Excepted from Upper Canada College, 1829-1979: Colborne’s Legacy; Howard, Richard; Macmillan Company of Canada, 1979
There is no fixed date for the formation of the Upper Canada College (UCC) Cadets, though beginnings can be traced to a willingness of students to participate in the defence against the 1837 rebellion. Later in the 1800s, in schools throughout England, Canada and the United States, involvement in a military body was thought of to inspire patriotism in young men, as well as being a good method of teaching discipline and obedience. By 1863, UCC students were paraded weekly, in an amateur fashion, under someone known as Major Goodwin, but with the beginning of Fenian troubles in Upper Canada by 1865, UCC students requested that the Cadets form into a company of the Queen’s Own Rifles. By 1866, the request was fulfilled, making UCC possibly the second school in Canada to have a proper Cadet Corps (the first being Bishop’s College School in Lennoxville, Quebec).
When the Fenians did attack Fort Erie, Ontario, on June 1, 1866 (see Fenian Raids), the UCC Cadets, along with the Bishop’s College Cadets (Quebec), were called to duty, but were instructed only to guard the armouries and official stores. None-the-less, this was the only time in Canadian military history where student Cadet Corps were called to duty.
By the 1890s, there was a lack of enthusiasm for the Cadets. It was an extra expense for a student’s family to cover the costs of uniform, weapons, and even their drill instructor. As well, drill and practice time was beyond the commitment to scholastics and sport. Enrolment fluctuated over the next few decades, at one point the school’s administration turning its eyes to the school the College had been modeled on, Eton, as well as Harrow, where Cadet participation was compulsory. No real action was taken by UCC in regards to the Cadets, however, by 1910 the population of the company had increased to 63, and in 1912 a Sergeant Carpenter was approached to act as instructor. He was not to last long, as by 1914 he was in Europe as Sergeant-Major in the 9th Battalion of the 1st Canadian Overseas Contingent. Numbers in the UCC Cadets still stayed high during the First World War.
By around 1919, the UCC Cadets finally became compulsory, and principal Grant asked the army district headquarters if the Corps could be presented with Colours, both the King’s Colour and College Colour. [Now Regimental Sergeant Major Carpenter also returned in 1919.] The College Colour was given by Elanor Gooderham in 1921.
During the First World War, the Cadets’ association with the Queen’s Own Rifles had lapsed, and by 1923 two regiments, the Toronto Regiment and Queen’s Own Rifles were requesting that the Corps affiliate itself with them. After some dispute between the three parties, the College settled on the Queen’s Own again by 1927.
For thirty following years, the Cadets remained an integral part of College life, and by the middle of the Second World War boys were practicing not only drills, but also spent time on lectures, map reading, military law, and signalling.
Still, by the 1960s, due to broader shifts in social paradigms, belief in the Cadets was faltering; religion and patriotism were not held in such high regard by youth, and rebellion was the more accepted behaviour for teenagers. Minutes of the Board of Governors meeting in 1965 recorded, for the first time in sixty years, poor discipline at the battalion parade.
Principal Richard Sadlier finally disbanded the Cadet Battalion as a compulsory body in 1976. He noted: “The Battalion has been left with little beyond its ceremonial drill which is a pretty irrelevant exercise to many people today and difficult to defend when it becomes the be-all and end-all of a program.”
In 1977, the voluntary Royal Canadian Army Cadets helped organize a course in military science at UCC, which also included battle drill, field craft, weapons training, and some parade-square drill. But, by the mid 1980s, interest in this programme had fallen to a bare minimum, and today UCC provides no formal military training.
The voluntary corps was officially disbanded April 15, 1988, although new colours were dedicated and presented to the College by Old Boys in 1989.
Mewburnserved with the volunteer company (No. 9) of University of Toronto students that was a company of The Queen’s Own Rifles.
On June 1st, he was called out from his final exams to go to Ridgeway to defend Canada against the Fenian invaders. He sustained a head wound. He was left on the field and he died in Fenian custody. The Fenians behaved relatively gallantly everywhere, but in this one case, they treated him rather roughly. He was tied, thrown onto a floor of a cabin and he died on the floor of a cabin.
