QOR Day is back for 2022 and you can find the details here:
Please share as appropriate!
Where: Toronto (work from home, flexible presence on site)
Closing date: December 1st, 2022
Start Date: January 2023
Conditions: Full-time, flexible hours, 1-year renewable contract
Partnering with The Queen’s Own Rifles Museum and Archive, the Honouring Bravery Project is a brand-new educational initiative offering free teaching materials on military history to Ontario educators. Based on the Je Me Souviens* program in Quebec, the Honouring Bravery Project will offer travelling exhibitions, virtual exhibitions and turnkey activities connected with the Ontario curriculum on Canadian military history. Developed in partnership with the Je Me Souviens program and The Queen’s Own Rifles Museum and Archive, the educational materials will focus on hero-based storytelling, highlighting diversity within the Canadian Armed Forces and helping teachers expand on the standard history with examples relevant to students from all backgrounds.
*Je Me Souviens (JMS) is a Canada Company education program created in collaboration with the Royal Montreal Regiment Foundation and le Royal 22eme Regiment. JMS provides free teaching materials to supplement the Quebec history curriculum and to help students gain a greater knowledge of Quebec’s role in military conflicts throughout the last 100+ years, and ultimately to help them understand the long-term impacts of war upon all facets of our peaceful society.
The Honouring Bravery Project (HBP) is seeking an Ontario Coordinator who will work closely with the
Program Manager to develop and promote HBP resources. During the development phase, the successful candidate will help identify and oversee local contractors and partners to develop new resources and adapt existing resources to the Ontario curriculum. They will then participate in the development and implementation of HBP’s communication strategies, taking on the promotion of our educational tools to teachers and managing school reservations. The successful candidate will also be responsible for event planning and coordination as well as representing HBP at various conferences, events and schools.
We invite all interested individuals to apply and encourage applications from Black, Indigenous and
racialized persons, LGBTQ2S+ individuals and people with disabilities. Only candidates selected for an
interview will be contacted.
To apply, please send CV and cover letter to: firstname.lastname@example.org
On 14 October 2022 in Steenderen, The Netherlands, a grave of an unknown soldier was officially named after 77 years.
Lieutenant John Gordon Kavanagh was killed in action in the hamlet of Rha in April 1945. Due to the lack of his name tag, he could not be identified at the time. But after years of research, it was officially recognized that he was buried in the grave in Steenderen, and the tombstone with the inscription “unknown soldier” could be replaced by a stone with his name.
Although delayed 2 1/2 years by COVID restrictions, this was finally confirmed with a commemoration in the presence of two family members, dignitaries, invited guests, a delegation from the regiment of The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, students from the local primary school and residents of the neighbourhood.
Above: Upper Canada College Cadets, 1899 – QOR Museum Collection.
Did you know this is National Cadet Week in Canada? Over the years, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada has had a number of affiliated army cadet corps – more than you might expect!
You can read about many of them here.
Now that the – mostly – good weather has arrived, it’s time to get out and about. As odd as it might sound, Toronto has some beautiful cemeteries. They’re a great place to get some exercise and remember those members of our regiment (and the WWI battalions that we perpetuate) who have served in the past. These include everyone from riflemen to a full general.
The oldest and most historic cemetery in Toronto is Necropolis which was created in 1850 in the east end of Cabbagetown. So far we’ve identified over a dozen QOR buried here including six who were killed in action, died of wounds, or died of sickness attributed to their service at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866.
A short distance north of Necropolis is St James Cemetery at Parliament and Bloor St where we identified almost fifty QOR gravesites including the first commanding officer, Colonel Durie, and other Fenian Raid casualties.
Another almost fifty QOR graves or memorials have been identified in Mt Pleasant Cemetery (Mt Pleasant north of St Clair East) which is also considered an arboretum and extremely well maintained. Like the others, these include riflemen to commanding officers and every rank in between.
Be sure to check out our Ontario Cemeteries page for more Toronto cemeteries with QOR and maps such as Park Lawn, Pine Hills, Prospect, and a few outside of Toronto as well. And although most of these are mapped yet, we have identified a number of QOR in cemeteries outside of Ontario too.
This work is definitely “in progress” so if you have any information you can add on where QOR riflemen are buried in Canada, please share it with us in a comment below or email to email@example.com
I’m very pleased to announce that the QOR Association’s 2021 Rifleman of the Year Award recipient is former Regimental Sergeant Major Shaun Kelly.
As deputy curator of the QOR Museum, he has shared a wealth of knowledge and provided over 1,200 hours of service.
His service in Latvia this year for 7 months has been a credit to Canada and The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.
Shaun has been very involved with the Association. He stayed connected with the QOR Association group by sharing pictures and updates during his overseas posting. He also kept track of all the emails that have been shared with the Keep Connected Group since they started.
Congratulations to Shaun and well deserved.
On 6 June 2022, the QOR Regiment’s 1860 Club held a formal dinner for 200 guests at Casa Loma, the home of the Regimental Museum and Archive since 1970.
Several exhibits were on display during the pre-dinner reception including the memorial banners of all our fallen since 1866, several recently acquired 1860’s era uniform pieces, banners on the QOR’s D-Day and WWII participation, and some D-Day items including the pistol carried by CSM Charlie Martin.
Throughout the dinner, several vignettes from D-Day Veterans were read by various attendees – several of which were moving descriptions of their beach landings and of losing close friends and relatives.
And once again, the museum’s Photograph Officer Anne Frazer captured the event with some amazing photographs. Click on the photo below to see them on our Museum’s Flickr site.
By Charles D. McGregor
As a former member of drum and bugle bands in the 1940s and ’50s, I had done plenty of marching. From a cold wintry day leading the high school cadet band in the Santa Claus Parade, to a hot and steamy July day marching down Fifth Avenue in New York they were all memorable, in their own way.
But the one that I now remember with the most clarity took place in Appeldoorn, in Holland, on May 8th, 1995, VE-Day+50. I was there as a part of a touring group of about 20 World War Two veterans and their wives celebrating Victory in Europe Day. On this date, fifty years prior, Allied troops, mostly Canadians, had completed their liberation of Holland. This triggered the surrender by Germany of its armed forces, ending six years of war that had cost Britain and Canada more than 500,000 lives. The relatively small country of Holland had suffered 200,000 civilian deaths, many of those from starvation. Thousands more, mostly Jewish, were sent, by truck and train to Nazi concentration camps, where almost all of them – men, women, children – had died.
Canada and Holland have a special relationship resulting from actions during World War Two when Canadian Forces led the country’s liberation. This is where many members of The Queen’s Own Rifles fought their way across Holland to liberate the Dutch who had been suffering under Nazi occupation. Most of them are now dead but their part in ending the German oppression will never be forgotten.
Almost 8,000 Canadians would die in the fighting from September 1944 to April 1945. It had become urgent for the Allies to clear both banks of the River Scheldt estuary in order to open the port of Antwerp to Allied shipping, thus easing logistical burdens in their supply lines stretching hundreds of miles from Normandy eastward to the Siegfried Line. Supplies could then be delivered directly to those who needed them. Food, military vehicles and artillery, ammunition, fuel and, most important, replacement troops were needed for those fighting the ground battles. Clearance of northern and western Holland allowed food and other relief to reach millions of desperate and starving Dutch men, women and children. Its liberation triggered waves of jubilation and tears from those now free from occupation.
