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 andDefy 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.
by Captain Steven R. Harrison, CD (Ret’d). Steve served with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada from 1971-1980, and then the Canadian Airforce from 1980-2013. He was awarded the Air Staff Commander’s Commendation in Afghanistan, and the SAR Commander’s Commendation while in Jamaica.
I was born and raised in Scarborough, Ontario. I grew up in Highland Creek (east end of Scarborough). All of those raised in the sixties around that area were called ‘creekers’. It was your typical childhood of school and other activities such as fishing in the Rouge River or going on our bicycles through an area that had signs posted ‘future site for the Toronto Zoo’.
My father always told me his stories of being an air cadet in downtown Toronto and attending parades such as Remembrance Day at Old City Hall and the Warriors Day parade at the CNE. As early as I can remember I was wearing a uniform of some type: Cubs, Scouts, and Air Cadets.
631 Squadron Air Cadets on Eglinton Avenue (near Birchmount) was the squadron that inspired me the most. At the time it was considered the largest squadron in the country. The squadron has so many activities going on: band, drill team, target shooting, summer camp and glider camp at Mountainview (near 8 Wing Trenton). Rifle target practice and flying were my most exciting events. Using the .303 converted 22 calibre rifle, I could hit the center of the target every time with little effort, but when it came to flying it felt like I was born to be in the cockpit of an aircraft. The little glider was not what I would consider to be the equivalent of ‘Roger Ramjet’ but in my mind I was.
I was promoted through the ranks to Flight Sergeant and had finally reached my 17th birthday when a friend at Westhill Collegiate High School (Morningside Avenue) named Tom Fury (some of you will recognize this name) approached me to join the Army Reserve. I didn’t know much about the reserve but after hearing some of his stories I decided to give it a try. So off to Moss Park Armouries (from Westhill) we went.
The building was huge and full of activity: orders being given (especially from this tall guy with a big groomed mustache and wearing a uniform that had creases that would cut you and boots that looked like mirrors), platoon sections moving in response, everyone using this completely strange rifle with a big box thing hanging below it and everyone wearing these strange army fatigues… wow, what a time warp of the senses.
The next week I decided to join the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada at Moss Park (and not that other unit across the floor that wore some kind of dress, good unit I am sure but not my cup-of-tea).
Training started almost immediately. Thank god for my cadet drill training but never-the-less, it was faster drill then I was prepared for, way faster…
After being issued my uniforms and equipment, then they had us march down to the weapons lock up to be issued a rifle. When the MCpl recorded the serial number and had me sign for it, he handed me this weird weapon which I later learned was the FNC1A1. A 7.62 calibre, gas operated, semi-automatic rifle.
I didn’t even know how to properly carry it, assemble or disassemble it. The person assigned with ensuring I had all the knowledge needed for the FN was taught by WO Jerry Senetchko. He was the rifleman of riflemen. He was a crack shot and an excellent example of a Canadian soldier that I wanted to follow. To be honest, in my early days with him, he put the fear of god in me at so many levels that I would rather have been shot by the enemy then fear the wrath that would come down upon me from him if I screwed up. That being said, I later found out that there was someone even worse: that person was CSM Eric Simundson. The CSM was a man who commanded utmost respect and would not let a single error pass. He was absolutely confident on all matters of military life especially when it came to his regiment, the QOR. All members of the regiment would ‘tighten up’ when he was nearby.
One range weekend at the Niagara-on-the-Lake military rifle range, we had just finished a late afternoon shoot. While surrounded by other fellow riflemen, the CSM shouted “Harrison, clean my rifle’. I sharply retrieved his rifle and got straight to work. While everyone watched, I went to tap the butt of the rifle to assist with the opening of the rifle when what do you hear, but a loud ‘cuuurrrrackkkk’ as his rifle stock split right up the middle to the receiver and fell in two pieces. There was a deathly pause broken by “Steve, it was pleasure knowing you, for you are about to die’.
There are many members of the Queen’s Own that have had a major influence on my life but the individuals that I must mention are; Brian Budden, Ralph Schoenig, Harry McCabe and Rob Chan. They have always been strong leaders and have always provided the necessary guidance to us to be good soldiers.
In the summer of 1973, we attended summer training in Petawawa. Many regiments were represented, and good training was received. For the final exercise the QOR were advancing towards the RCR (enemy). We were supported by artillery and air support (specifically CF-5 Freedom Fighters). On a low pass, I was waist deep with my FN over my head in some swamp water when the aircraft came over rather low and fast. I thought at that moment I wish I was in cockpit flying rather than being in a swamp, cold and wet…maybe someday.
The QOR later proved to be the best regiment that summer and we went on to win the Coffin Trophy. It was a great honour to be part of that.
The Queen’s Own has an outstanding history as Canada’s oldest regiment. The regiment has participated in and has been awarded several battle honours through the years to include the Boar War, many WWI and WWII engagements such as Vimy, Passchendaele, Normandy Landing and Calais. They also included recent participation in Afghanistan. One battle honour that caught the attention of CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) was that of the North-West Rebellion in 1885 at Cut Knife Hill. Mr. Pierre Burton wrote a book called “The National Dream” about building a railway across Canada. The book became an eight-part television series.
The Queen’s Own Rifles was approached and asked if they would participate in the series illustrating the movement of troops through Canada’s north to the battle site. Now as a member of the QOR’s Regimental Pioneers and Skirmishers, I was able to be involved with the filming (a budding star sort-of-speak). During one of the several sequences of filming, there was a scene where we were conducting close order drill inside the old CBC complex. The stage was set for a realistic training environment with snow falling and temperatures below zero Celsius. The director at the time, approach RSM Eric Simundson and asked if he could ‘dress up’ a soldier for doing something wrong during the drill. Well, I was catching the sling of my Snider Enfield rifle. So, I became the target of his wrath once more. Even when he was acting, he would put the fear of god into you. Filming the movie was a great experience and a close representation of what the regiment endured back 1885.
Many of the members of the regiment, myself included, were police officers or firemen for Toronto and surrounding areas. I was enrolled into the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force in 1974 and later resigned in 1979. During those years, I was assigned to 55 division located in the Beaches area of Toronto. Being a police officer in Toronto during those years was exciting to say the least. An officer could find himself involved in many various activities such as undercover work, uniformed patrol, walking a beat on the Danforth, or simply directing traffic at the CNE Princess Gates during the summer. Often, the schedule would conflict with parade night with QOR, so I had to balance my QOR training with my police schedule.
