All posts by QOR Museum Curator

Curator of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada Regimental Museum located at Casa Loma in Toronto, Ontario.

Dedication of new markers in the town of Courcelette

Once again, the Regiment has worked with its fellow regiments, The Governor General’s Horse Guards (GGHG) and The Royal Regiment of Canada to honour the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment), Canadian Expeditionary Force, which each unit perpetuates.

On May 30th, the GGHG dedicated new markers in the town of Courcelette to commemorate the battle honours of Somme 1916, Pozieres, Flers-Courcelette and Ancre Heights, all costly battles for the 3rd Battalion and the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, which the GGHG also perpetuate.

Costs for the memorials are shared between the three regiments.  Previous markers commemorate St. Julien and Passchendaele, and a marker for Mount Sorrel was dedicated in June.

IMG_1483

1998 Interviews with Three QOR D-Day Veterans

On this 72nd Anniversary of D-Day, we’d like to share these interview transcripts. As part of a school project, Ryan Lutz and Andrew Brooks interviewed each veteran in his home on Sunday, November 15, 1998.  The interviews were recorded on audio tape and transcribed to this document by James Lutz

Other interviews with these three veterans:

  • Charles Dalton (and his brother Elliot Dalton) is interviewed on the DVD “Canadians on D-Day: The Juno Beach Centre”.
  • Rolph Jackson is interviewed on the DVD “D-Day: Canada’s 24 Hours of Destiny” and in Lance Goddard’s related book “D-Day Juno Beach: Canada’s 24 Hours of Destiny”.
  • Jack Martin is interviewed on the DVD “D-Day: Canada’s 24 Hours of Destiny” and in Lance Goddard’s related book “D-Day Juno Beach: Canada’s 24 Hours of Destiny”.

Questions Asked of the Veterans:

  1. What was your rank when you landed on D-Day?
  2. What was your first reaction when you heard you were going to land on June 6?
  3. What were the days like leading up to the landing on D-Day?
  4. What was it like and what were your feelings when you were coming in on the landing craft?
  5. How did everyone else feel?
  6. What happened when the ramp dropped when you landed? What were your feelings at this time?
  7. When you first got onto the beach, what were your feelings and what did you do?
  8. What was the atmosphere like during the battle?
  9. What did you do when you got close to the enemy? Did you feel a sense of relief or accomplishment when you got near?
  10. What was your first reaction when you started taking prisoners?
  11. What was your first reaction when you looked back on what you had just done, after the battle?
  12. What did you do you after the battle?
  13. What are your feelings at the present day?
  14. Do you have any other comments on D-Day and your experience?

Interview with Charles Dalton

Major Charles Dalton receiving the DSO from General Montgomery
Major Charles Dalton receiving the DSO from General Montgomery

Charles Dalton joined the Cadet Corps of the Queen’s Own when he was 15.  He was a 34-year-old Major when he commanded B Company.  A and B Companies made up the first wave which landed at 0812 hours.  B Company was on the left, and A Company, commanded by his brother Elliot Dalton, was on the right.  Major Dalton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.) for his leadership in the war and later served as Honorary Colonel of the QOR. 

What happened when the ramp dropped when you landed?  What were your feelings at this time?

When I said “Follow me!” and dashed down the ramp into 12 feet of water, I disappeared.  I had an 85-pound pack on my back with ammunition and food and so on plus I had a life preserver on, so we all sank just like stones.  So when people say we ran up the beach, I say “Run?  I was barely crawling up the beach!”  And we were full of water because the impregnated battle dress we were wearing at the time kept the water from running out.

The man next to me was hit seven times down his arm.  I didn’t get touched.  We scrambled up the beach and when I looked back, I was horrified to see that there was nobody following me.  Now, one of the difficult things about leading is that you never can look back, because if you look back, the people behind you then get the feeling that you’re stopping and that the smart thing to do is get down out of the line of fire.  When I looked back I thought they had gone to ground, but in fact they were lying at the water’s edge and Germans were firing at them as they lay wounded.

So in 10 minutes, of the 120 men I had with me, we were all either killed or wounded.

When you first got onto the beach, what were your feelings and what did you do?

Of course you’re always frightened, no question about that, but all I could think of was that our Medical Officer had said “Now look, 50% of you are going to be casualties.  If you’re hit, one of two things will happen.  If you’re dead, your problems will be over.  If you’re wounded, you’re going to get better.  So just lie there and keep quiet and wait for the medical people to catch up with us, but nobody else will stop to help you, because if they do the whole thing will stop.”

So I kept thinking, what I’m really worrying about is whether I’m going to survive, but it looks as if you don’t have much choice in this whole thing.  So the important thing is that I can give the leadership that they’re expecting from me because I have their lives in my hands.  If I make the wrong decision, we’ll all wind up being killed or wounded, and if I don’t make any decision, we’ll have the worst chaos of all.  So I’d better just get on with the idea of doing the best job I can and forgetting about whether I’m going to be sacrificed as we land on the beach.

Maj. Dalton, Semple, Mr. Jackson, taken by Hugh Lamb
Maj. Dalton, Semple, Mr. Jackson, taken by Hugh Lamb

What did you do when you got close to the enemy?  Did you feel a sense of relief or accomplishment when you got near?

The pillbox I was assigned to attack was supposed to have been taken out by the Engineers and the Tank Corps, but that didn’t happen because it was too rough and the tanks tended to sink right off the landing craft.  So it wasn’t until later, after I had been hit, that I recognized that I wasn’t going to be able to get in this pillbox because it had a steel door and a 36 grenade wasn’t about to blow the door in.  So I finally decided that if I used my Sten gun at the two machine guns that were firing, but they had a shield over their guns so that nobody could fire in.  So I had a ladder that we put up the wall, and then I fired at the shield with the hope that the bullets would ricochet off them and fly around inside their pillbox.  And actually they did, so the machine guns stopped firing, but we were still no closer to getting in.

Meanwhile, one of the German officers got his 9mm revolver out and fired at me and it drilled through my helmet and down the ladder I slid.  One of the stretcher bearers was there and said to me, “Sir I thought you were smarter than that, to stick your head over the top of that wall”.  I said, “I wasn’t trying to be smart, I was just trying to find some way to stop these people from firing, and at least I’ve accomplished that much.”  So when the tanks came up, they did just that.

What did you do you after the battle?

It was about 8:30 in the morning, I guess, and I was walking along the beach trying to catch up with the rest of the company.  A medical officer saw the bandage on my head and he took the dressing off and put another bigger one on.  He said, “You will be back in England by tonight,” but I wasn’t back in England that night, I was lying on stretcher on the beach until 3 o’clock in the morning.  People came along and put cigarettes in my mouth and gave me some rum, but after a while you realized you were terribly uncomfortable with all that sand inside your clothes.

So on the third day we were put on a tank transporter which was large landing craft, and we were stacked up three high in stretcher. By that time, cigarettes were getting pretty scarce, but here’s the kind of comradeship we had.  I would light a cigarette and take two puffs and then pass it to the man above me who took two puffs.  And if nobody cheated it would go all the way up to the top rack and back down and I would get the last puff.  Well, most people would say “Here I am, and I don’t even know if I’m going to be alive by morning, so I’m going to take a really good drag on it,” but nobody did.  And that’s what people missed when they got home, and that’s why a lot of them signed up to go to Korea.

Interview with Rolph Jackson

Rfn Jackson in Belgium Oct 1944Rolph Jackson was a 23-year-old Lance Corporal on D-Day.  He was in charge of a Bren Gun Section of B Company which was in the first wave, landing at 0812 hours.

What was your first reaction when you heard you were going to land on June 6?

We figured it was the only way we could get home.  We were awfully tired of being away from home.  We’d come over in ’41 in the summer and the English got used to us and we got used to the English, but it was an awful lot of training.  It was a job.  We knew it was going to be tough.  You people are not brought up with Canadian history, but we had our forefathers, our fathers’ generation’s reputation to live up to from World War I.  And we did it.

What was it like and what were your feelings when you were coming in on the landing craft?

Let’s get it over with!  When we first saw the beach, it was on the dark side of dawn.  It was British war time which is two hours ahead of solar time.  It was double daylight, if you follow me.  You could see outlines against the dark side.  The beaches were under bombardment.  You could see the ships at sea, a massive flotilla, the most ships I’d ever seen.  We landed while part of the bombardment was still going on.  Many of us that survived felt it would have been better to land without the bombardment because the beaches were manned when we got there.

We had rocket craft that had 1400 rockets.  They fired them in batteries of 20, and they killed a lot of cows.  Unfortunately a Yankee Thunderbolt [aircraft] was patrolling the beach and they took out one of their Thunderbolts.  That was the first casualty we saw.

What happened when the ramp dropped when you landed?  What were your feelings at this time?

Our landing craft had two sections of infantry, about 20 men, and a section of engineers.  They were demolition engineers.  We landed at the sea wall.  I’ve seen the Yankee beaches and they were very shallow, but ours was very steep.  I was – if you’ll pardon me – up to my balls in water.

We hit the beach and it was a slaughterhouse.  They cut us to ribbons.  Of the 10 men in my section, 7 were dead and 2 of us were wounded.   Two of us crossed the wall.  In our platoon, there were 6 men left by 2 o’clock the next morning, 6 out of 36.  I was hit in the hand in the water and knocked off my feet.

I lost a lot buddies.  I seen them go down.  The sea was red with blood.  Most of them went down in the water, and I think quite possibly drowned rather than was shot.  We had to walk 25 or 30 yards in the water.

Lance Corporal Roph Jackson
Lance Corporal Roph Jackson

When you first got onto the beach, what were your feelings and what did you do?

How did we feel when we were on the beach?  Fairly angry.  We were carrying a lot of assault equipment.  If you were carrying anything but a rifle, you didn’t make it.  Was I scared?  You didn’t think about it.

We cleared one dugout.  We presumed it was cleared – they didn’t come out after the 36 [hand grenade] went down there.  German grenades were concussion, and ours were shrapnel.  I have a piece of German grenade in my shoulder still.  The doctor gave me some sulfa because I had been shot in the hand.

We did what the Americans didn’t do.  We had Dieppe for training.  At Dieppe the soldiers stopped to help the wounded.  We learned you can’t stop under fire because a moving target is harder to hit.     We were told under no circumstances to stop and help the wounded.  No way.  Get in behind the enemy and take him out.

Was I scared?  I guess maybe we were.  We didn’t think about it.

What did you do you after the battle?

That night I wasn’t looking forward to having to dig in with one hand.  I saw the M.O. [Medical Officer] and he evacuates me because I have bones smashed.  I spent most of the night getting back to the dressing station.  I fell asleep against a stone wall and maybe got 3 hours sleep.

Interview with Jack Martin

Jack Martin was a 20-year-old Rifleman (private) on D-Day.  He was from Toronto, and his father and 4 brothers had all served in the QOR.  Rifleman Martin was with the mortars who landed with C Company in the second wave at 0830 hours.

What were the days like leading up to the landing on D-Day?

We were confined to barracks – that was C.B. – waterproofing the Bren Gun Carriers.  We had scissors and were cutting each others’ hair.  I got a beaver cut.

What was it like and what were your feelings when you were coming in on the landing craft?

I was on a Landing Craft Tank with the Bren Gun Carriers.  I was lying on the gunwale looking onto the water for mines.  This was all new to me . . . I was just a kid of 20!

How did everyone else feel?

I never gave any notice to anybody else.  I was just looking after this guy [meaning himself].

What happened when the ramp dropped when you landed?  What were your feelings at this time?

When the ramp went down, we landed on dry sand and we ran right off.  There was a captain giving us directions and he had blood streaming down his face.  That scared me more than anything else.  We were ordered to run right up to the wall for protection.  I ran like hell.  One of the other landing craft had flipped in the water.  I couldn’t see what happened to the men because we were told we couldn’t stop on the beach.  I thought it was a great accomplishment that we had gotten that far.

What was the atmosphere like during the battle?

It was hectic!  This was our first time in battle.  It means something if it’s permanent when they hit you.

What did you do when you got close to the enemy?  Did you feel a sense of relief or accomplishment when you got near?

We were the mortars, so we didn’t get too near the enemy.  We had to support the infantry.  We were near the self-propelled guns which were firing at a German 88 [88mm gun].  An SP was hit, and it was loaded with ammo, so it blew sky-high.  It was the worst explosion I ever heard, and I served from D-Day through to VE Day.  The gun from the SP came whizzing through the air at me and right over our heads.  It sounded like a freight train.

What was your first reaction when you looked back on what you had just done, after the battle?

I was tired.  I got into my slit trench and went to sleep.  We were in a barnyard, and during the night a German staff car pulled into the barnyard.  The men in it went to sleep.  In the morning, some of our soldiers woke the Germans – there were 2 officers and an NCO – and they were really surprised when we woke them up!

What are your feelings at the present day?

It was something to have lived through.  I’m one of the few left.  We were all volunteers, you know.  I have no regrets.  I had lots of great friends.

Further Information about these Veterans

Charles Dalton died in 1999 – see below for his obituary from the Queen’s Own Rifles website (qor.com).

Rolph Jackson died in 2006 – see below for his obituary from the Queen’s Own Rifles website (qor.com).

Jack Martin died in 2016.

Charles Dalton’s obituary from the QOR website:

Colonel C.O.
Charles Dalton DSO, KStJ, ED
OC ‘B’ Company
D-Day
1910 – 1999

Colonel Charles Osborne Dalton, the last surviving D-Day company commander of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada who was recognized for his gallantry with the Distinquished Service Order by Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, has died aged 88.

As Company Commander of B Company, then-Major Dalton, along with his younger brother, Elliot – who commanded A Company – led the two front line assault battalions on Juno Beach for The Queen’s Own Rifles – Canada’s oldest continuously serving infantry regiment.

The brothers, who had developed a strong bond, were known in the Regiment as “Mark I and Mark II” to distinguish the elder from the younger brother.

“The Dalton brothers were legends, everybody was devoted to them and had tremendous respect for them,” said Barney Danson, chairman of the Canadian War Museum’s advisory committee and colleague of Col. Dalton. “You always had confidence in what they were doing and they always had the human touch. But they both commanded great respect.”

At his brother Elliot’s funeral service in 1994, Col. Dalton said as D-Day approached and he began to realize he may never see his brother again, he tried to come up with some parting words.

But as they parted on their respective landing crafts he said quite simply: “I’ll see you tonight.”

As the landing craft ramp dropped in front of Bernieres-sur-Mer, Major Dalton turned to his men shouting, “Follow me!”, as they plunged into two to three metres of water, trudging their way to shore.

As they made for the seawall, Maj. Dalton turned back to see his men laying on the sand.

“I thought they had gone to ground for cover, then realized they’d been hit,” he remembered.

The company had landed directly in front of a concrete strong point and were immediately met with fierce machine-gun fire. Almost half of the company was lost in the initial dash across the beach. As he and his men tried to capture a German gun emplacement, Maj. Dalton was shot in the head, the bullet ripping off his helmet and peeling off his scalp.

Despite severe wounds, Maj. Dalton continued to lead his men across the beach and was personally instrumental in knocking out one of the pillboxes.

“With blood pouring down the side of his face, he still encouraged us to continue on,” said Joe Oggy, a retired Corporal, who was under Maj. Dalton’s command at the time.

