feb – 01 Apr 1941 

OS H Bradley;*

LS R Young;

AB S Johnston;

AB A Chartrand;

OS E Battaglia;

OS J Broriman;

AB J Simpson;

AB R Parkes; and

AB W Comeau.

3rd Quals

12 May - 12 Jul 1941

LS N Barton;*

OS R Greene;

STO J Smith;

OS J Dean;

OS S Dick;

AB Pettit;

AB McGregor;

LS C Fleming;

AB Parks; and

AB Varley

At NADEN 1941

G Grayson;*

H Sweet;

L Newelll; and

M McKeever

4th Quals

26 Aug  - 21 Oct 1941

OS H Bee;*

AB T Hebditch;

A/PO H Hancock;

AB W Gardner;

AB F Ferguson;

AB FW Potts;

AB A Craig;

AB W Hannon;

AB D MacIntyre;

A/LS J Sinnock; and

AB F Burrows

5th Quals

20 Oct  - 20 Dec 1941

AB L O’Brien;*

AB W Ludolph;

LS D MacIntrye;

AB J Altman;

AB A Bullock;

A/LS S Johnson;

AB C Dallas; and

AB R Bonhomme

At NADEN 1941

G Grayson;

H Sweet;

L Newell; and

? McKeever

6th Quals

23 Mar –16 May 1942   

LS S Burton;*

AB Dallas;

AB R Sallis;

AB R Anger;

AB M Cockburn;

AB W Henderson;

AB R Wigmore; and

AB A Charles

7th Quals

20 June –15 Aug 1942  

A/PO R  Parks;*

A/LS R Harris;

AB R Sallis;

AB R Bonhomme;

STO R Young;

LS D Taylor;

AB A Watt; and

AB M Bergeron

8th Quals

30 Sept – 5 Dec 1942    

STO A Bourque;

LS CR Manderson;

AB D Seaman;

AB WA Watt;

AB G Jackson; and


9th Quals

14 Dec – 13 Feb 1943

AB F Jones;*

LS V Baldwin;

AB S Woodward;

OS W Coull;

LS I Barron;

LS B O’Connor;

PO A Coe;

AB A Trepanier;

LS B Gibson; and

AB J McPherson

10th Quals

22 Feb – 15 Apr 1943    

AB H Hine;*

AB P Magnon;

LS A Charles;

AB A Hepworth;

AB G Harris; 

LS R Phillips;

LS A Goldfish;

OS A Kerr;

AB J Elvish; and

OS G Dobbin

11th Quals

19 Apr – 12 Jun  1943   

OS G Bader;*

AB C Bradbury;

LS G Courville;

LS A McLean;

OS J McKenzie;

AB G Carpenter;

AB A Passmore;

AB R White; and

LS F Connors

12th Quals (Cornwallis)

14 Jun– 11 Aug 1943

“A” Class  

OS R Goldham;*

CK R Bachert;

OS E Baker;

OS E Kraycir;

OS R Goldby;

OS C Armitage;

AB L Gauthier; and

AB E Grusie   

“B” Class

OS T Burt;*

AB G Davies;

OS D Dawson;

LS F Wilson;

OS J Milovanov;

STWD N Melnick; and

OS H Greenshields    


13th Quals

16 Jun - 9 Oct 1943

“A” Class            

AB F Johnson;*

OS R Rutherglen;

OS T Kennedy;

A/LS W Alger;

A/LS E Broadley;

OS E Smith;

OS P MacDougall;

OS R Bailey;

AB L Doxtater; and

OS J Statham

"B" Class

AB K Vuohelainen;

OS G Dawson;

OS L Warwick;

A/AB C Millman;

OS W Schmidt;

STWD N Melnick; and

OS A Jenkins

14th Quals

8 Oct – 11 Dec 1943

”A” Class        

OS J Jack;

OS J Herwynen;

OS E Smith;

OS A Polowy;

AB F Ollson;

OS J Johns;

OS A Gilmet;

OS R Grimes; and

OS S Preston

“B” Class        

A/LS E Broadley;

LS H Emmins;

AB G Dobbin;

AB H Johnson;

OS V Polzen;

OS B Harame;


OS F Alliston; and

AB B Manet

15th Quals

20 Dec -  19 Feb 1944    

AB F Ollson;*

OS R Grimes;

OS A Gilmet;

A/AB L NcDonald;

OS T Mroczkowski;

AB B Menet;

OS JR Johns;

OS D Brewer;

AB J Dubrofsky; and

STO R Suddick.

16th Quals

28 Feb -  22 Apr 1944   

A/AB J Wedley;

OS E Larsen;

OS F Schick;

OS K Evans;

OS S Chomyszyn;

OS E Tombs;

A/AB D Whalen; and

OS H Thompson


17th Quals

4 Apr – 17 June 1944   

STO L Cockburn;*

A/AB D Whalen;

AB WM Orban;

A/LS D Ellerbeck;

OS D McLeod;

A/AB T Park;

OS L Perret;

OS S Maradyn;

PO T Park;

A/AB D Read;  and

AB B Ough

18th Quals

19 Jun– 12 Aug 1944    

OS F Gilbert;*

A/AB T Park;

OS J Archambeault;

OS M Demchuk;

AB G Hemming;

OS J Klukay;

OS J Chalmers;

OS W Allum;

OS E Babuik;

AB R Turner;

AB E Nower; and

AB B Ough

19th Quals

4 Sep – 25 Nov 1944    

A/AB D Read;*

AB C Strain;

OS J Shatkowsky;

OS R Beattie;

OS D Horeck;

AB J Glasgow;

OS R Duggan; and

AB J Gustafson

20th Quals

18 Oct – 9 Dec 1944       

A/AB R Bailey;*

OS E Sclisizzi;

OS J Humphreys;

OS E Semmer;

OS J O’Gryzlo; and

STO H Leafloor

21st Quals

27 Nov 1944- 24 Feb 1945    

OS JMoquin;*  

TEL J Day;  

AB G Wright;

OS H Ryan;

OS H Pye;

 OS C Walker;

OS H Barnes; 

OS F Stephenson;

AB N Seely;

AB S Temesy; and

AB G Armitage

22nd Quals

22 Jan -13 Apr 1945       

AB W Heslop;*

AB D Ireland;

AB J Gustafson;

AB L Meek;

AB R Robinson;

OS G Kroiter;

AB H Greenshields;

AB D McLean; and

AB L Gauthier

23rd Quals

26 Mar – 16 Jun 1945 

OS D Powrie; *

OS J Brodie;

OS J King;

A/AB D Langevin;

OS D Mattingley;

A/AB F Hawthorne;

OS D Beal; and

STWD P Lafave

24th Quals

7 May -  23 Aug 1945   

A/AB M Grapko;*

A/AB E Kryzanowski;

A/AB J Stratham;

LS J McKenzie;

OS J Grey; and

A/AB J Jackson

25th Quals

4 Nov – 8 Feb 1947        

LS T Mottershead;*

LS J Searle;

PO M Lumley;

PO W Sullivan;

LS F Lepage; and

LS A McLean

26th Quals

17 Feb – 10 May 1947

LS J Carisse;*

A/LS E Fraser;

PO J Hermiston; and

PO R Whatman

27th Quals

3 Nov – 6 Feb 1948

LS E Fraser;*

LS G Halikowski;

AB  A Aylward;

LS F Lepage; and

LS W Rheubottom

28th Quals

3 May - 24 July 1948    

CPO Waldron;*

CPO C Bryan;

PO R Haspeck;  and

A/LS  V Dougherty

29th Quals

4 Oct – 15 Jan 1949

LS W Rheubottom;

PO J Stoddart; and

AB J Hogan

30th Quals

17 Jan – 13 May 1949 

P1 G Kinch;*

P2 R Bolt;

P2 R Dawson;

P2 W Donison;

AB Rushton;

P2 J Quinn;

AB W Strenstrud;

AB A Longhurst;

P2 R Padget;

P2 V Dougherty; and

LS A Pike


31st Quals

11 Jul– 31 Oct 1949

P2 A Trepanier;*  

AB J Jack;*  

P2 M Padget;

P2 G Irwin;

LS R Evans;

AB K Pollock;

OS D Lawson; and

AB D McElroy

32rd Quals

16 Jan – 5 May 1950      

P2 D Barwis;*

AB J Leblanc;

AB B Hughes;

AB P Mills;

P2 J Tobias;

AB F Eggleton;

LS W Merriman; and

P1 JW Fall

33rd Qual

28 Aug -  15 Dec 1950

AB R Curtiss;*

AB R Carroll;

AB R Leclerc;

AB J Savoy;

AB Y Inouye; and

AB R Hayter

34th Quals  1951?             

