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Glossary

Select a letter to browse an alphabetical listing of terms and definitions.

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Halftrack

Light armour vehicle with rubber tires in front and tank-style tracks at rear, used in the Second World War.

Headquaters (HQ)

Central administration and command quarters of a military unit.

Health, Medical Care and Nutrition

The soldier’s ration has always been devised to provide maximum nutrition at moderate cost for the best health of the soldiers. Early French garrisons suffered from scurvy until Indians revealed the advantages of a balanced diet. Healthy soldiers were ideal combatants, had good morale and consequently had minimal health care needs. Nutrition standards for enlisted men remained relatively basic and varied little until the later 19th century when more variety was added. British regimental officers pooled their resources by forming a mess during the 18th century so as to provide them with good food and wines at an affordable price and this is still done. Royal Canadian Navy ships followed the practices of the Royal Navy and its ‘wardroom’ in warships.

In Canada, the soldier’s health was good compared to places such as the West Indies where regiments might be decimated by deadly fevers. During the late 1790s and early 1800s, some British regiments would alternate postings in Halifax and the West Indies every few months in the hope of avoiding such losses. A severe Canadian winter posed a threat of frostbite to soldiers on guard or in expeditions. Sentries were relieved frequently in very cold weather. Another aspect of health and nutrition was the negative effect of alcoholic drinks, part of the soldier's and sailor's rations, but often consumed to excess. Rather than promoting an outright ban of alcohol, such as in the US Navy, the Canadian approach has always the tempered approach used in European armed forces.

Helmet

Protective headcover. Helmets replaced shakos in the British infantry in 1878. Imitating German helmelts, they were covered with dark blue cloth, featuring a spike on top and a large badge in front. Canadian soldiers and volunteer militiamen started wearing the British helmet in the 1880s, but preferred the white cloth covered tropical version. This went out of general use in 1914, but remains the full dress headdress in many units today. Far less decorative were the steel helmets issued to British Commonwealth troops from 1915. Canadian soldiers wore the British steel helmets until 1960, when they switced to the American model.

Highlander

Soldier of a Scottish Highland regiment. Noted for their outstanding bravery, Highlanders also became famous for their traditional Scottish dress, especially the skirt-like kilt made of pleated tartan plaid material. The first Highland regiment to serve in Canada was Col. Fraser’s 78th Highland Regiment, which arrived in Canada in 1757 and served at Louisbourg and Québec, where it was disbanded in 1763. The Royal Highland Emigrants was the first Highland regiment raised in Canada in 1775. It was numbered 84th in 1779 and disbanded in 1784.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, largely as a result of Scottish immigration and the popular revival of Scottish traditions, there were a number of Highland units formed in the Canadian Militia, many of which still exist. The Canadian Expeditionary Force had a sizeable contingent of Highland battalions. By 1932, the Canadian Volunteer Militia had 17 Highland regiments. Most Canadian Highland regiments have selected a British Army Highland regiment to emulate. Their names, full dress uniform and tartan is generally similar to the British parent regiment. For instance, except for badges and the Canadian Queen’s colours, the Black Watch (Royal Highland regiment) of Canada has a similar full dress to the British Black Watch. Other Canadian Highland Regiments, such as the Nova Scotia Highlanders, have Highland style full dress but with their own facing colour and tartan.