The 1st Hussars were called to Active Service on Sept. 1, 1939. It was among the first Armoured units called to active service. The 1st Hussars under the command of Lieutenant Colonel AC Spencer were designated the reconnaissance regiment for the First Canadian Division. The Regiment expanded quickly but the army did not have the resources to meet the demands for equipment and there were serious shortages of the most basic essentials such as boots and blankets. Accommodations for the new recruits consisted of World War I vintage tents pitched on the Grounds of Wolseley Barracks. Despite these initial difficulties morale was high and the young civilians quickly began learning the basics of a soldier’s life, such as drill, and the care and maintenance of their personal equipment.
On 15 October after an increasingly inclement and uncomfortable fall in their tents where many recruits came down with pneumonia the regiment moved into the same buildings at the Western Fairgrounds it had occupied in World War 1. These new quarters although spartan were both dry and heated. They also had a dining area, library and a recreation area.
On 14 November the Regiment was reorganized and renamed. The 1st Hussars provided the Regimental Headquarters, Headquarters Squadron, and C Squadron, of the newly created 1st Divisional Cavalry Regiment (Canadian Active Service Force). The remaining Squadrons were 1 each from the Royal Canadian Dragoons and Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians)
In March 1940 the regiment was re-named again. This time the First Canadian Cavalry Regiment (mechanized) (Canadian Active Service Force). However mechanized did not mean “Armoured” At that point the entire armoured strength of the Canadian Army consisted of less than 30 diminutive Carden-Loyd machinegun carriers and Vickers Mk VIB light tanks. While these tanks were in service with the British Army, they were barely worthy of the name.
On 24 May 1940 the regiment paraded through London from Queens Park to the train station in a pelting rain, enroute to the Canadian Armoured Fighting Vehicles Training Centre in Camp Borden Ontario. Here they were met with a hot meal in the pouring rain and once again were issued tents and straw filled mattresses as no fixed accommodations were available.