Unit History: British Defence Liaison Staff (BDLS) Ottawa
The British Defence Liaison Staff (BDLS) is the diplomatic arm of the Ministry of Defence and exists in Canada, USA and Australia under a reciprocal arrangement. The British High Commission in Ottawa has a BDLS, reflecting the historical and more extensive common defence interests shared by both countries.
BDLS is headed by a Brigadier and Defence / Military Adviser. Either a RAF Group Captain or Royal Navy Captain alternates every 3 years as the Navy / Air Adviser and a RAF Squadron Leader or Royal Navy Lieutenant Commander acting as the Assistant Adviser, thereby ensuring all three Services are represented.
What does BDLS do?
BDLS undertakes 6 core functions as follows:
Provides advice to the British High Commissioner and senior High Commission staff on defence-related matters
Liaises with the Ministry of Defence in UK and the Department of National Defence in Canada on matters of common interest e.g. NATO, peace-keeping, British military training in Canada
Supports defence equipment purchases and sales
Represents the British Ministry of Defence at functions such as air shows, Remembrance Day Services, Attache/Adviser functions
Administers the Personnel Exchange Programme in Canada
Handles inquiries from Canadians relating to British military matters e.g. recruiting, pensions, records of service and medals.
NATO / peace-keeping
Being historical allies, Britain and Canada, are helping to shape the expanding NATO alliance, as a means of promoting political and economic stability.
British military training in Canada
Canada possesses vast expanses of uninterrupted, largely uninhabited terrain not available in Europe which are ideal for undertaking battle group exercises as well as low-level flying training. Since World War II the Royal Air Force has benefited from flying and combat training in Canada initially at Goose Bay, Labrador and more recently as partners in the NATO Flying Training Centre at Cold Lake. The British Army enjoys the use of the base at Suffield in Alberta where British military personnel take part in extensive training exercises.
Defence equipment purchase/sale
BDLS plays an important role in negotiations for the purchase/sale of defence equipment. British and Canadian companies have benefited from an active reciprocal defence trade. Over the last 6 years, approximately $1.4 billion worth of contracts have been generated in each direction. Recent British contracts for Canadian companies include:
GD (Canada) providing the UK armed forces with a tactical combat radio communications system
CAE training and systems packages for the RN Astute submarine
CAE hi-tech training systems and simulators for RN and RAF helicopter training
Recent Canadian contracts for UK companies include:
Purchase of 19 BAES Hawk aircraft for the NATO Flying Training Programme
Purchase of 4 ex RN Upholder class submarines (renamed Victoria class)
Purchase of 15 Augusta/Westland (Cormorant) helicopters for search and rescue
Military representatives in Commonwealth High Commissions are called Advisers rather than Attaches. These Advisers have formal representational responsibilities throughout the year such as the Remembrance Day ceremonies and other anniversaries where Canadian and British servicemen fought side-by-side. The Military Advisers at BDLS also take a very active part in the Attache/Adviser community in Ottawa, which includes members from most of the major military powers in the world. Working within this group helps to promote agreement and understanding amongst respective Governments.
Personnel Exchange Programme
Building on traditions developed in the two World Wars, the British and Canadian armed forces maintain their links and broaden experience through both a Personnel Exchange and a loan Programme; this currently involves 70 Navy, Army, Air Force and civilian personnel.