His greatest fear, he once said, was not being wounded or killed but failing to lead his men. The citation of the DSO read, in part: “By this officer’s example of leadership and bravery, and his coolness in the face of stiff opposition, the enemy fortified position was quickly overrun, and the company which followed in the landing on the beach suffered no casualties from the beach defences.

“The casualties were the heaviest suffered by any Canadian unit that day. In the end, 56 other ranks had been killed in action; seven died of wounds. Six officers and 69 other ranks had been wounded.

As Maj. Dalton was evacuated to a hospital in England, his brother Elliot was mistakenly told that Charles had been killed.

“While I was sad to hear my brother had died, I didn’t really have time to grieve, as we were still fairly busy,” Elliot Dalton recalled.

However, Elliot was wounded a few days later and sent to the same hospital as his brother. As the nurse wheeled Elliot to the bed marked Maj. Dalton, he noticed a patient lay there with the sheet pulled over his head.

When the nurse asked the patient why he was in the bed, Maj. Charles Dalton replied; “Because I’m Major Dalton.”

During his recuperation, Maj. Dalton had the honour of meeting Queen Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

By August, Maj. Charles Dalton had recuperated well enough to return to combat with the Queen’s Own and served through the Channel Ports campaign as second-in-command of the Regiment during the fighting of the Scheldt in Belgium in the fall of 1944.

He was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, and appointed to command the Non-Commissioned Officers School at Ravenstein, Holland. He returned to Canada in March, 1945, to command the Small Arms School at Long Branch, Ont., and retired from active service in September, 1945. From 1968 – 1975 he was the Honorary Colonel of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

Born in Toronto, Col. Dalton enlisted with The Queen’s Own Rifles Cadet Company in 1925 and the 2nd Battalion Militia a year later at the age of 16.

He volunteered for active service and was sent to England in March, 1940, as an instructor to the Canadian Infantry Training Unit. In 1943, he rejoined the Regiment and was soon promoted to Major and made Officer Commanding B Company.

“He and his brother were very distinguished guys. Charlie was the archetypal dashing young officer,” said Cpl. Oggy. “He really had a lot of style. He was elegant and acted the part of a fine officer.”

“He was fantastic. He was a buddy. His brother was the same way, very down to earth. We would follow him to hell if we had to. His friendliness and rank meant nothing to him as far as we were concerned, he was a buddy and we respected him. He never talked as an officer ordering this and that, he and his brother were good leaders.” Cpl. Oggy said.

His command responsibilities followed him to civilian life. After the war he joined Canadian Breweries Ltd. as Assistant to the Vice-President of Sales and was appointed Sales Manager of the Carling Breweries Ltd. in 1946. He was made President of Carling Breweries Ltd. in 1951. He was appointed Executive Vice-President Canadian Operations, Canadian Breweries Ltd. in 1964 and Executive Vice-President of Canadian Breweries Ltd. in 1965.

He also became Vice-President of Canadian Executive Overseas from 1969 to 1971. He was a popular and much sought after-dinner speaker.

“He was a reserved person. And yet he was amazingly articulate and spoke exceedingly well and he was asked to speak a great deal because he could express and talk about the war with a light touch and good humour but didn’t treat it lightly,” said Mr. Danson, who served as a Liberal Minister of Defence.

Colonel Charles Osborne Dalton was awarded the Distinguished Service Order by Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery for “leadership and bravery, and his coolness in the face of stiff opposition.”

During his recuperation from a head wound, Colonel Charles Osborne Dalton had the honour of meeting Queen Elizabeth, now Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

Rolph Jackson’s obituary from the QOR website:

Rifleman
Rolph Jackson
“B” Company
D-Day
1921 – 2006

Rolph Jackson was born April 6, 1921, in Toronto, a ninth generation descendant of Loyalist settlers from the U.S. Originally, the Jackson family came from County Armagh in Northern Ireland. His mother died when he was age six and his sister Lenore, two. The family struggled as their Dad had work only occasionally, especially during the lean Depression years. Rolph was sent to live with his uncle at age nine in 1930 on a farm in Grey County, near Holland Centre. His sister went to live with an aunt in the West.

Life on the farm in the 1930’s was difficult and the harsh environment in which he was raised significantly shaped his life. Rolph moved back to Toronto in 1937 to be with his father and to look for work. Rolph joined The Queen’s Own Rifles militia in December 1939, shortly after WW11 began. When the Third Division was mobilized for overseas service, he “went active” on 5 June, 1940, at age 19, enlisting in Baker Company of the 1st Battalion. He trained with them in Newfoundland and Sussex, N.B. prior to departing for England in the summer of 1941.

During embarkation leave, Rolph came back to Toronto and had a visit with Olive Lipski and family. She wrote him faithfully and he wrote back when he could.

On D-Day, his Baker Company was especially hard-hit, only Rolph and two others (Doug Hester and Bob Nicol) in his section survived. Rolph was wounded in the hand and after recovery remained in England until the end of the war.

Following Rolph’s return, he and Olive were married on 9 October, 1945, at Redeemer Lutheran Church, Toronto. Their daughter Chrystal was born in late 1947 and they soon decided they needed more room. They bought their first house: an “ugly four room” one and lived there from 1948 to 1952. After working at a variety of temporary jobs, Rolph got work at The Toronto Star in 1950 as a pressman and he worked there until retirement.

The Jackson family moved to a larger six-room bungalow in Scarborough (Pharmacy and Eglinton-St. Clair) just one block away from a public school that Chrystal attended beginning that Fall. Olive and Rolph lived there from 1952 until 1966 when Chrystal graduated from Grade 13 and they moved to the house on Roosevelt in East York. It was reasonably close to downtown for work for Rolph and a good community to live in.

The family attended Emmanuel Lutheran for a number of years in the 1950’s and early ’60’s where Olive taught Sunday School. She was also involved with the women’s group and helped with Christmas pageants. They had a lot of fun and liked to go to dances, shows and played cards a lot. Olive and Rolph were members of RCL Branch 344 from the 1970’s, when they met in a building on Elm Street (long since demolished), before moving to its current Lakeshore Avenue location.

They also took many interesting vacations: to the eastern United States, California, Mexico, Caribbean, Hawaii and to Europe four times, including memorial trips to Normandy as well as tours to Greece and the former Yugoslavia.

Rolph loved the out-of-doors. For many years he would take a friend and go canoeing and fishing in Algonquin Park, even into his 70’s when his friends weren’t able to go any longer.

After his wife died in 2001, Rolph lived as a widower in the house with his black cat, Midnight. His health declined and he eventually sold the house at 53 Roosevelt Road in 2005. He moved into Sunnybrook Hospital, Hees Wing, where he resided at the time of his death, just three days after the 62nd anniversary of D-Day.

—————————————————————–

This document may be cited as:  Lutz, Ryan and Andrew Brooks.  Interviews with Three D-Day Veterans of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.  Toronto, 1998. 

Version of May 15, 2016

Major General Malcolm Mercer

THE HIGHEST RANKING CANADIAN OFFICER KILLED IN THE GREAT WAR BY FRIENDLY FIRE

Written by  Gordon MacKinnon and originally published in Vol 8, Issue 1 of the Canadian Military Journal.  Mercer was killed one hundred years ago today.

Deafened by a German artillery barrage, his leg broken by a stray bullet as he tried to move to safer ground, Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer was fatally wounded by shrapnel from a British artillery counter-offensive trying to prevent the Germans from bringing up reinforcements.

The highest ranking officer of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) to be killed in action in the First World War, General Mercer succumbed to his wounds in the early hours of 3 June 1916 in No Man’s Land at the foot of Mount Sorrel near the ill-fated town of Ypres, Belgium. But for the quick thinking and perseverance of a Canadian corporal sent out to locate and bury soldiers killed in the area, Mercer’s body might have been lost forever in the quagmire churned up by the shelling.

Instead, the general was buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery on 24 June 1916 in a full military funeral with all battalions of the Canadian Mounted Rifles represented. He was also posthumously Mentioned in Despatches by General Sir Douglas Haig for his valiant conduct, the third time he was so honoured.1

Except among the Mercer family and students of the Great War, General Mercer’s name is virtually forgotten today. The absence of letters and documents has meant that historians have overlooked the contribution of this hard working, amateur soldier who endeavoured to solve the problems of the new trench warfare of 1914-1916. However, the contents of a diary written by Mercer during the period 22 August 1914 to 10 November 1915 – now part of the collection of the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum – give some insight into the conscientious officer who became the first General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the CEF’s 3rd Division.

Mercer was born on the family farm in what is now north-west Toronto. Until age 25 he worked on the farm, acquiring a high school diploma and then enrolling at the University of Toronto in 1881. He must have felt embarrassed at being older than other first year students because he under-misrepresented his date of birth by three years. The Great Fire at the university in 1890 destroyed the student records, so it is not possible to know exactly when he made the change. Contrary to dates in published biographical sketches, census evidence is conclusive that he was born on 17 September 1856.2

Mercer graduated in 1885 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He then studied law at Osgoode Hall and was called to the Bar in 1888. While at university, he enlisted as a private in the Queen’s Own Rifles of the Non-Permanent Active Militia, a prestigious battalion of volunteers. Mercer did not exploit the social position open to him as an officer as he nonetheless rose steadily through the ranks. However, he did excel at rifle shooting, resulting in several trips, not only to provincial and national competitions, but also to the Bisley Rifle Competition in England – as a competitor, and, in 1909, as the adjutant of the Canadian team. The Queen’s Own Rifles grew to two battalions, and, in 1911, Mercer became Lieutenant-Colonel Commandant, replacing Sir Henry Pellatt, who was promoted to command the 6th Brigade.3 All known portraits of Mercer show him in the uniform of either the Queen’s Own Rifles or the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He stood ramrod straight, six feet tall with dark brown hair and blue eyes, as well as a generous moustache that completely hid his mouth. Most observers noted that, upon first meeting, he created an impression of cool reserve.

Mercer established a comfortable law practice in 1889 with classmate S.H. Bradford that lasted until his death. The contents of his estate, auctioned in 1925, showed him to have been a collector of art, and included European and Canadian paintings, sculpture, porcelain, and antique furniture. Many of the Canadian paintings were by Carl Ahrens,4 whom Mercer had supported financially when Ahrens was a young artist.

Later, a fellow officer described Mercer as “a man who above all else took a sane view of life; quiet and reserved, with a touch of cynical humour but great kindness of heart, he impressed one as a born leader of men.”5 His “even temper, kind and open nature” continued to be noted by his friends and admirers well after his death.

painting

Moonrise Over Mametz Wood by William Thurston Topham. The painting has been described by veterans as “an eerily accurate impression of the Somme battlefield in 1916”. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, CWM 19710261-0752

The Call to Arms

During the early part of the 20th Century, Canada’s only perceived threat by land was an expansionist United States, and the country had depended upon maintaining good relations with its American neighbours to avoid a repeat of military invasion last seen in the War of 1812, followed by some unofficial armed incursions by the Fenians in 1866. Britain, then in control of Canada’s foreign and defence policy, followed a similar course of action and withdrew its troops in 1871, except for those garrisoned at the Royal Navy base at Halifax.6 Until 1904, by law, the General Officer Commanding the Canadian Militia had to be a British Regular,7 and the few remaining British troops were withdrawn from fortresses only in 1905 when the British decided to cease using Halifax and Esquimalt as naval bases.

The Canadian defence force in 1914 was very small, consisting of 3000 Permanent Force Active Militia and 55,000 Non-Permanent Active Militia, and a navy of just two ships.

 …the total authorized establishment of the [Permanent] Force was 3110 all ranks and 684 horses. It…comprised two regiments (each of two squadrons) of cavalry – the Royal Canadian Dragoons and Lord Strathcona’s Horse; the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery with two batteries, and the Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery with five companies; one field company and two fortress companies of engineers; one infantry battalion – the Royal Canadian Regiment; together with detachments of various service and administrative corps. The Permanent Force’s main peacetime functions were to garrison fortresses on either coast and assist in training the militia.8

Entry into the widely anticipated war was never in doubt, and plans to raise quickly a force of 30,000 volunteers had been made before 4 August 1914. However, this 1911 plan to give the commanders of the existing six Military Districts of Canada responsibility for recruiting the overseas battalions was peremptorily changed by Colonel (later Lieutenant-General Sir Sam) Hughes, the Minister of Militia and Defence in Sir Robert Borden’s Conservative government. Hughes initiated matters through a night lettergram to 226 militia commanders, ordering them to recruit volunteers.9 This impractical, impromptu, chaotic methodology eventually had to be modified, but it led to the CEF being composed mainly of numbered battalions, not battalions carrying the names of existing militia units.

Because there were very few professional officers, senior militia officers who appeared to be competent and had the right political affiliations and opinions were given senior appointments within the new CEF. Lieutenant-Colonel Mercer had never seen active service, but he possessed the political and religious qualifications needed to impress the Minister of Militia. He had even accompanied Sir Sam on a pre-war military reconnaissance tour of Europe, resulting in both men concluding that war with Germany was inevitable.10

When Mercer left Toronto on 22 August 1914 for Camp Valcartier, then under construction near Quebec City, he was in charge of the soldiers from the Queen’s Own Rifles. At Valcartier, he was given command of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, composed of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4thBattalions recruited in Ontario.

The 1st Contingent of the CEF left Quebec City on 25 September 1914 on a fleet of passenger liners destined for England. Delays in the Gulf of St. Lawrence while waiting to rendezvous with its Royal Navy escort, followed by embarkation of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, compounded with the slow speed of the convoy, resulted in a 20-day journey to Plymouth. One man fell overboard and another was operated on unnecessarily for appendicitis; otherwise, the voyage was undoubtedly as dull as the weather was fine.

The Canadian Contingent was under the command of Colonel V.A.S. Williams, one of the few Permanent Force officers on board. This Permanent Force officer shortage was due to the fact that the Royal Canadian Regiment had been sent to Bermuda on 6 September to release a British Regular unit, the 2nd Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, for deployment in Flanders.11 Williams, a graduate of the Royal Military College, Kingston, and the Adjutant-General of the Canadian Militia, would ultimately play a role on Mercer’s last day.

Winter in the Mud and Rain

Upon arrival at Plymouth, a British Regular, Lieutenant-General E.A.H. Alderson, who had been appointed after previous Canadian government consultation, took over command before the troops disembarked.12 Mercer was placed in command of Bustard Camp on Salisbury Plain near Stonehenge. The troops resumed the routine commenced in Canada that would continue their transformation from civilians into professional soldiers: route marching and physical exercises for fitness, and entrenching, bayonet drill, musketry and other instruction to improve their military skills. The conditions were appalling. The rapid expansion of the British forces meant that there was no extra barrack accommodation. Consequently, the Canadians were housed in tents. Contractors were building huts, and hundreds of carpenters and bricklayers were seconded from the Canadian Contingent to speed up construction.13 Slowly, the troops were moved into the huts or were billeted in private homes in the small villages nearby. There was never enough space, however, and Mercer’s brigade was the only one that spent the entire winter under canvas. Several severe storms blew down most of the tents and marquees. It rained 89 out of the 123 days that they were so quartered. Surprisingly, the health of the troops remained good, and those in huts and billets suffered more illness than those in tents.14

The 1st Canadian Contingent was renamed the 1st Canadian Division, and British staff officers were added to this largely amateur army. Inspections were frequent, and Mercer must have felt satisfaction when, after a Royal Inspection on 4 November 1914 by King George V and Queen Mary, accompanied by Field Marshal Lord Roberts (who was Honorary Colonel of the Queen’s Own Rifles at the time) and Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, he recorded their comments in his diary: “No finer physique in the British Army. A fine brigade. Splendid.”15

Malcolm Smith Mercer

Major-General Malcolm Smith Mercer as General Officer Commanding of the CEF’s 3rd Division. Courtesy of the Woodstock Museum NHS.

