Last Post: Capt Larry Hicks, CD

Yesterday at the Regimental Church, we said a final farewell to Captain (Ret’d) Larry Hicks, CD who had been a valuable member of our museum team for the past five years. Below are remarks I shared as Curator, during the funeral service.

“I’m John Stephens and I first met Larry almost 40 years ago in 1979 or 80 when I was a young Cadet Instructor Cadre officer with a QOR affiliated cadet corps, and Larry was also a young officer with the regiment. I recall that for the next ten years or so (and unlike some of his colleagues who had less time for the cadet program) he was always friendly and helpful on our occasional participation in regimental events or my visits to the mess.

By the early 1990s I was working with a cadet corps affiliated with the 48th so saw less of Larry through the army. But we were both involved with Scouting and I would sometimes see him at the 5,000 acre Haliburton Scout Reserve. It was there that I first came to know of his love of the outdoors and particularly canoeing, and of his appreciation for wildlife.

Another decade would pass until I would see Larry again at the Christmas Officers’ luncheon:

“So Larry – what’s new?” (It was always easy to pick right up again with him.)

“I’ve just retired from both the Police and the Army” he said.

“Very nice! So any plans for retirement?”

His response was along the lines of “More canoeing, more time at the cottage, and more time on my photography hobby.” My ears perked up – photography hobby? Hmmmmm….

“So what are you up to these days?” he said. “Funny you should ask” I replied with a smile.

Earlier that year I’d been recruited as the Curator for the Regimental Museum – big shoes to fill in a line of very long serving and dedicated predecessors! We’ve started re-cataloging all the objects in the collection I explained, but – baiting the trap – we really need someone with a high skill level to help us photograph them as part of that process. It would only be “one night” a week – Do you think that’s something you might consider helping with?

“That sounds like it could be interesting” Larry replied. “Great” I said, slamming the trap shut. “I’ll see you on Tuesday night!”

And so began our past five years of working closely together in preserving and sharing the regiment’s history.

I don’t recall Larry ever saying anything bad about anyone – he was easy going, ALWAYS willing to share a story, and I don’t ever recall seeing him flustered. He did have some mixed feelings about finding himself in so many photos in a museum but that’s understandable.

He approached his photography tasking as a professional, bringing all the skills and expertise from his police work and applying them to our often chaotic situation. Always offering suggestions on how to improve our process and manage the massive collection of photographs we were creating. And he was always on hand at museum and regimental events to create the newest photographic record. As per the original plan, we used his photographs in our collections database but we also created a Flickr account that has over 11 THOUSAND photographs organized in about 75 albums– almost all taken and curated by Larry. He was so valuable to our team that when he had an early conflict with our work nights – we changed the night to Thursdays!

His most recent project was he was “de-framing” hundreds of photographs from frames that were damaged or had broken glass or mold starting to form. After removing them he would take them home to scan them, then put them in acid free folders, label them, and place them in archival boxes – all with a genuine concern from preserving them for the future.

And Larry was always will to pitch in whatever task – or rush to move exhibits and cabinets – was needed on any given night.
That “one night a week” turned into over 800 hours of work for the museum over the past 5 years, and I was very pleased that the CO and RSM agreed with my recommendation that Larry be presented with the CO’s Commendation and the Command team coin at our February recognition night.

You’ll be sorely missed tonight in your makeshift photo studio tucked in the back corner of our attic storage room; and you’ll be missed at our post volunteering pub visits at Mayday Malones where we’ll raise a final glass to you; and you’ll be missed by all of us as both a colleague and a friend – sleep well.”

In honour of Larry’s outstanding contribution to our museum’s collection of photographs, we’ve renamed our Flickr site, the Capt Lawrence G. Hicks Memorial Collection of Photographs.

QOR Auction 2018 Catalogue

QOR Auction will be held on April 25th in the Officers’ Mess at Moss Park Armoury, in support of the Regimental Museum and the soldiers’ trip to D-Day+75 in June 2019.

Below is a link to the catalogue of items – some really interesting pieces!

QOR Soldiers Auction catalogue – as of 30 Mar 18

Hope to see you there – remember to register in advance!

QOR WWII War Diaries Now Completely Online

Our museum is extremely lucky in having original copies (i.e. one of three copies made when then were first typed) of the World War II war diaries for what would become the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (CASF).

These documents provide a wealth of information about the regiment’s participation and progress throughout the war – from the efforts to form the battalion in June 1940, through duties in Newfoundland, training in New Brunswick and England, the successful but devastating landing on D-Day, the continued fight through Europe, to finally to the German surrender on 8 May 1945.

We are also very lucky to have most of the Routine Orders issued during the war and while often administrative in nature, they help to fill in some of the gaps left by the war diaries – particularly in regards to personnel postings and casualties within the battalion.

Unfortunately the original documents are fragile and not particularly user friendly as there is no way to easily search through them.  So in order to protect them, and at the same time make them more accessible, we have undertake to transcribe and post on our website all these war diaries. We’ve also scanned all of the routine orders and posted them into the war diaries at the appropriate places.

And if that wasn’t enough, we added maps to help illustrate where the battalion was at various times and where it was headed, and inserted photos from our collection into the appropriate location in the timelines. These photos add some amazing sense of place and time. Lastly we added links to more detailed profiles on our website for many of the key soldiers mentioned in the diaries by name.

Now when I say we, I really mean one of our curatorial assistants, Sgt Graham Humphrey and more recently, with the help of Kate Becker. Graham and Kate have spent literally hundreds of hours on this project over the past three and a half years – scanning, transcribing, creating maps, and inserting photos. The result though is a spectacular resource that serves to both protect our archival documents while sharing them with the world.  Even without any official announcements, these page have been viewed over 16,000 times to date.

And the importance of making this information available today is even more critical as fewer and fewer WWII soldiers are left to share their stories first hand.

Bravo Zulu to Graham and Kate on their outstanding work to see this project through to the end, and I strongly encourage you to take some time read through this important story of some of our regiment’s finest hours:

Making Connections to the Past

I would presume that most people working in museums inherently believe that preserving history is important – I would certainly hope so at least. And while preservation can be a monumental task all on its own, it’s really only half of the challenge. The real value comes in being able to share this history – to make it accessible in some ways.

When we think of museums, the first method of achieving this that usually comes to mind is through exhibits.  Visitors can see – and in some cases touch – real artefacts and are provided with additional background, context and perspectives to better understand the history we present.

