By Pedro Mendes, classic men’s style enthusiast and author of The Hogtown Rake.
One of the threads that holds many generations of the Queen’s Own Rifles together is a literal one: the tailoring of Walter Beauchamp. This tailor shop – founded in 1908 as “Beauchamp and How” – has been at the heart of Toronto’s development for over 100 years. It has clothed soldiers for over a century – including the Queen’s Own since the Great War – Toronto Railway Company and TTC operators, the fire department, untold Prime Ministers, mayors and politicians, prominent celebrities from Colonel Sanders to Gordon Lightfoot and, most importantly, Torontonians of every walk of life. Look in the closet of any long-time Toronto family and you are bound to find a Walter Beauchamp suit.
I am currently researching and writing a book on the history of Beauchamp’s and so a visit to the Queen’s Own museum was my first stop while working on the chapter dedicated to military tailoring.
With the help of Major John Stephens and Master Corporal Graham Humphrey I was able to find a number of garments tailored by Beauchamp’s over the last century in the Queen’s Own museum archives. Also thanks to their help I was able to find the stories of the soldiers that wore the garments.
This Mess Kit was tailored by Beauchamp & How and the tag in the breast pocket reads, “Lt. C.O. Dalton, October 18, 1931.” Colonel Charles Osborne Dalton enlisted as a cadet at age fifteen with the Queen’s Own Rifles. He remained with his Regiment the rest of his military career, retiring in 1975. Rising through the ranks during World War II, Major Dalton was tasked with helping to lead D-Day on June 6, 1944, the largest seaborne invasion in military history. As commander of “B” company, Major Dalton landed on the beaches of Bernieres-sur-Mer, France, with 120 of his men. I am honoured to include his story in our book.
A garment that has clearly seen better days – but is all the more interesting for it – this Dress Tunic was made for Lt. Col. I.M. Macdonell on March 15, 1934 by Beauchamp’s. Shortly after it was made, in May of 1939, and as the Commanding Officer of the Queen’s Own Rifles, Lt. Col. Macdonell was presented to His Majesty King George VI during the Royal Visit to Toronto.
Despite an exhaustive search, we could not find any garments in the museum tailored for Sir Henry Pellatt, commander of the Queen’s Own from 1901 to 1920 and the man behind Casa Loma. Considering how many garments Beauchamp’s made for the regiment, it seems likely at least one was made for Sir Henry, but the search continues. Imagine my excitement, then, when Master Corporal Humphrey looked in the pocket of this tunic to find the Beauchamp and How name alongside that of “Lt. Col. Reginald Pellatt,” Sir Henry’s son and also Commanding Officer of the Queen’s Own.
My work and research will continue for the next several months as I try to tell the story of Toronto, Canada and our Armed Forces seen through the shop windows of our country’s oldest tailoring houses. The book is scheduled to be published in the Fall of 2017.