1 SSM Battery Background


1ST Surface-to-Surface Missile Battery, RCA (4 CIBG/4 CMBG)

(Sources: Canadian Nuclear Weapons: The Untold Story of Canada’s Cold War Arsenal by John Clearwater. Toronto / Oxford, 1998; Klaus Stark and Rick Anders, Germany)

The Canadian Army was equipped with the Honest John rocket system in Europe between 1964 and 1970. It was the only nuclear capable weapon system used by the Canadian Army.

Similar to other elements of the NATO forces in central Europe, 4 CIBG (4th Canadian Infantry Brigade Group) – assigned to BAOR – operated under the NATO strategy outlined by NATO Document MC 14/2. The Brigade deployed one Honest John battery (official designation: 1 SSM Bty RCA) with four launchers. Its mission was to use its nuclear capabilities to prevent the Canadian Brigade from being overrun if conventional weapons failed to contain Soviet forces in the event of an attack by the Soviets.

1 SSM Bty RCA was formed on 15 September 1960 in Canada, trained on the Honest John in Canada and at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. and then deployed to Germany on 8 December 1961 where it was initially stationed at Fort Prince of Wales in Deilinghofen, Germany, about 4 km from Hemer. In the autumn of 1968, the battery moved to new quarters at Fort Qu’Appelle, Iserlohn, Germany. Operationally 1 SSM Bty RCA was under direct control of HQ 4 CIBG/4 CMBG.

The Battery became “nuclear certified” in September 1964.

A team of the 69th Arty Det provided custodial support. In the initial phase, the team consisted of one captain, one sergeant and three EM’s. The author, John Clearwater, assumes that there were 16 W-31s assigned to the Canadian battery, 4 warheads per launcher. The warheads were stored at the Hemer SAS (special ammo storage?) site about 20 minutes from the kaserne housing 1 SSM Bty. Apparently, the nuclear warheads of two other units (probably British and most likely NATO units also supported by the 69th Arty Det) were stored at the same site, totalling about 48 W-31 warheads. The security force for the SAS consisted of British, Canadian and US troops.

With the reorganization of the Canadian military in 1967-68, 1 SSM Bty RCA was reduced on 30 April 1968 to 2 launchers. On 19 September 1969, the Canadian government announced that the Canadian Brigade would drop the Honest John nuclear role in 1970 as part of a new defense posture introduced by Pierre Trudeau, the new Canadian Prime Minister.

1 SSM Bty RCA had its final Nuclear Surety Inspection on 11-15 May 1970. It was given a “satisfactory” rating with no deficiencies found. The unit participated in its last field exercise, “Exercise Gravy Train,” in May 1970 and had its final parade on 1 June 1970. The unit was disbanded on 1 July 1970.

69th US Army Missile Detachment

1 SSM Bty, RCA was supported by the 69th US Army Missile Detachment. The 69th US Army Missile Warhead Support Detachment, also known as the 69th USA Msl (Whd Spt) (HJ), was stationed at Hemer, Germany. Under the command of the 514th US Army Missile Group, it was responsible for all Honest John warheads assigned to Canada in Germany. The 69th also supported the British Army 50 Missile Regiment, which also used the Honest John, at the same site.

The 69th was organized under the US Army Special Ammunition Support Command (SASCOM) at Heidelberg, and fell under the operational control of the 514th US Army Artillery (Missile) Group commanded by Col Wilson at Mönchengladbach. In this capacity, the 69th operated safe and secure “igloos” for storage of nuclear warheads at or near Hemer, Germany.

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