This might be considered the ideal approach and while over 350,000 people visit our museum’s exhibits each year, we also know that many people around the world with some link with our Regiment, may never get that opportunity. With that in mind, we’ve tried to digitize much of our collection and make it available online, here on our website, on our Flickr site (over 10,000 photos currently),  Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. And we’ve also made our collection catalogue available online as well with images and descriptions of almost 2,000 objects entered to date.

All of this takes an incredible amount of work and coordination, and most of our volunteer team have contributed to this effort in some way or another.  But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to occasionally wondering if anyone actually accesses any of this information, and if all this work is worth it.  The stats tell us that our Flickr site has had over 1,000,000 views and our website gets about 80,000 page views annually which is very exciting but still somewhat impersonal.

Occasionally though we get comments on our website about how the information helped them connect with a relative or letting us know they have more information to share – even objects to donate, and those always seem to make our efforts worthwhile.

Last month though, we received an email that couldn’t help but recharge the whole museum team:

“My name is Liz Grogan and I am the granddaughter of Sgt. J. Lutton 6164.

A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting with my 95 year old mom, John’s middle and only surviving daughter, Kathleen ( Kae) Smith who was browsing through a book I was reading for my book club called “The War that Ended Peace, The Road to 1914” by Margaret MacMillan.

Knowing that her father, my grandfather had been in WW1, I decided to google his name, and you can imagine my surprise and excitement to discover this:

John Lutton WWI Letter to Annie Deyell
This letter in our collection was written in 1917 in England by Sergeant John Lutton, 198th Battalion, to Annie …

I had researched his name prior to Remembrance Day on other occasions , but I had not seen this letter before!

So Mom and I sat together and I read the letter out loud as mom watched the screen. I had not scrolled through to see how long it was, so my thanks to WO Emily Kenny for her hard work!

I can’t express how magical this moment was, that I will never forget. We laughed, we cried and we were simply in awe of having this amazing opportunity to have a personal peek at the life and love between mom’s future mom and dad and my future grandmother and grandfather.

And to reflect that this letter is 100 years old is beyond magical!!”

When I read this email, I couldn’t help but smile and was clearly reminded that our efforts are definitely worthwhile!

Of course Liz was interested in how we came to have the letter.  In June a stamp collector in Nova Scotia contacted us because he had this letter in his collection and had found online that we perpetuated the 198th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. We quickly accepted his offer and the letter was soon in our collection.  WO Kenny just happened to be directing staff on a music course at CFB Borden for the summer and offered to transcribe the letter in her spare time so we could put it online.  The letter is long and rather rambling, and proper punctuation was not Sgt Lutton’s strong point but she soon had it done and we posted it to our website.

While this was happening we also researched Sgt Lutton’s life and service.  While training in England he contacted meningitis and was hospitalized for 6 months before being found unfit for overseas service and returned to Canada where he was hospitalized for another three months. Though he never made it to the trenches of France or Belgium, his story does illustrate the other dangers many soldiers faced from diseases and poor health conditions they faced just getting to the front.

Lutton was lucky enough to recover from his meningitis and married Annie in 1919. He died in 1948 and is buried in Park Lawn Cemetery.

We’re very thankful that Liz took the time to share their experience and to send us the delightful family photo below of Annie and John.

Annie (nee Deyell) and Sgt John Lutton

Evolution of Queen’s Own Officer’s Tunics

Fresh off the presses!!!

After along time researching and searching Sergeant Graham Humphrey has finally found the evolution of the Queen’s Own Rifles officer’s tunics from 1860 – today. Enjoy!

https://qormuseum.org/history/timeline-uniforms/evolution-of-officers-tunics/

Strategic Planning for the Museum

By Museum Board of Governor Jim Lutz.

For the last several years, a dedicated team of volunteers has revolutionized the Queen’s Own Rifles Museum by preserving its treasures, recording its inventory on film, and developing dramatic displays that tell the regiment’s story to the thousands of Casa Loma visitors each year.  While much good work has been done, much more can still be done.  Towards that end, the Museum’s Board of Governors commissioned a strategic planning process to identify the objectives of the Museum and the many projects we could undertake in future years.

The strategic planning process began with four research projects, designed to identify what people enjoyed in the Museum and what improvements they would like.  We began with a facilitated brainstorming session with 15 Museum volunteers, who gave us enough great ideas to keep us busy for the rest of the century.  We also surveyed samples of visitors to Casa Loma, key members of the regimental family, and digital visitors to our website.

Based on all this research, our strategic planning team drafted a document to serve as the Museum’s strategic plan for the next five years.  This team consisted of Mr. Jim Lutz, MA (member of the Museum Board and Regimental Senate), Mr. Alex Meyers, MA (Museum volunteer), and Major (Retired) John Stephens, CD (Curator of the Museum).

The strategic plan seeks to achieve the Museum’s Vision, which is to be “a modern, historical, educational and rewarding experience to ‘all’ who visit Casa Loma, and continue to be known by peers as the best example of a volunteer organized and managed ‘specialized’ museum and archival collection”.  The planning team identified five strategies that will help us achieve this Vision:

  1. Preserving the regiment’s history
  2. Promoting the regiment’s history and current mission to the public
  3. Serve the interests of a wider community through outreach and digital presence
  4. Support and benefit from Casa Loma’s tourist business
  5. Ensure the effective governance and management of the museum to accomplish the above

You may read the approved plan, and you will see the extensive list of projects we can undertake to achieve these goals.  With the help of all our volunteers, supported by the Liberty Group management of Casa Loma and our regiment, we can now focus our efforts on the most productive and valuable projects we have identified to achieve our goals for the Museum.

New Grave Marker for Bugle Major Swift

Bugle Major Charles Swift began his 57 years of service with the regiment as a 14 year old boy bandsman at the Battle of Ridgeway and would become the longest serving Bugle Major in our history – from 1876 to 1922 – an incredible 46 years!

During the 1885 North West Rebellion he was attached to Battalion Headquarters, but his skills as an accomplished and renowned musician resulted in leading Bugle Band trips to England in both 1902 and 1910. By now a Captain, the 70 year old Swift died of pneumonia in May of 1922 and his coffin was laid to rest by his fellow Queen’s Own officers.

Because he died unmarried and had no close family, the regiment purchased his grave marker. As you can see from the photos it hasn’t weathered the last 95 years very well and the only vaguely legible wording left is his surname Swift. Sadly his memory is at risk of being forgotten.

A very distant Swift cousin recently contacted us about replacing the marker and while that isn’t practical, The Regimental Trust Fund has agreed to add a small ground level plaque similar to those created for the Ridgeway casualties a few years ago.