The celebratory 50th anniversary parade was scheduled to start at noon in Appeldoorn, a medium-sized city in central Holland. We had travelled by bus from our hotel, a few miles from there, and were dropped off at mid-morning in the stadium’s parking lot where the parade would end. We were given a firm reminder that the bus would leave to return to the hotel at 5 pm SHARP. Until then, we were on our own. Fine by me and I set off alone, walking. The city streets were decorated with Dutch and Canadian flags, miles and miles of bunting and all the other trimmings that events like this require. There were all kinds of military exhibits and many happy people on the streets. I was in for a few surprises. The uniform I was wearing and the regimental cap badge helped.
I was in the summer-weight tan uniform with The Queen’s Own Rifles shoulder flash and the Maple Leaf-shaped badge on my dress uniform wedge cap. As I headed towards a Starbucks ahead of me I noticed a throng of teenagers pretty well blocking the entranceway. They were just standing there in a group, the way teenagers do. But I wanted a coffee so I marched towards them. As I got there they made way for me and as I passed through they all clapped, in unison. I gave them a nod and a smile and continued on. They did it again when I came out, so I gave them a little wave, and said “Thank You.”
About an hour later I was walking along a side street when a man walking toward me stopped and as I got closer he stuck out his hand to shake and said “Queen’s Own Rifles.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. “I saw the maple leaf on your cap badge. You liberated our village in 1945. I remember you well. I was a schoolboy at the time. I was eight and my sister was 12 and one of your soldiers gave us chocolate. I asked if I could have cigarettes and he laughed and said I was too young. I told him they were for my father and he gave me a full pack of 20 Sweet Caporals. I really wanted them for myself. My father was killed by the Germans. I still have the empty pack as a remembrance of that day.” He said, “I am a school teacher now, but I always tell my students not to smoke,” and we laughed together.
I found my way to the parade route and joined the thousands who had flocked there to see the marchers and military tanks and weapons carriers, as well as to hear the many bands. At one point I was walking past a restaurant and passed a young couple sitting at the outdoor patio. The man waved me over and said “You must be a Canadian. You have a maple leaf badge. Will you join us for a drink?” By now I was ready for one, so I sat with them while he ordered for me. The waiter arrived with a bottle of Heineken and a frosted mug and already my day became a great success. So we chatted for a while until I decided to move on. We exchanged names and addresses and I thanked them both. At Christmas that year I got a card from them where they identified themselves as the ones who “bought you a ‘bear’ in Appeldoorn.” Sadly, by then I had lost their address so was unable to respond to them.
My recollection of parades, no matter the size, is that most spectators look for the saluting base on the parade route, and they congregate there. The marchers always put on their best show there. At the startup and the end, however, the crowds are usually smaller and by parade-end, those at the finish have been greatly thinned out. Not here. Not this day. I covered much of the long parade route and found it packed five or more deep in the stadium parking lot from start line to finish. Not only that, the rooftops on both sides held hundreds more everywhere I looked. Our Queen’s Own Rifles veterans were either riding on open army trucks or flatbeds while some were rolling along in wheelchairs piloted by family members. In addition to our band and bugles, there were brass bands, pipe bands, fife bands and even one accordion band, that was having difficulty being heard due to the cheers which seemed to be non-stop. It was a moving experience for me, seeing all those veterans from the Allied countries, all of whom would have been at least in their late sixties. Many would be dead by the time the year 1995 ended.
As the parade ended, I was walking back to find the bus when my name was called. I turned to see who it was and saw about half a dozen members of the regimental band sitting with beers in front of them under an umbrella in front of a bistro. Waving me over to join them was Doug Hester, a D-Day veteran who had been a bugler in the band before the war and a medic and stretcher-bearer in Normandy. Then living in Florida, he had been one of several veterans who had come to Holland with the band. Now close to 80, he was wearing the same uniform he had worn in 1939. As we chatted and laughed together it suddenly occurred to me that it must be close to five o’clock. It was actually five-thirty!
True to the warning we had been given, I found the bus had left without me. I went to the stadium office, explained I had missed my ride and asked if they could call me a taxicab. When I gave them the name of my hotel I was told that it would be expensive. I said I thought that might be the case but I had no alternative. At this, a man seated in the office said, “I’ll take you.” He stood up, took his jacket off the back of the chair and as he put it on I saw that he was a major in the Dutch Army. I thanked him for his kindness and he smiled and said “Call it professional courtesy. One soldier to another.” He was a very interesting man and we had a great conversation on the trip back to the hotel. When we arrived I thanked him again and shook his hand in gratitude and said goodbye. As he drove off I headed into the hotel, where I was in for another very nice surprise.
As I passed the registration desk I was waved over and told there was a phone message for me. It was, from my son Rob, telling me he and Dianne had another daughter, born today, on the May 8th, a sister for Catriona (Catie) That was great news and it gave me an (expensive) idea. Dinner was being served for our travel group at 7 pm and was about to begin. I checked the dining room and found only 12 seated there, with the others presumably dining out. I went back to the desk and asked to speak to the manager. When he arrived I asked if I could order four bottles of chilled champagne and champagne glasses to be brought to our tables when dinner was finished and coffee was ready to be served. No problem, he said. I then went in to join the others, apologizing for arriving late.
As the meal progressed it was apparent I wasn’t alone in thinking the afternoon’s parade had been an outstanding event. It seemed to have affected them as much as it had me. It had been something we all would remember for a long time. Finally, as the meal dishes had been removed and the coffee arrived, the manager came in, gave me a questioning look and I nodded. At that, he stood aside and in came a trolley with four bottles of champagne in coolers along with tall crystal champagne glasses. I stood up and announced that I’d like all of them to join me in a toast to the birth of my second granddaughter.
After the bottles were opened and all the glasses filled, I proposed a toast to the new baby, almost 4,000 miles away from where we were. I said “I don’t know what her name will be but I’m going to suggest to her parents that Victoria Elizabeth would be appropriate for someone born on this date. Her initials would be V.E.” That brought laughter and applause. However she was named Mary Elizabeth, which became Mary Beth for a while, but now she has settled on Mary, so that’s what it remains. But this was a very special moment for me.
I had already attended several VE-Day+50 events with members of The Queen’s Own Rifles and their families and friends. These had included a reception at la Maison du Queen’s Own Rifles on the beachfront at Bernières-sur-Mer, where the regiment landed on D-Day, as well as a service at Beny sur Mer Canadian War Cemetery. There are more than 2,000 Canadians buried there including 61 from The Queen’s Own. Another service would take place later at Groesbeck Canadian War Cemetery near Nijmegen where another 72 members of the regiment are buried, including Sgt Aubrey Cosens, VC. Sgt Cosens was awarded the Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery which cost him his life during an attack which took place across the Rhine, in Germany in March 1945.
I also visited Wageningen, the site of the surrender of Germany to Canadian General Charles Foulkes on the fifth of May 1945, officially ending the war in Holland. Here again, the town was in a festive mood, thronged with celebrating visitors. And here again, I got free beer. I was looking in the windows of a bistro and a couple were seated just inside. I saw the man get up and head outside, where he took me by the arm and said “You are Canadian?” I nodded and he pulled me inside, introduced me to his wife and told me I could have all the free drinks and food I wanted. I settled for two bottles of Heineken and something on the menu called “kroket” which is beef ragout inside a fried breaded pastry roll. Went down very well with the beer!