One fateful weekend I decided to help instruct our newest members of the regiment during an exercise north of Toronto. We took several vehicles and various weapons with us for the training. One of the old transport trucks (deuce and a half) had some reported issues with steering but was found to be serviceable. After the training was complete, we headed back to Toronto on the Sunday afternoon. I sat in the back of this truck with the recruits. I was sitting on the right side by the tailgate as we drove south bound in the middle lane of the Don Valley Parkway just north of Bloor St. Located on the same side of the truck but leaning in the corner near the cab was Rifleman R.N. Gurung. He was trying to catch some much-needed sleep after a hard weekend. Suddenly, the vehicle seemed to turn out of control to the right at highway speed, crossing the shoulder lane and slammed into the guard rail. The rail was the only thing stopping the huge truck from falling 20 plus feet into the valley below. We continued to bounce along the rail. The combination of the truck height and the slope of the soft shoulder caused the right-side bench to sit over the guard rail with a significant angle. I am now looking at all recruits and ordering them on the floor of the truck as we continued south over the rail. In the flash of a second, a straight standing lamp post hit and tore through the right side. At that instance, I was looking at Rifleman Gurung when he fell onto the floor, thinking for a moment that he was responding to my order. The truck finally came to a stop just south of Bloor St. My next order was telling everyone to exit the truck and rally off the highway just north of where we stopped. Everyone exited promptly but there was Rifleman Gurung lying motionless on the floor. I immediately went to the emergency call box and stated “listen carefully, I am a police office located on the DVP just south of Bloor, I need an ambulance RIGHT NOW …. “. It seemed that the entire city exploded with the sounds of sirens. An ambulance quickly arrived on the scene and subsequently rushed Gurung to St Michaels hospital on Queen Street. A point of note is that the first police officer to arrive was one Larry Hicks (I believe he was a MCpl in the QOR at that time). Later, at Rifleman Gurung’s funeral, I met his parents and only then realized that his father was a Parking Control Officer at 54 Division that I worked with often. I was filled with sadness for his family that day.
During my days with the Police Force, I was able to save a bit of money and decided to drive to Oshawa Airport to take a ‘familiarization flight’ in a Cessna 172. A tall, well dressed Newfoundlander with a small set of civilian pilot wings approached me asking me if he could help. I stated that I did some glider flying when I was a young cadet and that I wanted to pursue my interest in flying and maybe getting my private licence. Before I could change my mind, we were in the aircraft climbing towards Port Perry. Once at level flight, he carefully allowed me to have control for some very gentle turns, climbs and descents. The flight seemed to have lasted only 10 minutes but it probably lasted over an hour. I was hooked and decide to commit to getting my licence and that he (Roger Eastman) would be my instructor. After that, every opportunity I had, I was at the Oshawa Flying Club learning how to fly as fast as my savings would allow. After a year of working hard, I was now a licenced pilot.
The police force was starting to be an issue with them taking most of my time off for court, extra duties and such. One good thing that came from the police force was my wife. I had a driver stopped on east bound Queen St E near Kingston Rd. After releasing the driver, my partner and I began to walk back to the car. The next thing we see is a white car pulling in behind us. Because the police lights were still on, she thought it was a spot check. On that cool September night, the police jacket I was wearing popped a button that went through her window, straight into her top and disappeared out of site for obvious reasons. She looked at me and I stated that I couldn’t have planned it better. A year later we married, and she has been with me all these years.
One night on patrol, my partner and I were working the ‘gun car’. The car is equipped with additional equipment and some extra firepower to handle adverse situations. We received a call to quickly respond to the Benlamond Hotel and Bar on Kingston Rd for a man caring a gun. I was first into the bar. Based on the description given on the radio, I identified the person in amongst 20+ near a pool table. Besides the description, he was the only man in the bar pointing a .44 at me (who would have thought…). My partner was close behind me. I froze, did NOT reach for my gun as it was in a locked covered cross draw holster (he had the draw on me already). I stated that “son, you are in trouble but not the real trouble if you decide to shoot me” at which point my partner exposed the 12-gauge shot gun from behind his leg. After what seemed to be forever, he placed the gun on the pool table and we then arrested him. It wasn’t until that moment that I noticed that the room was completely empty. The 20+ people headed for whatever cover they could find. My focus was on the end of his barrel. I don’t know why, but a .44 looks like the business end of a howitzer during times like these.
After finally going to court on this case, he was given only a few months in jail when he should have received several years. I saw him on the Danforth not much long after he was released. I was so upset that I decided the police force was not for me due to the lack of support by the court system for such cases and decided to release. A fellow police officer asked me what I was going to do for work, I had no idea. He asked “Steve, don’t you have a pilot licence? “. “Did you know the Canadian Forces are looking for pilots right now? “. I promptly walked into 4900 Yonge Street Recruiting. After several months of testing and evaluation I was given a two week notice to get my butt out to Chilliwack, BC to begin basic officer training and to be enrolled and employed as a pilot if I passed all jet training in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.
I found basic training to be relatively easy due to my background with the QOR. During one class about various weapons, Sergeant Marsh (drill sergeant) pulled two recruits from the class to perform a strip and re-assemble of the FN…blind folded. As the class watched in disbelief, I remember methodically breaking down the weapon and re-assemble as quickly as possible. I heard on person say “gee, I cant do it that fast in daylight “.
I finally arrived in Moose Jaw to commence jet training. The training was exciting, and I took to flying jets as if it was meant to be. On completion of pilot training, they determine what aircraft you are best suited for based on flying ability and academics. As a result of being the oldest at 27 on course, and had some life experiences already behind me, they felt I was best suited to fly the CP-140 Aurora Anti-Submarine Aircraft. This aircraft is a 4-engine monster full of computers and sensors that are used to search for hostile submarines, search and rescue as well as fisheries and Canadian coastline patrols.
My first official posting as a 1st Officer on Auroras was to Comox, BC. It was great tour and we found our fair share of soviet submarines and other activities off of Canada’s western coastline. After a short five (5) years I was now in charge of a crew and an aircraft commander.
However, the military loves to post people. I asked the career manager if they could post me to fighters before I was too old (certainly a young man’s game). They decided that it would be better if I went back to Moose Jaw to instructor new pilots on the CT-114 Tutor (same aircraft used by the Snowbirds today).
Moose Jaw proved to be a good three (3) year posting but I still felt the need to fly fighters. Once again, the career manager stepped in but this time he had a compromise that I might be interested in: not fighters but something very close. I was to be selected as Canada’s representative to the United States Airforce to teach their qualified pilots to be instructors in San Antonio Texas. The USAF flews a supersonic trainer called a T-38 Talon (seen in the movie Apollo 13). The T-38 Talon and the CF-5a Freedom Fighter are built on the same airframe but are painted and configured differently for the role that they are to fill. The T-38 was also painted with ‘U.S. AIR FORCE’ on both sides.
In order to achieve this, I was sent to Cold Lake, AB to learn how to fly the CF-5 fighter before going south. It only took about one week of ground training and four (4) flights in the jet with instructor before I was sent up flying solo in a single seat CF-5a equipped with all the bomb rails, nose gun and air-to-air refueling probe on the front. Here I was, 17 years later, in a CF-5a at about 20000 feet and moving at 350 knots (about 320 mph) when I suddenly remembered my days in the swamp looking upward. It was that moment when I realized I had filled my dream despite the 3500 hours I had already gained on many aircraft before then. This was the one moment that meant everything to me.
I reported to 560 Squadron “Chargin’ Cheetahs” at Randolph AFB, Texas. I relieved the Canadian who was currently in position and quickly became a member of the squadron. Other countries were also represented there including the UK one of which was a Flight Lieutenant, named Stuart Reid (who later returned to the UK to fly their memorial Lancaster Bomber).