P1 R Manderson;*

AB Duerksen;

AB Savoy;

AB Bennett; and

AB Fisher

35th Quals 1952 ?                    

AB J Carruthers;*

AB P Potvin;

LS W Rowan;

LS C Duncan;

LS L Moro; and

AB R Carriere

36th Quals

18 Aug – 23 Jan 1953   

AB E McLeod;*

OS H Sproule;

AB D Harrison; and

AB R Poupart

NADEN 1953

AB B Verner;*

AB L Henderson;

AB O Duffy;

AB W Bendall; and

LS A McLean


M McClelland;*

G Vowles;

G Douglas; and

T Sloan


K Maxwell;*

G Porter;

M Creedon;

M Woolford; and

R Bootland


G Blondin;*

H Wilnechenko;

J Noble; and

W Powell

  • 2nd Class P&RT Qualifiers (Cornwallis): 

#1 PR2 Course

6 Feb-8May 1953

AB W Firman *

LC W McIvor

AB W Melnechuk

AB Carriere

AB E Robert

AB J Beech

LS N Standley; and

LS K Jones

#2 PR2 Course

27 Aug- 17-Dec 1953

LS McIvor *

AB T McAualy

AB K Batchelor

AB J Phillips; and

AB R Spears

#3 PR2 Course

22 Jan-28 May 1954

AB N Nichols*

AB N Anderson

AB J Bell

AB G Angrignon

AB Y McGuire; and

AB W Beck

#4 PR2 Course

16 Aug-16 Dec 1954

LS R Shanks *

LS R Leclerc

AB B mcGuigan

AB B Robertsob

AB D Scopie; and

AB M King

#5PR2 Course

9Jan-21 May 1955

AB J Perron *

AB J Brousseau

LS A Mackay

AB H Caissie

AB G Hernden

AB L Bertrand; and

AB J Mullan

#6 PR2 Course

15 Aug -16 Dec 1955

AB Barber*

OS W Redden

AB M Heddon

AB C Proulx

LS R McCormick

AB E Pala

LS J Gill; and

AB K Whitney

#7 PR2 Course

14 Jan-17 May 1957

AB A Stead *

AB T Walton

AB R Allen

AB G Hanko

AB B McGuigan

LS K Deck; and

AB N Claproo

8th PT3 Course

14 Jan-17 May 1963

LS T Walton *

LS T Sloan

P2 G Vowles; and

LS R King

#9 PR2 Course

12Feb-6 June 1959

LS N Leblanc *

AB J McLeod

LS D Scopie

AB S Stephenson; and

LS E Thompson

#10 PR2 Course

29 June-9 Aug 1962

AB W Burke *

AB C Wurzer

AB R Jefferson

AB T Burns; and

AB E Smith

#11 PR2 Course

19 Aug-20 Dec 1963

OS B Delagorgendiere *

AB R Bist

AB H Cook

LS N Gray

AB G Warner; and

AB W Noseworthy

#12 PR2 Course

17 Aug-18 Dec 1964

LAC R Diano *

AB J Milne

AB R Bureau

AB L Boucher

AB K Hutton

AB D Todd; and

LAC J Lavieuer

  • Physical Trainer - Gp 3

1st PT3 Course

14 Aug- 15 Dec 1953

D Barwis *

R Evans

B Hughes

C Manderson; and

M Padget

2nd PT3 Course

14 Aug-15 Dec 1954

P1 R Bolt *

P1 R Evans

P1 J Tobias

P1 R Dawson

P1 J Jack

P1 E Fraser

P2 K Pollock

P2 G Rushton

P1 G Irwin; and

P2 A Pike

3rd PT3 Coursse

9 Jan-4 May 1956

P2 F Cox *

LS J Sproule

LS R Carroll

LS E Roberet; and

P2 P Potvin

4th PT3 Course

2 Jul-16 Nov 1956

P2 A Pike *

P1 I Barron

LS J Carruthers

P2 S McIvor

LS G Angrignon

P2 E Mc Leod

P2 W Melnuchuk

LS J Perron

5th PT3 Course

20 Jan-23 May 1958

P2 R Shanks *

LS T McAulay

P2 D Harrison

P1 L More; and

LS R Carrierre

6th PT3 Course

26 Jan-19 Jun 1959

LS K Batchelor *

P2 B Verner

LS E Pala

P2 J Gill

P2 W Beck

P1 J Leblanc

P2 R Leclerc

P2 K Jones

P2 C Duncan

LS J Phillips

P2 W Rowan; and

P2 A MacKay


7th PT3 Course

19 May-20 Sep 1961

P2 F Eggleton *

P2 A Simmons

P2 J McClelland; and

P2 L Bjola

8th PT3 Course

14 Jan-17 May 1963

LS T Walton *

LS T Sloan

P2 G Vowles; and

LS R King

9th PT3 Course

18 Jan-21 May 1965

LS G Douglas *

LS W Redden; and

LS R King

10th PT3 Course

16 Aug-17 Dec 1965

LS K Maxwell *

LS R Bootland

LS M Hedden

LS J Woolford

LS W Dolhun

LS M Creedon

LS R Leblanc

LS B McGuigan

LS E Thompson; and

LS B Scopie

11th PT3 Course

16 Jan-17 Jun 1966

LS W Burke *

LS R Gray

AB H Cook

AB H Bist

AB G Warner; and

LS R Jefferson

12th PT3 Course and

1st PL VI Course

6 Feb-13 Apr 1967

LS J Noble *

LS H Wilnechenko

LS K Hutton

LS J Milne

LS W Burge

LS R Bureau

LS L Boucher; and

LS G Porter

LS G Douglas *

LS W Redden; and

LS R King

  • Trade Group 4 P&RT Course - Trade Group 4 came into existance in 1955 with six senior 1st Class Instructors taking a special six-week course to start this trade grouping qualification. It consisted of a short course at Queen's University plus a tour of Cornwallis and Stadacona.  Following an initial course, a syllabus was developed with the assistance of members of the first TG4 course. The length of the course was established at 20 weeks.

Special set-up course

15 Aug-25 Sep 1955

F Potts; H Hancock

J Waldron; T Mottershead

J Rowland; and A Chartren

1st PT4 Course

Jul - Oct 1955

P1 J Searle *

C2 A Coe

C2 A Pitt

C2 J Stoddart; and

C1 C Bryan

2nd PT4 Course

30 Jul-14 Dec 1956

C2 J Carisse *

P1 A Aylward

C2 A Trepanier

C2 R Ellison; and

C2 G Kinch (RTU)

3rd PT4 Course

4 Noc-28 Feb 1958

C2 E Fraser *

P1 W Rheubottom; and

C2 R Manderson

C2 L O'Brien (RTU)

4th PT4 Course

10 Aug-21 Dec 1958

C2 R Evans *

C2 D Barwis

P1 R Padget; and

P1 R Irwin

5th PT4 Course

04 Aug-18 Dec 1959

C2 Mottershead *

P1 G Rushton

P1 J Jack

P1 B Hughes; and

P1 R Bolt

6th PT4 Course

08 Jul-24 Nov 1961

SSgt K MacDonald *

P1 B Verner

SSgt G Kasanda

P1 P Potvin

P1 S McIvor; and

P2 K Pollock

7th PT4 Course

05 Aug-21Dec 1963

P2 J Perron*

P1 E McLeod

P2 W Melnuchuk; and

P1 L Moro

8th PT4 Course

18 Jan -04 Jul 1965

P1 R Shanks *

P1 J Gill

P1 W Rowan; and

P1 K Jones

9th PT4 Course

02Aug-17 Dec 1965

P2 J McClelland *

P1 D Harrison

P1 F Eggleton

P2 E Pala

P2 A Sinnons; and

P2 R Carroll

10th and final PT4 Course

02 Aug-09 Dec 1966

P2 G Angrignon *

P2 A Mckay

P2 R leclerc

P2 K batchelor; and

P1 E Robert




Official  records relating to fitness training in the Army before and during the two World War eras are scarce.  Much of  the  information  that  follows is primarily based on some research items and the recollections  of a  number of retired personnel as  recorded in  earlier issues of the former Trade/Branch newsletter and magazine called PERISCOPE (see Part 5).