Other visits were made to points of interest along the route which played a major role in the movie “A Bridge Too Far” which was the bridge at Arnhem. The movie is about the planning and execution of General Montgomery’s “Operation Market Garden.” The largest airborne assault ever staged, it cost as many as 18,000 British and Americans killed, wounded, and captured in eight days of fighting. The Hotel Hartenstein in Oosterbeek, which had been commandeered by the Germans as its HQ eventually became British Second Army’s HQ as the battle for Holland continued. Now an Airborne Museum it contains historical artifacts about what happened there. It was there I saw something I have never been able to forget. It was a full-sized, white-painted door with a message written in large lettered charcoal. From the British officer commanding outnumbered and surrounded troops now fated to die or be taken prisoner it was his thanks for their continued bravery. He noted that they would soon be out of ammunition, “but we must fight until the last bullet is spent.” An emotional message to men whose war would soon end.
It was in the Canadian Military Cemetery at Groesbeck that I saw D-Day veteran Sergeant John Missons sitting under a tree in his wheelchair. I knew him and his son, also John, who was a drummer in the regimental band, as I had once been in other bands. We had become pretty good friends and I liked them both a lot. As I walked along John waved me over and said “Can you do me a favour?” I said sure I could. He said, “Aubrey Cosens is buried here and I’d like to visit his grave.” Sergeant Aubrey Cosens VC and John Missons were both in B Company and Missons remembered him well. He said “We were friends and the news he had been killed spread quickly. He was one of close to 100 killed or wounded in that fighting but he was one I knew better than the others. Some were replacements who had only been with us a few days.” Sgt Cosens was awarded the VC for his bravery Mooshof, in Germany, in February 1945, “but we didn’t find out about that until after VE-Day.”
It was as I was wheeling him back to find his son that I passed a row of 17 headstones, all of soldiers from the Lincoln and Welland Regiment, all killed on the same day. The Canadians had been tasked to clear the German occupiers from both sides of the Scheldt, resulting in many losses among both armies. The “Links and Winks” had their headquarters in St. Catharines, where I lived in the late ’40s and early ’50s. I had played drums in their band on several occasions, and as I looked at those headstones I wondered whether any of my high school friends were sons of those who died in Holland. At the Telegram, I worked with a photographer named Jim Kennedy, who had been with the regiment there and was in a Jeep which was blown into the river by a shell explosion and, as far as he knew, he said he was the only survivor of the incident. He woke up in the hospital and was soon on his way home.
When my trip ended, we flew back to Canada from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam, changing planes at Heathrow. We were due back sometime in the late afternoon, as I recall. Rob had offered to meet me there but a storm developed which diverted our aircraft to Ottawa. We were told we’d have to wait there until the storm, which was centred over north Toronto, had cleared. Also, we were not allowed off the aircraft because we were at Uplands Airport, which had no customs or immigration personnel. What I didn’t know was that Rob had brought Catie to the airport. The delay went on for several hours and I felt badly for both Rob and Catie, because she was only four years old at the time, and sitting and waiting is not what little girls want to do. However, we eventually got into Toronto Airport and my trip to celebrate VE-Day+50 was done. I was certainly happy to see Rob and Catie, who had waited a very long time for me to get back on Canadian soil.
POSTSCRIPT (1) Holland vs The Netherlands: While the use of the name “Holland” has now been officially replaced by “The Netherlands,” World War Two veterans of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, who paid a steep price for their efforts in liberating the country, always spoke of it as Holland. And what’s good for the veterans is good enough for me in these memoirs. Although the names were once used interchangeably, the Dutch government has decided the name Holland will now be dropped and The Netherlands will replace it in reference to the country. The difference between the Netherlands and Holland is that the Netherlands is the term for the country as a whole (12 provinces). Holland refers to North Holland and South Holland the two largest provinces.
POSTSCRIPT (2) A three-year stay in Canada. Following the German occupation of Holland, the Dutch Royal family was invited to Canada, where they lived as guests of Canadians until their homeland was liberated. Princess Margriet was born in exile while her family lived in Ottawa. The maternity ward of Ottawa Civic Hospital in which the princess was born, was temporarily declared to be extraterritorial by the Canadian government, thereby allowing her citizenship to be solely influenced by her mother’s Dutch citizenship. To commemorate the birth, the Canadian Parliament flew the Dutch flag over Peace Tower, which became the only time a foreign flag has flown over the Canadian Parliament Building. Princess Margriet was baptized in St Andrew’s Church, Ottawa, on 29 June 1943. Her godparents included President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Dutch Merchant Navy, in honour of the role played by the latter during the Second World War. It was not until August 1945, after Holland’s liberation, that the princess, her parents and two sisters arrived home to a wild welcome from their citizens who had suffered so badly during the war years.
In 1945, the Dutch Royal family sent 100,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa in gratitude for Canadians having sheltered the future Queen Juliana and her family during the preceding three years of Nazi occupation of their country. The Gift of Tulips became a yearly tradition. Every year, the Dutch Royal Family and the people of Holland each send 10,000 bulbs to Ottawa. These are planted in beds at the Ottawa Hospital in tribute to the birth of Princess Margriet. This gift gave rise to Ottawa’s annual Canadian Tulip Festival, held in May. Perhaps the world’s largest tulip festival, it displays over one million tulips and has an attendance of over 650,000 visitors. Large displays of tulips are planted throughout the city, with many thousands planted along the Rideau Canal alone. Princess Margriet continues to make regular visits to Canada, continuing strong ties between Canada and the Dutch.
Hear from past and present Canadian Asian members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, from the children of those who lobbied hard to repeal discriminatory legislation, and in particular about QOR Rifleman Dock Yip, human activist and first lawyer in Canada of Chinese descent.
See our museum’s profile of Rifleman Kew Dock Yip.
Museum Curator, Major John Stephens, CD (Ret’d) is awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers
As many of you will know, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Museum and Archive is maintained totally by volunteers, without their hard work the museum wouldn’t exist. It is fitting that, on Sunday 24 of April 2022, during National Volunteer Week, our Curator, Major John Stephens, CD (Ret’d) should be awarded the Sovereign’s Medal for Volunteers on behalf of the Governor General of Canada by the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario her Honour Elizabeth Dowdeswell, OC, O Ont.
John has, over the last decade, made incredible improvements to our beloved museum that have been praised throughout the Regimental family and the Canadian Army in general. These improvements came because of the time, effort, and attention to detail that John has invested but also because of the incredible team of volunteers he has been able to “rope-in” over the years. Our museum volunteers come from all walks of life; some serving or former soldiers in the Regiment, some through their studies at Toronto schools and others from their interest in military history. Wherever they came from and regardless of if they helped-out for a couple of months or have been with us for ten years, they have made a difference. They have logged over 13,000 volunteer hours and contributed to telling the story of our Riflemen, the Regiment, and Canada that tens of thousands of visitors to our museum at Casa Loma see every year.
Thank-you for your time and congratulations on a well-deserved award.
CWO (Ret) Shaun Kelly, CD
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Museum and Archive
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Museum and Archive is holding a photography contest!
If you were a serving member in 2020 or 2021 and took some photos you think are particularly cool or impressive, then we encourage you to submit them to our contest (even if they were taken prior to the pandemic being officially declared in March 2020.)
Who is Eligible: Any members who served in the battalion during 2020 and 2021.
Content: Must contain QOR Battalion or QOR soldiers’ content. Training, parachute jumps, operations, social events, etc. would all qualify. Please label/name each photograph clearly as to what it was and when it took place. Do not include your name in the photograph name.
How Many: You can submit up to five photographs.
Acceptable Formats: JPG is preferred but any photograph format is acceptable – png, JPEG, TIFF, etc. (Not pdf.)