I was in 560 Sqn during the height of Desert Storm. During one flight over the state of Texas, Air Traffic Control had stated that the ground war for Desert Storm had started. My student and I returned to Randolph for a full stop landing. As I pulled up to my assigned parking position, I noticed that there was a Humvee with two well-armed Marines. I was still strapped into my ejection seat while the engines were winding down and my canopy was coming up when they approached my left side. “Sir, are you Captain Harrison of the Canadian Airforce?”. “Yes” “well you are to come with us!” “Why, am I under arrest?”, “No, on the contrary, we have had a bomb threat because of the war and we are here to protect you because of your foreign diplomatic status here”. “Well, what about my student?” “No” they responded “he can walk. “
Needless to say, it was a great tour and I returned to Canada. I continued to fly in various aircraft gaining much experience along the way.
One such experience was being assigned to a twelve (12) man team for a ‘Risk Analysis’ study. They needed people from various trades, and I was to fill the fixed-wing pilot position. The study was to analyse the risk that was endured by trades during operations around the world. During this twelve (12) month study, we would participate and perform the key trades in all three (3) elements: Navy, Army, Air. During this time, I was able to fire artillery (155 m), lay mines with engineers, take part in a fighting patrol with the RCR, command a destroyer (under the watchful eye of the real commander), fly F-18s, fly the CP-140 Aurora (again) and also go to Bosnia.
While I was in Bosnia, I was designated as “Defence Personal Special Security (DPSS)” which required an escort by two members of the PPCLI. I had my own 9mm while on patrol, but they had C7s and C9s. One night the Warrant Officer stated that we were going to a town that had been destroyed during the war but was still occupied. The night before, a small Canadian Patrol was ‘bullied’ by some tough guys in a small bar located near the town. We pulled up to the front of the bar and the escort Warrant Officer got out of the LAV. Unknown to him, I also got out of the LAV and followed inside only to see several people enjoying some beer, but specifically 3-5 members of the local mafia at this one table with their AK-47s leaned against the wall. It was deep inside the bar when the WO noticed I was there. He paused but a second but continued to the table, spoke to them in a deep tone saying we are Canadians and we don’t frighten easy. He banged the table with his hip, sending beer everywhere. I thought “OMG, a gun fight , here we go”. But nothing. We returned to the vehicle. Once inside the LAV, he unloaded on me in anger. “What the hell did you think you were doing?” I replied “I cannot evaluate the risk unless I am also exposed to the same risk, besides, I am a former Toronto Police Officer and a former member of the Queen’s Own….don’t piss me off”. We were now close friends.
I have often wondered what career success I would have had if I had stayed with the army rather than the air force. Through all my day, the QOR has always been the basis of my military life. This was the constant composure I carried with me when later years I was deployed to Afghanistan (Nov 2009 – Oct 2020). I filled the role at the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) as J3 Aviation (J3AVN) (Air Operations to the Battle Commander in Kandahar) and I was also double hatted as the Tactical Aviation Lessons Learned Officer (TALLO). Many of you who were deployed to Afghanistan know very well the daily threats and dangers while we carried out our duties. We were only a moment away from harms’ way. Many of us returned to our families without injury. Unfortunately, many of our countrymen and women did not have such luck. As I sat in the TOC, many a moment of calm was interrupted by a 9-liner message or TIC (Troops in Contact). As Air Ops, we were responsible for all Canadian fixed-wing and helicopter air assets for air support to allied ground troops in our district. On a daily basis, we sent CH-147 Chinooks and CH-146 Griffons towards the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) for transport, operations, supply however when a TIC or 9-liner came in, everything becomes very serious.
In most cases, TICs and 9-liners involved ground forces in the battle area during operations, however on one day that all changed.
On 05 August 2010, we had scheduled a typical three (3) ship of helos to move through the battle space to the various FOBs dropping off troops, supplies and water. This particular flight was comprised of one CH-147 Chinook and two escort CH-146 Griffons. The CH-147 was being flown by Captain Feilding while one of the escort CH-146 Griffons was being flown by our very own wing commander, Col Drouin.
As they were approaching a FOB and were in somewhat of a vulnerable state of flight (low, heavy, slow) they were engaged by enemy forces and subsequently received sufficient damage creating an onboard fire. Captain Fielding (later commended and decorated for his immediate actions) managed to land the aircraft quickly thereby saving the lives of all those on board.
[Note: Then QOR Corporal Chris Hinds was a door gunner on the Chinook helicopter that was forced to land and was mentioned in dispatches for his efforts in evacuating the burning chopper.]
The TOC was informed of the TIC and 9-liner which caused us to immediately scramble additional escort helicopter aircraft for air support. The United States Airforce CASEVAC and MEDEVAC H-60 helicopters were also scrambled to support and render assistance to the injured. The TOC further directed that the local FOB deploy their Quick Reaction Team (QRT) ground forces to support and secure the area from a possible continued enemy contact.
Upon return, Col Drouin approach Captain Dan Belanger (CF-18 pilot working as Flight Safety) and myself and told us to tac up with our gear and go to the crash site via CH-146 Griffon to capture information, analysis and lessons learned. He further stated that we were going in hot, standby for close contact. Before we could depart, the QRT stated all was secured and further support was no longer needed at this time.
Throughout the tour, such contacts (both air and ground events) would result in unwanted deaths of our troops. It always followed by the late parade ceremony with us on parade and saluting the fallen as they were ceremoniously carried in a Canadian Flag draped coffin followed by a lone piper onto a C-130 Hercules or a CC-177 Globemaster for their final ride home.
On one such occasion we were dismissed and were returning to the base, I turned and saw the proud and easily identifiable maple leaf of a Queen’s Own Rifles cap badge. I made it a point of introducing myself as current air force member but definitely a former member of the Queen’s Own. We had a great meeting and were immediately brothers-in-arms. I asked if he knew Captain Andrew (Andy) Sarossy. He stated that if fact he was on the same rotation but was in Kabul. It would have been great to have seen him again, especially in theatre, but it was not to happen. Andy and I went to Reforger 5 in Germany together in 1973. Great memories.
Our wing rotation was noted as being the largest and most flexible air wing in recent times while employed in an area of operations. To capture those experiences and lessons learned, I wrote a book called “Project Laminar Strike“ for Post Op Athena (ISBN 978-1-100-54041-2) which was commissioned by the Canadian Forces Aerospace Warfare Center (CFAWC Trenton). This was an opportunity to capture the input and experiences of everyone who served in the Air Wing during that roto.
While on the ‘Road-to-High-Readiness’ for Afghanistan, we conducted many high-level meetings to ensure we were ready to go. One objective was to try to engage all capabilities of the Airforce: transport, fighters, helicopters, unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs), etc.
One capability that was talked about but not engaged was Search and Rescue in a combat SAR role as the USAF did during TICs and 9-liners. The observation was recorded but never acted upon.