Due to the influence of the Swedish Gymnastics System, physical training was called gymnastics in the 1900s and the PT instructor was called a gymnastics instructor. During this period several members of the British Army Gymnastic Staff, the predecessor of the British Army Physical Training Corps, were seconded to Canadian Militia units. Their influence, WW 1 and the desire for a national program resulted in the establishment of Bayonet Fighting and Physical Training Schools across Canada and caused our Army physical fitness and recreational training programs to be modeled after the British Army system.

During WW 1 these newly qualified Canadian instructors provided PT programs for Canadian units.  In British PT Programs, bayonet fighting was still taught using spring bayonets until the early1950s. According to casualty statistics, at least two members of the Canadian gymnastics staff became casualties.In addition to conducting unit programs, some Canadian PTI's provided remedial PT for the injured and a few instructors were actually posted to hospitals.  After the war this function was taken over by the Medical Corps. Until the late 1970s, Army PTI's were posted to NDMC in Ottawa as remedial specialists.

Some archival background on the role of Physical Training in World War 1 is found in the following:

Excerpt From The Biography of Percy Nobbs   (a renown Canadian architect)

“The architect's skill with pointed weaponry included the bayonet, an interest he had first acquired as a small boy enthralled by the bayonet fighting drill at the St. Petersburg garrison. He went to England when the Great War broke out to join the Northumberland Fusiliers, but relates that a bad eye caused him to be sent back to Canada where he took charge of the bayonet fighting and physical training program at Valcartier Camp in Quebec, subsequently organizing similar military training all over Quebec, Ontario, and Nova Scotia. Eventually Nobbs managed to get himself posted back to Europe as a camouflage expert with the Royal Engineers of the Imperial Forces in France. Here he created "two of the finest bits of camouflage work at the front [which concealed] Canadian Corps headquarters in what was practically No Man's Land during the open fighting. He attained the rank of major during his war service.”

Maj Nobbs must also have set up a school in BC as attested by the following certificate awarded to Sgt Corner (see Last Post) from the Bayonet Fighting and Physical Training School in Victoria BC, dated Feb 1917.  John Saunders (see Last Post) qualified on a course held at Long Branch ON in 1917 and Billy Adkin (see Last Post) was an Instructor at one of these Schools during WW 1.

Excerpt from Canadian War Records Office, Ministry of Information

Not all military instruction revolved around weapons systems and tactics. Sport and physical exercise were also important; peak fitness was vital if soldiers were to function under the strain of battle. As the British Army Manual of Physical Training explained: a soldier should be well disciplined, a good marcher, intelligent, smart, active and quick, able to surmount obstacles in the field and capable of withstanding all the strains and hardships of active service.

 Fitness was achieved through physical drills, “Swedish” exercises and regular sporting events. Organized games and competitions not only fostered physical fitness, but also improved morale and encouraged teamwork. During the summer months, battalions, brigades and divisions organized their own sporting events in rear areas. After the war a veteran fondly recalled a sports day from the summer of 1918: "Who lives that does not remember the day of brigade sports at Izel-les-Hameaux? There were races and jumps and hurdles, something for everyone, a ring to box and wrestle in, baseball and football championships. The day was fine... everybody was there. It was a gay scene, the boys of four battalions and the airmen who joined us for the fun, all rollicking together". 

An account of the Canadian Corps Championship copied from Canadian War Records Office, Ministry of Information.

Film footage of this event was shot on July 1, 1918 in Deauville, France, and documents a large sporting and recreational event that brought together thousands of Canadian troops. Some of the activities take place on the beach of the coastal town, and the pier and its lighthouse are visible in some of the shots. This entertaining documentary was filmed by Walter Buckstone, one of several cameramen working for the Canadian War Records Office during the closing months of the war. 

This Dominion Day gathering, organized under the direction of General Sir Arthur Currie, was perhaps the most important of such wartime events, and many veterans would later recall the occasion. In addition to boosting morale and providing a much-needed break for the troops, such gatherings played a vital role in cementing a sense of Canadian identity among the men.

As the war progressed, Canada would emerge as a player in its own right - still linked to the mother country but with a growing sense of its own national character. General Currie, who had successfully maintained the Canadian troops as a single coherent force, would have clearly understood how such recreational events helped to forge a sense of collective identity and competitive spirit. Since team competitions were organized by unit and sometimes by division, these events were also intended to instill a sense of pride at all levels within the army, and to help forge the identity of individual units.

The footage depicts various games and athletic activities. A sequence showing a small group parading in comic theatrical costumes suggests an attempt to establish an atmosphere of recreational fun. The men approaching a platform to receive trophies would be members of the 15th Battalion’s soccer team, and can be identified by the number "15" on their jerseys. Most of them would be first-generation British immigrants from Toronto. Canadian-born soldiers tended to prefer baseball to soccer, and a baseball tournament, not depicted here, was apparently one of the day’s highlights.


The nature of many of the activities - greasy pole competitions, wheelbarrow and sack races - once again underscore the organizers’ intent to provide their troops with some light-hearted fun. The participants in the equestrian events would have been officers riding their personal mounts, and indicates how the military hierarchy mirrored class divisions within society at large. Most Canadian cavalry, with the exception of the Canadian Light Horse, fought with the British cavalry forces and would not have been present at this event.



After WW 1 the Canadian Bayonet Fighting and Physical Training Staff seems to have been dissolved and the Army had no designated PTI's. The responsibility for fitness training and the conduct of sports rested with the Platoon Commanders, Platoon NCO's and members still serving who had previous training with the British or with the former Bayonet Fighting and PT Staff. During the Second World War, some Army NCO's qualified as PTI's. at the British Army School Of Physical Training (ASPT) in Aldershot UK. Among them was WO2 Jim Grindley, who, because of his talent, was retained at the ASPT as the first and only Canadian Army PTI to be employed as a Staff Instructor at the ASPT (1942-45). In 1946 the PT Wing of the Royal Canadian School of Infantry (RCS of I) was established at Camp Borden and was located in a First World War gymnasium (Bldg T 93). Extra-regimentally employed officers and NCO's of the Infantry Corps filled all staff positions.

In 1951 the PT Wing expanded across the road into an old H-Hut formerly used as a dependant’s primary school. This building accommodated the CO’s office, administrative offices, sports stores and lecture rooms. Between 1946 and 1954 selected Army officers and NCO's attended short specialty courses conducted at the PT Wing (RCS of I). After graduating, students returned to their units where the conduct of PT and organization of sports became their secondary duty.

In 1950 Regimental PTI's. were recognized as a trade specialty at Group 2 and 3 levels within the recently approved military trade structure. A number of NCO's and a few officers were sent to the ASPT in Aldershot, UK to upgrade their qualifications. Up until 1954 the PT Wing was commanded by a number of infantry officers (Capt A Wagstaff, Capt CS Glew and Lt Lloyd Cornett). In addition to providing RCS of I training courses with a PT and sports program, courses for Unit Sports Officers, Regimental Assistant PTI's and Unarmed Combat Training were conducted at the PT Wing.  Advance PT Courses were available only at the British APTC in the UK. The following are known to have served as Staff Instructors at the PT Wing during this period; SSgts Fred Brown; KO Jones and George Verner; Sgt Buz Bexaire; Cpls Roger Martel and Bob Partridge and LCpls Ken MacDonald and Jack Savage.