Submission Deadline: Photographs must be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org by midnight on Saturday 30 April 2022. If a photo is too large to email, please use the above email for sharing. Ensure you include your name and rank (but not in the photo name.)
Judging: Will be done by members of the QOR Museum Board of Governors during the first two weeks of May with the winners announced by the end of May. Judges will also determine if specific categories are required to complete the judging.
Prizes: To be determined.
The following story was written by Dave Sproule and published in the Strathcona Association newsletter in December 1996. It is reprinted here with his permission. Dave has an interesting if sad connection to the QOR as two of his uncles were killed in WWI while serving with the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force.
As a twenty year old second-lieutenant in the COTC at the University of British Columbia I was delighted when I received notice that I would be posted to the Strathconas for 3rd phase training/ It was 1958 and the Regiment was still garrisoned in Currie Barracks although Sarcee would officially open later that summer. I was assigned to A Squadron which according to Danny McLeod’s motto meant, “Always Able Active and Aggressive.” I arrived off the train early in May and after a quick beer and a meal in the mess found myself in the Sarcee training area in the middle of the night. I believe as call-sign 4C. The Squadron was doing work-up training for Wainwright. I remember hearing the coyotes howling for the first time that night and watching the sunrise over Calgary as we practiced our lager drills over and over until we got it right.
The Regiment made all of us COTC officers feel at home for the summer as we were allowed to wear Strathcona regalia and encouraged to participate in all activities. We didn’t need convincing. I learned later that other COTC types went to other regiments and didn’t experience the same warm reception that was accorded us. There were six of us altogether, Brian Harvey from Saskatoon, Don Heine from Vernon, Sam Yoshida from Hamilton, Dave Redgwell and Alex Prysiasniuk from Winnipeg and myself. We were assigned two per squadron.
When we went to Wainwright, Danny McLeod made Brian and me troop leaders as he lost one subby to Brigade and Jim Ellard went off to RMC on the Long Course. I was entrusted with Two Troop. My call-signs were ‘A’ Sgt Rowland, ‘B’ Sgt Wheeler and ‘C’ was Cpl Thody. Other in the Squadron at the time were Lorne Glenndinning (BC), Chris Bashford (2i/c), Bob Gross (1st Troop), Rod Tomlinson (3rd Troop), and Brian Harvey had 4th Troop. Barry Robison of the KOCRs kept drifting in and out. I believe that Sgt Getz was acting/SSM. A Squadron was to work with the 2Bn QOR of C and to play enemy force so that we had endless troop and sub-unit exercises up and down the training area.
I will never forget one night after a final Battalion/Squadron exercise before the GOC’s exercise when a significant event in my life occurred. My tank was the lead c/s in a three troop column moving tactically and without any lights, along the tank track that paralleled Grey Route I believe it was. We were going to meet our echelon near Hart Hill and then go into harbour. As Snoopy would imagine in “Peanuts” – “it was a dark and stormy night when suddenly…” I encountered a Queen’s Own ¾ ton truck bogged down in a depression in the tank track. My driver and I discovered it at the same time when we heard the crunch of steel on steel. It was superfluous to shout driver halt but I imagine that I did. Our tank came to rest somewhere around the fire-wall of the ¾. The rest went something like this:
“Hello niner this is two, I have just run over a truck.”
The reply was something like, “unknown c/s say again” or “Two from niner was anybody hurt?”
Two, I don’t know yet.”
“Niner, well get the bloody hell down there and find out.”
“Two roger out.”
You can picture the scene – 0300 hrs darker than hell, my crew and I assessing what we had just done. My first thought was that I had just mangled a section of ‘C’ Company, QORs finest until I heard moaning from within the cab. You may recall that ¾ ton trucks were proto APCs while the infantry waited for the Bobcats. (As it turned out the Bobcat never was manufactured and the Government bought the American M113 instead but not until the late ‘60s.) We pried the door off with a crowbar and hauled the driver out and as it turned out, he was the driver for the CSM of ‘C’ Company and when he got bogged down, the CSM went off in another vehicle leaving him to await recovery. The mush of the N0.26 radio set in his ear had put him to sleep and he had lain down on the seat. Fortunately he was not seriously hurt sustaining a cut to his head. The impact had knocked him onto the floor and the back of the cab crumpled over him and provided some protection. My brief career flashed before my eyes that night as I was certain that I would be on the next train to Vancouver but that didn’t happen.
At a smoker in the QOR field mess the following night and before the big exercise, I was invited to cut a cake which had a pastry tank pushing a pastry ¾ ton truck down into the icing. For the rest of the summer, I responded to the nickname “Crusher” and occasionally in some mess or other since that time some smiling face with greying hair will call from across the room “Hey Crusher over here” and I immediately transported back to that time and place. The Provost Platoon (Military Police) towed the truck to a prominent place in the training area and put up a warning sign about safe driving. My tank really did a number on that vehicle.
The remainder of the summer was relatively uneventful as I remember it although like most of you have experienced, there were many pleasant evening in the field swapping stories over a cold beer served from the back of the canteen truck and Danny even let Brian Harvey and I get to Calgary via the laundry truck, to take in the Calgary Stampede.
The camaraderie and warmth that the Regiment extended to me that summer solidified my career choice and after university experienced similar moments of pleasure in the field as a troop leader and squadron commander and occasionally terror on some night move from here to there.
On Thursday, February 24th the Museum held our annual event to recognize our dedicated team of volunteers for 2021. While previous in-person events took place at the Officers’ Mess and the Royal Canadian Military Institute, we opted to play it safe one more time and hold it as a Zoom call.
We were joined by members of the Museum Board and by the Commanding Officer Lieutenant Colonel Scott Moody, and the Regimental Sergeant Major Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Johnston.
Acting Curator Shaun Kelly welcomed everyone and reviewed our achievements in 2021 despite the on again – off again challenges of changing pandemic restrictions. (See Looking Back on 2021 post.) He reported that we still managed to give 1,445 hours of service to the museum, and congratulated each volunteer on their contribution.
Board Chair Jim Lutz noted that we will be updating our Five Year Strategic Plan this year and would be looking for input from all our volunteers.
The CO and RSM provided an update on the current state of the Regiment before presenting our Collections Officer Cheryl Nairn with the Commanding Officer’s Commendation.
Cheryl will be starting maternity leave shortly so we were pleased to be able to present this recognition before she leaves us.
The operation of our museum is completely dependent on volunteers and we can’t thank them enough for their perseverance and valued contribution throughout a difficult 2021!
The Rifleman magazine has been widely distributed to members of the regimental family in electronic format and is also available on the Research page of our website here.
If you are interested in purchasing a real “hard copy” (softcover magazine format), you can do so from the museum’s Blurb Store. Last year’s issue is also available along with a number of books the museum has published.
As with every other aspect of our society, the impact of another year of pandemic challenged our operation in 2021.
The first half of the year was primarily work from home as a result of COVID restrictions which applied to Casa Loma. By summer though, we began on site work again once all our volunteers were double vaccinated, and continued through to mid-December. Despite these challenges our team of 13 volunteers (including two new volunteers) put in over 1,050 hours in person and from home. For this continued dedication I want to thank each member of this team:
In February we also held a virtual “recognition night” for service undertaken in 2020. Joining us were the Honorary Colonel, the Commanding Officer and members of the Board of Governors, and concluded with a fun quiz on regimental history.