I soon returned to Canada to now work with 1 Canadian Air Division in Search and Rescue as a staff officer for systems and readiness. This position required knowledge of all aspects in aviation both fixed-wing and helicopters. It also required sound knowledge in all policies and procedures that would maintain sound response capability in all regions of the country. It was now June of 2011 when A3 SAR Lieutenant-Colonel Lalonde approached me asking about my experience in Afghanistan and my connection with helicopters. He determined that it was sufficient enough for the task that needed my somewhat reasonable skill sets. However, since I had just returned from a lengthy tour in Afghanistan, we needed General level authorization for me to be deployed again within a year after my return overseas. He instructed that we would be heading to Ottawa (from Winnipeg) to attend a high-level meeting in CEFCOM (Canadian Expeditionary Force Command).
The task was to support LCol Lalonde as Air Operations officer in Canada’s support to Jamaica during the upcoming hurricane season. Jamaica had reported that the entire helicopter force operated by the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF) was grounded for various reasons. To support, we ordered an Antonov 128 cargo plane and loaded up three (3) CH-146 SAR helicopters for transport from Trenton to Kingston Jamaica for immediate employment. I directed that the helicopters be drawn from SAR Squadrons as they are yellow, where army helos are camouflage green. In Jamaica, the JDV supports the police during drug raids etc. and are fired upon often. We raised a force of 65 members of various ground trades and aircrew to fly on Air Canada to Kingston for a four-month deployment (tough life I know but someone had to do it, why not us…).
Once down there, my briefing to all of the staff aircrew was that we would use the term “SAFIRE” (Surface to Air Fire) (as we referred to it in Afghanistan) if they were engaged for some reason. They were instructed to break contact and clear the area as they can’t stay and fight anyway then land safely to check for damage or injury before returning to base. Thank god we never had to use this procedure.
Once we were declared IOC (Initial Operation Capable) we were task to our first incident, a boy in Montego Bay with life threatening injuries. SAR deployed to Montego to stabilize him then return him to the Kingston hospital. We continued to various country wide support roles of SAR and humanity while we waited for the inevitable hurricanes to arrive, but they never came. Not a single hurricane hit Jamaica or its surrounding territories during our stay. The word quickly went out to the Jamaican Government to request the Canadians during future hurricane seasons to keep them away. During our deployment in Jamaica, Canada and her Search and Rescue capabilities were still responsible for rescuing and saving 31 lives. Our deployment was later awarded the SAR Mynarski Trophy for our actions.
I soon retired from the Canadian Forces after a combined 42 years of service with the Queen’s Own Rifles and the air force.
As recent as 27 Oct 2020, I was returning from Winnipeg via Highway 11 through Latchford Ontario when my cell phone email sounded. It was retired Regimental Sergeant Major Rob Chan asking me if I would be interested in writing this article to reflect on my continued connection with QOR and how my path has crossed so many on similar circumstances through my career. Only a few kilometers later did I realize that I was in Sergeant Audrey Cosens VC hometown and crossing the large bridge dedicated to such an outstanding individual. The connection and bond with the QOR will never break for me.
I continue to look back on my years of service, and have come to know many incredible people, soldiers, aircrew and leaders in my day. One thing that stands absolute, the military has been the foundation of my life and what I stand for: country before self, family is always first, and respect those you have served with for their sacrifice.
It is with honour that I can call you all my brothers.
“Acquisition and Accessioning: Taking legal ownership of objects, especially (but not always) to add to your long-term collection through the process of accessioning: the formal commitment by your governing body to care for objects over the long term.
In legal terms, acquisition involves a ‘transfer of title’ from the previous owner to you. [It] gives you proof of ownership, and it assigns a unique number that will link each object to the information you hold about it.
Accessioning has a very specific meaning: it brings with ethical responsibilities to preserve objects over the long term…”
Collections Trust UK
Many of you will be familiar with our physical exhibits at Casa Loma, and many more of you will be familiar with our social media posting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and of course this website. But much of what our volunteer team does is actually behind the scenes as we acquire, accession and catalogue new objects, and then either add to our exhibits or put them carefully into our collections storage so they will be safe and we know where to find them.
This post will explain our acquisition and accessioning process and Part II will explain what happens next.
Where do our objects come from?
Before we dive into the details, you might wonder where we acquire objects. The vast majority are donated to the museum as gifts – from serving soldiers, veterans, and relatives of former QOR soldiers. Occasionally they will also come from donors who have picked them up at flea markets and yard sales. From time to time we may actually purchase an item from E-Bay or online medal auction sites however our acquisition budget is extremely limited and so these are generally only very unique or rare items.
How do we decide what we want to accept?
Like most museums around the world, we have limited storage space and have to give careful consideration to what items we accept into our collection. Don’t get me wrong though – we are very grateful when people contact us with objects they think might we might want! From time to time however we have to say “thanks but no thanks.” This begs the question of how we reach those decisions.
First we have to consider the museum’s 1956 mandate:
“to encourage the study of Canadian military history and in particular the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of its members, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labours and observations, to secure and preserve objects illustrative of the civil, literary and military history of the Regiment, and to maintain a museum and a library.”
The museum’s interest also includes the six First World War Canadian Expeditionary Force Battalions perpetuated by the Queen’s Own Rifles and soldiers who served in them.
So clearly we’re looking for items related in some way to the regiment itself (or its perpetuated battalions), or to any members who served in it. And for the latter, these would generally be related to their service with the QOR.
There are exceptions to this. For example items that might illustrate a particular period during the regiment’s service which are not already in the collection. Recently we acquired a WWII two-piece mess tin from another museum. It was not connected any in way to the regiment or anyone who served in it but it was a common WWII object that we did not have in our collection. Another was a WWI Victory Bond Flag – again not specifically related to the QOR but certainly an important part of WWI history.
Once we’ve established that the object or objects might be relevant or useful, there are still some further considerations:
Is it legitimate?
Sometimes – particularly for sale on the internet – objects are represented as something they aren’t either intentionally or from ignorance. Sometimes half-forgotten family lore just doesn’t quite fit the facts. Is this “19th century” cap badge really from the 19th century? Does the condition of a medal ribbon and other “facts” seem reasonable?
For example a recent donor claimed a bugle (2019.08.001) had been played at the Battle of Ridgeway. The bugle cord that came with it was clearly not 150+ years old but the engraving of “Captain Sherwood’s Company” made sense. It also had the makers mark engraved on it and after some research we found that particular mark was only used for a five year period that spanned 1866. None of this proved that it was actually played at the battle but it did confirm that it was from the correct time period and certainly could have been played, so we agreed to accept it. We also need to have some assurance that the person donating the objects has the right to do so – in other words is actually the owner, or perhaps the executor of an estate.
How unique is it?
Generally we only need so many of the same items in our collection. When a wooden ash tray stand painted like a QOR soldier (2019.17.001) and used in the Sergeant’s mess was recently offered to us, it was a no brainer to say yes. However unless it was in mint condition (see below) we aren’t going to accept any more copies of Chambers 1899 history of the regiment as we already have six.
How big is it?