The establishment of the PT Cadre in 1954 resulted in a substantial increase to the staff at the PT Wing.  Capt John Gillanders became the Office-in-Charge; with Lts Andy Maxwell, Frank Pendock and Harry Mayne as Training officers; WO 1 Jim Grindley as the first RSM; Ssgt Buz Bezaire, Sgts Jim Brister, Rheo Lavigne, George Lilly, Ken MacDonald, Jack Savage and Harry Warren as PT Staff Instructors and WO2 Willy Johns as the Adm Officer. The PT Wing started conducting its own advanced PT Courses as well as a number of specialty courses in coaching and officiating for various games and sports


The PT Cadre was established in 1954. During 1955-58 selected tradesmen of any corps after having qualified as Gp 3 PTIs, were assigned for employment in established PT Cadre positions. After 1959 outstanding graduates of Gp 2 courses were also employed in PT Cadre positions. However, there was still no PE&R or equivalent officer corps or branch. Established PT Cadre officer positions were filled by extra-regimentally employed officers of any corps for a fixed tour of duty. In 1958 the PT Wing (RCS of I) obtained school status and was known as the Army School of Physical Training (ASPT).

That same year the ASPT was moved to the Buell Building, then a recently completed modern recreation complex. The Commanding Officer position was upgraded to Major rank level and Major RB Firlotte of the QOR of C assumed the position as the first CO with WO 1 Butch Goodey as the first School RSM. In 1963 the PT Cadre obtained full Corps status and was re-designated as the Physical Training Staff (Royal Canadian Infantry Corps) or PTS (RCIC).


Undoubtedly the years 1955-1958 were a period of growth and image building for the new PT Cadre. Shortly after Capt John Gillanders became the new Office-in-Charge of the PT Wing, the Army Gymnastics Display Team was born. The original team consisted of the PT Wing staff augmented by other Camp Borden PTIs and a number of students of the No 2 Advanced Course. Their debut was an impressive display with two daily performances at the 1955 CNE in Toronto. TVs Ed Sullivan and swimmer Marilyn Bell were the headliners of the show. During 1956-57 the Camp Borden based team performed dozens of gymnastic and swimming displays across Ontario and participated in several Toronto and Ottawa Sportsmen’s Shows. It also formed the Army complement of the Tri-Service Display Team whose performance was the highlight of the grandstand show that starred Bob Hope during the 1957 CNE in Toronto. 

When the original members of the team were posted to new locations, they began to form their own teams. Between 1958 and 1966 the functional and busy teams were located at Gagetown, Kingston, Borden, Winnipeg and Edmonton. Their performances contributed substantially to the enhancement of the image of Army PTIs and the PT Cadre. Some of the original members of the first CFB Borden Team and many of the younger PTIs whom they trained formed the core of the CF Tri-Service Team that gave more than 100 performances during a cross-Canada tour in 1967 as part of Canada’s Centennial celebrations. 



The formation of the PTS (RCIC) resulted in an expansion of all ranks personnel to 178. Two positions at Major rank were authorized, one at Army HQ designated as SO 1 and the other as CO of the APTC.  Each Command had a Fitness and Recreation Officer (Comd F&RO) position established at the Capt level. Furthermore one Camp/Garrison Fitness and Recreation Officer (CF&RO) position at Capt/Lt level and one WO 2 level at each major camp/garrison gymnasium.  Finally, the strength of PTS (RCIC) elements at all Infantry Depots and Corps Schools was increased and most field force units were provided with a Sgt to supervise dozens of Regimental PT Assistant Instructors in the conduct of unit PT and sports programs.

The prestige of the PTS (RCIC) instructors was further enhanced by the approval of Gp 4 level for the trade, which at the time was placed in the highest pay field. Trades pay was not tied to rank, so that Cpls who qualified to Gp 3X level were able to receive that pay, even though they could not be promoted to Sgt until qualified as Sr NCOs. Ssgt was a minimum rank requirement for drawing Gp4X pay. Outstanding PTS (RCIC) instructors were, for the first time, afforded the opportunity of being commissioned from the ranks (CFR). PTS (RCIC) CFR officers were re-badged to an Infantry Regiment of their choice and then seconded for permanent employment with the PTS (RCIC). Between 1963 and 1965 eight PTS (RCIC) Instructors were granted CFR commissions. Six were former Staff Instructors at the APTS, four attained field rank prior to their retirement, two returned to the School as CFSPER Commandants and two were invested in the Order of Military Merit


Canadian Army physical fitness training had followed the methods used by the British Army, namely:

The program for recruits involved a progressive series of six sets of PT Tables - The recruits PT Tables employed calisthenics as well as exercises on apparatus. Each table was 40 minutes in duration. The exercises were designed to develop flexibility of the joints, agility, dexterity, speed, balance, and strength. Each table was concluded with a relay race, marching and the correction of posture.

Trained soldiers participated primarily in Battle PT - Battle PT lessons were less formal than recruit PT and each period was normally 30 to 50 minutes in duration. The warm-up involved game-form activities usually done in pairs. The exercises in the main part of the lesson were designed to maintain the agility, speed and strength developed during recruit PT, as well as to practice skills related to unit role, eg rifle exercises for infantry, shell exercises for armour and artillery, Battle Swimming etc; and

The program was supplemented by participation in organized sports and competitive games. Boxing, gymnastics, track and field and swimming, were the major sports during the 1950s and 60s. In the early 1960s the RCAF 5BX Plan was adopted by the Army as an alternative fitness program for static units personnel.



In 1958 the ASPT was moved to the Buell Building and the training program continued to expand in quantity and quality. In 1960 ASPT was re-designated as the Army Physical Training Center (APTC). By 1962 a full slate of PT TG 2 and 3 courses were included in the annual training plan. In 1963 the first TG 4 course was added. In 1964 Major SK Bricker of the QOR of C took over as the last “khaki” CO. A former Sgt’s mess building located near the new Buell building was converted into an administrative building which housed APTC HQ, school lecture rooms and a technical library.

In 1966 the APTC co-located in Buell Building with the RCAF School of R&PE and on 6 November 1967 the RCN P&RT School staff moved from Cornwallis NS to CFB Borden and the new CFSPER was born. S/L HF Kerrison, who was the first CO of the RCAF R&PE School in Alymer ON became the first CFSPER Commandant.


During its 22 years of operation the School conducted the following types of courses:

  • Unit PT Officer;

  • Basic and Advanced PT;

  • Gp 2, 3 and 4 PTI;

  • PT Refresher;

  • Army Swimming Instructor;

  • Unarmed Combat; and

  • Specialty courses in coaching and officiating a variety of games and sports.


The following officers commanded the PT Wing, ASPT and APTC:

  • Capt A Wagstaff       PT Wing             1946-49;

  • Capt C Glew             PT Wing             1949-52;

  • Lt L Cornett              PT Wing             1952-54;

  • Capt JA Gillanders     PT Wing             1954-58;

  • Major RB Firlotte      ASPT/APTC       1958-64; and

  • Major SK Bricker      APTC                 1964-67.

The RSM position for the PT Wing was first authorized in 1954 when the PT Cadre was approved. The following WOs 1 held this appointment:

  • WO1 Jim Grindley     PT Wing            1954-58;

  • WO1 Butch Goodey   ASPT/APTC     1958-65; and

  • WO1 Skip Schamehorn    APTC          1965-67.


The crossed sabres insignia was originally a cavalry badge for swordsmanship. Because they also taught swordsmanship, the badge was adopted by the British Army Gymnastics Staff and worn during the First World War.  Instructors of the British Army Gymnastic School and the Canadian Bayonet Fighting and Physical Training School wore the sabres with a crown mounted above the blades as a hat badge and as a qualification insignia on their battle dress sleeve. Unit instructors wore the plain crossed sabres badge on the sleeve of their regimental battle dress uniform.

From 1946 to 1954 Army PTIs wore the regular uniform of their corps/regiment. Brass crossed sabres shown above, were authorized for wear above their rank insignia. In place of a great coat, duffle coats were authorized. Environmental dress consisted of white singlets, dark trousers, broad heavy canvas belt with leather and metal buckling apparatus (positioned over left hip) and gray socks with white, black-soled running shoes.  In 1952 the black-soled shoes were replaced with all white shoes.

Army officers employed with the PT Wing RCS of I, the PT Cadre and the PT Staff (RCIC) continued to belong to their respective corps/regiments and did not wear the PTS accoutrements; however, during 1954-58 officers and WO1s at the PT Wing followed the British Army tradition of wearing gray flannels and blue blazers with PT Crossed swords as their normal working dress with white trousers and white sweater and PT crest when on the Gym floor. 