Mercer Takes Command and Learns on the Job

All three brigade commanders of the 1st Division had spent many years in the Canadian Non-Permanent Active Militia, but only Brigadier-General R.E.W. Turner, VC, DSO, had combat experience. He had won his decorations as a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Dragoons during the South African (Boer) War. Turner was the GOC of the 3rd Brigade, and, for a brief time, was also GOC of the 2nd Division. Controversy over his eventual handling of the Battle of St. Eloi Craters (June 1916) would result in his transfer to a staff position in England. Brigadier-General Arthur W. Currie, a Vancouver real estate broker and speculator, commanded the 2nd Brigade. He would later become commander of the Canadian Corps, earning a reputation as one of the war’s outstanding allied generals. Mercer had been in the Queen’s Own Rifles (QOR) for more than 30 years, but had never led troops in battle. The brigadier-generals and their soldiers would just have to learn on the job.

Four days before the brigade embarked for France on 9 February 1915, Mercer was promoted to full colonel.16 The training routine intensified in France and Belgium, where units of Canadians were placed in the front line at Armentières, along with experienced troops of the British 4th and 6thDivisions. Then the Canadians moved into the trenches at Fleurbaix, where their role was to hold the trenches defensively while the British 1st Army attacked at Neuve Chapelle. Mercer received another promotion on 2 March, this time to temporary brigadier-general. The brigade was at the Fleurbaix front from 1 to 24 March. Rotations of four days each in the trenches interspersed with four days in reserve billets resulted in the troops enduring 16 days and nights in the trenches. As it materialized, neither side attacked. However, Mercer demonstrated that he was not a ‘château general’ – to understand fully the conditions his soldiers endured, he visited the trenches on 16 occasions and the billets on five.17 After 1 April, the 1st Canadian Division took over four kilometres of trenches north of Ypres, where the British were assuming more of the line from the French. Training and inspections continued. On 12 April, Mercer records that General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commander of the 2nd British Army, under whose orders the 1st Canadian Division operated, complimented him and the troops, saying that, “for steadiness and precision this Brigade was the finest Salute he had ever seen.”18

Although fatal casualties at Fleurbaix totalled only one officer and 29 men, the Ypres Salient was to be a much more lethal introduction to war. On 22 April 1915, for the first time in warfare, an enemy attacked using clouds of poison gas. The French colonial troops on the left flank of the Canadians were hardest hit by the gas and fled in panic, but the untested 2nd and 3rd Canadian Brigades filled in the gap and held despite the lack of any better protection from the gas than urine-soaked cloths.19 Mercer’s 1st Brigade was in Divisional Reserve in Vlamertinghe. Its 2nd and 3rd Battalions were transferred to the 3rd Canadian Brigade at 2130 hours on 22 April. Early on the morning of 23 April, Mercer was ordered to march the 1st and 4th Battalions across the Yser Canal, and attack in the direction of Mauser Ridge west of Kitcheners Wood. The attack failed for several reasons: there was little time for planning and coordinating the British, French and Canadian forces involved, and the Canadian troops had never attacked before. French troops failed to advance along the canal on the Canadians’ left flank and, in the same area, Geddes’s Detachment of British battalions under Colonel A.D. Geddes, commanding officer of The Buffs, 2nd East Kent Regiment, was attached to the Canadian Division, but was not under Mercer’s command.20 Mercer, with only two battalions at this time, had a complete brigade headquarters staff. Geddes had four to seven battalions but almost no staff. Of note, Colonel A.F. Duguid, in his official history of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, infers reluctance by the British to put a Regular colonel under orders of a Canadian militia brigadier-general.

[Mercer]…could have handled several attached battalions with ease. On the other hand Colonel Geddes was a regular officer, a graduate of the Staff College, and tried in the 1914 campaign. It may be noted that no regular British battalion was in the line under a Canadian brigadier during the battle.21

There were casualties of over 400 in each battalion, and the remnants of the 1st and 4th Battalions withdrew to Wieltje on the afternoon of the 24th. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions continued to fight under General Turner’s command on 24 April when another gas attack was launched. During the evening of the 25th, the 1st and 4th Battalions marched west across the canal, and the 2nd and 3rdBattalions rejoined the brigade at night. The 3rd Battalion, partly composed of men from the QOR, reported more than 400 men captured.22 On 28 April, the entire 1st Brigade was again under Mercer’s command, guarding the canal bridges and in billets for reorganization.23 For their conduct under fire, he and the three other Canadian brigadier-generals were named Companions of the Order of the Bath (CB) by King George V in his Birthday Honours List of June 1915. The award is given for military service of the highest calibre and only 144 military CBs have ever been awarded to Canadians.24

After two weeks of refitting and adding reinforcements, Mercer’s brigade marched southeast to Festubert, where it relieved the 3rd Brigade in the front line on 22-23 May. A company of the 3rdBattalion assaulted from the Orchard on the night of the 24th. A shortage of troops caused by casualties sustained at Ypres made it necessary to use the dismounted Canadian Cavalry Brigade under Brigadier-General J.E.B. Seely as additional infantry in this attack.25 In spite of further heavy casualties, no real progress was made. By the end of the month, Mercer’s brigade was back in billets in Béthune. On 10 June at Givenchy, a short distance from Festubert, the 1st Brigade relieved the 3rd Brigade in the trenches and was to be the main Canadian formation in the attack that began on 15 June.26 For the first time in battle, they would use the Lee-Enfield rifle in place of the Canadian-made Ross rifle that had caused problems in previous engagements. The Ross was an excellent target rifle, but could not stand up to rapid fire with British-made ammunition in muddy conditions.27 While more time was available for planning the assault, a shortage of shells and strong German resistance doomed the action. On the following day, an attack by the 3rd Battalion ran into heavy machine gun fire and was forced back into its own trenches. On the 17th, the 1st Brigade was relieved, moving back into billets. Mercer had protested to General Alderson that orders for Canadian troops to man the front trenches while a mine was exploded under the German lines were both dangerous and unnecessary. He was overruled, and subsequently, there were many casualties.28 By this time, Mercer was developing a reputation as a general who frequently visited his troops in the front line trenches to assess the situation for himself, and as one who was concerned about his soldiers’ welfare.29

At the end of June, the Canadian Division was sent to a ‘quiet’ section of the line near Ploegsteert; quiet only in comparison to the active areas they were leaving. The brigade received reinforcements and continued to integrate the new men through marching and training. Mercer notes that Field Marshal Sir John French, the commander-in-chief of the British forces, inspected the brigade on 14 July and was “very eulogistic on the quality of the Canadian troops at Ypres, Festubert, and Givenchy.”30

Back in Canada, enlistment continued vigorously. More troops had arrived in Britain; a second division had been formed and sent to France at the end of September 1915. This resulted in the creation of the Canadian Corps, with Lieutenant-General Alderson as General Officer Commanding (GOC). Major-General Currie became GOC of the 1st Division, and Major-General Turner took over as GOC of the 2nd Division.31 A third division was planned, and Mercer notes in his diary that on 23 September, “Gen A called – said he had a new position in prospect for me.”32 On 19 October, Alderson told him that he was being recommended for the position of GOC of the Corps Troops from which the 3rd Canadian Division was to be formed.33 The official notice of the appointment was issued on 22 November. Mercer subsequently was struck off strength of the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade on 4 December and appointed GOC 3rd Division with the temporary rank of major-general.34 Thus, the GOCs of the three Canadian divisions had risen from lieutenant-colonels in the Non-Permanent Active Militia to major-generals in the Canadian Corps within 14 months. They had earned quick promotions, not only because of their achievements, but also because the Canadian government insisted that Canadians be promoted to command positions in their own army.

painting

No Man’s Land by Maurice Cullen. This was the drab reality of the Western Front. It was also where General Mercer would die. Beaverbrook Collection of War Art, CWM 19710261-0134

A Last Reconnaissance in the Trenches

When the 3rd Division was formed in December 1915, “…the six regiments of Mounted Rifles [CMR] were converted into four battalions of infantry, making the 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th Battalions of the 8thBrigade under Brigadier-General Victor A.S. Williams.”35 They were holding the line at Mount Sorrel on 1 June 1916. The 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles (CMR) held Trenches 47-53 on the brigade right, and the 1st CMR held Trenches 54-60 in the left sector up to Sanctuary Wood; while the 2nd and 5th CMR were being held in brigade reserve at Maple Copse. On 1 June, the Germans dug a trench joining the heads of the saps they had made opposite Trenches 51 and 52.36 As an aside, Lieutenant-General Sir Julian Byng had been appointed GOC of the Canadian Corps a few days before on 28 May to replace Alderson.37 Under Byng’s command, the CEF was to develop into a formidable fighting force.

On the 1st June, he [Byng] visited Major-General Mercer, who explained the situation at Mount Sorrel and Tor Top [Hill 62]. General Byng then told Major-General Mercer that he wanted him to carry out a reconnaissance with a view to a local operation to improve it. Later he went round all the headquarters in front of Ypres. Whilst he was at 8th Brigade headquarters, Major-General Mercer came to make arrangements with Br-General Williams for this reconnaissance, and asked General Byng if he would come. After a considerable pause, General Byng said. “No. You had better go yourselves tomorrow and make your own proposals. I will come around and see them on Saturday.”38

Major-General Mercer and Brigadier-General Williams met the Commanding Officer of the 4th CMR, Lieutenant-Colonel J.F.H. Ussher, in his battalion headquarters, “…in a dug-out in the immediate support trench, about twenty-five yards back of the front line”39 to evaluate the situation. Just as the generals had completed their inspection of the 4th CMR trenches, German artillery smashed the 3rd Division’s front from 0830 hours to 1300 hours with the most intense bombardment witnessed up to that time. A shell explosion deafened Mercer and seriously wounded Williams in the face and head. Mercer’s Aide de Camp, Captain Lyman Gooderham, was knocked unconscious briefly but was not wounded. Williams was taken to the dressing station in a long, narrow tunnel that had two entrances: one a shaft dug from the communication trench known as O’Grady Walk, and the other in a shelter trench called the Tube. Mercer, Ussher, and Gooderham remained in the 4th CMR headquarters.40 Ussher went to the tunnel to check on the condition of General Williams and was trapped when enemy shelling blocked both exits. The German infantry occupied Mount Sorrel above after detonating four mines.41 Gooderham attempted to move Mercer from the headquarters dugout to safety across the open stretch, since all trenches had been flattened. In the process, a random bullet broke Mercer’s leg. Gooderham bandaged the wound and the two men sheltered in a ditch. That night, British artillery fired shrapnel shells to prevent the Germans from bringing up reinforcements. Gooderham, who had stayed with the general throughout this ordeal, recorded that between 0100 hours and 0200 hours on 3 June, shrapnel from these British guns pierced the general’s heart and caused his instantaneous death.42 He was three-and-a-half months short of his 60th birthday.

Major-General Currie had learned from earlier battles that saturation artillery bombardment was essential to infantry success. Employing this technique with some innovations, his 1st Division recaptured the lost ground within one hour on 13 June 1916. “The first Canadian deliberately planned attack in any force” states the British Official History, “had resulted in an unqualified success.”43 Several German counterattacks were defeated, and the fighting ended in a stalemate typical of trench warfare.

Grave

PA 004356 The grave of Major-General Mercer. 

Recovering the Body

Corporal John Reid of the 4th Battalion was one of a group of men assigned to explore No Man’s Land at night, tasked to locate and bury soldiers who had been killed in the German attack of 2-3 June. On the night of 21 June, his party found and buried approximately 30 corpses.44 Corporal Reid’s letter describing the finding and recovery of General Mercer’s body was published subsequently in a Toronto newspaper.

… I was examining bags of stuff that had been taken off the dead the night before when I came across a pass with “General Mercer” signed on it. Just think of the excitement then, as we believed he was in the hands of the Hun. I called Pioneer Range, as we were together out searching the night before and he said that must be the spot where they opened the machine gun on us…The real excitement then started for we were spotted as soon as we left the dugout and [it is] thanks to some shell holes that we ever got there. They were not contented putting the machine guns on us. They even sent coal boxes [heavy shells] over, and some near ones too. Anyway, by six o’clock, we got the body dragged to a shell-hole about five yards from where we dug it out, where it had been buried except one boot and about four inches of a leather legging sticking out of the mud. That disinterring was really the worst part of the lot, as we had to lie face down and scratch until we got the General’s body uncovered, and then we searched the body again and saw the epaulets with crossed swords and star. I then cut off the General’s service coat and placed the body in a shell-hole till after dark.45

Williams, Ussher, and Gooderham had all been captured by the Germans and became prisoners of war.46 Sir Max Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook) wrote at the time of Mercer’s death: “It is tragic to think that such a brilliant soldier, who had risen to the command of a division by sheer force of ability, should have died just as his new command was going into its first big action and needed his services so greatly.”47

Equally tragic, perhaps, was the fact that the fatal injuries Mercer suffered in the opening bombardment in the first major battle fought by his 3rd Division makes it impossible to evaluate his tactical competence. Organizational ability and hard work were his contributions to the development of the formidable Canadian Corps. He organized the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade out of partly trained amateur soldiers, and then trained it so that it was able to withstand the first shock of battle at Second Ypres. He took 12 battalions of partly trained troops, of whom only the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry had much front line experience, and from them created the 3rd Canadian Division, which, under his successor, was to become one of the best combat divisions in the British forces.

Gordon MacKinnon, MA, a retired Toronto high school history teacher, served as a teacher and vice principal in Department of National Defence Schools Overseas, Metz, France, 1962-1966.