The cousin will be making a contribution but we also invite members of the regimental family and friends of the regiment to help us reach our goal for the remaining $2,100. Donations of any size are appreciated and a charitable tax receipt will be issued by CanadaHelps. And if you allow CanadaHelps to share your contact info with us, we’ll be sure to invite you to the plaque dedication ceremony.

Please take a moment to support this project and help preserve the memory of one of the regiment’s most iconic members.

You can read more about Charles Swift on our museum website.

NOTE: Any funds donated for this project in excess of what is required to complete it, will be directed to the Regimental Trust’s Memorial Fund.

Special thanks to Randy Singh for his help with the creating the video for this campaign.

Ben Dunkelman Heritage Toronto Plaque Unveiled

On the afternoon of Thursday June 8, 2017, a plaque was unveiled next to the site of the Tip Top Tailor building by Heritage Toronto, the Dunkelman family and the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, honouring the legacy of distinguished military officer and entrepreneur Ben Dunkelman.

Below are remarks given by Lieutenant Colonel Sandi Banerjee, CD, Commanding Officer of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada:

Major General Holmes,  Member of City Counsel and Heritage Toronto, The Dunkelman Family: Rose, Lorna, Deenah, Daphna, David, Jonathan, Members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Ladies and gentlemen. 

It’s an honour for me to bring greetings from Ben’s Regiment on this historic occasion.

On the day I took command of The QOR, I received a very appropriate gift from a friend and mentor. Like Ben, this gentleman was also a warrior and Brigade Commander – he sent me a copy of Dual Allegiance, which reminded me all too well of the challenges and the conflicting demands one faces as a ‘citizen soldier’.

In his book, Ben mentions a special parade in Toronto, one to honour returning soldiers from the First World War. Thought he never glamorizes warfare, he states, “…from the moment of that Toronto Parade I have been sure of one thing: I am a Canadian, proud of Canada’s heritage and proud – if need be – to fight for it.”

Today I stand before you equally proudly of the fact that our Regiment welcomed Ben and all Canadians equally those many years ago. Without thought to religion or family background, The QOR of C has been a home to tens of thousands of proud Canadians with the same thoughts as Brigadier Dunkelman: not to seek conflict, rather to serve those who cannot protect themselves.

Toronto and Torontonians have a rich history and association with Canada’s Armed Forces. We stand in front of HMCS York, steps from Fort York Armoury and historic Old Fort York. We are standing very near the grounds where The QOR of C gathered before stepping off for Ridgeway to protect southern Ontario from invading forces 151 year ago. Though our early days, sending expeditionary forces to the Nile and Boer Wars, the World Wars, the Korean conflict, peace enforcement missions and the war in Afghanistan, or todays’ deployments in the Middle east, Africa and eastern Europe: Toronto has always supported our men and women in harm’s way.

The Regiment recently returned from two very special events overseas: the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and just prior to that, our commemorations in Normandie, where Ben and his fellow Band of Brothers served. There we received not one but two honours: The Freedom of the City of Bernier sur Mer, where we were the only Toronto Regiment to land on D-Day, and the FotC of Anisy, where again, this Toronto Regiment was the only Allied unit to achieve their D-Day objective. These came at enormous costs, but as Ben showed by his personal example, the costs of freedom, of human dignity and decency, are borne by ordinary citizens accepting extraordinary responsibilities in times of great need.

I can also tell you that the people of Normandy, of France, have never forgotten the sacrifices of this Toronto Regiment and of the million Canadians who liberated them through two World Wars.

It is entirely appropriate then, that we gather here today to similar remember: to honour a proud Torontonian and Canadian who served twice to protect those in harm’s way. I would like to thank the City of Toronto and Heritage Toronto for bestowing this honour on a member of our Regiment and our city. May it serve as a reminder to all who come across it of a great man and our joint history together, a reminder of our City and her soldiers who have carried a part of Canada with them across the globe.

Thanks also to Captain Rob Chan and his family for their efforts in working with Heritage Toronto to make this happen.

You can read more about Ben Dunkelman here.

Dunkelman, Ben Heritage Toronto Plaque

The Vickers and Lewis Machine Guns of the First World War

This article first appeared in RCMI Members’ News March-April 2017, written by Ryan Goldsworthy, Curator, RCMI Museum.

Photo credits: Billy Bishop: Department of National Defence; Lewis and Vickers: Eric Morse.

“Keep it up, boys; do not let them get through!”

The artifacts being featured in this edition of RCMI Members’ News Museum Pieces’ are the Vickers Machine Gun and the Lewis Gun. Both the Vickers and Lewis were widely used by the Allies in the First World War and both proved to be extremely reliable and effective. These particular weapons are being featured in this edition as a pair, because both guns were recently installed in dynamic displays on the 3rd floor short bar of the RCMI. The examples on display at the RCMI, both dating to 1915, were originally donated to the Institute in 1966 by Captain S. G. Sigel. Though the RCMI has been in possession of these weapons for over 50 years, they have never before been on display for members and their guests.

The 1915 Vickers on display in the RCMI is exhibited as it would have been mounted on the Western Front. The Vickers display is complete with a fluted barrel, tripod, water can and hose, ammunition box, 250-round canvas belt, and an oil can and brush. The RCMI’s Vickers is a spectacular specimen of its kind and this specific artifact was originally a gift from the 5th Prime Minister of Nepal of the Rana dynasty to the British Army in 1915. The Vickers Machine Gun, with a calibre of .303, was accurate from 2,000m and fired at a rate of 400-500 rounds per minute, but it could also fire indirectly as far as 4,000m. It was preferred by Allied soldiers in the First World War, because it rarely jammed or malfunctioned, it was relatively simple to operate and it had considerable range and power. The Canadians used the Vickers to great success at Vimy Ridge, utilizing its coverage and power to “thicken” the barrages that liquefied many of the German defences in the lead up to the battle. Indeed, the Vickers established itself as one of the iconic instruments of the Great War and it was notably featured on the badge of the Canadian Expeditionary Force’s Machine Gun Corps.