The heart of any museum is it’s collection and there are currently more than 3,750 objects entered into our internal collections database as well as accessible from our Public Access portal – and of course a small stack of data waiting to be entered.
Storage space is a challenge for every museum, but acquiring additional items though gifts or purchase, which fill gaps in our collection, is also important. Once acquired the accession process starts to document where these items came from, to establish our new ownership through deeds of gift, and sending letters of thanks where appropriate.
This past year saw forty-two accessions accepted. Some of these were one item – some however were hundreds of items. Among many others, we were pleased to receive gifts from the estates of Norm McCracken and John Bennett.
We also made some purchases to fill some collection gaps. With funding donated by the QOR Maple Leaf Rifle Club, we were able to purchase a military version of the WWI Ross Rifle as we only had a civilian version in our collection. We also purchased a late 19th century headdress and collection of rare badges, and in December with additional funding from the Regimental Trust, a late 19th set comprising of an officers’ belt, crossbelt, and (rare) sabretache. The only downside perhaps is that many of these items have now joined the growing queue to be properly documented, photographed, and cataloged!
In addition to what most people understand as museum objects (uniforms, weapons, trophies, instruments, etc.) our collection has archival material. These are generally either regimental and regimental organization records like orders books, nominal rolls, meeting minutes, official correspondence, war diaries, etc., and personal manuscript documents (called Fonds) such as letters, service records, photographs, news clippings, certificates, etc. Lastly there are special collections generally related to some specific event such as the 1910 Trip to England. We have lots of all three types of material!
The process of organizing, describing and preserving these is very different from cataloging any single museum object like a pair of boots or a cross belt. Its also difficult to make progress in a single Thursday evening volunteer night because of the need to pack everything up again at the end of the night. So these have made better work from home projects and we have been able to complete a number of them during 2021.
As is normal each year, a number of significant projects were undertaken off-site or from home:
Database Migration to Web Based
In January we completed the migration of our “PastPerfect” collections database from a single desktop version to a cloud based edition. This is actually more exciting for us than you might think. Up to 10 people can be working in the database at any given time (vs. the previous one); it absolutely facilitates work from home; and it means that in many cases, cataloging data can be entered directly rather than on cataloging sheets and then transferring the information. To allow this to work we also purchased two Chromebooks that catalogers can use as they catalog. The web edition also means that our “public access” database is immediately updated if additions or changes are made to the internal database. Geeky yes but a game changer for our collections management processes!
QOR Orders Book Digitization Partnership
Thanks to Museum Board member Tristan Strathy, it was brought to our attention that Brock University Archives have four 19th century orders books of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada which fill the gaps in our own collection. We contacted the Brock archivist who graciously allowed us to send a volunteer to digitize the books using their equipment. We have now both added these digitized versions to our respective websites. You can read more on this and get links to the documents in this previous blog post.
Cemetery Walking Tours Updated
These tours were one of the very few things not impacted in any major way by the pandemic – in fact the outdoor nature was a good way to get some fresh air exercise and learn about our Riflemen! Besides additions to our existing tours of Necropolis and St James, we’ve added Prospect and Mt Pleasant , and are starting on one for Pine Hills Cemetery in Scarborough. You can find them all here.
Another project we were able to undertake while working from home, was the creation of five pop up banners with the names of all our regiment’s fallen (including our very recent discovery of Rifleman Nussey’s training death.)
The intent is for these to be used for various outreach projects or at appropriate regimental events. They were first displayed at the November Officers’ Mess dinner held at the Royal Canadian Military Institute and we’re well received.
We continue to use various social media platforms to both share our regimental history and museum news. If you’re not already doing so we very much encourage you to follow or subscribe as appropriate for the platforms you use!
*At the end of the year, the video on the history of our uniforms which had been originally posted in November 2020, went somewhat “viral”. We now have over 1,430 subscribers and this video has been watched over 178,000 times!
The Museum Board of Governors
This group provides important governance and oversight as well as support, advice and guidance on specific issues like insurance. The Board held two virtual meetings on 27 May and 30 November – the latter including approval of a 2022 budget proposal to submit to the Regimental Trust Fund.
Our sincere thanks to the Board members who are ably led by Chair Mr. Jim Lutz:
In a future post we’ll highlight some of our plans for 2022 despite the continuing challenges of the COVID pandemic.
This article appeared in the The Maple Leaf magazine of the Central Ontario Branch Western Front Association (Vol.39, Fall 2021) and is kindly reproduced with permission of the author, Glenn Kerr.
Two Canadian soldiers survive the trenches only to be killed on last day of leave in London.
By Glenn Kerr
In the spring of 1917, Londoners carried on with an ease that had grown with an extended period of peace in the skies over England. It had been eight months since the last Zeppelin appeared over the city with its deadly cargo of bombs and the threat of terror brought by the airships had been successfully met withby new tactics and the Royal Flying Corps. A year had passed since Lt. William Leefe Robinson unloaded his magazines of incendiary ammunition into the SL11 in the high-altitude darkness bringing down the German airship over the village of Cuffley. It became clear to the Germans that sending the lumbering airshifts across the North Sea on these missions was no longer an effective way of bringing the war to English soil. A new approach was needed.
Sergeant Bartley Gibson Lumley #602944 was a 26-year-old railway worker from Iona, Ontario. The First World War would forever connect him with Private Albert Henry Bond #602952, a newly married 20-year-old brickmaker from nearby Woodstock. Both men were declared fit by the 34th Battalion medical officer when they enlisted with the Canadian Expeditionary Force 18 August 1915 and their friendship and path together to the Great War began. They did not wait long for active service and sailed for England from the port of Montreal on the SS California on 23 October 1915 and arriving on 1 November 1915. With casualties at the front consuming men at an alarming rate, the 34th met the same fate as many battalions arriving in England: supplying reinforcement drafts to the front-line units. And so, after a brief stay with the 23rd Reserve Battalion, the two friends found themselves separated. Lumley was dispatched to the 2nd Battalion from Eastern Ontario on 26 March 1916, while Bond was sent to Toronto’s 3rd Battalion. The 1st Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division would be their home for the rest of the war, a war with almost three long years to go.
On 14 April 1916, Private Bond caught up to his new unit and began his life in the trenches in the shattered landscape near Bedford House in the Ypres Sector. The 3rd had gone back into the trenches on the 10th, ironically relieving the 2nd Battalion that had welcomed Lumley the previous day. The Battalion diary on the day of his arrival listed the weather as fine with no activity, but the 3rd had lost one of their originals, Private Britton had survived the gas attacks at St Julian, but had now been killed by a sniper on the day of Bond’s arrival. As the men of the 3rd buried Private Britton, 80 km away, a Belgian airfield near Ghent hid a carefully guarded project, a secret weapon if you will, and the Germans for a time believed it would win them the war. Its imposing name was chosen specifically to instill awe in the citizens of England who would live again in fear in the spring of 1917, when the Gotha German heavy bombers first appeared. Ernst Brandenburg had been chosen to lead the new England Squadrons or Englandflieger. At the onset of war, he had served as an infantry officer but severe wounds in 1915 brought him to the Air Service. On the morning of 25 May 1917, he led his squadron of 23 Gothas into the sky toward England.
The first stop was the airfield at Nieuwunster, 40 miles away, where the thirsty aircraft with a crew of three, topped off their tanks before the 175-mile trip across the English Channel to London. With a range of 500 miles, and taking into account time over the targets, every drop of fuel would be precious. One by one the bomb and fuel laden Gothas lifted off the grassy runway under the power of twin 160 hp Benz motors assisted by a 71-foot wingspan. The Gothas could maintain speeds of 88 mph and reach altitudes of 16,000 feet well above the capability of defending British aircraft. And with a load of 14 60-pound bombs, the Germans had every right to feel their new weapon would change the war.