With the formation of the PT Cadre in 1954, Army PTIs continued to wear the normal regular uniform of their corps/regiment and were authorized to wear new distinctive cloth qualifying trade badges introduced in 1956.  In addition, upon qualifying as Gp 3 Tradesmen, Army PTIs were entitled to wear cloth or brass crossed swords above their rank insignia on all orders of uniform.  Distinctive Environmental Dress (DEU) for Army PTIs consisted of white singlets with red trim around the neck and shoulders, blue trousers, white elastic belt and gray socks with white running shoes or black boots or black ankle shoes. White shorts and white sweaters could be worn as optional items of the environmental dress.


A cloth PTI badge in the form of a red shield with gold trim reflecting the trade qualification as shown on the trade badges above was authorized to be worn on the PT singlet and sweater.  

In the mid 1960s the red shield was replaced by a red maple leaf with a gold trim (shown below); other features of the PT badge remained the same as stated above.

When the PTS (RCIC) was established in 1963 all NCO PTIs were transferred to the PTS (RCIC) and wore the distinctive shoulder flashes, existing trade badges and other accoutrements which featured the new Brass Corps Badge also shown below:



In addition to the conduct of fitness training all Army PTIs were required to teach basic skills and officiate a great variety of games and sports.   Many were outstanding athletes and nationally-or provincially accredited officials in two or more sports. Capt John Gillanders, WO1 (SM1) Terry Weatherall, and SSgt Dennis Bradley were internationally recognized boxing officials.  In his later years, MWO Bradley was a prominent boxing referee at two Olympic Games, 1976 in Montreal and 1980 in Moscow. A number of Army PTIs excelled in the boxing world, eg, “Babe” Mason, Mike Mercredi, Harvie Reti, Harry Warren, and Tom Chesson.  “Tiger” Warren boxed as a professional in Canada and in the U.S.A.  The national and international accomplishments of Mason, Reti, and Chesson earned them induction into the CF Sports Hall of Fame.

During the late 1950’s and early 1960’s PT Cadre/PTS (RCIC) personnel were among the best-qualified track and field officials in the country and performed in this capacity in key positions at many national and international meets, eg, the 1959 Pan-Am Trials in Winnipeg, the 1959 Pan-American Games in Chicago, the 1962 BE Games Trials in Toronto, the 1967 Pan-Am Trials in Saskatoon and the 1967 Pan American Games in Winnipeg, to mention a few. During the same period, Sgt Charlie Abbs of the PTS (RCIC) attained prominence as a decathlon athlete of national caliber.

The contribution of the Army Gymnastics Display Team to the promotion of good public relations and to the enhancement of the PTS (RCIC) Instructor’s image was described earlier in this chapter.  However, the following are also worthy of note for their accomplishments as gymnasts: Ken MacDonald, George Lilly, Jack Savage, Gerry Lindner, Tom Goodison and Willie Weiler.  The Army Gymnastic Team of MacDonald, Lindner and Weiler won the Canadian National Team Championships in 1959. Willie Weiler’s accomplishments as the “All-Round Champion” at the 1963 Pan American Games in Brazil  (4 gold, 3 silver, and 1 bronze medal) and as the coach of the 1968 Canadian Olympic Team in Mexico, earned him the Order of Canada and induction into the CF Sports Hall of Fame.




The history of the RCAF, from its formation in 1924 to its integration with the other two services in 1965 and its eventual CF unification in 1968, can be traced through four distinctive periods:

  • Formative Years                                       1924 to 1939;

  • Second World War                                   1939 to 1945

  • Post Second World War  (Era One)         1946 to 1951; and

  • Post Second World War  (Era Two)         1952 To 1965.

No official documentation is available on  any physical education and recreation in the RCAF during the first period (1924-39).  Prior to the Second World War, officers generally organized sports and NCOs were appointed to the task, mostly on their merits as athletes. Interested individuals on their own volition usually initiated recreation activities.

In 1938 the need for trained physical education and recreation specialists was recognized when Harry Hinton and Les Hook were sent to the RAF School of PT at Uxbridge, England for an 11-week course. During the war, emphasis was placed on traditional military fitness and sports. Recreation programs were nonexistent. In order to cope with the social and welfare needs of the rapidly expanding Air Force, private agencies such as the Auxiliary Services were called upon to assist with the leadership and financing required to provide suitable recreational and entertainment programs. During this period, the emphasis was on participation in sports and games, with station teams competing mostly, and often quite successfully, in civilian leagues.  For example, during the Second World War, the RCAF  “Flyers” Football Team won the Grey Cup and the RCAF “Flyers” Hockey Team made history by winning the Gold Medal in the 1948 Olympic Games.

NATO commitments and UN Operations in Korea again resulted in a great expansion of the RCAF during the Post Second World War era. Scores of small stations were built in isolated locations. Most of these included significant numbers of Permanent Married Quarters (PMQs), which in turn emphasized the need to provide recreational opportunities for dependents and civilians living in these military communities. This resulted in a new dimension to the RCAF physical education and recreation programs. In fact during the 1950s the RCAF was playing a leading role in the development of community recreation programs in Canada.


During the 1940s, selected RCAF personnel were trained as Physical Training and Drill Instructors (PT&DIs). The original PT&DI Cadre consisted primarily of high school physical education teachers and outstanding athletes such as Milt Schmidt and Woody Dumart. The PERISCOPE article, “They Continue to Serve” published in Vol 3 No 2(7) lists the following RCAF PT&DIs who later became well known sports personalities:

  • Sid Abel – Detroit Red Wings;

  • Dr Max Arven Chief medical Officer, COA;

  • Tom Berto – Treasurer, Pan Am Games Committee;

  • L Carrie – Administrator, Canadian Olympic House;

  • Woody Dumart – Boston Bruins;

  • Jake Gaudaur – Commissioner CFL;

  • Lou Hayman - Toronto Argonauts;

  • Joey Richman - Sports Equipment Dealer, Montreal;

  • Milt Schmidt – GM, Boston Bruins;

  • Bill Tindale – Executive Vice-President, Canadian Olympic Association; and

  • James Worall, QC – International Olympic Committee member for Canada.

In 1946, the PT&DIs were re-designated as PTIs, but were still required to teach drill.  In 1948, a sports coaches course was held in Trenton spearheaded by Olympic wrestler W/C Terry Evans.  In 1948, Sgt Jack Curtis and Cpl Bill Gadsby attended a PTI qualifying course at the PT School in Cosford, England. 

An entry in RCAF HQ RO No 626 dated 19 September 1952 authorized the establishment of the Physical and Recreation Career Field. At this time the PRTI trade was divided into two separate trades, Disciplinarian (Discip) and Recreation and Athletic Specialist (RA Spec). The RA Spec trade was established at Gp 1 to Gp 4 levels. Although the trade was open to remuster, members were primarily recruited as direct entries; upon completion of recruit training, they were posted on “contact” training to a unit, prior to course leading on the first available Group 1 RA Spec course. Trades pay was not tied to rank, and Cpls, or LACs could draw Group 3 trades pay upon successful qualification at that level, but they could not be promoted to Sgt unless an appropriate vacancy existed at that rank level.


