09/10/2011 06:48 EDT | Updated 11/10/2011 05:12 EST

Kangaroos honoured for war service

A Canadian army unit that changed the way battles are fought was honoured in St. Thomas, Ont., on Saturday.

The 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment was the first unit to carry infantry into battle in armoured carriers, in its case, tanks with the turrets removed that could carry 10 soldiers.

First used in Europe in 1944, the vehicles were dubbed Kangaroos because they had a protected "pouch" for the soldiers.

The regiment was also called the Kangaroos.

Soldiers inside the tanks were "safe as a church," recalled Kangaroo veteran Donald Simpson. "Bullets were bouncing off the tanks, rather than bouncing through them and killing them."

Many lives were saved, and the Kangaroo became the prototype for the armoured personnel carrier, used in today's armies to carry troops safely.

The regiment was disbanded at the war's end, but Saturday, Simpson and nine other Kangaroos — all over 90 — were honoured by the official retirement of its colours, in the shadow of one of the few remaining Kangaroo vehicles.

The colours were handed off to the Elgin's (31 Combat Engineer Regiment) in St. Thomas.

"Do we need accolades for what we accomplished? No, were were satisfied that we did a good job," Simpson said.

Bill Miller organized the retirement of the colours. His father, Bill Miller Sr., was a Kangaroo but was too ill to attend the event.