The Lewis Gun, though significantly smaller than the Vickers, fired the same calibre and had a more rapid rate of fire at 500-600 rounds per minute and was air-cooled instead of water. Though the Lewis was only accurate up to 800m, it was more portable than its larger and heavier counterpart and was used by both the army and the air force. The 1915 Lewis on display at the RCMI is suspended in a vertical case accompanied by several of its original tools, required for repair and maintenance, and a very rare anti-aircraft sight on the barrel. Unlike the belt-fed Vickers, the Lewis is instead loaded with a pan magazine on the top holding 47 rounds—which can be seen on display (the air force used 97-round magazines, pictured on Bishop’s aircraft). The Lewis was a versatile weapon that could be mounted by its bipod into nearly any terrain on the Western Front including trees and stumps. Becoming a Lewis-gunner in the CEF was equivalent to a trade and those proficient with the weapon had an “LG” patch stitched on to the arm of their tunic.

The Lewis Gun has also been featured in several citations of Canadian Victoria Cross winners during the Great War in otherworldly acts of heroism. In June 1918, Cpl. Joseph Kaeble of Saint-Moise, Quebec, repulsed or killed over 50 advancing Germans with a Lewis Gun on his hip. Despite being wounded numerous times by shrapnel and bullets, Kaeble “emptied one magazine after another into the advancing enemy” until he was mortally wounded and finally succumbed to his many wounds (his last words are the titular quote). During the Hundred Days Offensive, Pte. Thomas Ricketts of St. John’s Newfoundland, was able to save his entire platoon. When his Lewis Gun had run out of ammunition and his platoon was exposed to the advancing Germans, Ricketts ran over 100 yards and back through withering fire to procure more ammunition and then returned to his Lewis Gun to pin the Germans into a nearby farm. His platoon was then able to move forward without a single casualty and captured 4 field guns, 4 machine guns, and 8 prisoners.

In a last example, and perhaps the most famous, Capt Billy Bishop of Owen Sound, Ontario earned his VC in 1917 with a Lewis Gun affixed to his aircraft. Bishop single-handedly attacked a German aerodrome and downed several German aircraft—emptying out several drums of his ammunition. Though all three of these VC acts of “most conspicuous bravery” are rightly and roundly about the individuals who earned them, they also speak to the effectiveness of the Lewis Gun.

Ultimately, the strength of both the Vickers and the Lewis is confirmed by their longevity, both being used through WWII and well into the Twentieth Century. I would highly recommend the new exhibit of these weapons to all RCMI members, as they represent an important part of Canada’s military history.

Ryan Goldsworthy
Curator
Royal Canadian Military Institute

2016 Volunteer Recognition Reception

Last week we were pleased to hold our volunteer recognition ceremony at The Queen’s Own Rifles Sergeants’ Mess to thank many of the 86 volunteers who provide 1,731 hours during 2016.

Volunteers do a very wide range of task: painting, construction, cataloging, database entry, creating exhibits, cleaning, photography, social media, taking the museum on the road, planning, renovations, creating labels and background panels, research, transcription, digitization, re-enacting, events – I’m sure I’ve missed a lot of other activities.

Some volunteers put in a few hours each year and several a lot more but all our appreciated for the skills, expertise and commitment they bring to the museum.

Fourteen of our volunteers have put in more more than 25 hours and our top five were thanked with some gifts provided by Museum Board member Adam Hermant:

235 hours

  • Capt (Ret’d) Larry Hicks (the most hours again in 2016 and our indispensable photography technician.

Over 150 hours:

  • MCpl Graham Humphrey
  • CWO (Ret’d) Shaun Kelly

Over 100 hours:

  • Cheryl Copson

Over 75 hours:

  • Laura Colangelo
  • Alex Meyers

Over 50 hours:

  • Elizabeth Taugher
  • Nicole Lines (nee Simpson)

Over 25 hours:

  • WO Emily Kenney
  • Cpl Justin Dremanis
  • Cpl Dave Strachan
  • Coleman Weir
  • Rob Grieve
  • Jim Lutz

We also want to thank the Commanding Officer LCol Sandi Banerjee and RSM CWO Paul Martin for their outstanding support and for joining us at our reception.

Thanks also to the Sergeants’ Mess for hosting us and to our generous supporter for offsetting the costs of the reception!

If you are interested in volunteering at the Regimental Museum – whether you’re a serving or former member of the regiment or just someone who thinks this might be a cool way to spend their Thursday evenings, you can find out more information on our Volunteer page.

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Drill Sheds and Armouries of the QOR

With the increased rate of withdrawal of British regular regiments from Canada in the 1850’s came the need to provide storage and training facilities for the volunteer militia companies and battalions that would fill the void. In 1860 the Queen’s Own were parading out of St. Lawrence Hall on Front St and a building at the north-east corner of King and Nelson (now Jarvis). The first “purpose built” drill shed was completed in June 1864 and was located on Simcoe Street just east of the old parliament buildings between Wellington and Front Streets; although no pictures or photos have been discovered, it is known to have been 400’ long by 80’ wide with a vaulted roof.

simcoe-st-drill-shed
Location of Simcoe Street drill shed 1864-1877, note how close it was to the docks at the time (Goad’s Atlas of Toronto 1858)

“The drill shed, a large building with arched roof of single span (since destroyed), was situated on the west side of Simcoe Street, adjacent to the old Parliament Buildings and extended through from Wellington Street to Front Street. It was built in the hollow of the old Russells Creek, a portion of whose valley is still to be seen in the Lieutenant Governor’s garden, and the hard earth floor of the shed was far below the level of Wellington Street. From this street a stairway led down to a small entrance door at the north end and at the south end were the broad double doors by which the regiments marched out direct on the lower level to Front Street.”

[The Fenian Raid of 1866 by Barlow Cumberland]

Shortly after its construction it was the mustering point for the soldiers called-up for active duty during the Fenian Raid June of 1866;

“At 6:00 P.M. Major Charles T. Gillmor, the recently appointed commanding officer of the QOR received orders to assemble 400 men by 5:00 A.M. in the recently constructed Simcoe Street drill shed and to proceed to the Toronto docks where at 6:30 A.M. they were to board the steamer City of Toronto for a three-hour trip across Lake Ontario to Port Dalhousie.”

The Simcoe Street drill shed lasted into the 1870’s but it seems there was damage and it was replaced in 1877 by a newly built drill shed behind the City Hall, between Jarvis & Market Streets south of Front Street.

“Amongst the difficulties which the Battalion had to contend with at this time, not the least was that, the old drill shed on Simcoe street having been partially destroyed, the several companies were compelled to perform their drill in empty warehouses and halls.”

It was not until April 4th, 1877, that a new drill shed was provided. On that date, the new drill shed, in rear of the City Hall Buildings, erected at an expense of some $16,000 by the City Council and the Government, was opened and regular and systematic work made possible.”