NOTES
  1. At this time, the only valour awards that could be made posthumously within the British honours system were the Victoria Cross and the Mention in Despatches.
  2. Census of 1861, District 3 Township of Etobicoke, p .37. Census of 1871, District No.13 South Oxford, Sub-District A, Township Dereham, Division No. 3.
  3. Lieutenant-Colonel W.T. Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada 1860-1960 (Don Mills, Ontario: The Ontario Publishing Company, 1960), p. 104.
  4. Catalogue of Highly Important old and modern Pictures and Drawings, Piranesi etchings, fine old Delft Pottery…and works of Art of the Late Maj.-Gen. Malcolm S. Mercer C.B., …under Instructions from Executors, Toronto, Jenkins Galleries, 1928. Toronto Reference Library, 708.11354 J25
  5. University of Toronto Archives, [UTA] A73 0026/318/43.
  6. Desmond Morton, Understanding Canadian Defence (Toronto: Penguin Canada, 2003), p. 32.
  7. Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962), p. 8.
  8. Ibid., p. 7.
  9. Ibid., p. 6.
  10. J.E. Middleton, Municipality of Toronto: A History, Vol. 2 (Toronto & New York: Dominion Publishing Company, 1923), p. 39.
  11. Nicholson, p. 24.
  12. Colonel A.F. Duguid, Official History of The Canadian Forces in the Great War 1914-1919, Vol.1 (Ottawa: King’s Printer, 1938), p. 120.
  13. Ibid., p. 137.
  14. Ibid., p. 142.
  15. Unpublished manuscript diary of M.S. Mercer, 22 August 1914-10 November 1915, QOR Museum, Casa Loma, Toronto, 4 November 1915. Hereafter referred to as ‘Mercer’s Diary’. No diary for 11 November 1915 to his death on 3 June 1916 is known to have survived.
  16. Ibid., 5 February 1915.
  17. Ibid., March 1915, passim.
  18. Ibid., 12 April 1915.
  19. Tim Cook, No Place to Run – The Canadian Corps and Gas Warfare in the First World War(Vancouver: UBC Press, 1999), p. 25.
  20. Nicholson, p. 67.
  21. Duguid, p. 266. The Buffs had a regimental association with the QOR. Colonel Geddes was killed on 28 April 1915.
  22. Mercer’s Diary, 25 April 1915.
  23. Ibid., 28 April 1915.
  24. Veterans Affairs Canada website http://www.vac-acc.gc.ca/general/
  25. Nicholson, p. 102.
  26. Mercer’s Diary, 10 June 1915.
  27. Ibid., 13 June 1915.
  28. Ibid., 16 June 1915. On 6 July 1915, he protested orders that 200 of his exhausted men be employed as a working party. On 7 August he records his indignation when his men are kept waiting for an inspection that had been cancelled without informing them.
  29. General Mercer was in the trenches nearly every day that his troops were in the front line. During the period from 1 March 1915, when Mercer’s 1st Canadian Brigade assumed active control of front line trenches, until 10 November 1915, when his Personal Diary ends, Mercer records 57 personal visits and inspections of trenches held by troops under his command. Mercer’s Diary, passim.
  30. Ibid., 14 July 1915.
  31. Nicholson, p. 115.
  32. Mercer’s Diary, 23 September 1915.
  33. Ibid., 10 October 1915. The promotion was announced in the London Gazette, 21 December 1915.
  34. Personnel Records Envelope, LAC RG150 Box 6121-45, Casualty Form.
  35. Captain S.G. Bennett, The 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles 1914-1919 (Toronto: Murray Printing Company Limited, 1926) p. 12.
  36. War Diary 1st CMR, 2 June 1916, War Diary 2nd CMR, 1 June 1916, War Diary 4th CMR, 1-2 June 1916, War Diary, 5th CMR, 1 June 1916.
  37. Jeffrey Williams, Byng of Vimy, General and Governor-General, (London: Leo Cooper, 1983), p. 120.
  38. Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds, History of the Great War Military Operations France and Belgium, 1916 (London: Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1932) p. 231, fn.1. There is no source cited for Byng’s statement.
  39. J. Castell Hopkins, Canada at War 1914-1918 (Toronto: The Canadian Annual Review Limited, 1919) p. 146.
  40. War Diary 4th CMR, June 1916, pp. 3, 4, 5.
  41. Hopkins, p. 148.
  42. Letter from Lyman Gooderham to Professor Oswald Smith, University of Toronto Archives, UTA A73 0026-318/43.
  43. Quoted in Nicholson, p. 136.
  44. The 8th Brigade’s casualties for the battle of 2-3 June were 74 officers and 1876 ORs.
  45. The Globe, Toronto, 15 July 1916, p. 9, ‘Signed Pass Permit Finds General’s Body – Corporal Reid Tells Dramatic Story of Locating Remains of Gallant Mercer.’ There is no mention of this event in the 4th Battalion War Diary.
  46. The three officers were released in prisoner exchanges before the end of the war. Williams returned to Canada in late 1918 and was promoted to major-general in command of Military District 2 based in Toronto. The most senior Canadian to become a POW, he died in 1949 at the age of 82.
  47. Lord Beaverbrook, Canada in Flanders,Vol.II, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1917), p. 175.

Thomas Lockie: The First to wear the London Scottish uniform in Battle; 1866

The following article was written by Anthony Partington in June 2015 for the London Scottish regimental news and we are pleased to repost it here with his permission as we anticipate the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway. {Photo above No. 10 Highland Company after Battle of Ridgeway]

The Battle of Ridgeway, June 2 1866, was probably the first battle fought entirely by members of the Volunteer Movement in either Britain or Canada. It was also the last battle fought in Canada against a foreign invader. For the London Scottish Regiment, and long forgotten, the battle was the first time that our uniform was worn in action.

Lady Elcho, speaking in the Fall 1866 prize-giving, said: “It is with no small pride that we, this year, heard of one who had served in the ranks of the London Scottish having greatly distinguished himself by his enthusiasm and steadiness in the field against the Fenians in Canada. This refers to Colour-Sergeant Lockie, of No. 8 Company, who went into action in the uniform of the London Scottish, which thus came under fire for the first time.”

Thomas E. Lockie, – a Volunteer from the London Scottish

In June 1866, the Governor General presented to both houses of the Legislature the Adjutant-General of Militia in Canada’s report on the state of the Volunteer system in the Province of Canada (note Confederation was yet to come in 1867). It makes special note of the presence of young Thomas Lockie who fought in the Battle of Ridgeway (also known as Lime Ridge) with the true martial spirit of the British and Canadian Volunteer Movement.

“It would be impossible to detail the many individual instances of devotion to Canada which have been afforded by her sons; but the behavior of a stranger not long arrived in the country from England should not be left without notice. Mr. Lockie, a young gentleman of the London Scottish (Lord Elcho’s Regiment), who had distinguished himself at Wimbledon, came to Canada 18 months ago. When the Fenians landed at Fort Erie he had only been a few weeks returned from England with a young bride. He immediately fell into the ranks of the Queen’s Own as a private, and fought at the Battle of Lime Ridge, where the grey colour of his uniform, that of the London Scottish, exposed him particularly to the fire of the enemy. His coolness and bravery were conspicuous, and during the retreat he was always seen in the rear, encouraging his comrades and leading and firing with as much deliberation as if on a field day.”

Col. Garnet Wolseley, Deputy Adjutant-General of Militia in Canada, had arrived on the battlefield on June 3 and took command of the British forces in the area. In all probability, it was he who placed the glowing praise of Mr. Lockie in the Addenda to the Militia Report. Wolseley had served in the 84th Regiment in the Indian Mutiny with Lord Elcho’s brother-in-law Major Augustus H.A. Anson V.C., M.P. They were both best friends with Lord Elcho. Their reports back to Lord Elcho of the unsuitability of scarlet, blue and green uniforms in a modern battle probably sensitized Wolseley to the presence of the Hodden Grey on the battlefield.

There is a photo of No 10 Company taken at Stratford where the British and Canadian forces regrouped after the battle under the command of Col. Wolseley. The muster roll shows three official Volunteers in the company, including Lockie, discharged from strength by June 6. He could be the man in the photo as it would be of those who had fought. Of note is how the civilian dress in grey of the one Volunteer stands out against the rifle green tunics and Black Watch tartan trews of the Highland Company supporting the comment in the Adjutant-General’s report. The Hodden Grey uniform of the London Scottish would have been similar.

Thomas Eman Lockie was born 6 January 1838 in Kelso, Roxburghshire to Andrew Lockie, a wealthy farmer with 800 acres of arable land and 100 acres of grass employing 13 men, 8 women and 3 boys. Thomas spent his formative years in a boarding school and, by 1861, he was a merchantile clerk living in Lambeth. Lockie was noted as being a Colour-Sergeant of No. 8 Company, under Captain Macgregor in March 1862. He arrived in Canada in late 1864 or early 1865 but returned to England to marry Janet Eman in Lambeth in the first quarter of 1866 (curiously a woman with the same surname as his mother and most likely his cousin). Within a matter of weeks, Lockie and his bride made the long voyage back to Canada and a new life in Toronto. Despite his young age, he had both strong qualifications and good connections as, in short order, he became the secretary for the newly founded Toronto Steel, Iron and Railway Works. The young couple’s domestic tranquility, however, was short-lived and within a few days of arriving back, Lockie was volunteering to fight the Fenians.

Serving as a Private in the Queen’s Own Rifles, Lockie fought at the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2 1866 near Fort Erie in the Niagara peninsula. He survived the battle but just over a year later, he died of liver failure, a disease contracted during his military service. His fate and his connection to the London Scottish were again duly reported in local and national newspapers and by the QOR.

The Globe of Oct 21, 1867 stated:

“ DEATH OF A VOLUNTEER- Mr T. E. Lockie, a member of the Highland Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles, died in this city on Saturday, and will be buried today with military honours. The deceased prior to his arrival in this country, was a member of the London Scottish Regiment of Volunteers, and, during his connection with the Queen’s Own, experienced all the hardships of their Fort Erie campaign, and there contracted a disease which accelerated his death. At the Battle of Ridgeway, he appeared in the grey kilt and hose of his former regiment, and at the retreat his conduct was marked by bravery. After the fight, the behavior of the peculiarly-dressed individual, as he was styled, elicited the admiration of even the Fenians, he, while the retreat was going on, having remained so far behind as to be under the fire of both sides, while his cool and collected behavior during the engagement was a source of encouragement to his comrades-in-arms. He was secretary of the Toronto Steel and Iron Works since the opening of that establishment, and conducted himself there to the satisfaction of his employer.”

The Globe of Oct 22, 1867 stated:

“VOLUNTEER FUNERAL- The funeral of the late Corporal Lockie, of the Highland Company, Queen’s Own Rifles, took place from the residence of the deceased to the Necropolis yesterday afternoon. The deceased was buried with full military honours. A firing party from the company to which the deceased belonged, headed the funeral cortege and immediately in rear was the regimental band of the battalion, the hearse, a number of the volunteer force, and friends of the deceased in carriages, bringing up the rear. On their arrival at the ground, a volley was fired over the grave by his comrades, and the earth closed over a volunteer whose record in our force was honourable, and whose memory deserves to be warmly cherished.”

“Aperture Sight”, the columnist in the Volunteer Review and Military and Naval Gazette of October 28 credits both reports above originally to Lt. Col. Gillmor, O.C. the QOR. As an aside to the battle report, many southern Fenians wore their ex-Confederate States’ grey uniforms with green facings in the battle, which was why friendly forces would shoot at Lockie.

Curiously, Lockie lies in an unmarked grave belonging to John Lang Blaikie, along with two of Blaikie’s infant children, in the Toronto Necropolis. Both Blaikie and Janet Eman Lockie were Executors of Lockie’s will and estate in Canada. These facts suggest both Executors did not do justice to this man, considering that he left an estate worth $4,078, and probably some collusion. Blaikie was a wealthy and prominent Toronto stockbroker and businessman; a man who, like Lockie, had immigrated to Canada from the small Scottish shire of Roxburgh. While the connection between Blaikie and Lockie is not clear, one may assume that Blaikie had known Lockie’s family in Scotland and had most likely mentored the young Lockie on his arrival in Toronto into the Toronto Steel, Iron and Railway Works and managed his investments.

Eight months later, the Department of Militia and Defence in Ottawa also recognized Lockie’s contributions. There is a post in the Canada Gazette on June 1, 1868 noting that Thomas E. Lockie, “Queen’s Own Rifles, died of disease contracted at the Battle of Ridgeway” and that his widow had been awarded a gratuity of $200.

What had started out with such promise ended in the bitter loss of a brave and promising young man so soon after his moment of glory.

The 1866 Fenian Raid

For a young man with military experience, Thomas E Lockie’s arrival in Canada was opportune. With the conclusion of the American Civil War, the Fenian Society decided to organize disbanded Irish soldiers from both the Union and Confederate Armies into Volunteer units for the invasion of Canada. The intent was to secure a piece of Canada by force that could be traded for the freedom of Ireland. Some 1500 Fenian troops crossed the Niagara River north of Fort Erie with many more waiting to cross. The campaign was the first to be fought under the flag and title “Irish Republican Army”.

The British forces mobilized to fight this Fenian incursion were split into two. Included in the northern force were elements of the 16th and 47th Foot of British Infantry, a battery of Royal Artillery, along with local companies of Volunteer Militia from the Niagara area. Their objective was to protect the railway routes north to Niagara Falls and the only bridge to the USA and west towards the Welland Canal. The southern force, consisting of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto (QOR), the 13th Battalion Canadian Volunteer Militia (later The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry), the Caledonia and York companies of Militia, the Dunnville Naval Brigade, the Welland Canal Field Artillery Battery (with no field guns), were to protect the railway line leading west to Port Colborne and the southern entrance to the Welland Canal.

Despite a massive call-out in March 1866, preparations were inadequate for an attack.
Ammunition ration for target practice was limited and few Militiamen had ever fired their rifles. The Militia units had no knapsacks or water bottles to campaign with. This wasn’t as obvious a problem until the QOR went into battle unfed, with no water and only 20 rounds of ammunition –sufficient for about seven minutes of heavy fire! No fear – they proposed to bayonet the Fenians, a tactic almost unheard of in the American Civil War. Many soldiers drank ditch water because of the lack of water bottles and possibly this was the reason for Lockie’s disease. The March call-out had been a ‘cry wolf’- nothing had happened and nothing was done to correct deficiencies. Many small businessmen and students suffered commercially and time-wise such that many did not report for the June call-out. The shortfalls allowed Thomas Lockie an opportunity to serve as a trained soldier.

The Fenian intelligence was excellent. They knew that the northern force was mainly British regular soldiers while the southern force was untried Canadian Militia. They chose to attack the 841 Militia at Ridgeway first, then the British regulars. The ill-equipped and relatively untrained Militia troops attacked aggressively. A ‘cavalry’ alarm caused the Canadians to form square (a Napoleonic War tactic still in the British Drill Book) in front of trained American infantry, resulting in many fatalities and injuries. Nine men died that day from the QOR with others in the weeks following. Perversely, the error in command probably saved lives since the QOR and the 13th Battalion were just about to engage the Fenian main force with insufficient ammunition. The experienced and well-supplied Fenians would have cut them to pieces. The battle at Ridgeway was a tactical defeat for the Canadians, yet a strategic victory, since the Fenians withdrew back to the USA the next day after the US Government cut off reinforcements and supplies to the Fenians.

The Canadian Volunteer Militia

The Volunteer Movement in England produced many fine battalions including The London Scottish Volunteer Rifles and also influenced the creation of many Volunteer regiments in Canada that in time became the majority of the Canadian Army. Many were called out in March and June 1866 and at other times up to 1870 in response to the three-pronged planned Fenian attack. The western attack from Detroit never happened. The eastern attack into Quebec was effectively a police action while the central attack through Fort Erie was an actual battle involving the Queen’s Own Rifles.