“At thirty-five, he was older than the average militia volunteer. Born in Islay, Scotland and raised in Lower Canada, he came from a humble background and had originally wanted to be a minister. Born a Presbyterian, he had only recently joined the Wesleyan Methodist and was a Sunday school teacher. McEachren was married to Margaret Caroline, aged thirty-one and the couple had five children: two boys, eight and twelve, and three daughters, two, four and six years old. He was a store manager in Toronto with an annual salary of nine hundred dollars, plus free rent for the family in an apartment above the premises. McEachren was sufficiently organized to have purchased life insurance but not sufficiently wealthy to acquire more than a $250 policy – in  dollars about $6,675.
Ridgeway (Vronsky) pp.61-62
He was gazetted as an Ensign March 30, 1866 and was the first to fall in the Battle of Limestone Ridge, fought against American Fenians near the town of Ridgeway in the vicinity of Fort Erie on June 2, 1866.
McEachren’s green tunic with bullet hole in the lower chest is displayed in our Museum.
William Tempest was born in Whitby or Oshawa on November 30, 1845, son of Dr. William Tempest and Mary H. Fairbanks.
One of his uncles was Colonel Silas B. Fairbanks, the first commanding officer of the 34th Ontario Regiment which was formed in 1866 after the Battle of Ridgeway in the Fenian Raids. Another uncle was Hugh J. Macdonell, Clerk of the Peace and Clerk of the Ontario County Council. A third uncle was Duncan C. Macdonell, Division Court Clerk of Ontario County.
The family moved to Toronto in 1860 and William joined the Queen’s Own Rifles, No. 9 Company (University of Toronto). On June 2, 1866 at the age of 23, he was killed in the Battle of Ridgeway when a bullet cut his jugular vein. In the weeks before the battle, he had premonitions about his death.
Tributes were paid to him by the Ontario County Council, then in session at Whitby and all the town’s businesses were closed from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the date of his funeral in Toronto. The town bells tolled mourning and the Whitby Brass Band marched through the streets playing the Dead March. All flags on public and private buildings were at half mast. He was buried in a public funeral at St. James’ Cemetery in Toronto.
In 1873, the Federal Government granted his mother a yearly pension of $298 in compensation for his death. She died in Toronto on July 7, 1902.
The Encampment Project is looking for stories of individuals who lived through the War of 1812 or any story related to the War of 1812 to be developed into an art installation on the Fort York grounds for this year’s Luminato Festival in June. Hans Bathija, an RCMI Museum Committee member is working with the artists as a Production Collaborator.
Sitrep, the journal of the Royal Canadian Military Institute, is looking for contributions from young Canadian scholars at graduate level in a defence, strategic studies or international relations program at home or abroad. Submissions should be 2500-3500 words in length, on themes related to defence policy, international military involvement, or strategic issues. Submissions may be edited for length or style.
Please send submissions to C. J. Corrigan, Editor, Sitrep at email@example.com
Peter Vronsky is a historian at Ryerson University and author of Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle That Made Canada. His website on the Battle of Ridgeway is www.ridgewaybattle.ca
“On April 9, 1917, the famous Vimy Ridge attack took place. This had been planned and practised most carefully. The 3rd Battalion was on the extreme right of the Canadian Corps and so had the longest distance to go. Nevertheless it took its first objective on time and captured four guns, the first to be taken by Canadians. The casualties were, for World War I, light – 6 officers and 179 men. During the new few days the gains were extended to the flat country east of the ridge.”
“In Holland on the night of 25th-26th February 1945, the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada launched an attack on the hamlet of Mooshof, to capture ground which was considered essential for the development of future operations.
Sergeant Cosens’ platoon, with two tanks in support, attacked enemy strong points in three farm buildings, but were twice beaten back by fanatical enemy resistance and then fiercely counter-attacked, during which time the platoon suffered heavy casualties and the platoon commander was killed…”
Sergeant Aubrey Cosens’ actions sixty-seven years ago were recognized with the posthumous award of the Commonwealth’s highest award for valour, the Victoria Cross. Read more about Cosens and the full citation of this Victoria Cross here.