[Pg 25 Historical Album]

1880-drill-shed-on-front2
Location of Drill shed on Front Street (Goad’s Atlas of Toronto 1880)
st-lawrence-market-armoury
Drill shed on Front Street (also shown at top of page) (City of Toronto Archives)

The Armouries on University Avenue, when completed in 1893, was the largest of its kind in North America. It was the longest to be used by the regiment so far, and was the starting point for thousands of Riflemen going to fight in South Africa, WWI, WWII and Korea.

the-armouries-1893-virtual-reference-library
University Avenue Armouries 1893 by R. C. Windeyer [Toronto reference library]
“Built in 1891, the Toronto Armouries officially opened on May 17, 1894. Its inauguration was celebrated by a military tournament featuring different regiments—the Queen’s Own Rifles, 48th Highlanders, Royal Regiment, Royal Dragoons Toronto, and the Governor General’s Body Guard. The building had massively thick walls that were faced with red bricks and bonded with red mortar to create a continuously smooth appearance. Built on a solid foundation of Kingston limestone, the same type of stone was used as trim around the smaller windows and the huge arched windows on the west facade. The trim on the top of the towers, which were mediaeval in appearance, were also detailed with limestone.

In the interior of the armouries was a great  drill hall measuring 280’ by 125’, with a ceiling that soared 72’ above the floor. The drill hall was sometimes used to host banquets and automobile, trade, and fashion shows. Included were offices for military staff, mess halls (dining areas), classrooms, and kit rooms (storage). In the basement there was a rifle range and a  bowling alley to provide recreation for the men.    

The Toronto armouries served as a training facility for troops that fought in the Boer War (1899-1902), the First World War (1914-1918), the Second World War (1939-1945), and the Korean Conflict. The Boer War was when Canadian troops first fought on foreign soil. During World War 11, because of the proximity of the armouries to Osgoode Hall, judges in the courtrooms complained that the gun salutes rattled the windows of their courtrooms causing them to fear for their safety.

However, by the 1950s, high-rise buildings increasingly dominated University Avenue. Despite efforts to preserve the armouries, the need for space to expand the law courts at Osgoode Hall was given priority. On the site today there are provincial courthouses and a historic plaque stating, “On this site stood the University Avenue Armouries, the home of famous Toronto Regiments of the Canadian Army and centre of Militia activities in Toronto from 1891 until it was demolished in 1963.”

[Doug Taylor, Historic Toronto]

1893-drill-shed-on-university-c
Location of the University Avenue Armoury (Goad’s Atlas of Toronto 1893)
new-image
Queen’s Own departing University Armouries for WWI led by (then) LCol M. Mercer

Between the destruction of University Avenue Armoury and the completion of Moss Park Armoury at Queen and Jarvis the regiment was temporarily put up in an industrial building on Richmond Street near Jarvis. Not a purpose built armoury it is said to have had many support columns making drill difficult.

Moss Park Armoury is a large, purpose-built, multiple unit armoury shared by the Queen’s Own since it opened in 1966 with the 7th Toronto Regiment (Royal Canadian Artillery), the 48th Highlanders, and 25 Medical Company and originally 2 Toronto Service Bn and the Canadian Intelligence Corps. The building is equipped with an underground “Gun Park” (for vehicles, artillery pieces and maintenance), a large parade square, multiple offices for administration, lecture rooms and messes for the various different ranks to relax in on the second floor. As of writing (2017) the regiment still parades at Moss Park Armoury.

2011-moss-park-parade
Moss Park Armoury during a parade 2008

From 2006-2015 Buffs Company had been parading out of Dalton Armoury off of Milner avenue, between Markham Rd and McCowan in Scarborough.

 

MCpl Graham Humphrey Presented Quilt

At the conclusion of our QOR Day at Casa Loma 2016, Corporal (Ret’d) Romeo Daley, a Korea War Veteran, presented museum volunteer Master Corporal Graham with a quilt in recognition of his various contributions. Below is the presentation narrative.

“We have had the privilege of getting to know MCpl Graham Humphrey through our friends , Sgt Allan Kiss and his lovely wife Karen.

We have met Graham many times over the past few years, specifically at the Veteran’s Appreciation Luncheon in Oakville where he volunteers, and more recently at The Battle of Ridgeway Battle Site for the 150th Anniversary of that battle in which The Queens Own Rifles of Canada fought.

We are aware of some of what MCpl Humphrey does for the military, in particular for The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, and know that his list of achievements continues to grow.

In 2006 in Western Canada a couple of women saw Veterans who had returned from Afghanistan with limbs missing and wanted to do something to make Canadian Veterans know they are not forgotten. They were quilters and decided to make quilts to present to Veterans.  It started with three soldiers receiving Quilts.  The soldiers were so moved by this act of kindness that Quilts of Valour was formed.  Each quilt made is unique and made up of quilter’s blocks from across Canada  and are then put together for presenting.  To date more that 8,000 of Canada’s military have been presented with a Quilt.

As a proud member of The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, MCpl Humphrey has thrived and will continue to do so. His hard work and volunteer service to Canada and his Regiment including volunteering for The Queens Own Rifles of Canada Museum and this is why I am proud to present MCpl Graham Humphrey with a Quilt of Valour.”

Now Available in 103 Languages

Today, we’re excited to announce that we’ve installed WordPress’ new Google Translate Widget, which allows you to instantly translate our website content into 103 languages currently supported by Google Translate. You can find the “Translate our Site” drop-down on the right side of all our pages, and just choose the language you want to read in.

We all know that Google Translate isn’t perfect but it has come a long way over the past few years and will certainly help make access to our content easier for those researchers and historians in other countries.

And a big thanks to WordPress for providing this new “widget”!

Museum Survey – We need your input!

The Regimental Museum Board of Governors has undertaken a strategic planing process to guide the museum over the next five years. This survey is one of several steps being used to consult with our broader museum community and includes questions not only about the physical museum located at Casa Loma, but also about possible interactions you may have had with the museum through the website and other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Flickr.

Even if you have not visited the museum in person or connected through the internet, we value your input. And your input is strictly anonymous.

This survey should take less than 10 minutes to complete – maybe 12 if you have a lot you want to suggest to us! 🙂

Please remember to hit the SUBMIT button at the end to record your responses.

The survey will close at end of day November 30, 2016.

Thanks,
The Museum Board of Governors

More from St James Cemetery

 

 

If you haven’t already, first read REMEMBERING RIFLEMEN IN ST JAMES CEMETERY, TORONTO.