The practicalities of limited storage space unfortunately mean we just don’t have room to accept everything – and the larger the object, the more relevant this consideration.
What condition is it in?
Aside from storage limitations we also have a limited conservation budget so if something is in poor condition and may take considerable effort and expense to properly conserve and preserve it, then we certainly need to consider that carefully. If we already have examples of this artifact in our collection, we’ll also want to determine if the item being offered is in better or worse condition than those we already have.
Can we safely store this?
Occasionally safe storage is also a consideration. Live ammunition, or nitrate film – which has a tendency burst into flames under the wrong storage conditions – would be two examples. We recently had to find a way to safely dispose of the contents of a WWII polish tin which had become corrosive (not to mention the strong odour!) and threatened damaging other objects; however we did manage to save the tin with its paper label.
Can this still be used by the regiment?
Perhaps somewhat uniquely, our acquisition policy allows for the museum to send accoutrements in useable condition to the reserve battalion if they are needed. The most common example of this would be sergeants’ and officers’ crossbelts which are expensive and hard to source these days. These would be acquired and accessioned but not catalogued in the next steps of our normal process.
We’re going to accept them – now what?
Once we’ve taken possession of the objects we’ve agreed to acquire, we enter the donor and donation information into our accession database and assign it a number. The accession number 2020.02 would represent the second accession of 2020. An accession could be one item or hundreds of items as long as they are all being donated by the same person at the same time. An item (or object – I’m pretty much using the two interchangeably) could be a uniform piece, book, artwork, photograph, weapon, or collection of archival material such as correspondence or meeting minutes.
Once that’s done, our database allows us to quickly prepare a “Deed of Gift” which lists all the items, indicates that they person donating them is the legal owner, and legally transfers ownership (and copyright if held by the owner) to the Museum, to do with as it sees fit. It is critically important establish this ownership for the future. Luckily now, much of our administration can be handled by email including sending thank you letters and deeds of gift to be signed. Once the signed deed is returned to us, we scan it and upload to our database and also file the original copy in our office files.
The process for items that are purchased is almost identical except that the receipt is used to establish the museum’s ownership instead of the deed of gift.
The database also allows us to record the provenance or history of the ownership, as far as we know it. Provenance gives value to objects. For example a pair of WWII boots is valuable – but much more valuable if we know they belonged to Rifleman X who wore then on the D-Day landing and through to the end of the war. Or to record family lore such as “grandfather said he got the epaulettes off a prisoner of war he was escorting from the trenches to the rear areas.”
The objects are now ready for cataloging and storage but our Collections Officer will explain that process in Part II.
What if we don’t want the items?
Sometimes items offered to us have no connection to our mandate or other use to us. In that case we try our best to find and connect the donor with a more appropriate museum.
Sometimes some of items are of interest and some are not and so we can decide to accept some, all, or none. An example is a donation of 10 antique rifles – several were relevant but three were not but it was an all or nothing donation. We accepted all but eventually would sell the three and use the funding to supplement our acquisition fund. This was made known to the donor before making the donation and they were fine with this arrangement.
Sometimes we’ll accept donations for our education collection particularly when we might already have several in our museum collection. These can be used or tried on (for example uniforms) by visitors or school groups – definitely not a recommended practice for items in the actual museum collection.
And if all else fails, we just have to say thank you for thinking of us, but no thanks.
What happens next?
Next comes the detailed cataloguing of each items in the accession, including labelling and photographing, and then finding safe and appropriate storage, which is recorded so we can find it again when we need it! Our Collections Officer will describe this process in Part II of this blog series coming soon!
We wanted to take this opportunity to provide a brief update from our Museum Team during these rather unique circumstances.
Before we do that however, I think it’s important to step back for a moment to look at the bigger picture. While some of us are able to stay and work from home, many of our regimental family are front line workers who don’t have that luxury – fire fighters (a LOT of firefighters actually), EMS, doctors, nurses, and many others that work in businesses deemed “essential.” We know that many others have had their livelihoods disrupted as most businesses and services are forced to close. Many of our band members for example, have seen their civilian gigs shut down indefinitely. And many others have gone operational and are waiting to assignments to support the COVID-19 or other crises which may arise.
Our thoughts are certainly with them all.
QOR Recruit Tours
The Wednesday before Casa Loma was closed, we we’re very pleased to welcome 60 new recruits for a tour of our exhibits. The museum opened in 1957 in order to train new recruits to the QOR Depot in the history of their regiment, and while thousands of Casa Loma visitor get to learn about us each year, our primary purpose continues to be sharing our history with new members of the regimental family.
The recruits were divided into two groups, and were led through our third floor exhibits by the Curator, Major John Stephens (Ret’d) and Deputy Curator Chief Warrant Officer Shaun Kelly (Ret’d). The tour also included our exhibits in Sir Henry Pellatt’s dressing room which includes a photograph of a rather slim young Henry in athletic garb, taken after winning the North American Championship for the mile run. Once again we were asked what his winning time was but once again we didn’t have an answer. Now however we do! From Sir Henry Pellatt: The King of Casa Loma, a 1982 biography by Toronto writer Charlie Oreskovich:
“In 1879, at the age of 20, Pellatt ran the mile in New York, beating the U.S. champion and setting a world record at 4:42.4.”
This is just under a minute slower than the current world record. It should be noted however that at that time there was no actual international body to certify “world” records and while it may well have been a North American record, it appears according to Wikipedia, that there were certainly runners in the United Kingdom beating that time in 1879…..for whatever that’s worth!
National Volunteer Week and the Work Goes On
Last week was National Volunteer week and so I would like to recognize our amazing team of volunteers.
On March 12th we held our last volunteer night at the castle, and in anticipation of Casa Loma’s closure, did our best to stabilize our exhibits and storage areas. Casa Loma closed a few days later until further notice.
Since that time we have continued to hold Thursday evening Zoom meetings with our volunteer team, many of whom have unfortunately, been laid off from their day jobs. Several continue to work on museum projects from home, including database updates (logging onto our computer remotely), clean up of our image collections, continuing updates to the historic timelines and other additions to the website, responding to research requests, creating resources to use at home, processing archive collections, designing promotional items, social media posting, etc.
We very much appreciate having such a dedicated team of volunteers who are willing to continue their support despite the challenges we’re all facing these days. At the same time its great to see their support and concern for their fellow team members!
And of course when the time comes, we are all looking forward to returning to the museum itself when it is safe to do so.
In Case You Missed It
Sunday 26 April 2020 was the 160th Anniversary of the formation of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada. Due to the COVID-19 situation, we were not of course able to hold our usual annual parade at Moss Park Armoury. In lieu of that, we held a virtual parade through a YouTube event launch. Over 200 people were watching live and to date over 1,100 people have watch the video. In case you’ve missed it, you can watch it below.
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:
Preserving the regiment’s history
Promoting the regiment’s history and current mission to the public
Serve the interests of a wider community through outreach and digital presence
Support and benefit from Casa Loma’s tourist business
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.
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.
“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.”
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.
“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.”
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.