As the war raged on, Private Bond saw action across the Somme, Ypres, Vimy and Arras without so much as a scratch. In fact, his only medical issues involved a bout of influenza. His 3rd Battalion would finish the war with 21 Battle Honours and two Victoria Cross recipients and of the two thousand soldiers who served with the 3rd, only 40 originals would return from the war in 1919. His friend Bartley Lumley was also in the thick of the fighting with the 2nd Battalion and had survived the assault on Vimy 9 April 1917 and was awarded the Military Medal for bravery. He distinguished himself in the trenches and was promoted three times, eventually arriving with the First Canadian Trench Mortar Battery in July 1917, just prior to the Canadian Corp’s attack on Hill 70. The two friends from a quiet part of Eastern Ontario were seeing the war in all its forms and horrors but were alive.
By the time the Squadron of Gothas had reached the coast of England, Ernst Brandenburg found himself with 21 of the original 23 bombers that had set out from Nieuwunster. They made their way along the Thames Valley completely unopposed and expecting clear skies over London only to find the city obscured by cloud cover. With no distinguishable target the squadron turned southeast and the target-rich industrial and staging areas of England. Lympne Airfield near the coast was a busy hub for aircraft returning from France and was one of the first targets to receive bombs from the Gothas destroying numerous aircraft on the ground. The group then followed the coast toward Folkstone, the final stop for troop and munitions trains before crossing the Channel. The resort town and busy military staging area received the full might of the raid. Bombs rained on the town destroying buildings, killing nearly 100 and wounding 260. In 10 minutes over Folkestone, the first raid of the Gotha Heavy Bombers had brought death, destruction and a new sense of fear and unease to the people of England. Ernst Brandenburg and his Gothas, dubbed The Kaiser’s Secret Weapon, had successfully brought the war to English soil and the era of intense aerial bombing was born.
Weeks would pass before weather conditions appeared favourable enough for another attempt on London, but on 13 June 1917, Brandenburg had a window and led 14 Gothas in the first massed aircraft attack of the war on the British capital. The primary target for the mission was Liverpool Station, but secondary targets were hit causing many deaths and by lunch time, 72 bombs had rained down around Liverpool Station and Londoners counted 162 dead and 432 wounded citizens including many children, 18 by one direct hit on the Upper North Street School. The following day the East London Advertiser newspaper’s headline read, “Children Killed in German Air Raid”.
Brandenburg and his squadron mates celebrated his successful raid later that night with a party but an inquest delivered in the aftermath of the attack revealed that the Gothas were dropping high explosive bombs filled with shrapnel on civilian targets and the morality of the weapon and wounds to the civilian population was drawn into question. As the individual stories of tragedy emerged, there were also stories of heroism such as the actions of Police Constable Alfred Smith who was killed by a bomb only moments after dispersing a crowd of factory workers that had gathered in the street. He left a wife and three-year-old son and, in 2017, his relatives gathered on the site of his death and dedicated a plaque in his honour.
The Gothas returned on 7 July 1917 with 21 aircraft newly under the command of Captain Rudolf Kleine, who had replaced Brandenburg who had lost his leg in a crash. The raid was met by ineffective defences of anti-aircraft fire and the 95 British planes sent aloft to meet the threat were unable to catch them. The cost was 57 killed and 97 wounded and the Gothas’ crews, with a sense of invincibility, continued to arrive over England, but the British prioritized development of counter measures and the Gotha strategy soon would be forced to evolve.
On the night of 4 September 1917, Sergeant Bartley Gibson Lumley and Private Albert Henry Bond sat a world away from their peaceful farm communities in Canada. In the front lobby of a London hotel, the two veteran soldiers enjoyed the final hours of a welcome leave together on Agar Street in the Strand district of London. Their return to life in the trenches, where they had both toiled for nearly two years, was undoubtedly a topic of conversation. Meanwhile, across the English Channel, Captain Rudolf Kleine was launching his squadron of 11 Gotha heavy bombers, at five-minute intervals to avoid collisions, into the night skies in the direction of England. Formation flying for the trip across the Channel was not possible on the first night bombing raid of the war on an unsuspecting London.
Not long into the mission, two aircraft from the staggered line of bombers turned back with mechanical issues. The remaining nine carried on and safely crossed over the English coast where five set off for central London leaving four to attack targets on the fringes around Essex, Suffolk and Kent. Just before midnight, the five Gothas began dropping their bombs into different areas of central London. In the confusion of the unexpected night raid, the Royal Flying Corp sent 18 aircraft into the sky to meet the threat. Anti-aircraft fire combined with an accompaniment of search lights were also brought into action but the Gothas, acting independently, were difficult targets.
As bombs began to land across London, one of the aircraft approached from the north and dropped its first bomb into Oxford Street, not far from Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace. The noise in all likelihood was heard by an unsuspecting Lumley and Bond, who would have had no time to react before the next bomb landed in front of their Agar Street hotel. It was a terrible blast and fragments struck Lumley in the head, chest and abdomen, while Bond received serious head injuries. A 64-year-old woman, Eileen Dunleary, was also struck. Lumley was carried to the hospital in his chair, but all were pronounced dead at the hospital.
Three more bombs fell in quick succession from the Gotha as it completed its run between the Strand and the Victoria Embankment roadway along the Thames. Alfred Buckle was driving his single-decker Tram along the embankment when he heard the explosions and sped up with the hope of sheltering in the Kingsway Tunnel, but his tram sustained a near direct hit as he passed the Cleopatra’s Needle monument. The blast killed two passengers and mortally wounded Buckle. Witnesses reported that despite having his leg blown off, he stayed at the controls and applied the stop lever before succumbing to his wounds. Cleopatra’s Needle and the nearby Sphinx were heavily damaged by the blast and still bear the scars to this day from the explosion that killed tram driver Buckle and two passengers. Captain Rudolf Kleine’s night raid on London had killed 16 and wounded another 56 but one Gotha was shot down by anti aircraft fire and disappeared into the River Medway.
The unfortunate stray bomb that killed the young Canadian soldiers was believed to have been meant for the Charing Cross Station. Their military files were updated with the cold reality of their demise, “Killed by enemy bombs during a hostile air raid whilst on leave in England”. They were buried side by side at Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surry. The following June, the Governor General of Canada presented Sergeant Lumley’s posthumous Military Medal to his sister Mildred in an emotional service in London, Ontario. The headlines of the day read; “Sister of a Dead Hero Given M.M by His Excellency”.
The tragic story of Sergeant Lumley and Private Bond came full circle 12 December 1917 when Canadian Pilot, Captain Wendell Rogers from Prince Edward Island, led a patrol of five Nieuport aircraft over the Ypres sector of Belgium. While climbing through the clouds, the small patrol came upon two Squadrons of Gotha Bombers that immediately opened fire from above. Maneuvering out of range, the Nieuports skillfully climbed above and behind the enemy formations where they opened fire on the three trailing aircraft. Rogers then selected the centre aircraft and fired a burst into the fuselage scoring a direct hit near the observer, sending the aircraft plummeting towards earth. Following his target, he witnessed two of the crew jump from the burning aircraft prior to an explosion. He did not know it, but Captain Wendell Rogers had shot down, not only the first Gotha over Europe, but he had killed Captain Rudolf Kleine, and avenged the deaths of Lumley and Bond.