Otter, William_D - Gravestone
Gravestone of Major General William Dillon Otter, St James Cemetery, Toronto

In response to our last post about our exploration of St James Cemetery, Bill Paton kindly forwarded a photo of General William Dillon Otter’s grave marker:

 

 

 

 

 

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Lieutenant Colonel William Smith Durie Headstone

He also reminded us that the QOR’s first commanding officer, Colonel William Smith Durie was buried here as well. And while Rob, Shaun and I knew this was located here and had indeed seen it on our wanderings that day, I’d completely forgotten to mention it!

 

 

12282038_113168308294Bill also kindly included a link to the fascinating story of Colonel Durie’s son Captain William Arthur Peel Durie and who was killed in action during the First World War and the efforts of his mother to have has body returned to by buried in St James Cemetery. Link to his mother’s story here.

UNCEM_1465151416288And lastly I completely forgot to include Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Lett, DSO who assumed command of The Queen’s Own Rifles in August 1944 and served until the conclusion of the Second World War. The museum was very pleased to acquire his medals in early 2015.

 

Remembering Riflemen in St James Cemetery, Toronto

The photo above was printed in the Toronto Globe in May 1924: “Graves of departed veterans of the Queen’s Own Rifles, located in several of Toronto’s burial places, were decorated yesterday by the Q.O.R. Chapter, Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. Rev. Canon Cody conducted the service of the Church of England suitable to the occasion.”

This year when the Regimental Church parade was finished, two former RSM’s CWO (Ret) Shaun Kelly and Captain (Ret) Rob Chan joined the museum curator at St James Cemetery. We had recently been researching information about Bugle Major Charles Swift who served as the Bugle Major of The Queen’s Own Rifles for most of his 57 years of service – service which included the Battle of Ridgeway and the North West Rebellion. We’d come across a page inserted in a Bugle Band minute book which outlined arrangements for his funeral that indicated he’d been buried at St James Cemetery.

Graves marker of Bugle Major, Captain Charles Swift
Grave marker of Bugle Major, Captain Charles Swift

So our object on that sunny Sunday afternoon was to find his grave. Unfortunately the cemetery office was closed so we thought we’d just take a look around and see if we could spot it ourselves.  Three hours later we actually found it – just as we were about to give up!

Sadly as you can see from the photo at right, the marker has not weathered well and little can be read aside from the large “SWIFT” on its base. Subsequently the cemetery office did confirm that this was indeed his gravesite.  Perhaps its time for the regiment to consider placing an additional marker as we’ve done for those from the Battle of Ridgeway….

What surprised us most that afternoon, was the number of other Riflemen we came across as we crisscrossed the cemetery.

Grave marker of Sergeant Major Robert Taylor
Grave marker of Sergeant Major Robert Taylor

Among one of the oldest was that of Sergeant Robert Taylor. Research by Shaun has found he was listed in the nominal rolls as the regiment’s Sergeant Major from at least 1864 to 1867 although the appointment may just have been temporary. (A note that we did NOT place the QOR stickers which are found on many of these grave markers but believe they were put there but a member of the bugle band who has since passed away.)

Sergeant Major Samuul Corrigan McKell
Sergeant Major Samuel Corrigan McKell

Another Nineteenth century Sergeant Major was Samuel Corrigan McKell who rose to that appointment in 1889 after serving in the Northwest Rebellion.

Unfortunately McKell would not be in the position long, by December of 1890 he had died from blood poisoning. The funeral service was a large one as McKell was not only popular within the regiment but also outside of it so there were scores of soldiers from the Grenadiers and the Body Guard as well as around 460 Riflemen from the Queen’s Own in attendance.

The large memorial was erected by his comrades.

Other Riflemen buried there include the following:

Captain Richard Scougall Cassels served with The Queen’s Own Rifles in the Northwest Rebellion (during which he kept a diary) but later became a founding officer with the 48th Highlanders. He was also a partner of the law firm Cassels Brock which still exists today.

Grave marker of Captain Richard Scougall Cassels
Grave marker of Captain Richard Scougall Cassels

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Delamere commanding The Queen’s Own Rifles from 1896 to 1900. His service included the Battle of Ridgeway, the St Patrick’s Day riots, the Belleville Riots, and the Northwest Rebellion. His son also rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and his grandson Colonel John Morison Delamere, MBE, ED, CD also commanded the QOR.

Grave marker for Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Delamere
Grave marker for Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Delamere

The thirteenth Commanding Officer was Colonel Arthur James Ernest Kirkpatrick VD, who joined the regiment in 1893 and would command C and D companies of the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force at the 2nd Battle of Ypres and after a valiant stand, was taken prisoner.

Grave marker Colonel A.E. Kirkpatrick

Colour Sergeant William F. Busteed  was a veteran of the Fenian Raids of 1866.

Colour Sergeant William F. Busteed
Colour Sergeant William F. Busteed

Frank S. Joyce was a QOR Bugler.

QOR Bugler Frank S. Joyce
QOR Bugler Frank S. Joyce

Major General Dr. George Ansel Sterling Ryerson began is military career as a QOR rifleman in 1870. His son, George Crowther Ryerson, also served with the Queen’s Own Rifles and joined the 3rd (Toronto Regiment) Battalion, CEF during the First World War. He was killed in action on April 23, 1915.

ryersons

Major Villiers Sankey was also the City of Toronto chief surveyor and Villiers St in the Port Lands is named for him. His youngest son, Lieutenant Colonel Richard H. Sankey would command the 3rd Battalion (CASF) , Queen’s Own Rifles during the Second World War (May 21, 1942 to Aug 15th 1943.)

sankeys

Better know are four casualties of the Battle of Ridgeway (recognized more recently by the Regiment with new grave markers): Rifleman Charles F. Alderson, Corporal Mark B. Defries, Rifleman Francis Lakey, and William D. Smith:

alderson-charles defries-mark lakey-francis smith-william-d

Less well know though was 18 year old Rifleman Thomas Wilson, who died in Detroit when the ferry steamer Windsor burned at the docks with 31 lives lost on 26 April 1866. The orginal marker was placed by his fellow Riflemen and a newer marker by the regiment in 2010.

wilson-thomas

Lastly we found the marker for General William Dillon Otter, adjutant at the Battle of Ridgeway, commander of a column in the Northwest Rebellion, commander of Canadian Troops in South Africa and Canada’s first Canadian born full General. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have a photo of his grave marker so it will definitely mean a trip back to St James in the future.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

swift-funeral-arrangments

See More from St James Cemetery for some additional QOR members we missed.