From 2006-2015 Buffs Company had been parading out of Dalton Armoury off of Milner avenue, between Markham Rd and McCowan in Scarborough.
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”!
On Wednesday May 25, the Culture Division of the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport held their annual “division day” at Casa Loma. The Culture Division provides support to community museums in Ontario including administration of the Community Museums Operating Grant and Community Museum Standards.
There were various presentations throughout the morning but I was most excited to be able to present about The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and in particular about our Regimental Museum! After my talk, the 96 public servants present were able to tour Casa Loma and most climbed to the third floor to check out our museum in person. I was also able to provide some behind the scenes curator access in our office/archives (and former bathroom) area.
It was a great opportunity to bring some of our regiment’s history to a broader audience who seemed to appreciate what I was able to share.
We’re very pleased to report that yesterday our museum’s website past the two hundred and fifty thousand page views since it was launched in February 2012!
Of course we’re excited in a geeky tech way but much more excited because it tells us a couple of things:
First it means the website is definitely helping us meet our mandate to “to encourage the study of Canadian military history and in particular the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, to rescue from oblivion the memories of its members, to obtain and preserve narratives in print, manuscript or otherwise of their travels, adventures, labours and observations, to secure and preserve objects illustrative of the civil, literary and military history of the Regiment, and to maintain a museum and a library.”
Second it tells us that people are using the site for reference and research – some of our most visited pages for example, are the 3rd Battalion CEF WWI War Diaries, and the QOR WWI War Diaries – all of which have been transcribed and made available online.
Lastly we know that the website has allowed us to connect with many relatives who have contacted us ask for or provide information about their ancestors, or – even more excitingly – to make donations of relevant artifacts because they have found us online.
A couple more interesting website statistics:
Those 250,000 pages views were made by over 81,000 unique visitors to our site
Those visitors came from over 156 countries and territories
Our site currently consists of 338 pages
186 of those pages are biography profiles for individual QOR soldiers we’ve researched – and new pages are added regularly
This post is our 173rd – roughly 5 blog posts made every 6 weeks
We are constantly updating our timeline pages – there’s a lot of history to try to capture in 156 years!
I want to recognize the efforts of Mr. Joe Wyatt working on the timelines, Master Corporal Graham Humphrey on his WWII War Diary transcriptions and uniform posts, and Assistant Curator CWO (Ret) Shaun Kelly who has been recently helping to upload biography pages. It’s become very much a team effort!
So please look around the site, make sure you’re subscribed for email notifications for new blog posts, and let us know if there’s something you’d like to see included. We’re even open to post guest blogs so let us know if you have something you’d like to share!!
Our role as the Regimental Museum is to both capture and share the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles. Maintaining our physical exhibits at Casa Loma is a big part of how we share and hundreds of thousands of people come through out displays every year – many tourists from around the world. But realizing that many more people will never be able to visit our physical location, we felt it was important, like any other museum, to have an online presence and so we created this website in 2012. We followed that up with a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, and most recently our Flickr site for sharing our thousands of photographs.
Part of our challenge with the website was how to best present historical information from 1860 to the present. We opted for timelines. Don’t get too excited – these aren’t fancy java scripted timelines with awesome graphics and pop up info boxes. They are just a chronological listing of activities and milestones for the regiment. Sometimes we can provide links to further information or biographies of those noted. Sometimes we have some relevant photos to add in as well just to keep it from getting too dry. J
So where do we get the material to include? Great question with some good news/bad news answers. Prior to 1960 we have a number of histories of the regiment to draw from including LCol W.T. Barnard’s great work produced in 1960: Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 1860-1960: One Hundred Years of Canada. Pdf versions of this and earlier histories of the regiment can be found on our Research page. There is a lot more to add but we certainly have covered quite a bit about the first hundred years – for the most part on timelines divided into 25 year periods.
From 1960 to 1970 the Regiment produced an annual Powerhorn – essentially a yearbook which captured a wide range of activities of the two regular force and one reserve battalion, the regimental depot, the cadet corps, the association and the Black Net. We have a dedicated volunteer (he also does our “This Day in History” or OTHDIH post on Facebook and Twitter) plodding through these volumes and adding details to the appropriate timeline.
And of course more recently, Charles McGregor has published a history of the regiment since 1960 and we’re using this to help fill out our timelines as time and resources permit. In each case we try our best to reference our source for the information we add to the timelines.
But why haven’t you included X on a timeline?!
Unless it’s your birthday, odds are we’re happy to include info you might have on our timelines, but we just haven’t got to them in our research OR we just don’t know about them. In particular we would love to have more info to include for the late 1950s and from 1970 to present. Deployments, training exercises, jumps, graduations, special postings, etc. Ideally we’d want the exact dates (so we can use in our OTDIH posts) but we could also include if you just have the month and the year. We’re not looking for full-fledged stories or even paragraphs – just a one liner.
And don’t let the idea of “history” turn you off sending in more recent information – everything that has already happened is by default, part of our history, even it was just yesterday. And the sooner we capture it, the more accurately it will be recorded. Our only exception to this is to record operational deployments only when they are completed.
So it’s almost Tuesday. Hopefully you’ve survived the Black Friday crowds or maybe you opted to splurge online instead on Cyber Monday. Or maybe you didn’t partake in either but just got bombarded with promotional emails for the past week. But now we’d like to change the channel because December 1st is not just Tuesday, its #GivingTuesday!
What is GivingTuesday?
Imagine a day dedicated to giving back … around the world, across Canada and in your own community! Just as Black Friday kicks off the holiday shopping season for many people, GivingTuesday is the opening day of the giving season. GivingTuesday is a global day of giving. GivingTuesday is a time to celebrate and encourage activities that support charities and non profits. Whether it’s making a donation, volunteering time, helping a neighbour or spreading the word, GivingTuesday is a movement for everyone who wants to give something back.
And you’re telling me this because….?
Today and frankly until the end of the year, everyone is telling you they need you to give – Santa boxes for needy children, food banks need volunteers, and many local churches and charities are preparing to receive refugees in the coming weeks. And as passionate as I am about the work we do, I’m not asking that you make support for The Queen’s Own Rifles Regimental Museum a priority over these other urgent needs.
But some of you may be in a position where you can support more than one cause – be that with your money or your time. If you can make a financial donation great – it would go to help us with projects like digitizing 16mm films in our collection before they become unplayable; or to purchase new digital display products that can make our exhibits more engaging. You can donate on our GivingTuesday page to the Queen’s Own Rifles Trust which operates the museum – just type MUSEUM FUND in the online form Message box.
Some of you may be willing to give of your time as volunteers. We have a variety of opportunities. We generally gather at the museum most Thursday evenings from 1900 to 2200 hrs to work on very hands on projects from exhibits to hanging pictures to cleaning to cataloguing. But we also have volunteers who work remotely on research or transcribing or other tasks that don’t require your physical presence. If you’re interested in volunteering with us, check out our Volunteer page and complete an application.
What if I can’t do either at the moment – can I still help?
You can always become a social ambassador and share the word on Facebook, Twitter and Instragram about #givingTuesday – just make sure you use this hashtag.
