‘Be very proud:’ Halifax soldiers first to mark return of historic patch

Published on May 5, 2014
Sgt. Ahmad Alqenai of the 36 Brigade Group speaks about the honour of being able to wear the historic 5th Canadian Division maroon patch, after a patching ceremony at the Halifax Armoury on Sunday.
Patrick McKenna for Metro Halifax

HALIFAX - About 50 soldiers marched to the sound of bagpipes and drums, gloved hands swinging in unison, as a breeze blew through the doors of the Halifax Armouries.

The restoration of the traditional 5th Canadian Division patch to the uniforms of the 36 Canadian Brigade Group was marked with a parade and ceremony on Sunday afternoon.

All soldiers in the Atlantic province will soon wear the maroon patch on both shoulders of their ceremonial uniforms to represent the historic division, which fought in World War I and joined the Italian campaign the Second World War.

“That means we can connect with strong Canadian army heritage,” said Sgt. Ahmad Alqenai after the ceremony where Lt. Gov. J.J. Grant helped raise the 5th Division’s maroon flag.

Brig.–Gen. Nicolas Eldaoud, 5th Division commander, said the patches were originally worn in World War I to distinguish soldiers from different parts of Canada. They were removed when the Canadian army downsized and restructured after World War II.

Maroon is internationally recognized as the colour of parachutists and airborne units, so “we think it’s a pretty cool colour,” Eldaoud said.

He added that four units in the 36 Brigade bore the maroon patch decades ago, which creates a special link for those soldiers but also “for all of us.”

“This is a unique day which will never happen again,” Eldaoud told the Brigade group.“Be proud. Be very proud.”

The 36 Canadian Brigade Group is mostly made up of reserve soldiers from Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and was the first to receive permission from Eldaoud to begin sewing their patches on.

Similar ceremonies are planned for Gagetown, Charlottetown and St. John’s in the coming weeks.

Eldaoud said all 8,000 members of the 5th Division should have their patches by the end of the summer.

“I think it’s a historical event,” said Eldaoud. “It’s going to get us to be a bit more closer to the people that still live today and served in those wars and conflicts in the past.”

Last July, the federal government announced the coloured patches would be returned for all five army divisions across the country.