Bayonets in the Bathtub: A Thursday night at the regimental museum

Even though I arrived 15 minutes before our designated “start time”, Graham had already unlocked the office, set up tables for cataloging, and tried to sort out a DVD display that wasn’t working properly; Cheryl had started sorted through and ensuring the proper documentation for a pile of new accessions; and Elizabeth was re-gluing a loose photo on our window exhibit.

Down the hallway, Rob was giving a tour of the museum – interspersed with a lot of reminiscing – to Josie who had joined the QOR at aged 18 in 1972 and one of the first women to wear the QOR cap badge and parachute with them. Later in the evening Cheryl and Emily who are working our “Women in the QOR” exhibit for next March, looked through photos Josie had brought along and made arrangements to formally interview her in the near future.

Alex arrived and got to work installing a fourth hanging rail in the uniform closet above one of the existing rails in a space with a very high ceiling. This will allow us to spread out and better organize this part of our collection but also means a lot of drilling while standing almost on the top of a step ladder.

Laura got to work cataloguing an archival collection from Professor George Henry Needler, Professor of German at the University of Toronto for 45 years, and a Queen’s Own veteran of the Northwest Field Force of 1885. During the First World War, Needler commanded UoT’s Canadian Officers’ Training Corps, and would later publish his own experiences out West in Louis Riel, The Rebellion of 1885. It should be noted that cataloging an archival collection takes a LOT of patience, attention to detail, and ability to grasp a logical organization of the material it contains.

Larry headed into his photography “studio” in the corner of the photo storage room – under the sloping eves and against an internal brick wall. There he continued his seemingly never ending task of photographing each and every artifact in our collection – which include a continuous intake of new accessions. These photographs are used for our collection database, our website, exhibits, banners and signs, shared with family researchers, and uploaded to our Flickr account (currently with over 7,700 photos).

Dave and his nephew Coleman arrived and set to work cataloging objects – photos, uniform pieces, books, equipment, insignia, and all kinds of military ephemera. Some of these were items that had been in the collection but were being cataloged in detail – a project we’d been working on since 2012 – and others were new accessions received over the past year. This cataloging includes detailed descriptions of the artifact, its provenance, size, material, dates, condition and whatever other information we might have, as well as assigning and attaching/affixing an object number. Eventually all this information will be entered into our database which already includes over 1,600 items. And the database allows us to upload our catalog online so anyone can search through our collection!

Alison was in the office working studiously on her computer creating medal description labels that will be added to walls of our “Riflemen” room. These will help visitors identify medals in the many shadows boxes and understand what they were awarded for.

Emily put her fine arts background to work again while planning how best to finish the photo “stand” we created for Ridgeway which consists of two QOR soldiers painted on a wooden sheet with cut outs to poke your heads through for that perfect selfie! Even in its 75% finished state, it was a big hit at Ridgeway in June and we hope to have it set up again for QOR Day at Casa Loma on November 5th.

Graham also was hard at work cataloging objects and finished up his initial batch just in time to receive delivery of a new acquisition – an amazing set of five photo albums which document the WWII service of a junior QOR officer from 1939 to 1946. In great condition, well mounted and almost entirely labelled, they will provide a great addition to our understanding of this period of the regiment’s service.

By now Alex and Elizabeth had also joined the catalogers and were certainly making progress on reducing our backlog!

Meanwhile, as Curator, I was assigning tasks, answering questions, recalling (more or less) information, making decisions, looking for scotch tape, and doing my best to steer the ship.

Part way through the evening I was pleased meet and provide a tour with Captain (Ret’d) Rick Towey, newly appointed Curator of the Royal Regiment of Canada’s regimental museum, located in Fort York Armoury. Rick is anxious to get some advice on how to get started with his new role – the museum (or collection of “stuff dumped in a room” as Rick described it) and some of us will be visiting the Royal’s Museum shortly and hopefully provide some helpful guidance!

As you can see, on any given night there are a wide variety of tasks, all of which are necessary to make things work like a well-oiled machine – more or less. And our volunteers are come with a variety of skills, experience and interests which are critical to creating the kind of museum team we need:

  • Graham, Emily, Dave and Alison are all currently serving members of the Regiment
  • Larry, Shaun (on sick call last night) and Nicole (also absent as she plans her wedding later this month) are all former serving members of the Regiment
  • Cheryl and Elizabeth are graduates of museum studies programs
  • Alex has a Masters in Public History
  • And Laura and Coleman just have an interest in history, museums and archives

A creative, cheerful, hardworking and dedicated team – what more could a curator ask for?

John

(And in case you were wondering, yes we do store bayonets in a bathtub – where else would you put them?!)

The Toronto Company of Highland Rifles

The article below is an excerpt from The 48th Highlanders of Toronto, by Alexander Fraser, M.A. which was published in 1900 as “The Origin and History of this Regiment and a short account of the Highland Regiments from time to time stationed in Canada.”

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Among the things around which military memories linger in Toronto is the Company of Highland Rifles, at one time attached to the Queen’s Own Rifles. The veterans of to-day delight, as veterans only do, in reminiscences of the time when they served in its ranks, and to them it is a source of regret that no adequate account of it has been preserved.

Within the scope of this work only a brief notice is permissible; yet, as a company in which the Highland idea of soldiering was enthusiastically upheld and exemplified, a short sketch is obviously in place in this volume.

The company was raised on the 18th of September, 1856, those chiefly instrumental in its organization being: A. M. Smith, at one time in the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders; A. T. Fulton, merchant; John Gardner, at one time in the 71st Highland Light Infantry: Robert Sutherland and Mr. R. H. Ramsay. The first officers were: A. M. Smith, Captain; A. T. Fulton. Lieutenant; John Gardner, Ensign; Francis McMannus Russell, Surgeon. It was then known as No. 3 Independent Volunteer Rifle Co. of Toronto.

When the independent companies were formed into No. 2 Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles, the Highland Company was designated No. 4 (Highland). At that time Captain A. M. Smith was appointed Major in the Queen’s Own Rifles, and his place was taken in the captaincy of the Highland Company by Lieutenant Fulton. Ensign Gardner becoming Lieutenant, and John Sheddon, Ensign. This was in May. 1860. Captain Fulton is said by Mr. Chadwick to have been “a splendid drill, and aided by the natural steadiness of the Highlanders, soon obtained a reputation for his company which they ever afterwards maintained.”