Prior to 1952 the RCAF had a Physical Training and Drill Branch. This branch consisted of former sports and drill officers, disciplinarians, and physical trainers (recreation and athletic specialists).  Organized physical fitness training classes were conducted only for personnel undergoing formal new entry/trades/aircrew training.  Trained personnel were encouraged to participate in after-duty sports or recreational activities. With the expansion of PMQs at RCAF stations, the focus of life in the peacetime RCAF changed from single service personnel living in barracks to include married members residing with their families in military communities, which were often located in isolated areas.  The requirement to satisfy the social and recreational needs of military and civilian personnel living in these military communities became more apparent. In 1951 Mr. John Tett, Director of Recreation, Adult Education and Citizenship with the Ontario Department of Education was hired on special assignment to evaluate the ever-growing recreational needs of the RCAF.  In February 1952 he was appointed to the position of Branch Adviser on recreation services in the RCAF with the rank of Wing Commander.  Later that year, the formation of the RCAF Recreation Specialist Branch was authorized.  Pre-integration statistics in 1963 reflected the following RCAF Rec Spec Branch structure:


  • Wing Commander              1

  • Squadron leaders                5

  • Flight Lieutenants              39

  • Flying Officers                   10          

                Total Officers             55


Warrant Officer Class 1              1

Warrant Officer Class 2              2

Flight Sergeants                         17

Sergeants                                    32

Corporals                                    45

Aircraftsman                               80

                     Total  NCOs         177         


Total All Ranks  232

Three Commissioned From The Ranks (CFR) officers (F/Ls Lacombe, Palmer and Steadman) were the only PT and Drill Branch officers who reclassified to the new Rec Spec Branch; the remaining officer positions were filled by personnel who had a university degree in PhysEd, recreation or related field. A number of high school PhysEd teachers were recruited to fill the new officer positions. Members of the RA Spec trade were assigned to the Rec Spec Branch to fill the other ranks positions. Later, outstanding RA Specs were CFRd to serve as Station RecOs. Altogether 20 RA Specs were granted CFR commissions. Five reached senior officer rank prior to retirement and two were also invested in the Order of Military Merit.


Physical fitness has always been a requirement of RCAF personnel.

In the 1978 “Historical Review on Physical Fitness in the RCAF” Maj Hank Tatarchuk and Dr G Moore stated: 

" In its (RCAF) early history physical fitness was a by-product of day-to-day work. Flying in the hinterland often by the seat of the pants  required hard, sturdy and fit aviators. The evolution of the flying machine to the highly sophisticated aircraft of post World War ll era saw less physical requirement in the daily duties, but now the stresses of gravity, high speed and tension led the RCAF to new concern for the levels of air and ground crew physical fitness.”

The establishment of the Rec Spec Branch resulted in a marked change in the RCAF physical education programs. New entries and trainees participated in a compulsory exercise program supplemented by sports skills instruction. The exercise program included calisthenics, circuit training, weight training and running. Aircrew training followed a special physical training syllabus that was developed by Dr Frank Hayden an RCAF Reserve Officer. It was first published as TC 36 in 1958. Ground crew training followed a syllabus developed by the Rec Specs of Training Command and published in 1960as TC 98. No formal fitness training was conducted for trained personnel. In their case, active participation in recreational sports and involvement in leisure activities such as ceramics, art and crafts etc was encouraged. In 1958 Dr W Orban developed for the RCAF an exercise program called the 5BX Plan for Men. The plan involved 12 minutes of daily exercising, which consisted of five basic exercises followed by running. In 1959 Dr Norm Aston developed the XBX Plan for Women, which consisted of 10 basic exercises followed by running.  The two booklets originally published as RCAF Pamphlets 30/1 and 30/2 and later reprinted as CFP 218 became best sellers in the early 1960s.


This trophy was awarded annually to the Station that, through its Community Council, made the most effective use of available resources in developing a recreational program suited to the needs of their community’s dependents. The trophy was first established in 1958 to honour the heroism of Victoria Cross winner F/O AC Mynarski.  In 1966 all CF Bases and Stations became eligible to compete for it. In 1974 the trophy was reassigned as an annual for Search and Rescue Operations.


Records concerning the years preceding the establishment of the RCAF Rec Spec Branch are sketchy. According to S/L (Ret’d) Bill Palmer –

“…the emergence of fitness in the RCAF in WW ll commenced in 1941 at Trenton, ON. Sixty tradesmen were given a short course (two weeks) in physical training and from this group the first skeleton staff for a PT School was selected. This staff selection course was given by W/O Young from the RAF PT School at Uxbridge, UK…”

The first PT School was very appropriately opened in Trenton on 1 April 1941 and was commanded by F/L Paddy O’Neil. The first instructional cadre consisted of W/O Ginger Young, WO2 Bill Palmer and Sgts Wilf Inman, Dick Wilson and Paul Belanger. In late 1941 or early 1942 the PT School and the Drill Instructor School were combined to form the PT&DI School. It then conducted courses to qualify selected NCOs in their dual role as PT Instructors and Drill Instructors.

The first CO of this new school was F/L Harry Hinton from the Drill Instructor Cadre. In 1943 following his commissioning from WO2, F/L Bill Palmer succeeded F/L Hinton as the School CO. The school closed in 1945. In order to meet the requirements of a rapidly expanding Air Force, three 10-week courses were conducted in early 1952 to train more PRTIs. WO1 Hank Watson was in charge of this training and Sgt Al Steinhauer and Cpl Bill Buck were the two course instructors. 

The Rec Spec Branch was established in 1952. In April 1953 the Recreation and Athletic Specialist (RA Spec) School at Station Aylmer ON was established. F/O HF Kerrison was the first Officer in Charge of the new school. The first course conducted at the new RA Spec School was a 10-week coeducational course for selected RCAF personnel. In 1954 the trade and school title was renamed Recreation Specialist (RecSpec).  The school was temporarily closed from September 1958 to January 1960 while F/L Kerrison took part in project “Fit-Chin”, a combined Regular and Reserve officers team of physical fitness specialists who toured Air Defense Command (ADC) units, lecturing on and appraising physical fitness of aircrew members. S/L A Smith and F/Os Hope and Shaw were the Reserve officers on the team.  In January 1960 the school moved from Aylmer to Camp Borden, where it remained until it co-located with the APTC in 1966.


During its existence the School conducted career courses for SRecOs and group 1,2,3 and 4 Rec Spec personnel. A number of specialty courses in arts and crafts and other recreational activities were also conducted; these were open to all RCAF personnel involved in community recreation, as well as to members of the RCN and CA(R).

In the early 1960s the Gp 2 and 3 Rec Spec courses were conducted in two phases. Phase one was by correspondence course and phase two was a 4-week course at the R&PE School.



The R&PE School and its predecessors were commanded by the following officers:

PT School at Trenton, On                   F/L Paddy O’Neil - 1941;

PT&DI School Trenton, ON               F/L Harry Hinton - 1942

                                                            F/L Bill Palmer – 1943-45.

                                 The School closed in 1945

RA Spec School, Aylmer, ON            F/O Harry Kerrison - 1953-54;

Rec Spec School, Aylmer, ON           F/L Harry Kerrison – 1954-57;

                                                            F/L John Stangroom – 1957 - 1959.                                                     

                                 The School closed from Sep 1958 until Jan 1960


R&PE School, Aylmer, ON                 S/L Harry Kerrison - !960-61;

R&PE School, Camp Borden, ON      S/L Harry Kerrison - 1960-63

                                                             S/L Coonie Lefebvre - 1963-65

                                                            F/L Gord MacKey - 1965 –66.

                                The School co-located with APTC in 1966.


Officers of the Rec Spec Branch wore normal RCAF uniforms without any distinctive accoutrements. Prior to 1950 a replica of the RAF PTI Badge was worn by the RCAF PT&DIs and PRTIs (up to and including the rank of F/S) on the tunic above the rank insignia. The environmental dress of the RA Specs/Rec Specs consisted of dark blue tapered trousers with a narrow light blue trim along the legs, leather belt, white T-shirt and black athletic or leather shoes. No distinctive trades badge was worn on the T-shirt or uniform jacket.


In the 16 years of its existence the Rec Spec Branch made a significant contribution to the development of community recreation programs. Its recreation philosophy, with slight modifications, formed the basis for the development of recreation policies applicable to the unified CF. The development of the 5BX and XBX plans was a significant achievement in the area of physical fitness. The Branch also published a number of popular pamphlets dealing with coaching and officiating a variety of sports such as basketball, flag football, hockey, soccer, track and field and volleyball.

