1st Hussars HQ Camp Borden 1941
1941 started with the regiment regaining its name when the 1st Canadian Cavalry Regiment (Mechanized) became the 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1st Hussars). Although the official title was 6th Canadian Armoured Regiment (1H), 1st Hussars was used generally. With the reorganization, the Regular Force Squadrons returned to their home units leaving the regiment short many officers and over 300 soldiers. These would need to be recruited and trained over the next ten months.
In February the regiment received 41 of the M1917 tanks for training. Of these only 22 were immediately usable, 15 needed to be put into running order and 4 were only suitable for spare parts. Although unusable for anything other than the most basic training the crews gained much valuable experience in the care and handling of tanks. The squadrons tackled the maintenance challenges posed by these relics with both enthusiasm and enterprise, so much so the Commanding Officer had to admonish the crews to stop using running vehicles from other squadrons in the regiment as a source for spare parts.
Driver training with the M1917 tank was sometimes interesting
Bill McKinnon standing on ground Maintaining M 1917 light tanks
In November of 1941 the regiment sailed for England and the relative luxury of wartime Canada was left behind. The ship (Oronsay), originally designed for tropical cruises was both cold and very cramped. The soldiers were crammed into every available space. They slept in hammocks and were fed out of buckets. Upon landing in Liverpool, the regiment boarded a train for the British barracks at Aldershot. This turned out to be a bit of a disappointment for the troops. That winter was unusually cold in England and the stone barracks built some 90 years earlier were cold, damp, and drafty. Each 15-person dormitory was rationed to 1 Bucket of coal per day for heat. Rations were another source of disgruntlement, always in short supply they were nothing like what the soldiers were used to with mutton and brussels sprouts being staples.
3 Hussars with Lewis anti-aircraft gun on the Oronsay in mid Atlantic
WOII Smith inspects his soldiers sleeping arrangements aboard the Oronsay
1941 ended with a series of tests of basic military skills in which the regiment tied for top honours. In December the Hussars were chosen to represent the entire 5th division in newsreels to be shown back home. Every morning that month all ranks mustered for a regimental parade. The men actually looked forward to these as they were the one occasion in the day when they were truly warm. Christmas was a grand time. Each squadron held a dance which was well attended by the local ladies and thanks to the tireless efforts of H.L. Smuck a young C Squadron Lieutenant the men had plenty of turkey with all of the trimmings for Christmas dinner.