The 2nd Battalion, Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada was formed April 26, 1860 in Upper Canada from four independent rifle companies in Toronto and a company each from Barrie and Whitby. The ‘Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto’ title was given in March 1863 when they became part of the Service Militia of Canada with a role as a fighting force in contrast to the remainder of the Volunteer companies that acted generally as military police / Frontier Constabulary. The impetus in Upper and Lower Canada was the American Civil War with numerous small raids by Union or Confederate forces across the border and the desire by Britain to withdraw the remaining regular regiments. By 1866, the QOR consisted of 10 companies solely from Toronto including No. 10 (Highland) Company. The Highland Societies of Toronto formed the Highland Company in 1860, similar to the foundation of the London Scottish, but disbanded it in 1868. Later the Highland Societies raised the 48th Highlanders of Toronto in 1891.

The 48th Highlanders contained a number of expatriate London Scots who corresponded with the London Scottish Gazette for many years and who were known to Lt. (later Captain) Colin C. Harbottle. Lt. Col. CC Harbottle later commanded the 75th Battalion in WW1 and The Toronto Scottish Regiment after the war. The London Scottish Regiment has deep and abiding connections with Canada and now one more can be added to the roster – the story of Thomas E. Lockie, the first to wear the regimental uniform in battle.

Strike Sure and Carry On
Anthony Partington

Culture Division Visits the Museum

photo 5 (2)On Wednesday May 25, the Culture Division of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport held their annual “division day” at Casa Loma. The Culture Division provides support to community museums in Ontario including administration of the Community Museums Operating Grant and Community Museum Standards.

There were various presentations throughout the morning but I was most excited to be able to present about The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and in particular about our Regimental Museum! After my talk, the 96 public servants present were able to tour Casa Loma and most climbed to the third floor to check out our museum in person. I was also able to provide some behind the scenes curator access in our office/archives (and former bathroom) area.

It was a great opportunity to bring some of our regiment’s history to a broader audience who seemed to appreciate what I was able to share.

image1

Over a quarter million page views!

We’re very pleased to report that yesterday our museum’s website past the two hundred and fifty thousand page views since it was launched in February 2012!

Of course we’re excited in a geeky tech way but much more excited because it tells us a couple of things:

  • First it means the website is definitely helping us meet our mandate to “to encourage the study of Canadian military history and in particular the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of its members, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labours and observations, to secure and preserve objects illustrative of the civil, literary and military history of the Regiment, and to maintain a museum and a library.”
  • Second it tells us that people are using the site for reference and research – some of our most visited pages for example, are the 3rd Battalion CEF WWI War Diaries, and the QOR WWI War Diaries – all of which have been transcribed and made available online.
  • Lastly we know that the website has allowed us to connect with many relatives who have contacted us ask for or provide information about their ancestors, or – even more excitingly – to make donations of relevant artifacts because they have found us online.

A couple more interesting website statistics:

  • Those 250,000 pages views were made by over 81,000 unique visitors to our site
  • Those visitors came from over 156 countries and territories
  • Our site currently consists of 338 pages
  • 186 of those pages are biography profiles for individual QOR soldiers we’ve researched – and new pages are added regularly
  • This post is our 173rd – roughly 5 blog posts made every 6 weeks
  • We are constantly updating our timeline pages – there’s a lot of history to try to capture in 156 years!

I want to recognize the efforts of Mr. Joe Wyatt working on the timelines, Master Corporal Graham Humphrey on his WWII War Diary transcriptions and uniform posts, and Assistant Curator CWO (Ret) Shaun Kelly who has been recently helping to upload biography pages. It’s become very much a team effort!

So please look around the site, make sure you’re subscribed for email notifications for new blog posts, and let us know if there’s something you’d like to see included.  We’re even open to post guest blogs so let us know if you have something you’d like to share!!

Cheers and thanks for your support!

John
Curator

Walter Beauchamp Tailors and the Queen’s Own Rifles

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.

black-mess-kitThis 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.

green-dress-tunicA 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.

reg-pellatt-tunicDespite 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.

Volunteer Profile: John Stephens

Major (Ret’d) John Stephens, CD (at the left above) led three army cadets corps over his 25 years of service with the Cadet Instructor Branch of the Canadian Forces Reserves – the last of which (#142 St Andrew’s College Highland Cadet Corps) was a corps of 550 cadets. Three of his cadets went on to become Commanding Officers of Ontario reserve units: the 48th Highlanders, the Royal Regiment of Canada, and the 1st Hussars in London, Ontario. Another served as Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. In 2013 he was honoured with a Commanding Officer’s Commendation for his efforts at the museum.

Since 2005 John has worked as a member of the Ontario Public Service, mostly recently in the Culture Division of the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.

How did you end up volunteering at the museum?

One day I got a call from Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) Ed Rayment asking if I could join him for lunch one day along with then Museum Committee Chair Lieutenant Colonel (Ret’d) Rob Zeidler. I had commanded the QOR affiliated #96 Trinity College School during Ed’s term as commanding officer of the regiment so we knew each other although it had been some time since our paths last crossed. It seemed they were in rather dire need of a Museum Curator. I asked what I thought were appropriate questions like “how much of a time commitment is involved” (response: a day a month – yeah not!) By the end of the hour I it was apparently a done deal.

What background do you bring with you that you think helps you contribute in this role?

My time with the two QOR affiliated cadet corps gave me lots of exposure to the QOR history and traditions, and I have always been interested in history in general. I’ve occasionally been accused of being a hoarder which is probably not a horrible trait for a curator but I also have a strong need for things to be ORGANIZED! I’ve also had some experience in other volunteer roles with social media and websites which have proven useful.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the museum?

Obviously there are some pretty cool artifacts and stories in our collection but I think the best part is the great volunteers we have. They all come with various backgrounds, skills and interests: some are serving members of the regiment, some are former members, some are museum studies students and graduates, and some have just come out of thin air. Everyone is interested in learning from others and everyone is willing to pitch in doing whatever is needed on that night – and they all have a sense of humour which helps a lot too!

What aspect or content of the museum are you most passionate about and why?

As curator I’d like to think I’m pretty passionate about everything but if I had to pick one aspect, I’d have to say our efforts to connect with a much wider audience through various social media channels and our website. These tools have helped us not only reach out to those who might not have the opportunity to visit the museum but also allowed us to engage others in contributing – by identifying dates and locations of archival film footage, transcribing war diaries, putting names to faces in photos, sharing stories, and many other ways.

Our mandate is not to display items in a display case, but to share the stories of the regiment and the members of the regiment. The more ways we can find to do this and the more people we can include in helping us to do this, the more successful we’ll be in accomplishing it.

Is there one object in the collection that really excites you or that you think people should know about?

That’s a tough one. I’ve already written about the 1866-1882 Nominal Rolls, and the WWI Pridham letters and diaries. Others have mentioned Ensign McEachren’s tunic, and the Boer War ration tin, and the piece of D-Day landing craft.

So perhaps I could mention several large scrapbooks that contain newspaper clippings about the 1910 trip to England when then Colonel Sir Henry Pellat took 600 men (and some horses) at his own expense, to train with the British Army during its summer maneuvers. Taking place during the regiment’s 50th year, this was an extremely significant occasion for those participating – for some a chance to visit family ‘back home’ and for others just a chance to travel and see the world. The were feted by Royalty and Generals and the Lord Mayor of London treated the whole regiment to dinner in the Guildhall – check out some of the photos on our Flickr site.

Throughout the whole trip there were “embedded” reporters from Canadian newspapers who regularly telegraphed back stories to their publishers. And the novelty of a “colonial” regiment coming to train with the regular British Army also meant extensive coverage in British newspapers.

We don’t know who actually deserves the credit, but these clippings were meticulously collected, trimmed, glued into these albums, and each carefully labelled with date and newspaper name. They provide a first hand view of how press of the day perceived the trip, the regiment and of course Sir Henry.

What’s also very satisfying is that these albums recently provided much of the primary research material for a University of Toronto student’s Masters in History paper – which you can read here.

Why do you think a museum like this is important?

There are many ways to serve one’s country but there is little doubt that military service has the greatest likelihood of requiring the ultimate sacrifice. My own ancestors have served in the American revolution (as a Loyalist), in the War of 1812, in the First World War, and the Second World War – the last who did give the ultimate sacrifice, and is buried in a war grave far off in Sicily.

The story of The Queen’s Own Rifles is a story of wars and battles and uniforms and social events – but ultimately it is about individuals who chose, for a wide variety of reasons, to serve their country – and for thousands of those – to die for their country. It is these collective and individual stories that need to be remembered and shared and understood – and in so doing we can honour them and be inspired by them.

Its actually a pretty awesome responsibility when we think of it in those terms!

Would you recommend volunteering to others and if so why?

Of course! The more the merrier. We always have volunteers who can no longer help out for various reasons so new volunteers are always welcome. And as others have already pointed out, Casa Loma is a pretty cool place to work in!

Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

One of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t have an opportunity to work together with the former Curator before taking over. Captain Peter Simundson had been involved with the museum for 41 years and has an incredible amount of knowledge about both the history of the regiment and the museum and archives collection. Although he’s been very helpful to me over the past few years I feel we’ve failed to capture much of museum’s corporate memory.

I’d also like to make note of the support from serving members of the regiment and former members in the association. Over 65 members of the regiment have assisted at the museum in some way – painting or lifting or at our QOR Day or by donating objects and photographs from their deployments. And both the current and previous Commanding Officers and Regimental Sergeant Majors and other senior staff have been extremely supportive of our efforts which just goes to prove that its not just my museum or their museum but our museum!

If you’d like to help volunteer at the museum, check out our Volunteer page for information and an application.

Launch of the “From Vimy to Juno” Travelling Exhibit

On Thursday March 31, we were pleased to host the launch of the “From Vimy to Juno” travelling exhibit and education program. The exhibit was created by the Juno Beach Centre in partnership with the Vimy Foundation and with funding support from the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Thanks to the Liberty Entertainment Group, operators of Casa Loma, the reception was held in the beautiful Casa Loma library with about 150 people present through the evening.

The formal remarks phase of the event was MC’d by Juno Beach Centre Executive Director Jenna Zuschlag Misener and included remarks by Jeremy Diamond, Executive Director of the Vimy Foundation; Major Shawn Stewart, Deputy Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada; and the Juno Beach Centre Association President Mr Don Cooper. The formal portion of the evening was concluded by the Honorable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs who spoke and formally announced the Government of Canada’s support of this project.

QOR Brass Quintet at Vimy to Juno launch

We were also pleased to have three regimental skirmishers present and a brass quintet from the Regimental Band which performed throughout the evening.

A contingent of re-enactors from both WWI and WWII also provided excellent displays and contributed to the exhibit atmosphere with their period dress.

_MG_7438

Thanks also to our museum volunteers who helped through the evening.

At the end of the night the exhibit was moved to the Austin Room on the third floor and accessible from our Museum area where it will remain until April 17 when it will then move on to its next location.

The exhibit includes a major educational component and JBC has worked with Lisa Kaplan at Casa Loma on how this can be effectively used by visiting school groups over the coming weeks.

You can see more photos of this event on our Flickr site.

Volunteer Profile: Master Corporal Graham Humphrey

Master Corporal Graham Humphrey rose to the rank of Cadet Regimental Sergeant Major with the 2881 Queen’s Own Cadet Corps before joining the regiment in January 2007.  He started volunteering with the museum in February 2013 and since then has put in over an amazing 350 hours! His primary interest is in the Second World War and he is slowly but steadily transcribing the QOR unit war diaries for that period and posting them on the museum website. He also took the lead in designing and creating our new “1945 to Present” exhibit room. And our QOR Days at Casa Loma would not be the same without his efforts as OPI for participating current serving soldiers and re-enactors. 

In December 2015 he was awarded the QOR Associations’ “Rifleman of the Year” award for his many efforts including the museum.

When he’s not working on museum “stuff” you can find this para qualified soldier jumping out of airplanes (70 jumps), participating in re-enactments or working on film sets making things go bang.

How did you end up volunteering at the museum?

I’ve always been interested in military history and I’m currently serving in the regiment so it seemed like a logical thing to do.

What background do you bring with you that you think helps you contribute in this role?

My knowledge of regimental history and historical memorabilia as well as the detail of regimental accoutrements and equipment that were used throughout the unit’s service.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the museum?

The surprises every volunteer night brings when finding new artifacts that were collecting dust in the back corners and bringing them to light.

What aspect or content of the museum are you most passionate about and why?

 Definitely the personal stories of rifleman who served the regiment before me and then attempting to tell their stories to the best of our ability.

Is there one object in the collection that really excites you or that you think people should know about?

The one object in the collection that really excited me when it came into the museum is Rifleman Jim Wilkins uniform – in particular the invasion boots that were worn by him when he landed at Juno Beach on D-Day.

Why do you think a museum like this is important?

The museum is important for us in the regiment to tell the history of our fallen and who has served before us. As well it helps us educate our new rifleman and the public on what and where the Regiment served.

Would you recommend volunteering to others and if so why?

If you currently serve in the regiment please remember the fallen and those who are currently not with us who served the Regiment and Canada and come help us do that.

If you’d like to help volunteer at the museum, check out our Volunteer page for information and an application.

Volunteer Profile: Joe Wyatt

Joe Wyatt started volunteering at the museum in October 2014 and has put in over 75 hours responding to research questions, helping at events and generally pitching in where ever needed! More recently Joe has taken over posting our social media “on this day in history” posts.

How did you end up volunteering at the museum?

I have always had a passion for history and was intrigued by the museum when I visited Casa Loma after moving to Canada 2 years ago. The museum provided a great opportunity to contribute to something worthwhile.

What background do you bring with you that you think helps you contribute in this role?

My Bachelors degree in History has benefitted the analytical nature of the research role.  My work in the educational travel industry organising World War I & II battlefield tours to Europe also helps to connect the importance of keeping people (particularly younger generations) informed of the military history of Canada and sacrifices made by the armed forces.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the museum?

The satisfaction of being able to respond to research enquiries with further information on their relatives.  Finding information on Soldiers in the regiment could range from scouring through the vast quantity of photos at the museum to manually searching through a pre-WWI service roll. Generating discussion and new interest in the Queen’s Own Rifles through the Social media posts on the Museum’s Facebook and Twitter accounts is also rewarding.

What aspect or content of the museum are you most passionate about and why?

The portrait collection of the early Commanding Officers of the regiment are a great focal point when visitors come up to the 3rd floor in Casa Loma. The exhibition adds context to the chronological flow of the museum.

Tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEcheran, first casualty of the Queen's Own Rifles at the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) June, 1866
Tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEcheran, first casualty of the Queen’s Own Rifles at the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) June, 1866

Is there one object in the collection that really excites you or that you think people should know about?

The tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEachren is particularly significant, as he was the first casualty of the QOR at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866. What makes this more fascinating is that the bullet hole is still clearly visible.  The D-Day landing craft fragment is a close second.

Why do you think a museum like this is important?

It allows visitors to get a greater understanding not only of Canada’s military role from 1860 to the present day through the oldest serving regiment but also how many local Torontonians impacted on that.

Would you recommend volunteering to others and if so why?

Absolutely, being a part of the museum is a rewarding experience and there are always a wide range of jobs and tasks to keep you interested.

If you’d like to help volunteer at the museum, check out our Volunteer page for information and an application.

Reg Force Reminiscences: “THE GLORIOUS TWO BN”

by Major Ronald R. Lilley, CD

This article was the second of two found in our collection. The date or purpose for which is was written is unknown. The first article can be found here. Lilley left the Loyal Edmonton Regiment to join the 1st Battalion QOR in March 1954.