In 1863 Captain Fulton retired, and Lieutenant John Gardner was, on the 21st August of that year, appointed to the command of the company, with R. H. Ramsay as Lieutenant, and Donald Gibson as Ensign. ln 1866 Captain Gardner retired from active command and was succeeded by Lieutenant Ramsay as Captain with Ensign Gibson as Lieutenant. and Mr. Henry Scott as Ensign. These were the officers of the company at the time of its dissolution.

Although No. 4 of the Queen’s Own Rifles, at first, the company was, being dressed in the kilt, always placed on the left of the line of the parade, and for this reason the number was changed from 4 to 10, the latter number being the one by which it is familiar to the survivors of those connected with it.

In 1866 Captain Gardner was associated with Captain Ramsay in the Fenian Raid expedition, and commanded at Ridgeway. It is related with pride how the Highland Rifles was the last to retire from the field. Mr. Matheson, druggist, Toronto, acted as company bugler that day, and when the “retreat” was sounded he did not interpret it as a retire call. Some one in the front ranks called out to Captain Gardner that he had heard a retire call. That officer was enraged at the idea and shouted back: “If you say it again I’ll cut you down with my sword. It’s a charge. Are you ready?” Pouches were examined and those who had three or more cartridges left had to share one or more of them with those who had only one or none. The ammunition was nearly all spent. These are said to have been Captain Gardner’s orders We are now to charge. Steady men! Go forward at the double, keeping steady as if on parade. You know how to do it, you’ve done it often at drill. Keep steady as you march on, but cheer for all you’re worth.” The company advanced about twenty paces at the double when an officer rode up and shouted Halt! where are you going with these men, sir? Can’t you see the line has retired?” The order was then given: “The shortest way to the reserve” and the company retired. Among those wounded were John Whyte and Forbes McHardy.

The company lay at Stratford for some weeks, and there a photograph was taken of the company, with its officers in front, which is a much cherished relic in many homes now scattered over Canada and the United States, for members of the Highland Rifles have followed Fortune wherever her smile beckoned.

No 10 (Highland) Company, June 1866
No 10 (Highland) Company, June 1866

On the 1st of October, 1868, the company disbanded because the Government refused to grant an allowance in lieu of the ordinary uniform: or perhaps it would be more correct to say that for the sake of uniformity the military authorities insisted upon the company adopting the same uniform as the other companies of the regiment wore and as the Highlanders were not permitted to wear the kilt, they declined re-enrollment under the Militia Act of 1868. and so became extinct.

The members continued to meet at their old rendezvous, and not having now the bond of military duty to keep them together, the idea occurred to some of them that they should form themselves into a Scottish society. About that time the old Highland Society of Toronto was less active than usual, and an amalgamation was brought about between it and the members of the Highland company, the combined body being named the “Caledonian Society of Toronto,” including Highlander and Lowlander, under the Gaelic name “Caledonia,” usually derived from “CoilIe daoine.” “Woodlanders.” It is interesting to note that the society thus formed. should, twenty-three years afterwards, in 1891, have retained so lively a recollection of the experiences associated with the old Highland Rifles as to be among the most enthusiastic promoters and generous donors of the 48th Highlanders at the period of its organization.

Pipe Major Alexander M. Oliphant, Toronto 1865
Pipe Major Alexander M. Oliphant, Toronto 1865

The interesting list of the original members is as follows: the officers as already mentioned Quarter-Master-Sergeant George Ocil. Col.-Sergeant Robert Sutherland, Sergeants Robert Morrison and James Gray. Corporals Robert Jaffray and Wm. Ramsay. Piper Donald MacRae, Bugler Wm. Wallace, Privates Archie McFarlane, Wm. Bansley, Alexander Barrie, Henry Braid, John Calver, William Cos, Nicholas Cumming, Andrew Fleming, Peter Gardner. George Gilchrist, William Goldie. George Gratton, Alexander Gray, Allan Walker, Walter Wilson, Daniel Rose, James Mowan, John Atchison, Neil Johnston, Wm. G. Kemp. Alexander Moodie, Malcolm Morrison, Joseph McGeorge, Wm. McGeorge. Alaistair MacDonald. Thomas MacIntosh. Duncan MacKjnnon, Alistair H. Oliphant. Henry McLeod, Robert H. Ramsay, Adam Reid, David Ross, Alexander Thorburn, George Wills, James Wilson, and Sam. Hutcheson.

The uniform was the same as that of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, with the exception of the feather bonnet the glengarry being worn —and the tunic, which was of green material with red facings.

Another Highland company which was connected with the Queen’s Own Rifles. Toronto, was “F” or No.6 company of Whitby. It was incorporated with the Queen’s Own on the formation of the latter in 1860. It does not appear to have ever paraded with the regiment although not gazetted out until November. 1862. It is now No. 1 Company of the 34th regiment.

Museum display at 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway

The morning of 2 June 1866 was hot and humid as the volunteers of the Queen’s Own and 13th Battalion marched down main street of Ridgeway, Ontario towards battle with the invading Fenian Army. 150 years later, Saturday 4 June 2016 was just as hot and humid but for the volunteers of the Queen’s Own Museum and Archives the biggest enemy was trying to assemble the army tentage as they set-up their display at the Crystal Ridge Arena in Ridgeway. The museum volunteers had been preparing since early spring when it was decided that the museum would participate in the commemoration event of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway.

It was agreed upon that despite the risk, we would take one of our most important artifacts; the tunic belonging to Ensign Malcolm McEachren who fell in the battle that day and would become the first soldier to die in battle from the regiment. The tunic would be the centre piece of the display.

Ensign McEachern's tunic on display
Ensign McEachern’s tunic on display

The volunteers also produced a set of pop-up signs and posters describing the battle and the part the Queen’s Own played in it.

museum-display-2
Museum display tent

At the last minute it was determined that the Snider Enfield rifle that was carried by Rifleman John Mewburn during the battle until he was shot would also be available to be put on display thanks to a generous and trusting owner. The rifle was taken back to the University of Toronto by his student comrades after he fell in battle. It was held by the school for many years but it is said it was sold-off after a fire in the late 1890’s.

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from L-R, Rifleman Mewburn’s Snider Enfield, listing of casualties, Fenian Raid medal, trophy presented to Mrs Pring by officers of the regiment in 1866

 

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One of the most popular exhibits was a cut-out of QOR soldiers for people to pose for pictures with.

The day turned out to be a complete success; almost 500 people visited the display, the weather was perfect, the volunteers were able to to tell the story of the regiment and its soldiers, and all the artifacts were returned safely to the museum and their owners.

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.

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"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"