Whatever the cause, we hope you’ll consider investing your time or financial resources or become a social ambassador on #GivingTuesday!
Major Anthony I. W. Schultz (Member & Trust Fund President)
Captain Adam A. Hermant (Member & Trust Fund Past President)
Mr. Jim Lutz (Member)
Major John Stephens (Curator & Ex-Officio Member)
Chief Warrant Officer Shaun Kelly (Assistant Curator & Ex-Officio Member)
John Fotheringham has (uniquely) served as Commanding Officer of the QOR on two separate occasions. He has been responsible on behalf of the Trust, for initiating and updating QOR memorials throughout the world, a member of the Regimental Museum Committee and is also a Director of the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy. We look forward to his leadership in this new role.
We would also like to extend our thanks to outgoing Chair, Lieutenant Colonel Rob Zeidler who has served for a number of years, and in particular for his efforts during the transition between Curators, and the transition of Casa Loma operators from the Kiwanis Club of Toronto, to the City of Toronto, to the Liberty Entertainment Group. We wish Rob the best as he undertakes some new projects for the regimental family!
On February 26th we held our 2014 Volunteer Recognition event with a reception in the Library at the newly opened Royal Canadian Military Institute. Volunteers were joined by members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Trust. As a small thank you each volunteer received a QOR pen (courtesy of HCol (Ret’d) Paul Hughes).
Special presentations were made to Capt (Ret’d) Larry Hicks and MCpl Graham Humphrey who each gave over 100 hours of very much appreciated service to the museum in 2014. In total, 78 volunteers provided over 1,000 hours of service last year!
We were also pleased to receive a tour of the new RCMI facility from Curator Gregory Loughton.
We are please to share this Museum update of activities and work that have taken place since May 2014 which was prepared for the December semi-annual Queen’s Own Rifles Trust meeting.
Casa Loma Operator
Committee Chair LCol Rob Zeidler and Curator Maj John Stephens met with the Liberty Leadership Team on September 4th 2014 to discuss our relationship at which time Liberty confirmed their financial and management support to upgrade our exhibits and that they had contracted exhibit design company KUBIK to develop our new exhibit design. Our museum team is also working on developing documentation to assist us when we meet with KUBIK that highlights key milestones and artifacts that help tell the regiment’s story.
First World War
On September 28, 2014 we co-sponsored a First World War Symposium with the 15th Battalion Memorial Association (48th Highlanders) at Moss Park Armoury which had 50+ in attendance to hear 4 eminent authors discuss the subject of recent books they had published. The event, organized by LCol Fotheringham, also had dealers present and included an excellent lunch prepared by the Officers’ Mess staff.
We continue to work with our volunteers to create detailed catalogue records. This process also includes a photograph of each artifact and for this we are very grateful to Capt (Ret) Larry Hicks’ efforts. We have now catalogued over 2,000 artifacts.
We are continuing to enter the catalogue records into our Museum Collections database with 860+ records entered to date.
Thanks to a generous donation we were able to contract two Masters of Museum Studies graduates who had been volunteering with us, to work for 16 days each doing cataloguing and data entry.
Significant donations over the past 6 months include a collection of weapons and bayonets directed to us by a former rifleman, and the WWII uniform of the late D-Day veteran Jim Wilkins.
We are please to have accepted the return of an unframed 21” x 42” 1882 composite photograph which has been with a photo conservator for surface cleaning, tear repair, stain reduction, adhesive stain reduction and overall stabilization – it looks amazing. The next step will be to have it re-framed to protect it in the future.
We were pleased to work with LCol John Fotheringham and the Juno Beach Centre to make a temporary loan of Rolph Jackson artifacts for exhibit during the Colonel-in-Chief’s visit to the centre during her 70th Anniversary of D-Day visit. You can read more about that in a previous blog post.
The WWII and Afghanistan exhibits have been moved from our previous exhibit room into the East end of the third floor hallway to accommodate Casa Loma staff office moves due to external renovations at the West end of the building. The D-Day painting remains secured in the new office space for the time being.
We are currently in the process of updating some of our exhibit and artifact labels to provide more context and as a test of our major renovation.
We worked with Liberty’s graphic designer to create a “popsicle” sign which identifies our museum space.
We completed the transcription of 12 WWI letters and 3 diaries of CSM Lawrence Pridham, QOR à 166th Bn à 4CMR and these have been posted on our website. We are also in the process of producing a book of the transcriptions which will include a preface by author, historian and educator Dr. Eric McGeer.
In the coming months we plan to design and produce a number of pop-up banners that can be used at the museum but also for travelling exhibits. These would have both photos and text covering various significant periods in the regiment’s history.
Starting in January we will begin filming veteran/soldier interviews. The filming and editing will be done by Rifleman Rich Colmer and his videography company partner. The goal is to post the finished products on our Youtube Channel and website.
In the year we will be meeting with Casa Loma to discuss the possibility of arranging for some travelling exhibits.
Lastly we’re exploring the possibility of an exhibit of the oil portraits from the Officer’s Mess reproduced as photos on canvas as an exhibit. These could later be used throughout the castle.
Our third “Queen’s Own Rifles Day at Casa Loma” on was held on Saturday November 8th and has been deemed another successful event. The QOR Band played three sets with a focus on First World War era music, 2881 cadets assisted with children’s activities, and a large number of re-enactors joined us this year with uniforms representing all periods for WWI to the present and 2 heritage vehicles. We once again appreciate the Commanding Officer LCol Sandi Banerjee’s support in providing 11 currently serving soldiers with various kit who helps share their stories and the MSVS parked in front of the castle was also hard to miss. While it didn’t happen this year, we have recce’d a site for a rappelling demo in 2015.
In 2014, 74 volunteers (excluding the curator) have provided over 1,000 hours of service to the museum in 2014: 3 have over 25 hrs, 2 has over 50 hrs, 2 have over 75 hrs and one has over 100 hrs of service. This includes detailed cleaning, cataloguing and photographing of artifacts; cleaning display cases; painting; and redoing exhibit cases. Volunteer are coming from serving soldiers of the regiment (over 50), from the association and from others outside the regimental family. Almost 2,000 hours since October 2012.
We’re currently making plans for our second volunteer appreciation sometime early in the 2015. But special thanks during this past 7 months to our most regular volunteers: Assistant Curator CWO (Ret’d) Shaun Kelly, Capt (Ret’d) Larry Hicks, MCpl Graham Humphrey, Cheryl Copson, Sarah Silvestri, Joe Wyatt, Cpl Justin Dremanis, Capt Alex Whittaker and CWO Scott Patterson.
Education, Networking and Administration
The curator attended the 2014 Ontario Museum Association Conference for three days in October.
Here is a visual of what a Rifleman would have looked like on D-Day.
Field Service Marching Order with respirator slung. Gas cape rolled on Belt. Veil camouflage around neck. Shell dressing under netting of helmet. Emergency rations in hip pocket.
A.V. Battle dress will be worn, patches, (Canada & QOR), sewn on, when other collected.