In ‘62 I returned to Regimental duty and once again was posted to a unit which had just returned from Germany – the Second Battalion, led by its gravel voiced Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Dan Osborne.

On a bright sunny spring day I found myself in command of one of the battalion’s 100 man guards, paying homage to the General Officer Commanding Western Command. I had spent most of the night writing up a bn exercise and consequently was more dazed than usual. The guard was approaching the yellow marker and I shouted out the cautionary words, “No. 2 guard will advance” (the guard number is immaterial to the event). All would have been perfect except that the executive words of command “Left, Turn” followed in rapid order. That was the day I introduced the new drill movement “left foot over right foot”, a major drill not previously practised to my knowledge. I had missed the marker by not less than 15 paces or 100 miles whichever was closer on that eventful day. The movement was carried out in the best Rifles tradition and by the time we reached the saluting base flag the guard was lined up with the lead coy. After the parade and at the dispersal area I called CSM George Stolzenberg (I believe it was Stolzenberg) forward, congratulated the guard on its excellence in the face of adversity and bought a libation to prove I was serious. Never before had I witnessed such steadiness and I only hope my successors never have the same nerve shattering experience.

The glorious day finally came when I took over command of B Coy in the Fall of 62. Captain Larry Diebel, at my instigation, started all rank Coy Mess Dinners. Sgt “The Bandit” Friedt the Officers’ Mess Sgt, and a member of B Coy, provided the candelabra, silver and wine glasses. We developed a mess dinner procedure with appropriate toasts, etc. They were very popular, as could be attested to by the attendance (smiles and attendance were both compulsory). The dress standard set for the first dinner was based on a tie and shirt. We did not alter the dress standard but with each succeeding dinner it was interesting to note the increase in subdued tone ties, blazers and sports coats and the vast improvement in the rifleman’s walking out dress.

The Coy went through its usual pre-Exercise Snow Chinthe drills during the Christmas holidays and learned to live outdoors in the cold and pull toboggans over simulated snow (gravel and grass). 2/Lt Dave Montgomery and Sgt Bill Hamburgh’s platoon learned to live with frogs and cope with soggy tent floors during an unseasonable warm spell in Wainwright prior to the exercise beginning. During the work-up training and on the actual exercise CSM Noble wee a tower of strength and on numerous occasions placed the fear of the hereafter on any idle rifleman or NCOs.

On my return from a course in England 10 days prior to leaving for Wainwright, I met the new CO, LCol Ed Price (expected). Capt Diebel, CSM Noble and many familiar NCOs and men were serving elsewhere in the bn (unexpected). The Coy’s training pace in Wainwright of a mile to two-mile run before breakfast, section tactics every morning, platoon tactics every afternoon and coy tactics every evening was slowed down when B Coy was honoured by being selected to enter the Forced March Competition on July first. This honour was duly passed on to 2/Lt Dave Montgomery and Sgt Jewel.

(For a fuller account see page 79 of the 1963 Powder Horn edition). It is now old hat that Dave’s pl won. But I’ll never forget the look of surprise on Brigadier Macdonald’s face when Dave’s pl doubled on in full battle order, then broke into quick time, advanced, halted and presented arms to the Bde Commander. This was not part of the usual ceremony but was added to show what stern stuff we riflemen are made of. In marching off Sgt Jewell’s order to the platoon was: “Run over them lads, if they don’t get out of the way!” He of course was referring to the spectators. At a suitable distance from the spectators, the plantoon was photographed with their trophy. This platoon also returned several pieces of equipment dropped by 2 PPCLI which were turned over to that unit’s CO by Colonel Ed Price.

We were soon concentrated as a Company and training started again in earnest. Dave Montgomery’s scalded feet required that I employ him as the OC of the Special Weapons elements attached to the Coy and in this capacity he assisted the Company Operations Officer, Capt Harry Williams-Freeman in the Command Post. Staff Sgt Don Wilson, as CSM, provided the spark which kept the Coy HQ on its toes. He did a tremendous job of organizing a very successful coy all ranks bash during our last days in the battalion bivouac area. Greased poles, bucking horses (45 gallon oil drums), log chopping and sawing contests were all entered into with great gusto. Cpl Miller, the Coy cook, outdid himself in providing deluxe hamburgers and Staff Lottridge ensured that an abundance of beer and soft drinks were always available. One LdSH(RC) [Lord Strathcona’s Horse] trooper was heard to say, “what a party!” “Why can’t our blank, blank squadron get organized?” A gunner from D Battery replied, “When you’re part of B Company who blank, blank cares?” and with that they rejoined the mob at the camp fire to sing their hearts out.

He operated a Company multiple radio net, an experiment which was reluctantly bIessed by the CO. It was an excellent training device and section commanders soon learned the worth of their radio, as can be testified to by LCpl Standen, whose radio ceased operating during a Brigade exercise. He claimed he knew nothing about the overall progress being made by the Company and consequently had no idea what to expect next. He felt that he and his section were completely insulated until they were committed to action by the Platoon Commander.

1964 saw the emergence of a cross country ski team, equipped with modified army skis which hampered any chances they had to win, and a Down Hill team that struck gold, or should I say silver plate, in their first Western Command Championship. Many will remember that the 1964 Exercise Snow Chinthe was almost cancelled because of the conflict with General Rockingham’s Western Command Ski Championship. In those days, channels of communication with all superior HQs were well established and woe to any individual who tried to short circuit the system. Unfortunately, Superior Headquarters did not always follow the established channels. I had been ordered to establish and direct the Command Ski Off and at one stage found myself working for General Rockingham, Brigadier Macdonald and LCol Price on conflicting requirements. As is not too unusual, the General won and my other tasks were deferred to after duty hours. Capt Dick Graham’s experience provided the necessary continuity in organizing the meet so that I could get some coy work done during normal working hours.

During the 1964 Bde Commanders Conference I was called to one side by Colonel Ed Price and told I was posted to the RCS of I [Royal Canadian School of Infantry] and would become DC Tactics Division. Once again, it was time to say farewell to Regimental life.

Volunteer Profile: Cheryl Copson

Cheryl (at right above) has been volunteering at our museum since February 2013 and has given us over 350 hours of her time. Her background in museum studies has been extremely useful to us as we’ve worked hard to bring our museum into the 21st century. And of course her cheerful and positive outlook and willingness to pitch in where ever she’s needed, are greatly appreciated!

How did you end up volunteering at the museum?

I have always had a passion for museums and history. While completing my Master’s degree, I did an internship at the Fort Erie Historical Museum. During an event for the Anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway, I was introduced to John, who was quite interested in getting some volunteers from the Museum program. From there my interest in both history and museum lead me to start volunteering with the QOR.

What background do you bring with you that you think helps you contribute in this role?

I bring experience from working at several different museums. This has given me knowledge of best practice and techniques that assist with the proper cataloguing and storing of the objects and archives. This will help to ensure that the objects entrusted to the museum will be available to generations to come.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering at the museum?

I enjoy being a part of the transformations the museum has made. It is exciting to see the improvements to the exhibits, which are apparent to the public, and to the systems in place to protect the objects. Each week the museum takes steps to better itself, and it’s exciting to be a part of that.

What aspect or content of the museum are you most passionate about and why?

As a true “museum nerd”, I am passionate about the proper tracking of objects and their provenance. I think that this information forms the basis for creating new exhibits, and allowing members of the regiment or public to research and find information they may be interested in.

Tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEcheran, first casualty of the Queen's Own Rifles at the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) June, 1866
Tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEcheran, first casualty of the Queen’s Own Rifles at the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) June, 1866

Is there one object in the collection that really excites you or that you think people should know about?

Ensign Malcom McEachren’s Tunic. This object is one of a kind AND incredibly important in Canadian history. McEachren was the first soldier to fall during the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2, 1866. The Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) was Canada’s first battle fought exclusively by Canadian soldiers and led by Canadian officers.  This made McEachren the first Canadian Soldier to fall in battle on Canadian soil. This battle was an important factor in the path towards confederation.

Why do you think a museum like this is important?

Merely the fact that the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada is Canada’s longest continuously-serving regiment is reason enough to justify the museum’s importance. The QOR has been a part of every major war in history since its inception, which provides a unique opportunity to showcase Canadian history through the eyes of the Queen’s Own soldiers. It also means that many people are tied to the QOR and its history. Telling the story of the QOR is therefore telling the stories of many Canadians and their families.

Would you recommend volunteering to others and if so why?

YES! There are so many different aspects to the museum, and therefore many different things that need to be done to keep improving it. I think that anyone with an interest in history, research, museums, or administration would find enjoyment in volunteering with the museum.

Any other thoughts you’d like to:

Before coming to the QOR my background did not include Military history. I’ve truly enjoyed both being able to add my skills to the mix of volunteers, but I think more than that, I’ve enjoyed learning about the QOR and the military in Canada.

If you’d like to help volunteer at the museum, check out our Volunteer page for information and an application.

“The College Rifle Company”

Reprinted from “A History of Upper Canada College 1829-1892” compiled and edited by George Dickson, M.A. and G. Mercer Adam and published in Toronto in 1893. Accessed via Google Books.

———————————————————————

BY THE REV. T. F. FOTHERINGHAM[1], M.A., ST. JOHN’S, N.B.

As far back as 1863, when I entered Upper Canada College, and I do not know how long before, the older boys were assembled weekly for drill under the instruction of Major Goodwin. They were supplied with rifles and bayonets, waist belts and pouches. The room next the lavatory was set apart as an armoury. Out of this drill class the Rifle Company was evolved under the influence of vitality and environment. The presiding genius under whose auspices this took place was the gallant old soldier in command. What boy of that day does not remember him with affection? A strict disciplinarian, yet liking better to silence a frolicsome private with a harmless witticism that held him up to ridicule, than to bid him “fall out.” This was the severest penalty he ever inflicted, and it was much more keenly felt as a disgrace than the hundred lines of Virgil which the Principal immediately imposed by way of ratifying the sentence. The kindhearted old Major always seemed sorry the moment after, for in the next breath he would temper his rebuke with a cheery word and good-natured apology for the offender. He was bluff* and boyish, although his shoulders stooped and his head was grey. He loved the boys with all his heart, and they fully returned his affection. His quarters in the old Bathurst Street barracks were always free to them, and his happiest moments seemed to be when reciting his favourite “Tam o’ Shanter” to an admiring crowd, who never wearied of applauding the really splendid elocution.

The activity of the Fenian brotherhood in 1865 awakened much uneasiness in Canada. Large numbers of volunteers were enrolled, and the Military Schools were crowded with cadets. As in 1837, College boys were not behind in offering their services. Three of us, Fuller, Wilson, and myself, had obtained second-class certificates, and the idea was mooted of transforming our drill association into a company of the “Queen’s Own.”  The consent of the Principal having been obtained, Major Goodwin entered heartily into our plans. The boys met in the Prayer room one afternoon in December, 1865, and amid great enthusiasm elected Frank C. Draper, an old College boy and ex-officer of the “Queen’s Own,” as Captain, Valancey E. Fuller, Lieutenant, and M. Wilson, Ensign. William M. Richards, ______ Watson, and myself, were chosen Sergeants. I cannot remember the names of the other non-commissioned officers, if there were any. Enrolment went briskly on. The cubits of our stature were measured against the wall of the Principal’s room. What heroes we were in the eyes of those whose heads could not touch the ruler held at the standard height! The company was duly gazetted in General Orders of the 12th January, 1866, and attached to the 2nd Battalion, “Queen’s Own Rifles.”

On March the 8th, some volunteers were called out, and amongst others, the “Queen’s Own.” The College Company was not mentioned in the General Order, but the boys would not be suppressed. With the consent of Major (now Lieut-Col.) Gillmor, then in command, the boys appeared at every parade and march-out, — drilling as faithfully as others, but without any pay. This latter was a consideration to which our knightly souls were utterly oblivious.  Class work was sadly interrupted. Every week there were evening drills and a Saturday afternoon march-out.  Not one of the company was twenty years old, yet all tramped through the mud with the endurance and light-heartedness of veterans. Woe to the boy who stepped around a puddle instead of marching through it, or grumbled when an unlucky step filled his boot with ice-water. He was the butt of ironical sympathy for days afterwards. Our youthful appearance won us a somewhat patronizing regard from the rest of the battalion, and, in their paternal affection, they nicknamed us “the babies.” So far from being offended, the boys shewed the genuine stuff they were made of by accepting the soubriquet, and trying to make the name an honoured one. When, at the close of that period of active service. Major Gillmor complimented the company in his address at the final parade, and three cheers were generously given for “the babies,” we felt that the respect of the other corps had been completely won.

At that time many companies had their own marching songs. The College boys, in view of the juvenile position assigned to them, adopted as theirs the nursery hymn “Joyful,” fitting to its tune nonsensical words such as —

“He that hath plenty of spondulics
And giveth his neighbour none,
He shan’t have any of my spondulics
When his spondulics are done.

Chorus : “0, that will be joyful,
Joyful, joyful,
that will be joyful, when his
Spondulics are done.”

Other verses followed ad lib, “He that hath plenty of sauerkraut, peanuts,” &c., &c., until invention was exhausted. The ethics of the song were unimpeachable, and there was not the slightest thought of irreverence towards sacred associations. Anything of that kind would have been treated with scorn as utterly “low.” It was simply a boyish response to good-natured chaffing.

Few members of the corps will forget the excitement of St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 1866. Some days previous a rumour spread to the effect that bodies of men, marching in military order and armed with pikes, had been seen parading the streets after midnight. A guard of citizens was organized and a night patrol instituted. Fears were expressed that the usual St. Patrick’s Day procession would be the occasion of an outbreak on one side or the other. In Montreal and Quebec these parades were abandoned, but the Toronto societies determined to display their green banners as usual. Although no one believed that local Fenians would give any trouble, yet there was then, as now, an excitable element of the opposite party who might attack a procession, and those marching in it, fearing such an interruption, might carry concealed weapons. The throwing of a single stone might start a sanguinary conflict. The “Queen’s Own ” and the *’ Tenth Royals ” were assembled at the drill shed early in the forenoon and k^t there until towards evening. The College Company was with the rest of the battalion. Rations were served about noon. Drill and frolic filled up the quickly passing hours, and not a few voted it the jolliest pic-nic they had ever attended. Yet, beneath all the merriment, there were serious thoughts, for we had ball cartridges in our pouches, and many of us remembered the standing order never to fire over the heads of a riotous crowd. It was with feelings of intense relief that the citizens saw the volunteers returning to their homes peacefully that evening.

Although relieved from active service on Good Friday, March 30th, the “Queen’s Own” continued battalion drills at least weekly, sometimes  oftener. At all of these the College Company was present. There was a lull in the excitement. The O’Mahony wing of the Fenians was making a demonstration at Eastport, Maine, and the Roberts faction was temporarily inactive. The volunteers were recalled from the frontier. A grand concert in the drillshed, which held 10,000 people comfortably, on the evening of the Queen’s Birthday, seemed a fitting mode of celebrating the re-establishment of public confidence. Meantime “General” Sweeney had succeeded in effecting a reconciliation of rival factions, and on May 30th was announced as on his way to Canada at the head of the Fenian “army.” Fuller despatches arrived next day, and that night the militia of Canada were again called to arms. In March the Government asked for 10,000 volunteers and were offered 180,000 — now the response was no less enthusiastic.