The Rec Spec Branch had a number of individual achievers whose accomplishments greatly enhanced the image of the Canadian Armed Forces. In addition to the famous old-timers acknowledged earlier in paragraph 71, S/Ls Harry Hilton and Bill Palmer also merit special mention. In 1938 Harry Hinton was the first RCAF member who qualified to wear the PTI badge at the RCAF School PT in Uxbridge, UK. Bill Palmer was the Senior Instructor in charge of the first RCAF Precision Drill Team, which gave numerous performances at the CNE in Toronto. Two Rec Spec Branch members were inducted into the CF Sports Hall of Fame for their achievements as Olympic athletes. F/O Haddad in boxing and F/S Varaleau in weight lifting. LAC Vic Cassis represented Canada in the triple jump and High Jump events at the 1954 British Empire games and LAC Rick Kinsman was the North American Champion in the 1960s. F/L Bill Buck earned recognition as the officer who trained and directed the Tri-Service High Horse Display Team. It gave over 100 performances during their cross-country tour as part of Canada’s 1967 Centennial celebrations. F/L Hank Tatarchuk who later retired as a Major from the PE&R Branch in 1978 was an outstanding sports official and an organizer of international renown. He was the Director of Basketball at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal and again at the 1978 British Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. He was also the principle organizer of the 1973 Universiade hosted by Edmonton, AB and later was seconded as Vice President Sports to the 1984 Olympic Organizing Committee in Los Angeles. The first three CFSPER Commandants (Majors Kerrison, Vadeboncoeur and Nelson) as well as four of the first six DPERAs (LCol Parr, Miller, Vadeboncoeur and Swan) were all officers in the Rec Spec Branch



Unification of the CF in 1968 resulted in the following changes:

  • the RCN P&RT Trade, the PTS (RCIC) and the RCAF Rec Spec trade were amalgamated and became the PERI 851 trade;

  • all CFR officers of the PTS (RCIC) and all officers of the RCAF Rec Spec Branch were assigned to the PE & R Sub-Classification in the Personnel Support Branch (PSPT/PER); and

  • other officers employed on P&RT duties in the RCN or extra-regimentally employed with the PTS (RCIC) had the option to reclassify as PSPT/PER officers or return to their ship/corps/regiment or unit for assignment to a classification for which they were best qualified.


The transitional stage had its expected ups and downs. The provisional PERI 851 trade Specifications prepared in 1967 placed considerable emphasis on program administration and facility management. Several trade adjustment courses were conducted in CFB Borden just before CFSPER was officially established. Three two-week courses were attended by most of the single service members in the trade at the time.


The shift in emphasis from instructional to administrative duties contributed to the PERI 851 trade being placed in the lowest pay field within the newly created CF trade structure. Lower pay and loss of prestige had a detrimental effect on morale, particularly among PTS (RCIC) personnel when the infantry trade was placed two pay fields higher than the new PERI 851 trade. During 1968-69 the new trade lost about 20 per cent of its personnel; many chose to take an early release or remuster to former trade(s) in higher pay fields. It is to the credit of those who remained that the trade survived and it’s members gradually regained credibility and respect as dedicated professionals in the field of PE&R.


The second generation of PERI 851 Trade Specifications was published in 1971. It redefined the PERI’s duties and responsibilities at TQ5 to TQ8 levels. Formal trade qualifying courses, however, were conducted only at the TQ5A and TQ6A levels. In 1981 the first TQ6B qualifying course was authorized. Finally, in 1983 the third generation of trade specifications was approved. It was meant to guide the PERI 851 trade through the 1980s.


On the officer’s side, the first CF PE&R course was conducted at CFSPER in May 1969. All officers who reclassified to the PSPT/PER sub-classification attended the course. The provisional specifications assigned the PEROs a number of purely administrative duties, not all related to PE&R.

In March 1976 DPERA sponsored an Advanced Procedures Training Seminar at CFB Petawawa. For most of the PEROs this was the first opportunity in seven years to get together and exchange ideas and experiences related to the operation of PE&R programs at the grass roots level. This seminar was followed by a number of similar workshops held at CFSPER and attended by all Warrant Officers as follows:

  • CWOs          Dec 1976;

  • MWOs         Mar 1977; and

  • WOs             Apr 1977.

In 1977 the PSPT/PER sub-classification became the PE&R Officer Classification (MOC 53) and was assigned to the Administration Branch.  The new MOC 53 PE&R specifications were published in August 1977.  In Late 1978, the formation of a separate PE&R Branch received approval-in-principle.  In January 1979, DPERA sponsored a workshop for senior officers, conducted at CFSPER and attended by all PERO Majors.  At that time, the Branch doctrine was formulated and the workshop proceedings were published in a comprehensive paper entitled, “What About the 80’s?”   In May 1980, CFSPER hosted a seminar entitled, “Lifestyle 80”, which was attended my most serving PEROs.  Finally, in December 1980, the establishment of the PE&R Branch was officially confirmed and promulgated in CFAO 2-10.  An Advance Notice of updated MOC53 specifications was published in May 1982.



Although Branch status was officially approved in December 1980 the accoutrements bearing the Branch Badge did not become available until 1983. Rebadging ceremonies during which all PEROs and PERIs received their new accoutrements were held at all CF locations on 9 June 1983. To commemorate this historical event 9 June was adopted as the official birthday of the Branch.



The Branch came into being on 5 December 1980. It consisted of the PERO Classification (MOC 53) and the PERI trade (PERI 851); both of which were originally part of the Administration Branch.


Prior to unification of the CF, each service had developed a different approach for the role of their PE&R staffs in order to meet their particular circumstances and requirements. The Army emphasized unit fitness programs, the Air Force stressed recreation and individual fitness activities while the Navy’s emphasis was a judicious application of both.


Despite these differences, a number of PE&R functions were effectively administered on a CF Tri-service basis long before the 1968 unification of the CF, which included:

  • Beginning in the early 1950’s, the PTIs at the Canadian Military Colleges (CMCs) and at the Joint Canadian Airborne Training Centre (CJATC) were selected from qualified personnel of the three single services;

  • Many sports specialty courses conducted by the single service schools were open to and attended by personnel of the other services;

  • Some sports competitions at the national level were organized on a tri-service bases, eg the “Pearkes Trophy” in soccer; and

  • Two CF Tri-service gymnastic teams gained national prominence – one performed daily at the 1957 Canadian National Exhibition and the other toured Canada during the 1967 Centennial celebrations.


In 1968, as part of the CF unification process. All PE&R trades personnel were assigned to the PERI 851 trade within the Administration Branch.  At the same time, all Physical Education and Recreation Officers (PEROs) were assigned as a sub-classification to the Personnel Support Officer Classification (PSPT/PER).

The special events that led to the establishment of the Branch were reflected in the official records at the DPERA as follows:

  • 30 September 1977 – the PSPT/PER sub-classification of the Administration Branch was officially re-designed as an independent PE&R Officer Classification;

  • 29 July 1979 – the constitution of the PE&R Branch Fund was approved;

  • 5 December 1980 – official approval was granted by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) for the establishment of an autonomous PER Branch (entry promulgated in CFAO 2-10);

  • April 1981 – the new PE&R Branch Badge was officially approved;

  • 10 June 1981 – Commodore G.M. de Rosenroll, CD, was appointed the first Colonel-Commandant of the PE&R Branch; and

  • 9 June 1983 – official rebadging ceremonies took place at the CFSPER at CFB Borden, with the CDS, General RM Withers, CMM, CD, presiding.  Simultaneous Rebadging ceremonies took place at all CF Bases and Stations.  To commemorate this occasion, the 9th of June was adopted as the Branch’s “official” birthday.


The Branch Motto, “MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO,” which means “A sound mind in a healthy body,” best expresses the guiding principles that are embodied in the Branch Doctrine.


A distinctive badge, common dress accoutrements, a unique flag, a special march past and a collection of memorabilia related to past customs and traditions were all important symbols that promoted morale and stimulated pride and a sense of belonging to a particular military branch.

  • The Branch Badge. (Featured on the Branch Flag the Cap badge, Collar badges and Belt buckle) - Azure in front of 5 circles gules edged Or, all linked, a Phoenix Or issuant from flames proper.  The rings represent the Branch responsibility for fitness through PE and depict five, mutually interdependent components, namely the physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual segments which contribute to a person’s ability to function effectively.  The phoenix, mythical bird that lived in the Arabian Desert, recreated itself from its ashes to live with renewed youth, strength and health. It represents a derivative of the word recreation and symbolizes the Branch responsibility in that regard.