The A.V. Battle dress will be worn for a minimum of 48 hrs, as soon as possible. If any effects on body are noticed, they will be reported immediately.
Holdall (towel, soap, razor, etc.)
Knife, fork and spoon
24 hour rations
4 x 2
Pair of socks
Boots (anklets if required)
Boot brush, dubbin & polish
3 pairs socks
Greatcoat packed on outside of pack, held on by kicking straps
Respirator of Assault marching personnel only attached to pack.
G-1018 blanket, folded as for kit layout rolled in ground sheet, strongly lied and properly labelled. (This makes a roll about 2 ½ feet long.)
All packs, Haversacks, Greatcoats (inside belt), ground sheet, to be marked with Rank, Name, Number and Coy mark.
Assault troops are all that land on “D” day.
1 suit of denim to be collected at a later date.
Serge suit for all assault personnel, both riding & marching, less those with coys, will be turned in when notified to coy stores. They will be marked as laid down. They will be returned after “D” day.
Serge suit for those on follow up vehicles will be put in their Blanket rolls.
Here are some Pre Invasion photos from our Archives:
To see the War Diaries for Pre and Invasion visit the link below
O , listen to the bugle call that summons men to arms,
Their King and country need them at the front;
They leave the desk and factory, they leave the town and farms,
To face the foe and bear the battle’s brunt…
Queen’s Own, Queen’s Own,
Sure a finer lot of lads were never known
You’ve a bonnie lot of laddies,
You’ll be missed by Rose and Gladys,
When you’re fighting at the front, Queen’s Own.
They’ve made their wills and settled up, and counted every cost,
Though most of them to give had only life,
But they’ll give it, give freely and count it cheaply lost,
To help the Empire triumph in the strife,
Queen’s Own, Queen’s Own,
When you’re fighting in the cannon-roaring zone,
When you’re charging with the bayonet,
And the blood of foemen stain it,
Don’t forget the slaughtered babes, Queen’s Own.
We’re pleased to announce that at the Annual General meeting of the Regimental Trust Fund, held May 14, 2014, four members of the Regimental Museum Committee (shown in italics) were appointed or re-appointed for a 3 year term. The full committee membership is as follows:
OTTAWA, Ontario, May 16, 2014 — Participating museums and art galleries across Canada will be participating in International Museum Day on Sunday, May 18. The Canadian Museums Association (CMA) is encouraging all Canadians to visit and support heritage, culture and arts institutions across the country this Victoria Day weekend to take part in this worldwide event.
The International Council of Museums (ICOM) organized the first International Museum Day (IMD) on May 18 in 1977. Held annually on that day ever since, IMD raises awareness about the importance and value museums bring to society. Participating sites are encouraged to register for free on the official IMD website to promote their special IMD programming, such as free admission and special events, but they can also plan and promote it independently. Contact museums and galleries near you to find out if they are participating.
This year’s IMD theme, “Museum collections make connections“, was chosen by ICOM to “remind us that museums are living institutions that help create bonds between visitors, generations and cultures around the world”.
John McAvity, executive director of the CMA, shares this vision. “The core of our collective identity is made up of the artefacts, artwork, archival materials and intangible culture that are found in our museums,” says McAvity. “Successfully creating a connection between visitors and collections is a powerful way to positively influence individuals, their community and their culture. This year’s IMD theme reminds us how important it is to preserve and provide access to our collections, so that future generations can benefit from them as much as we do.”
Every year, Canada’s 2,600 museums attract more than 59 million visitors as well as more than half of all international tourists who visit our country. With cultural and heritage institutions facing important fiscal challenges, they are often struggling with the costs of caring for, storing and retaining their collections. The CMA urges the public to support museums in an effort to preserve our rich heritage.
For more information on this year’s celebrations, visit the IMD website and follow the activity on Twitter using the hashtag #IMD2014.
The new badge for The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada which now includes the “The” has been officially posted in the Canada Gazette on March 22, 2014:
Le 22 mars 2014 Gazette du Canada Partie I 657
Bearings have been made, as entered in the Public Register of Arms, Flags and Badges of Canada (Volume, page):
Approval of the Badge of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Toronto, Ontario, July 15, 2013 (Vol. VI, p. 248).
Approval of the Badge of the Combat Training Centre, Oromocto, New Brunswick, July 15, 2013 (Vol. VI, p. 251).
Approval of The Princess Royal’s Banner for the Royal Canadian Medical Service, Ottawa, Ontario, July 15, 2013 (Vol. VI, p. 264).
Confirmation of the Badge of the Canadian Forces Joint Operational Support Group, Kingston, Ontario, October 15, 2013 (Vol. VI, p. 273).
Approval of the Badge of the Canadian Forces Logistics Training Centre, Borden, Ontario, November 15, 2013 (Vol. VI,p. 280).
STEPHEN WALLACE Herald Chancellor
As we kick off the 2014 Winter Olympics, we thought we’d share a few snippets of sports related regimental history.
The following is an excerpt from the 1922-1923 QOR Association Annual Report.
Sports in the Regiment
A phase of development in the life of every regiment that is, perhaps, one of the most essential to its success, and perhaps one of the most neglected, it in the world of sport. “Playing the game,” win or lose, must be inculcated in the mind of any who take a part, and this last devolves upon efficient leadership. It is such an ideal that the QOR has endeavoured to induce and maintain, that its part in the development of National life may not be confined to the discipline of the parade ground but to include self-discipline in the everyday life of its members. The Queen’s Own Rifles Athletic Association, therefore, became a reality on December 9th, 1922, and took over the work that had been carried on by Maj. F.H. Wood and his Committee through the difficult period of re-organization. The officers elected were: Hon. Pres. Col. A. E. Kirkpatrick; Pres., Capt. G.G. Emsley Raley, MC; Vice-Pres,. Sgt. L. Baker; Sec’y-Treas, Lieut. T. A. Laidlaw; Executive, Lieut. A. E. Williams, Lieut. A deL. Panet, CQMS G. Alexander, Sgt. J. A. Wilson.
Indoor baseball hockey and basketball were chosen as the sports for the Winder season, and on Jan. 4th, the Regimental Indoor Ball League opened…
Throughout the season matches have been played at the Armouries each Wednesday evening from 7:30 to 11:00 pm, one diamond being reserved from 9:30 to 11:00 pm for Cadets and members of companies and details not entered in the League. Hockey and baseball were innovations but the interest shown was encouraging to those on whom the work really fell. About 25 to 30 men turned out for hockey practice and games at Little Vic Rink and a team of league calibre was selected to form the nuclei of the 1923-24 teams; the season closed with a win of 11-3 over the crack B.A. Life aggregation. On Feb. 28 a well attended hockey and recruiting meeting was held at the Armouries and it was decided to enter the Regimental team in a Senior City league during the season of 1923-24 (see photo below. )
The Officers’ Baseball team is an organization apart for the Association but is an invaluable agent in training candidates: Capt. J.S. Beatty, Team Captain; Major H. Pepler, M.C. Manager; Capt. Ross Walker, Secy.-Treas.