When we assembled in the Prayer room on the morning of Friday, June 1st, Mr. Cockburn announced that the Fenians had crossed the Niagara River and were in possession of Fort Erie, and that the “Queen’s Own” had been ordered to meet them. The College Company was also called out, and members would report at once in uniform at the armoury. After a few words regarding the gravity of the occasion, the Principal dismissed the school for the day. The company mustered in full strength within an hour afterwards, only to find to its chagrin that, by special orders of General Napier, it was to remain in garrison and furnish the necessary guards for the armouries and military stores. It was with difficulty that the boys could be restrained from deserting to join the battalion. Many refused to wear their uniform when off duty. The order was an eminently wise and considerate one, but the boys felt that it carried the reproach of “babyhood” a little too far. They resented such an implication of juvenility. One admires their spirit and is not surprised that they failed to appreciate the responsibility resting upon their elders. It was quite true that they were too young for the hardships of service in the field ; most of them had been sent to school to study and not to play the amateur soldier, and their parents would have justly blamed the Principal for having permitted the formation of the corps; besides this the duty laid upon .them was a necessary and honourable one, and fell most fittingly upon the junior company of the battalion.

For two days the College Rifles were the only troops in the city, and furnished the guard on the Friday and Saturday nights succeeding the departure of the volunteers. I need not describe the excitement of those days. College boys helped to swell the crowds around the bulletin boards and added their voices to the cheers that rang out to the accompaniment of the Cathedral chimes when news of the rout of the invaders arrived.  About three o’clock on Sunday morning the volunteers from the country began to arrive. They were marched up from the railway station in companies and dismissed to ‘billets for breakfast. To me, the arrival of these raw troops was a deeply interesting sight. They came evidently from the farm and the workshop. It might be that the first gun of a great war had been fired at Ridgeway, — we did not know. If it was so, every one of these men was ready. There was no noisy frolic or loud laughter among them. Every word of command was heard with painful distinctness in the quiet of that Sabbath morning. When dismissed, one group after another struck up old-fashioned Psalm tunes, and set off singing them to their new quarters. One would have thought that Cromwell’s army or a regiment of Covenanters had reappeared among us. With such defenders, we did not fear should Lundy’s Lane or Queenston Heights come to be fought over again. Few Churches held service that evening, for nearly every person crowded towards the Yonge Street Wharf to meet the “City of Toronto” with its precious freight of dead and wounded. With another member of the company, like myself just off guard duty, I joined the crowd and was near the wharf when the steamer came in. To my surprise I heard the familiar voice of Lieut. Fuller in command of an escort composed of the College Company. It accompanied the five hearses to their destinations through thronged streets, amid a silence only broken by exclamations of sympathy and sorrow. Every head was uncovered as the dead heroes passed by.

On the Tuesday following a public funeral was held, and the bodies of Ensign McEachern and Privates Defries, Smith, Alderson, and Tempest lay in state in the drill shed. The gallery erected for the concert so recently held afforded a suitable elevation for the caskets. Ranged around these, the boys of our corps stood as a guard of honour, resting on their arms reversed, from eleven a.m. to one p.m. The company took part in all the military funerals of that sad time, and on one occasion, I think the one just referred to, furnished the firing party.

During the fortnight following the raid Toronto swarmed with volunteers, most of whom remained only a few days until formed into provisional battalions. Whilst these were in town, the College Company was released from the duty of furnishing guards. But there was the possibility that a sudden order from Ottawa might remove the guard on duty, and it was accordingly agreed that should the College bell ring at any time out of class hours, the members of the company would understand it as a signal to assemble at the armoury. One night as I was just about to retire I heard the well-known sound. It took very few seconds to resume my uniform, but, before I reached the street, every bell in the city was ringing the “general alarm.” The din was enough to warrant the conclusion that the Gael was indeed at our gates. I lived about a mile from the College, and only arrived in time to take my place at the head of the company as coverer and lead the way to the drill shed, then situated between Front and Wellington Streets, at the east end of the Parliament Buildings. A dense crowd was already assembled at the corner of Simcoe and Wellington Streets, and, as we drew near, I heard some one call out: “It’s the College boys, let’s give them three cheers !” This they did with a heartiness that made us feel modestly embarrassed. Acknowledging the honour in military fashion, we entered the drill shed, discovering then the cause of the ovation with which we had just been honoured. We were the first company to report itself in obedience to the summons. It was found shortly afterwards that we were not needed. A few companies had been ordered to Prescott, but enough remained for guard duty. In about an hour we were dismissed with not undeserved compliments. On the return of the “Queen’s Own” from Stratford, after the engagement at Ridgeway, the College Rifles met the battalion at the railway station and accompanied it in its march through the streets. Although they did not hear bullets whistle, the College boys felt that they had won some slight share in the magnificent welcome the regiment received.

During the summer following the Fenian raid a military camp was formed at Thorold, and the Upper Canada College Rifles united with the University Company to form one corps. The battalion was landed at Port Dalhousie, and marched through St. Catharines to the breezy field on the top of the mountain where the Tenth Royals and the Thirteenth from Hamilton were already pitching their tents. Here the boys again distinguished themselves by their light-hearted endurance of discomforts that would have well-nigh caused a mutiny amongst regulars. The ground was rough and hard — cattle had evidently roamed freely over it when the soil was moist. One had to select carefully for his couch the precise spot whose physical geography was most nearly complementary to the angularities of the human anatomy. The last duty every evening was a field study of the relations between geology and osteology. When it rained, the clay betrayed a most tenacious attachment to boots often ill-suited to such rough usage. The camp arrangements were of the most imperfect character. Plain rations, however, were abundant. One of our number betrayed extraordinary talents in the culinary line, and no “Irish” or “Boston ” stew can ever obliterate the memory of his achievements. No coffee and butterless bread ever tasted sweeter than that partaken around our tent pole every morning. The air was pure and bracing, and the drill just enough to make us forget all our discomforts in dreamless sleep. Every one heard with regret the orders to break up camp. To this day pleasant memories linger around the old camp ground. As illustrating the spirit of the boys, I may mention that it leaked out one evening that a general alarm was to be sounded during the night in order to test the promptitude with which the volunteers could respond. We determined that, for the honour of our corps, we should be the first on parade. Not one removed his uniform that night when he lay down. The covering sergeant slept in his boots and cross-belt, with his rifle by his side. To our great astonishment and chagrin the sun was shining brightly when the bugles awoke us at reveille.

The home march was not uneventful. As we left the camp, and when we marched through the streets of St Catharines, fair faces smiled from sidewalk and windows, and the battalion sang popular songs, accompanied by the band. We had scarcely left the town behind us when a thunder-storm came on. The “Queen’s Own” had proved its ability to “stand fire,” but water was another affair and retreat was no cowardice. We quickly found refuge under the grand stand of the race course. On a break occurring in the storm we set out again and arrived betimes at Port Dalhousie, where the “City” awaited us, but alas quantum mutati ab illis[2] who one short hour before spread their plumes and tuned their manly throats before the admiring civilians of the *’ City of the Saints!” Scarcely had we left the friendly shelter of the race course when the storm burst out afresh. The mire of the road was ankle deep and the ditches were brimful of water. Some took to the fields and others picked a careful but tedious path along the fences, while the bolder tramped along as much indifferent to pouring rain and adhesive mud as plucky College boys ought to be. No company in the battalion straggled less than the beardless youths in No. 10. When we arrived at Toronto, our sergeant was the first to spring ashore in response to the bugle call for “coverers,” and none marched up Yonge Street with jauntier step than the rain-soaked and mud-bespattered veterans of the rear company.

On the 26th June, 1868, Lieut. George D. Dawson, late of H. M. 47th Regiment, and now Col. Dawson, of the “Grenadiers” was gazetted Captain, vice F. C. Draper, who retired with the rank of Brevet Major. The Company re-enlisted under the Militia Act of 1868, but its name does not appear in the General Order of 6th February, 1869, in which the corps who constitute the active militia are named. It seems to have been silently dropped, along with others, which it was not judged advisable to continue in existence. The College Rifles never formed an integral part of the “Queen’s Own” but was merely attached to the battalion for administrative purposes. During its brief existence it left a record of which it need not be ashamed, one worthy of an institution which has supplied so many able officers to the various branches of the Imperial service. General Napier did not forget to give us honourable mention in his report.

[1] Thomas Francis Fotheringham attended Upper Canada College from 1863 to 1867.

[2]changed much from them

CWO Scott F. Patterson CD

Commanding Officer’s Statement on the Death of
Chief Warrant Officer Scott F. Patterson CD

To my fellow Riflemen and friends of the Regiment:

It is with great sadness and a heavy heart that I announce the passing of a dedicated and beloved member of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada: Chief Warrant Officer Scott F. Patterson CD. He passed away while surrounded by family and friends at Sunnybrook Hospital on Wednesday February 10th 2016, after battling cancer over the last year.

The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada mourns the loss of one of our own and we wish to express our deepest sympathies to his family and friends who are mourning with us today.

‘Paddy’ was well liked and respected by everyone who knew him. His dedication to the Regiment and Canadian Armed Forces was unwavering, his loyalty to his friends and family unmatched and his cheerful disposition steadfast no matter the situation. Even in his last days his dignity and wonderful sense of humour were ever present. Scott had a passion for military history and his knowledge of our traditions was incredible. He was a fount of information and support for numerous Commanding Officers’ and Regimental Sergeants Major over his 37 years of service to Canada, including his time as RSM of 32 CBG Battle School and RSM of 32 Service Battalion. He will be deeply missed.

Our attention now turns towards supporting Scott’s family, his friends and each other. Further details will be forthcoming on a service at Moss Park Armoury, in keeping with his wishes. The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada is a united, strong and resilient family. As RSM Patterson would expect of us, we will lean on each other for comfort and support in the coming days and get through this together.

On behalf of Riflemen everywhere, RSM Martin and I would like to send our most sincere condolences to his family and friends in their hour of need. We hope it is of some comfort to know that you are not grieving alone.

Goodbye Mr. Patterson: we are better soldiers for having served with you and better people for having known you. Rest in peace.

Sandi Banerjee
Lieutenant Colonel
Commanding Officer

Scott was also a volunteer at the Regimental Museum and a font of knowledge regarding regimental history.  We will miss him very much.

QOR Padre leads UCC chapel service

Former QOR Honorary Lieutenant Colonel and UCC Old Boy Brendan Caldwell with QOR Chaplain Captain John Niles after the UCC chapel service on 3 February 2016.
Former QOR Honorary Lieutenant Colonel and UCC Old Boy Brendan Caldwell with QOR Chaplain Captain John Niles after the UCC chapel service on 3 February 2016. His sermon reflected on the 150 year connection between UCC and the QOR.

Artifact Spotlight: March 1866 Nominal Roll

QOR museum volunteer Alex Meyers recently graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a Master’s degree in Public History.  He has worked on the City of Toronto’s “Great War Attic” project, researched historical plaques for Heritage Toronto, served as a Curatorial Assistant at London’s Fanshaw Pioneer Village, and a Historical Interpreter at Toronto’s Pioneer Village. With the skills and experience Alex brings, we are very pleased to have him working on our team!

—————————————————————

In the early hours of 7 March 1866, the men of the Queen’s Own Rifles were called to arms. They enthusiastically assembled and paraded at the drill shed near Toronto Habour, and remained on active duty for the next few weeks. In winter and spring 1866, Canadians were wary of the threatening Fenian Brotherhood, a group of militant Irish nationalists, who were openly organizing in the United States. The Fenians talked about seizing part of Canada, to be used as a bargaining chip towards Irish independence from the United Kingdom. The QOR were called to active duty in anticipation of trouble around St Patrick’s Day (March 17), which was frequently a day of sectarian conflict between members of Toronto’s Protestant and Catholic Irish communities.

Toronto Globe, 10 march 1866
Toronto Globe, 10 march 1866

One particularly revealing document we have of that period is the regimental nominal rolls, a record of every man and officer in the regiment. The roll was written in a large hardcover book, the black cover is heavily worn. This particular book was used by the Queen’s Own from 1866 to 1882. Inside, there are more than 400 pages, each page number is neatly printed in the top outside corner. The pages are ruled and lined book like a school notebook.

The nominal roll as a physical artifact is quite fragile. It is at least 150 years old and was in active use for 16 years. Fortunately we don’t need to use the artifact to study its contents. The nominal rolls were manually scanned by some anonymous, but much appreciated, archivist. The whole book can be viewed as a PDF through the Archives section of this website. Being able to scroll through the nominal rolls as a PDF on my computer screen is great but to really understand it, I needed to sort and manipulate the data. If the tables of the nominal rolls were typed I could have used an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) program, which interpret scanned text and turn it into machine-readable ones and zeros. But even the best OCR programs have trouble with handwriting, so the next step was to transcribe the data for the whole regiment, nearly 600 men.

Nominal Roll, March 1866
Nominal Roll, No. 3 Company, 20 March 1866

Military clerks would take a record the regiment’s strength at regular intervals during times of peace and active-duty. This task fell to rotating cast of Non Commissioned Officers (NCO). The rolls are not without gaps though. Human error shows up from time to time. A whole page seems to be missing between No. 6 and 7 coys, so the record for both companies is incomplete. There is also a note where No. 10 coy should be, indicating that the roll of that company was never brought to the orderly room, so we lack a record for that company as well.

Each pages neatly drawn into a ledger. The data being collected changes from year to year. We chose to analyze the entry for March 1866 because it is the first entry in the book, it contains the most data, and because it marks the beginning of a particularly active period for the regiment. The nominal roll entry for March 1866 tells us a lot about the regiment at the time. This entry collects the following data: Rank, Name, Date of Service, Country, Religion, Trade or Calling, Age, and Remarks. From this data we can learn about the demographics of the regiment, and draw comparisons to Toronto of 1866 and 2016.

In some ways the QOR represented the demographics of Toronto in 1866, in other ways it did not. Like the general population of Toronto, the members of the regiment were almost exclusively born in Great Britain or a British colony. Fifty five percent of the regiment are listed as born in Canada, but in the year before Confederation that would be the Province of Canada, composed of Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario). New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, each represented in the nominal rolls by one individual, were still distinct colonies. Finally, three soldiers were born in the United States. The soldiers born in Canada were patriotic British subjects, but there was an emerging sense of uniquely Canadian identity.

Country of Orgin
Country of Orgin

The regiment was as overwhelmingly Protestant as it was British. More than half the soldiers identified as Episcopal, another name for the Church of England and Ireland. Taken together with the Presbyterians (22%) and the Wesleyan/Methodists (17%), the three dominant Protestant denominations made up 94% of the regiment. British and Protestant identities were central to military service and feelings of loyalty. The proportion of Roman Catholics in Toronto peaked at 27% in 1861, but they are disproportionately underrepresented among the QOR, making up just 2%. Almost all of the Catholics in Toronto at the time were from Ireland. Catholics were considered outsiders by the dominant Protestant culture, but unlike the small numbers of Jews, Germans, and Italians in the city they were not considered ‘foreigners’.