  • The Branch Flag. (Approved in 1971) Consisted of a white rectangle of proportions two by length and one by width. The Branch Badge is superimposed in full colour in the center of the white field.

  • PERI 851 Qualification Badge - A white human figure on a red maple leaf was approved in 1971 worn on the Branch Track Suit and T Shirt


One of the centuries-old traditions the branches of the CF have chosen to adopt from the British military is the appointment of Colonel-Commandants.  The exact origin of the appointment is vague, but it can be traced to 1722 and the Royal Artillery.  Personnel given this appointment were not always active military officers.  Retired military officers and prominent citizens of the community also have been appointed.

In the CF this honour is conferred upon former CF officers who held the rank of colonel or above on retirement. The Colonel-Commandant is presented with a commissioning warrant signed by the Governor-General as the Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces. Incumbents normally held the appointment for a period of three years.

The Branch had only two appointees. Commodore Glen DeRosenroll and Colonel Joe Parr.


BRANCH ADVISERDPERA by virtue of the appointment was also the Branch Adviser.


The “All Sports March” was adopted in 1980 as the official Branch March. The March was first played on the occasion of CFSPER Change of Command ceremonies held on 10 June 1981 at the Buell Building Gymnasium at CFB Borden. It was traditionally played during the march-past at all CFSPER course graduation parades and at mess dinners when members of the Branch were in attendance



This appointment was the senior and most prestigious NCM appointment within the Branch. An appointment scroll was presented to each incumbent and the badge of office was a specially designed pace stick which was passed on to each succeeding appointee.


Although Branch status was officially approved in December 1980 the accoutrements bearing the Branch Badge did not become available until 1983. Rebadging ceremonies during which all PEROs and PERIs received their new accoutrements were held at all CF locations on 9 June 1983. To commemorate this historical event 9 June was adopted as the official birthday of the Branch.


During the pre-integration era, each single service used publications obtained from the British Navy, Army and Air Force as its primary training references, which included:

  • “The Royal Navy Physical and Recreational Training Manual” (BR 51 (1) 55);

  • “British Army Physical Training Pamphlets 1-10. (War Office Codes 9467 –9476;

  • “Principles of Anatomy and Physiology for Physical Instructors in the Royal Air Force”; and

  • The RCAF also used a number of Air Force Publications (AFP) that dealt with the organization and administration of community recreation programs in the Married Quarters (MQs).

  • Between 1959 and 1964 the RCAF Rec Spec Branch produced the 5BX and 10BX Plan Pamphlets as well as a number of manuals on coaching and officiating various sports (basketball, flag football, hockey, soccer, track and field and volleyball). The RCN and Army Physical Training and Recreation Staffs also adopted these publications for use.


Since its establishment in 1980, the Branch produced a number of its own publications which are listed below:

  • Physical Fitness In The Canadian Forces - This comprehensive manual was published in 1983 and dealt with all aspects of planning, organization, conduct and evaluation of physical fitness training programs used in the Forces. The manual was published in two volumes as A-PD-050-015. /PT-001 AND A-PD-050-015/PT-002.

  • Administration and Operation of PE&R Programs – First published as CFP 292 it was republished in 1984 as A-AD-292-001-/AG-001. It explained in great detail all aspects of personnel, program, equipment and financial management, as applicable to the administration and operation of PE&R programs in the Forces.

  • CF “EXPRES” Operations Manual – Published in 1984 it explained the new CF clinical assessment and exercise prescription program. “EXPRES was specially designed to provide CF personnel with a safe, sub-maximal fitness assessment, an individualized record and explanation of personal fitness level and a selected personalized program of exercise consistent with the individual’s level of fitness.

  • PE&R Branch Handbook – It explains the “raison d’etre” of the Branch and provided a brief historical background of PE&R in the three single Services prior to unification. It was used as the sole reference for this page.

  • Branch Journal – The professional journal of the branch was called the PERISCOPE. It was published annually by DPERA and contained articles written by PEROs and PERIs on current topics related to PE&R, announcements that were of common interest to PE&R members and a location list of serving members. It evolved from an informal bulletin called PERI-851-SCOPE first published in March 1969. The original purpose as stated in Vol 1, Number 1 still remains valid. The name Periscope was resurrected and is used to identify this web site.

  • Branch Newsletter – The Associate Members Newsletter was published semi-annually in July and December. Its purpose was to keep retired members informed of current happenings within the Branch and thus provide an opportunity to remain in touch and to preserve the bonds of comradeship among personnel who dedicated the best of their years to a common, worthy cause, so fittingly expressed in our motto.



In 1965 the PE&R Section was established at the then recently integrated CFHQ in Ottawa. It was headed by LCol Jim Harber and was comprised of one PE&R senior officer from each service: LCdr Doc Savage (RCN), Maj John Reeves (ASO PT) and S/L Harry Kerrison (Rec Specs).

Later the section was upgraded to a directorate and LCol Harber became the first Director Physical Education and Recreational Training (DPERT). In broad terms DPERT was responsible for originating, developing and promulgating PE&R policies applying to members of the CF.

Until the summer of 1968 the Directorate was located in “C” Building of the DND Complex on Cartier Square. During the following two years, on four different occasions, the directorate offices were shuffled across the city ending up at the Vered Building at 245 Cooper St. During this same period the directorate experienced a number of reorganizations and reallocations within the Personnel Branch of CFHQ, namely:

  • Until late 1969 DPERT was part of the Director General Individual Training (DGITP) and the Directorate of Branch and Trade Training (DBTT); 

  • In the fall of 1969 DPERT was relocated in the Director General Personnel Services (DGPS) Division, where it joined six other directorates: Legal, Welfare, Personnel Benefits, Food Services, Exhibitions and Displays and Ceremonial; 

  • Effective 1 April 1970 DPERT was assigned to the Director General Personnel Support (DGPS) Division;

  • In late 1971 DPERT was down graded to a section and was absorbed by the Directorate of  Personnel Support Operations (DPSO);

  • The spring of 1971 brought reorganization and reduction in staff from seven to five officers (1 LCol, 2 Majors and 2 Capts);

  • In the fall of 1972 the PE&R Section of DPSO was again upgraded to directorate level, becoming the Directorate of PE&R and it remained in the DGPS Division. This would not have been accomplished without the year of untiring efforts given by the then DPSO 3, LCol Joe Parr

  • On 1 Sep 1973 DPER and the Directorate of Personnel Support Services were amalgamated to form the Directorate of Physical Education and Amenities (DPERA). The staff establishment was increased to cope with added responsibilities for Special Services, Amenities, Entertainment, CF Movie Guild, Canadian Legion Book Depot and Messes and Institutes. The new establishment provided for 13 positions. They were 1 LCol, 5 Majors, 4 Capts, 1 Sgt and 2 civilians.


In retrospect the 1973 reorganization was a turning point in the history of DPERA, which finally provided the stability it required to develop meaningful PE&R policies and chart the course for the future. It is interesting to note that DPERA location, designation and even telephone locals remained unchanged for more than a decade. This 1973 reorganization was the first major milestone in the long process toward branch status of the PER MOC 53 Officer Classification and PERI 851 Trade, which was finally accomplished in Dec 1980.



CFSPER was established in 1967 upon unification of the single service PE&R Schools. The APTC and the RCAF R&PE School co-located in 1966 and conducted the first integrated course for PE&R Instructors. In 1967 The RCN P&RT School moved to CFB Borden and on 6 Nov 1967 the unified CFSPER became fully operational. The first Commandant was S/L Harry Kerrison and the first CWO was WO1 Skip Schamehorn.

  • OFFICIAL CREST OF CFSPER. The figure is in CF green on a round orange area. The head, clockwise from the top is white representing all colours blended, followed by the three primary colours of red, yellow and blue. Two learning torches, common to all schools in CFTS, surmount the design.  The Branch Motto MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO underlines it. The crest was designed by then WO Al Blondel.


  • The CFSPER FLAG. Consisted of a featured center design that symbolized a person in motion in many activities. Physical activity is represented by the figure, which, when turned in any position, is in action and could represent such activities as gymnastics, soccer, fencing, basketball, track and field, badminton and even art painting. The varied colours and positions of the head represent the variety of activities and people involved.

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