Infantry

Known as the “Queen of Battle,” the infantry is the branch of the army that provides its primary fighters. The main responsibility of infantry soldiers is to “close with and destroy the enemy.” Although they are trained, armed and equipped to fight on foot, infantry soldiers are usually transported to the battlefield by other means. Infantry soldiers can also specialize as light, mechanized, airmobile, airborne and other types. The characteristics of infantry are mobility, firepower, flexibility, communications and vulnerability (to enemy action). Infantry soldiers are trained in a wide range of individual and crew-served weapons and work with the all-arms team of reconnaissance, armour, artillery, air defence, engineers, tactical aviation and other combat specialists. Except for a brief time during the feudal period (when cavalry dominated), the infantry has been the largest single component of armies since ancient times. In Canada, the infantry has always been the army’s largest element.

Known as the “Queen of Battle,” the infantry is the branch of the army that provides its primary fighters. The main responsibility of infantry soldiers is to “close with and destroy the enemy.” Although they are trained, armed and equipped to fight on foot, infantry soldiers are usually transported to the battlefield by other means. Infantry soldiers can also specialize as light, mechanized, airmobile, airborne and other types. The characteristics of infantry are mobility, firepower, flexibility, communications and vulnerability (to enemy action). Infantry soldiers are trained in a wide range of individual and crew-served weapons and work with the all-arms team of reconnaissance, armour, artillery, air defence, engineers, tactical aviation and other combat specialists. Except for a brief time during the feudal period (when cavalry dominated), the infantry has been the largest single component of armies since ancient times. In Canada, the infantry has always been the army’s largest element.


Canadian Infantry

An infantry section prepares to move forward supported by a Light Armoured Vehicle (2018).

History of Infantry in Canada

The first infantry soldiers in Canada belonged to units of the regular French and British armies during the colonial period. Both the French and British colonial governments developed a system of calling out all fit civilian males between certain ages for annual musters and, when required, for war. Eventually, citizens were grouped into the first infantry units, which were usually companies. Collectively, they were known as the militia. The militia was deployed at various times before and after Confederation, including the War of 1812, 1837 Rebellions in Upper Canada and Lower Canada, Fenian Raids and North-West Rebellion.

Beginning in the 1800s, militia companies were grouped into battalions. In 1883, the Infantry School Corps was formed, becoming the first Regular Force infantry unit. It eventually became the basis for the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Canada’s oldest Regular infantry unit.

The South African War (Boer War) saw the first deployment of Canadian infantry abroad. This set the precedent for infantry contributions to the First and Second World Wars, Korean War, Cold War, peacekeeping missions in several countries and peace support operations in the Balkans and Afghanistan.

Royal Canadian Infantry School Badge

The Badge of the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps contains its motto,Ducimus (Latin for “We Lead”)

Royal Canadian Infantry Corps

The Canadian Infantry Corps was authorized in 1942 and granted the “Royal” prefix in 1947. Today, the Royal Canadian Infantry Corps (RCIC) consists of three Regular Force regiments (all with three battalions), 49 Reserve regiments (all but two with one battalion) and the Infantry School. There are also nine regiments on the Supplementary Order of Battle; these units have no members but can be reactivated if needed.

A key position in the RCIC is the Director of Infantry (D Inf), who is chosen by the Commander of the Canadian Army. D Inf is a secondary duty for a serving infantry colonel. In this position, he or she assists senior officers and non-commissioned members in the Army and Canadian Armed Forces in policy, force development, training, warfighting and other issues.

Canadian Infantry

Infantry soldiers advance supported by Light Armoured Vehicles during urban warfare training (2019)

Regular Infantry Today

The Regular infantry battalions are grouped into three regiments: the Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR), Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) and the Royal 22e Régiment (R22eR). The 1st and 2nd Battalions of each regiment are mechanized and equipped with the Light Armoured Vehicle 6.0. The 3rd Battalion in each regiment is a light infantry unit trained in various insertion methods (airborne, airmobile, amphibious) in a variety of complex terrains (urban, mountain, jungle).

The Regular regiments are assigned to three Canadian Mechanized Brigade Groups (CMBGs):

1 CMBG

1st and 3rd Battalions PPCLI-CFB Edmonton, 2nd Battalion-CFB Shilo

2 CMBG

1st and 3rd Battalions RCR-CFB Petawawa, 2nd Battalion-CFB Gagetown

5 CMBG

1st and 3rd Battalions R22eR-CFB Valcartier, 2nd Battalion-Québec City

Each infantry battalion is commanded by a lieutenant colonel and includes battalion headquarters, three rifle companies, a combat support company and an administrative company. Rifle companies are commanded by majors and consist of company headquarters and three rifle platoons (in a mechanized battalion) or two rifle platoons and a weapons platoon (in a light battalion). Each rifle platoon is commanded by a lieutenant or captain and includes headquarters, three rifle sections and a weapons detachment, each commanded by a sergeant. A weapons platoon has anti-armour and direct fire support sections. A combat support company provides all battalions with reconnaissance, signals and sniper capabilities, plus mortars, direct fire support and pioneers in a light battalion. An administrative company provides immediate battlefield maintenance, transport and supply.

Mechanized Infantry Battalion

Organizational chart of a mechanized infantry battalion in the Canadian Army.

Light Infantry Battalion

Organizational chart of a light infantry battalion in the Canadian Army.

Reserve Infantry Today

Reserve infantry regiments and their detached companies or platoons are found in nearly 100 cities and towns in every province, except PEI. Although they have the same command structure as Regular units, Reserve regiments have significantly fewer soldiers than Regular ones. Until recently, the role of the Reserves was to provide additional soldiers to regular regiments for domestic and overseas operations. In 2017, the Army introduced Mission Tasks for Reserve units. In the infantry, certain regiments must now produce either a mortar, pioneer or direct fire support platoon. These platoons become an integral component of a Regular Force unit when deployed.

Canadian Infantry

An infantry section advances beside a Light Armoured Vehicle (2019).


Further Reading

  • Michael Mitchell, Ducimus: The Regiments of the Canadian Infantry (1992)

  • John A. English & Bruce I Gudmundsson, On Infantry (revised edition 1994)