Shortly many of us will be standing in front of cenotaphs, wrapped up from the biting cold wind, wearing poppies, laying wreaths and silently remembering during the silence between Last Post and Reveille.
As a Regiment, the Queen’s Own Rifles have much to remember:
- In its baptism of fire during the Battle of Ridgeway in June, 1866 the QOR saw its first casualties – 7 killed in action and 2 later dying of wounds – some of whom had left their final University of Toronto exams the day before. Nineteen more were wounded including Rifleman White whose arm was eventually amputated.
- In 1885 the Regiment sent a contingent 274 soldiers to Canada’s Northwest to put down a perceived rebellion by local Métis and First Nations. While all the QOR returned alive, five suffered wounds.
- In the South African War Canada contributed troops for overseas service for the first time through a Service Battalion to which the Queen’s Own contributed – three would not return. Two died of enteric fever (typhoid) and one was killed in action.
- During the First World War, The Queen’s Own through recruitment sent 210 officers and 7,352 men overseas and of these 47 regimental officers and 1,207 other ranks were killed in action, died of wounds, or died from natural causes – almost 1 in 6. To this day, Major General Malcolm Mercer remains the highest ranking Canadian Officer to be killed in combat. And of course this doesn’t include those who did return but with missing limbs, lungs damaged from gas, blinded, or suffering shell-shock.
- The Second World War also saw significant casualties: 28 officers killed; 365 other ranks killed while serving with the 1st Battalion, QOR; 3 died in England; 1 in Canada; 1 in Holland; 61 Queen’s Own men died whilst serving with other units. Fifty officers and 823 other ranks were officially reported as wounded – many more than once.
- WWII was hardly over before the QOR found themselves in Korea where six gave the ultimate sacrifice.
- Since then numerous soldiers have died in accidents and of natural causes while serving in the Regular Force and Reserve battalions.
Thousands of QOR soldiers have given their lives since 1866 and this November 11th we will once again honour and remember them.
However each Remembrance Day I also remember those closer to home. An ancestor who fought in the War of 1812, a grandfather and several great uncles who fought in the First World War – some came home and one didn’t. And perhaps most poignantly, my paternal grandfather who during the Second World War, left a wife and 4 young children to serve in the 5th Canadian Field Ambulance. He lies buried in a hilltop Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery with all his fellow Canadians who were killed in Sicily. Mt Etna smokes in the distance and one realizes how far from home it was.
As we lead up to this November 11th when we will honour all those who have served and sacrificed, I invite you to tell us in the comment section below, who do you remember?