Australian soldiers on the ground, who witnessed the crash of the Gotha, presented Captain Rogers with the fabric black iron crosses from the wings as a trophy for his unique aerial victory. He proudly displayed one in his Squadron’s Mess. Sadly, it was lost when the Germans overran the area during the 1918 offensive. The other was displayed in a number of sites over the years before it was donated to the Canadian War Museum in 2004 by Lloyd Rogers, son of Captain Wendell Rogers, who died in St John, NB in 1967. The Gotha he shot down that afternoon was his seventh victory of the war; he would finish with nine.
We recently were sent an 1870 newspaper clipping which reported on the tragic rifle range death of a QOR soldier which was unknown to us.
Rifleman George H. Nussey was born in Breton, Yorkshire, England in October 1846, son of Joseph Nussey and Sarah Holmes.
Its not known exactly when he immigrated to Canada however on 20 February 1869 he married Margaret Frear in Toronto. On 19 November 1869 they had a son George Henry Nussey.
According to the nominal roll in the regimental archives, Nussey joined the QOR on the 22nd October 1868 and was a member of No. 2 Company.
He was employed as a machinist with Messrs. Dickey & Neill.
On 15 April 1870, a tragic accident occurred during a No. 2 Company range day at the Garrison Common, when Nussey was shot in the head after fellow rifleman Arthur Gascoigne* accidentally discharged his Snider-Enfield.
The 23 year old Nussey died almost immediately and was buried in Necropolis Cemetery Plot Q58 TT 1/2.
The Regimental Order of 16 April 1870 stated:
“The Regiment will parade on Sunday the 17th inst at 2:30 pm on the corner of Queen St and Denison Ave for the purpose of attending the funeral of the late Private Geo Nussey who was accidentally shot on the 15th inst while at target practice.”
*Gascoigne, who was understandably distraught, was arrested at the scene, however we have found no record as to what subsequently took place, such as a coroner’s inquest or a criminal trial to indicate his fate. Over two years later, the Regimental Orders of 18 May 1872 (page 212) indicate that Gascoigne was struck off strength having “left the limits.”
Recently museum board member Tristan Strathy flagged for us that a Canadian book seller had recently sold three Queen’s Own Rifles Regimental Order Books. These three books would fill the final gaps in our 19th century collections of orders:
We quickly identified the purchaser as the Brock University Archives and Special Collections. After reaching out to the Brock Archivist David Sharron, he very kindly agreed to allow us to digitize these items in their digitization lab using their equipment.
Deputy Curator Shaun Kelly spent a day at the Brock Archive figuring out how to use their equipment and taking all the required images. In the following days Brock shared the images with us and Shaun then undertook cropping over 200 images because two of the volumes had been stitched together. With that completed I was able to take the images for each volume and create a pdf file and add relevant bookmarks to make them easier to use for research purposes.
With the final documents completed, we uploaded them to our museum website’s Archives page where they are included with other volumes from our collection that we had already digitized. And finally, we sent copies of the finalized pdf documents back to Brock University so they can add them to their own online collection of digitized documents.
These three volumes of regimental orders (along with those in our collection) are filled with both the mundane and the fascinating records of the regiment’s life – lists those taken on strength and those struck off strength; promotions and weekly duty personnel lists; announcements of special parades or range exercises; and a whole variety of other information.
One particular piece of historical trivia, involved the notice that, as of 19 October 1864, the Battalion drills would now be held on Wednesday evenings instead of Tuesdays. Serving and former members of the regiment will appreciate that after doing so in various drill halls and armouries for over 157 years, the regiment still trains on Wednesday evenings!
By Rod Henderson
(Reprinted with permission from “The Maple Leaf”, magazine of the Central Ontario Branch Western Front Association, Volume 38, Fall 2020 issue.)
Major Andrew E. McKeever, the “King of the two-seaters” sits at 10th in the ranking of Canadian aces of the Great War with 31 aerial victories. McKeever was born on 21 August 1894 in Listowel, Ontario. He attended Central Technical School in Toronto and was working as a bank teller at the outbreak of war.
McKeever joined the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, a Toronto militia unit, in October 1915. Some biographies mistakenly indicate that McKeever went overseas and served in France as an infantryman. In fact, he remained in Canada and joined the Royal Flying Corps from Canada in November 1916, sailing for England on the 25th. On 5 December he was appointed to the rank of probationary Second Lieutenant.
His aviation training began in January 1917 at the School for Military Aeronautics at Oxford, England. He received flying instruction at Northolt and graduated as a pilot at Hounslow in late April. On 28 May 1917 he was posted to Number 11 Squadron as they were transitioning from the Royal Aircraft Factory FE2b to the Bristol F2b (image above). This aircraft was typically armed with a forward-firing .303 Vickers machine gun. The F2b carried an observer/gunner in a rear-facing seat immediately behind the pilot. The observer’s position was armed with one or two Lewis guns. This aircraft gained the nickname “Brisfit”.
McKeever’s first victories came less than a month after he joined 11 Sqn. On 26 June he shot down two Albatros D.Vs while flying with Second Lieutenant E. Oake as his observer. This was followed by a three-kill day on 7 July, making him an ace.
McKeever was awarded the Military Cross on 17 September 1917. The citation notes a day in which he single-handedly attacked eight enemy aircraft and the fact that he had downed eight aircraft in a period of three weeks. He steadily racked up more victories over the summer and autumn, scoring three-kill days on 5 August, 28 September and 31 October. His observers accounted for 11 kills with Second Lieutenant Leslie Powell picking up eight of them. McKeever’s squadron-mates nicknamed him “Hawkeye” for his ability to spot enemy aircraft. He was promoted to Captain in late October.
His most distinguished day came on 30 November 1917 with Powell as his observer. That morning McKeever, volunteered for a reconnaissance mission 60 miles from his aerodrome that would take him six miles behind German lines. He took off in a pouring rain with low cloud cover. The sky cleared enough near his target that he was able to complete his observation mission. As he was turning for home, a large explosion caught his attention. A German ammunition dump had exploded and, after flying closer, he could see large numbers of German soldiers trying to get the situation under control. He decided “that it would be a good stunt to fly around close to the ground and sprinkle a few belts of bullets” at them to take “all the heart out of the poor Hun”. As he turned to tell Powell of his next move McKeever noticed four German planes at about 100 yards from his right wing and five more behind him, effectively blocking his escape back to Allied lines.
McKeever made an instant decision to fight. He quickly turned his plane toward the closer group of four, nearly colliding with one while firing his machine gun at it. The German plane went down in flames and McKeever had a clear shot at the next Albatross D.V. Again he fired and the second enemy aircraft went down. At the same time, Powell unleashed his Lewis gun and put a third enemy plane out of action. This exchange of fire happened in no more than 90 seconds and there were three German airplanes falling to the ground simultaneously. The fourth plane of the group broke away and joined the original group of five.
Against all logic, McKeever did not try to escape but instead flew farther into German territory. He turned to face his pursuers and brought down another with a quick burst as he passed through their formation. Powell also accounted for his second kill of the day during this pass. McKeever looked back at Powell to see why had not continued firing his Lewis gun. The expression on Powell’s face told McKeever that Powell’s machine gun was out of action. McKeever turned his Bristol back toward the Germans only to find that his own machine gun was also inoperable. German fire came at the RFC plane from several directions. McKeever decided on a ruse; he flopped his aircraft onto its side and it dropped toward the ground, appearing that he been hit and was falling out of control. The Germans fell for McKeever’s trick and they did not fire again or follow him down. McKeever recovered his aircraft about 20 feet from the ground and remained low, following a road and using trees as cover. Once he was confident that the Germans had left the area he turned for home, avoiding enemy ground fire as he passed over their positions. He arrived safely at his aerodrome with four more victories to his name. McKeever was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for this action.