Religious affiliation
Religious affiliation

British Protestants were not the only Torontonians ready to defend Canada from the Fenian menace. The Globe newspaper reported [10 March, 1866] that 120 men of the city’s “coloured population” had assembled in two companies and had offered their services to the government. Toronto had a small population of people of African descent, some of whom had come to the city along the famous Underground Railroad after escaping from slavery in the United States.

By 1866, Toronto was established as a regionally-important commercial, administrative, and educational centre. It was also valuable as a transportation hub for the export of Canadian agricultural products and the import of manufactured goods from Britain. In addition, it was becoming an important centre of industrial manufacturing. The men of the regiment represent 66 different occupations and reflect Toronto’s increasingly diverse economy. The heterogeneous occupational composition of the QOR provides an interesting contrast to its homogenous religious and ethnic origins. Several companies of the regiment were initially affiliated with particular trades or institutions and later became numbered units: Merchant’s Company, No. 5 Coy; Civil Service Company, No. 7 Coy; Trinity and University companies, No. 9 Coy. Students from the city’s colleges, universities and medical schools were the largest occupational group, making up 26% of the total; 8 and 9 coys were almost exclusively composed of students. The students were closely followed by clerks who made up 23% of the regiment, many of them concentrated in the No. 5 coy (Merchant’s Company). No other occupations were nearly as numerous as the students and clerks, but several were well represented, including merchants (17), shoemakers (13), laborers (11), and printers (9). There are also many more niche trades among the regiments, including Private R. Watson, silversmith; Private J.C. Smith, sailmaker; and Corporal J.B. Howe, dentist, age 19.

The nominal rolls for 1866 provide a glimpse into the spiritual and working lives of the Queen’s Own Rifles and of Victorian Toronto. The city retained its British Protestant identity well into the 20th century, even as it became increasingly diverse. The QOR has also evolved to reflect the cosmopolitan city.

See also The Fenian Raid 1866.

Volunteer Recognition Night 2016

On Thursday January 28th over 30 volunteers joined us at the Officers’ Mess for a reception to recognize volunteer service to the museum in 2015. In total 93 volunteers put in over 1,600 hours!

We were pleased to be joined by Honorary Lieutenant Colonel Lionel Goffart, members of the Museum Board of Governors,  and the Deputy Commanding Officer and President of the Officers’ Mess Committee, Major Shawn Stewart.

Thanks to Adam Hermant, Rob Chan, and Pat Di Donato of the Liberty Entertainment Group, we were able to presents some gifts to our top volunteers in terms of hours of service:

  1. Larry Hicks (235 hours)
  2. Graham Humphrey (184 hours)
  3. Shaun Kelly (121 hours)
  4. Ken Kominek (88 hours)
  5. Cheryl Copson (77 hours)
  6. Joe Wyatt (76 hours)
  7. Rob Grieve (73 hours)

The presentations were followed by a tour of the various messes at Moss Park Armoury which are filled with fascinating collections of military heritage.

We’re also pleased that some of our occasional volunteers have expressed an interest in becoming more regular and we look forward to another successful year in 2016!

Reg Force Reminiscences: “WUN BUN DAZE”

by Major Ronald R. Lilley, CD

This article was the first of two found in our collection. The date or purpose for which is was written is unknown. The second article will be posted in two week. Lilley left the Loyal Edmonton Regiment to join the 1st Battalion QOR in March 1954.

Back in the Spring of 54 (1954), not 1854, as many of my more recent associates would claim, the formation of 1 QOR of C was in progress at Currie Barracks, Calgary. Major C.P. McPherson (CP), acting by authority of Lieutenant-Colonel John Delamere’s absence, was the Supreme Commander of a handful of riflemen, NCOs, WOs and officers. The term “motley” may be an unkind term to use in describing this crew, but motley it was. The Adjutant, Captain Frank Moad and RSM Rusty Rowbotham completed the Bn HQ triumvirate. Lieutenant Fred Sargent (the QM) and I, at the time of my reporting in, were the only two First Lieutenants. Our association increased in size when Lieutenants Lloyd Cornett, Herb Pitts and Bob Munson reported for duty. At that time the PPCLI still reigned supreme in the permanent Mess on the hill while the LdSH (RC) were located adjacent to them in the temporary wartime buildings. Our Mess was located in an old Air Force H-Hut located adjacent to the Northeast corner of the parade square.

“Tea” was an informal “parade” where the CO determined the progress made on the state of the union and made or rescinded his various pronounce­ments, such as “ALL officers will wear moustaches.” Parties “spontaneous or otherwise” always ended up with “Grease the Tube”. After every shot, the Mess Secretary, while he was capable of doing so, gathered up and placed in an appropriately labelled bag, mainsprings, crystals, cog wheels, etc., of the individual’s wristwatch. The equivalent of a Timex was soon worn by all officers, and issue watches were in great demand.

Inevitably, Wainwright was upon us and Major Don Creighton became acting 2IC, relinquishing the command of HQ Coy to Lieutenant Lilly. The Coy was in the best shape possible considering the paucity of equip­ment and personnel. At the time, I was corresponding with Captain “Honest John” Mitchell, who was the Sigs Officer designate. “Honest John” took over his platoon several weeks after we were in Wainwright and it he had been prone to heart seizures we would have lost him on day two of his service with the unit. CO’s briefings were held daily, with the officers assembled around a campfire pit. Young 2/Lt Mike Newell ([later] Deputy Commander 12 RBC – Valcartier) commanding one of the sp wpns pls, was scorched by the CO’s wrath when, after receiving a direct order for events to take place the following day, he said: “I won’t do it.” Mike was suffering from an abscessed tooth, as I recall, and had a dental appoint­ment for the next day. CP’s fury provided an unexpected anaesthetic. Incidentally, Mike did have the tooth extracted and not by CP.

My turn came at the end of one of the Bde exercises. The Bn was granted 24 hours in the built-up area for R&R. I had checked over the officers’ quarters and had allocated the rooms by placing the officer’s name on the appropriate door. Unfortunately for me, I had to return to the Men’s area because their quarters allocation had been halved and I had to make up a new plan. In my absence the Straths advance party over­ruled our representatives and re-allocated the CO’s suite and most of the choice rooms to their CO and officers. On my return to the Officers’ Mess I felt righteous indignation for the treatment to which I was subjected.

By this time, we had all learned to keep our mouths shut and not to raise the subject of our undoing until another officer fell into the excreta, or for at least 48 hours. My saviour had already been earmarked by fate, Lt Ivor MacLeod by name. Those were the days of “NO shortages.” A smouldering mattress heaved from a second storey window (still open) was discovered the next day by CP. Poor Ivor had fallen asleep with a lit cigarette; feeling extremely warm, he had taken the aforementioned action which caused the inevitable chain reaction.

That same summer, then, in an effort to increase the mobility, started the first post-war experiment which eventually led to the procuring of the M113A1 APC. 2/Lt Spike Vanier, with a fleet of tired bren gun carriers, streaked around the training area on a preconceived battle plan. Experiments the next summer included transporting troops in 3/4 ton trucks and trailers. We must have been blessed by either CP or the Almighty, because we never lost a man.

Individual training began once again after the leave period and we were soon introduced to a new Capt Adjutant in the personage of George Hall. George, the nemesis of CP, was noted for using his Christian name on part one orders, green tinted glasses, a moustache and his wife Bunty. George and Bunty were also noted for their after-duty escapades. George continually tried to widen the entrance to Currie Barracks, was usually successful, much to the chagrin of the Garrison Commander. Bunty became infamous at a Strath Mess Dinner involving CP, Kurt Greenleaf (CO LdSH (RC) and General Vokes (GOC Western Command) . I eventually replaced George as adjutant and Lloyd Cornett in time replaced me . By accident or design, all the adjutants (Frank Moad, myself and Lloyd Cornett) with the exception of George Hall, were to meet Rod MacKay, the former Bn 2IC, in Vietnam.

After a sojourn in Vietnam, I returned to the unit in Sep 56 and after a relatively short but peaceful existence. “Rapid Step” was upon the unit in its full fury. I was relegated to be OC Rear Party and missed out on all the fun in Halifax, much to my dismay but to the eternal joy of my wife. Rehearsals for the Feu de Joie were held on the RCAF tarmac at Lincoln Park. This always caused a minor problem because the Air Force stenos had tender ears and objected profusely to their Station Commander about the air pollution which followed the unit in the form of a blue haze. Needless to say that RSM Rusty Rowbotham was the main contributor with minor contributions being made by various CSMs. Officers received sword drill from CSM Ken MacLeod in Scott Hall. We in those days carried the famous Wilkinson Sword made in Japan. Trying to balance it was like holding a 6-pounder Atk gun in the vertical position by the muzzle. Young Ken using the best techniques of instruction of that day, continued to practise us in sword drill by numbers and by numerous demonstrations to inculcate the finer points in our rather erratic movements. In due course, we were able to do the whole drill. Wishing to sharpen us up, he prepared to give us one more demonstration using his own words of command. “Draw Swords”, shouted CSM MacLeod, and with a flourish, his hand went through the motions. To his dismay and to our amusement, the blade never left the scabbard and momentarily basket, sword knot and handle were held in a gloved hand with the blade parallel to the ground, elbow at the side, then in slow motion the basket, complete with knot, did a barrel roll to the concrete floor. Sword drill was suspended for the rest of that day in a gale of laughter.

Wainwright 57 saw the unit in bivouac at Border Lake and once again I was casting covetous glances at our mates in our rifle coys and at those officers in the rifle coys of the ad hoc bn formed under Major Ron Wilkinson, our Bn 21C. We went through the various rounds of inspections of the HQ Coy Bivouac area. On one occasion, LCol Chuck Lithgow accompanied by the Comd MO and Food Services Officer, commented on the completeness of amenities in our area and jokingly said “Where’s your deep freeze?” To his amazement, I said to Staff “Zump the Pump” Zumprelle, “Show them our deep freeze.” Zump showed them our ice cream cooler suitably concealed in a bush near the kitchen.

The next summer saw us located in the Westgate area. That was the summer I learned to tactically employ helicopters. My most important task, brought on by the introduction of helicopters, was to race around the whole bn area ensuring that crapper lids were closed. The Bde Commander, Brigadier Wrinch, had a fetish for hovering over bivouac areas and peering into open crappers.

The incident I remember best and will undoubtedly be reported on more adequately by others, involved the OC and 2IC of a rifle coy which shall remain nameless. On a dark and probably stormy night the 21C Capt John Probyn (1 had to use a web belt on the old grouch to make him human when he was adjutant) was returning from a recce of a coy crossing site. The coy was to launch an attack across the Battle River. Time being of the essence, the coy Comd Major Hank Elliot had decided to move the coy forward. In ground mist obscured depression, the 2IC and Coy Comd encountered each other and locked radiators.

Pte McAteer, the outstanding batman in the unit, was ordered during an emergency move of HQ Coy to look after our stock of ammunition (blank of course) by CSM George Collings. While establishing our new position the CSM yelled several times for McAteer to bring forward the ammuni­tion for redistribution. McAteer had disposed of the ammo by burying it in the old location.

Artifact Spotlight: Sergeants’ Mess Composite Photo c.1886

Today’s artifact spotlight is by former Regimental Sergeant Major and Chief Warrant Officer (Ret’d) Shaun Kelly, Assistant Curator.

The object I have chosen as an artifact of interest is this photo (above) of the Sergeant’s Mess in 1886. It is a composite photo meaning photos of individuals are cut-out and stuck on a watercolour or charcoal sketched background and then re-photographed (much like Photoshop).

Sergeant Major Waring G. Kennedy
Sergeant Major Waring G. Kennedy
Sergeant Major George Crighton
Sergeant Major George Crighton

It was chosen because it shows the sergeants at a time when at least 30 of them had just recently returned from the rigours of the North West Rebellion 1885, (NW Canada campaign), it has five serving or future Sergeant Majors and a number of other interesting details. The date is likely 1886 as both Sgt Major Cunningham and Sgt Major Crean are present and the sergeants are wearing their North-West Rebellion medals.

Members of the Sergeants' Mess circa 1886
Members of the Sergeants’ Mess circa 1886 (click to see larger version)

From left to right the Sergeant Majors are:

  1. Warring G. Kennedy was Sergeant Major from 1891-92 and served as a corporal during the NW Canada campaign.
  2. George Creighton served as Sergeant Major from at least 1912-15 and served as a Pte during the NW Canada campaign.
  3. Samuel Corrigan McKell served as Color Sergeant during the NW Canada Campaign and was mentioned for saving a wounded soldier while under fire. He was appointed as Sergeant Major in 1889 but unfortunately died the next year. He is buried in St James Cemetery in Toronto and has a large tombstone erected by his comrades.
  4. John F.M. Crean was Sergeant Major from 1886-89 and served as Color Sgt during the NW Canada campaign. After his time as Sgt Major he received his commission, then left the QOR and joined the West Africa Frontier Force.  He died in Toronto at 47 years of age after 6 years in Africa.
  5. Patrick Cunningham (formerly of the 16th Foot) was Sergeant Major from 1877 to 1885, including as Sergeant Major during the NW Canada campaign.
  6. Charles Swift was Bugle Major from 1876-1923 and is the only one in the picture that served at both Ridgeway and the NW Canada Campaign. He is the regiment’s longest serving Bugle Major.
Sergeant Major (later Captain) John F.M. Crean
Sergeant Major (later Captain) John F.M. Crean
Sergeant Major Samuel Corrigan McKell
Sergeant Major Samuel Corrigan McKell

Other interesting information:

  • There are 28 Sergeants, 15 Color Sergeants, 13 Staff Sergeants including 2 Sergeant Majors, 1 dog, and 1 unknown Sergeant (name being cut-off in the picture);
  • Color Sergeants are what we now call Company Sergeant Majors although the Companies were less than half the size of a modern day 120 soldier Company. In 1886 a Company normally had around 50 soldiers and one or two officers. The regiment at the time consisted of at least 10 companies;
  • Hospital Sergeant Staff Sergeant Hall
    Hospital Sergeant Staff Sergeant Hall

    Sergeant Majors, Quarter Master Sergeants, Armoury Sergeants, Hospital Sergeants were all appointments that a Staff Sergeant could be assigned. As staff, they weren’t part of the Companies but may have paraded at their local armoury with them. Note that all the Staff Sgts are carrying swords as well as the sergeant’s cane. The Hospital Sergeant, Staff Sergeant Hall, can be seen seated in the bottom right of the shot, if you look closely you may see the red cross armband;

  • 30 sergeants have NW Canada 1885 medals;
  • 4 sergeants have Ridgeway 1866 medals;
  • Note the two sergeants in the rear facing away from the camera, they are equipped with the long sword-bayonet normally worn by duty staff and are likely sentries;
  • The gun emplacements are facing the shipping channel and are quite likely at the south end of Fort York, as the water was much further in-land in those days;
  • It is unknown who owned the dog in the lower left of the photo however, the menu from the reunion dinner for the veterans of the North-West Field Force that took place in October 1885 had a picture of a similar dog and its name was “Poundmaker”.
Sergeant Major Patrick Cunningham
Sergeant Major Patrick Cunningham
Bugle Major Charles Swift
Bugle Major Charles Swift

See an almost complete list of Sergeant Majors here.