Edmonton, Alberta — A historic uniform on display at the headquarters of a Canadian Army logistics unit is a reminder of a time now past, when Army members could earn wings.
The uniform belonged to the late Major Vern Taskey, who began his military career as a member of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC). Maj Taskey retired in 1981, and passed away in 2017, aged 84.
RCASC was formed in 1901. Following the Second World War, Army strategists faced the challenges of supplying troops who were more reliant on machines than before, and also more widely dispersed, due to the new realities of the Cold War.
RCASC met those challenges in part by training their own pilots, ushering in the era of the Army aviatior, or “flying truckers”, as they came to be known.
Maj Taskey was one of just 101 RCASC personnel who earned their wings before 1968, when all the armed forces elements were amalgamated into the single Canadian Armed Forces and RCASC lost its distinct Army identity.
Major D.M. Thorlakson is Deputy Commanding Officer of 1 Service Battalion (1 Svc Bn) in Edmonton, where the uniform is on display.
"I was attending a function in Edmonton when a retired friend of mine asked if I wanted a full set of Battle Dress that had RCASC shoulder tabs on it," he recalled. "It had a very unique set of wings on it that I had never seen before, and I began some homework to see what it actually meant."
Research led him to Maj Taskey's widow, who explained that some of the late flyer's possessions, including the uniform, had been included without her knowledge in an estate sale. Maj Thorlakson offered to return it, but Mrs. Taskey graciously decided 1 Svc Bn's headquarters was a fitting home.
"We ended up hosting her and two of her surviving sons at our Christmas Soldiers Dinner, with over 700 people in attendance," said Maj Thorlakson. "She made a formal presentation of the tunic, and it is now proudly displayed in our main entrance, with more than 500 soldiers walking by it on a daily basis."
Though administrative changes shifted Maj Taskey's career path, Maj Thorlakson said current 1 Svc Bn members have retained an appreciation for RCASC's place in the larger history of Army logistics in Canada.
"It is a very unique piece of history," he said. "It allows members of the current serving Battalion to see the roots of a very rare branch of the Canadian Army. I was also exceptionally pleased to be able to give something back to the Taskey family, in terms of letting them know that the current generation of soldiers appreciated the service that he had given."
Relatives of the late Major Vern Taskey joined members of Edmonton’s 1 Service Battalion (1 Svc Bn) recently to celebrate his career. Maj Taskey was one of a small of number of Canadian Army officers to receive flight wings while serving with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (RCASC), a precursor to today’s Army logistics units. Maj Taskey’s Battle Dress from this period is now on display at 1 Svc Bn’s headquarters. Photo: 1 Service Battalion.
Prior to the unification of the Canadian Armed Forces in 1968, the Canadian Army had approximately 100 pilots among its members, including the late Major Vern Taskey. Maj Taskey served with the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps, a predecessor of today’s Army logistics units. A tunic and other parts of Maj Taskey’s Battle Dress were acquired by a member of 1 Service Battalion and are now on display at the unit’s headquarters as a tribute to that history. Photo: 1 Service Battalion.