These would prove to be McKeever’s final kills of the war. His last aerial mission was in the first week of December and he was posted to England in January 1918 where he worked as an instructor for the remainder of the war. His total of 31 victories made him the leading two-seater ace of the First World War. He received the bar to the Military Cross on 18 March 1918.
In August 1918, the Canadian government authorized the formation of the Canadian Air Force, made up of Canadians serving in the Royal Air Force. McKeever was promoted to Major and placed in command of Number 1 Squadron in January 1919. The CAF was disbanded again in early 1920.
McKeever’s secondment to the Canadian Air Force ended on 16 August 1919 and he left the military on 28 August. He returned to Listowel before taking his new job as the general manager of the Mineola, New York airfield. On 3 September he was injured in an automobile accident. The injury did not heal properly and he was moved to Toronto to have a broken bone reset. Complications set in and he passed away on 25 December 1919. [He is buried in Fairview Cemetery, Listowel, Perth County, Ontario.]
Curator’s Note: McKeever wasn’t the only QOR to take to the skies – see Percy Hampton’s profile.
by Master Corporal Mark Kusi-Appiah
The Patrol Pathfinder (PPF) is a legendary course run by the Canadian Advanced Army Warfare Centre, where mythical bush creatures crawl out from underground and attend as candidates. Those who pass would be reclaimed as commando gods at their home units. This was the mindset I had when I first heard about the Patrol Pathfinder Course.
I did my research and found a Truth Duty Valour episode on YouTube, and instantly I was hooked on the pathfinder’s history and the challenges of the course; needless to say, I also admired the badge: a winged torch.
As I scrolled through different articles, I discovered many that said that it would be impossible for a Reservist to attend and actually pass; the two most prominent reasons being obtaining the prerequisites required for PPF as well as accruing the required time in the Canadian Forces. However, years later I found myself rapidly ticking off those prerequisites and collecting relevant experience by going on my Basic Reconnaissance Course and patrol competitions such as the Canadian patrol concentration in CFB Wainwright.
At last, in 2018, I was given my first opportunity to attend the course. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it far due to a condition I suffered during a ruck march called rhabdomyolysis, a condition whereby your body is overworked to the point where your muscle starts to eat itself for energy, which can cause kidney damage. This also put me in the hospital for a couple of days and eventually I was ‘return to unit’ with a ‘breathe only’ chit.
Fortunately, I had made a great impression on the staff before exiting the course, and all remembered me as that guy who “thundered in just 200 metres from the end.” I was given the okay to come back on the next course, which also gave me a year to train and focus on when that rhabdomyolysis comes back around.
During my year of prep, I accumulated over 150 kilometres of rucking and was able to attend pre-pathfinder training with the 3rd Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment (3 RCR). From there I arrived back on course in mid-August 2019.
The PPF course is about three months long. You practice every insertion and extraction technique available to the Canadian Armed Forces, from the Fast Rope Insertion Extraction System (FRIES) all the way to floating on and off a submarine. You are also required to deliver immersive, clear, and concise orders while coordinating with multiple assets and commanders under stress. One of the perks about this course is that it takes you all over Canada.
Our course of 20 candidates started with a physical fitness evaluation by Personnel Support Programs and the drawing of multiple blood samples by Defence Research and Development Canada scientists as part of the research they were conducting on the candidates. Throughout the three-month-long course, the candidates’ blood was periodically drawn for data collection.
The first week included a 20-kilometre ruck march with about 80 pounds of gear (before water and rations) and had to be completed in under four hours and 30 minutes. Then candidates underwent multiple days of navigation practice, water drills, and skills assessments. Only seven passed the navigation test on the first go. Unfortunately, those who didn’t pass had to retry again, with some having to do the test multiple times consecutively. Due to the environment and injury rate, by the end of that gruelling week only 13 were left on the course.
Candidates then commenced a week of theory classes and orders before returning to the field to conduct standard operating procedure (SOP) training, watermanship, and PPF operations. This is where we learned the majority of how to operate as a pathfinder. To my surprise, we actually called in real jumps and beachheads that week. Unfortunately, two more candidates were injured, leaving only 11.
Before going on the course, I began working on strengthening my mental resilience and attained a different mindset after reading the book, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds, by David Goggins, an ultra-marathon runner and former U.S. Navy Seal. He mentioned that during his hell week he would set small goals and keep his optimism up. Thinking like this helped me get through the increasingly tough times, and also had the side effect of raising the morale of those around me. It seemed like whatever obstacles or challenges came our way, we would simply say, “Roger that,” and continue on. As a result, we created a solid team that helped each other through hard times, which is essential for a course of this nature.
However, there were many times where you had to push through on your own. The ability to understand that the pain and exhaustion were amplified in my mind and that my body can overcome, is what kept me going. Finding ways to claim a bit of your normal lifestyle helped, too. I found my norm with a bag of gummy worms that my girlfriend gave me. Those reminded me of the times when I crave them during long road trips, and that I could never leave a gas station without purchasing a bag. That humanized my mental state.
Training continued with a very well-orchestrated SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) course. We then had a full weekend to recover before we were off to Vancouver Island for 10 days to conduct the water phase of the course. From there we worked with Fleet Diving Unit (FDU), Naval Tactical Operations Group (NTOG), 406 Squadron (and their new CH-148 Cyclones), and a Royal Canadian Navy unit at CFB Esquimalt. We also got a tour of a frigate ship and a submarine. During our time there, we boarded an Orca-class patrol ship and based our missions in the Pacific Ocean, returning to the ship once finished.
After we got back to Ontario, we had a couple of days off before moving to Quebec for the last three weeks of the course. On our drive to Quebec we stopped in Petawawa to train with 427 Squadron to conduct FRIES training.
At CFB Valcartier, Que., we had a Helicopter Insertion Master package with 430 Squadron and also practiced building a rope bridge using candidates who were either Advanced Mountain Operations or Basic Mountain Operations qualified.
From there, the last two weeks were spent in and around the Quebec City area, conducting missions both in wooded areas and urban settings, which greatly challenged our thinking dynamics.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t a clean finish towards the end of my course. I was sent to a progress review board (PRB) after failing my last assessment and I was force-rested for 24 hours — of which I probably slept 22 of them. I was given one last chance to pass as a result of the PRB. Thankfully, a day later, after completing my final mission on the Le Massif ski hill in Charlevoix, I was debriefed and sustained an effective score on the aforementioned assessment, thus successfully completing PPF. This brought a wave of different emotions through me — after all, I was one of less than five Reservists to have ever passed this course.
In the end, nine candidates passed PPF with a victory mission and torch ceremony conducted at the Citadel in Quebec City.
This success made it clear that the old stigma of Reservists not being good enough is false, and that I have opened the possibility of challenging PPF in the thoughts of potential candidates back at my home unit. One of my ultimate goals from this experience is to hopefully have left the sentiment in the minds of others that, “If Cpl Kusi — the guy who forgot his T-shirt on his first parade night — can do it, so can I.”
Nothing is gained without great labour.
This article was originally published in the 2020 edition of The Rifleman, a publication of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.