The Maple Leaf Rifle Club

1894 Album page 1 (3) - CopyThe Maple Leaf Rifle Club (originally the Maple Leaf Club) was formed in 1912 to bring together members and ex-members of the Regiment in an annual friendly shooting competition and dinner prepared by its members. With very few exceptions the club has been meeting annually ever since and celebrated its 100th year in 2012. Some of its charter members include Capt J Hutcheson and Regimental Sergeants Major George Creighton, and G. Frank Atkins.

A founding principle of the club was that all members should be good shots and would be equal regardless of rank and all tasks were shared equally, (note page 12 of the 1912-33 document at the link below where the Sergeant Major is nominated to procure the targets for the shoot by a Captain and the motion is seconded by a Private). To this day [2017] the membership is limited in numbers to 28, new members must be voted in by current members, and there is always a business meeting followed by a shoot and dinner to be held around the Christmas season.

The club has, during its history, encouraged shooting and camaraderie but also donated to charitable causes and recently has provided funds in support of the Regiment’s shooting team.

Although the positions of president and vice president normally change every year or two the Treasurer/Secretary position is normally held for a much greater length of time. This was especially true of Secretary/Treasurer G Frank Atkins, sometimes known as “Brandy Atkins” to his friends, who staunchly held the position from its inception in 1912 until his death in 1956.

The following is an article written by LCol John Strathy for the Rifleman Magazine for the 70th anniversary of the club in 1982:

THE MAPLE LEAF RIFLE CLUB 1912 1982

 This year marks a significant event in the history of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and that is the celebration of the 70th anniversary of The Maple Leaf Rifle Club. There is a brotherhood amongst us which you seldom or never find with any other class or aggregation of men as Riflemen.

The splendid good natured rivalry between the different regiments must be attributed, in a great measure to the influence of the rifle shot, as they are a lot of fine sportsmen who know each other by name.

The object of the Club is to meet at least once a year in friendly target practice rivalry. In so doing to refresh and enliven among its members the feeling of good fellowship created while serving in the Regiment.

According to ‘The Blasta regimental chronicle published on April 17th, 1926 – The Maple Leaf Rifle Club, in existence since 1912, meets but once a year on the eve of Christmas when Santa Claus, with his reindeer leaves a consignment of chicken, geese and turkeys at the Regimental bungalow, situated at the Long Branch Rifle Ranges. All members of the club laugh at the elements as they sit by a great log-fire until such time as each is called for him to display his skill on the target. The shooting is wound up by a roast beef dinner prepared by the members. Tables are thereafter rearranged in the large front room of the Regimental bungalow and set up for games – such as progressive Euchre. The fowl is then distributed to the winners of the shoot and the games and the evening ends around 11:00 oclock with good fellowship abounding.

The above refers to the Annual shoot held at Long Branch Ranges on December 19, 1925 and according to the Club minutes, which were kept by Colour Sergeant Brandy Atkins, who was the scribe from 1912 to 1955, the weather was cold with lots of snow on the ground and a new office was created that of high cock-a-lorum (cook). The supply of refreshments ran out and after games and prizes everyone left for home in good order.

Some of those Regimental members attending the shoot on that cold snowy day in December were George Chrichton [Chreighton], Brandy Atkins, Sister Meadows, Rex Reed, Ernie Hartman, Ward Taylor, Alf Peake, Norm McLeod, Bert Lucas, and George Bull. All famous names of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and staunch members of The Maple Leaf Rifle Club.

Each year in December The Maple Leaf Rifle Club, all 28 members who shall be active or ex-members of The Queens Own Rifles of Canada and some guests have met once a year to shoot at Long Branch Ranges until 1959 when the Ranges were closed. For the next 3 years the shoot was held at the University Avenue shooting Galleries.

From 1963 through until 1967 while the Regiment was being relocated in Richmond Street Armouries, the club continued its unbroken skein of annual Christmas shoots by accepting the invitation of Fred and Ted Johnston to use the facilities of Eastern Scale Works Ltd warehouse on Camforth Drive, then on to Moss Park Armoury Range in 1968 where we continue to hold our annual shoot.

Ernie Stock, Bisley shot, was elected a member in 1933 and is presently the Honorary Secretary of the Club.

Ernie recalls the mode of transportation in those days to the Long Branch Ranges, which were situated on Lakeshore Road running from Toronto to Hamilton, was by CNR train from Union Station to Long Branch – free passes for all with orders to stop the train as close to the range gates as possible, because of the cold and snow.

Ernie went on the say The tract of land was approximately 200 acres, just west of Dixie road and extended south from highway 2 to lake Ontario. There were 3 ranges facing out towards the lake, one 900 yard range, a 600 and 500 yard range and at the far west end two other ranges of 300 and 200 yards. To the east of the range entrance and close to the highway, was a row of Range Huts starting with one owned by The Queens Own Rifles of Canada, the next by the 48th Highlanders of Canada, with the others owned by such famous Canadian Regiments as The Toronto Scottish and Irish Regiments of Canada.”

Bill McDonald, also a member since 1933 recalls that every member was equal and rank did not have its privileges, but to him the shoot is a regimental affair and everyone has to have served in the unit at one time or another. Bill is proud to be a rifleman and remembers fondly shooting and messing with men who served in the Boer War, World War I and World War II such men as, Bill Cook, Alex Leake, Jack Matthews, Alex Rutherford, Bob Campbell, Charlie Cook, Charlie Collett, Frank Atkins, Ernie Payne and Bert Lucas.

Then Jack Burgess, as he still does today, would don his apron and supervise as well as cook the dinner.

Don Whitehead, a former member of The Maple Leaf Club, remembers that the only shoots he ever attended were at Long Branch and that the camaraderie of members pitching in to help peel potatoes, skin vegetables and have fun was the highlight of the day. The kitchen occupied the north part of the Regimental hut and a long counter lined with stools separated it from the main dining area, which contained tables and chairs to seat 100 people.

Bill recalled One year the shoot was tied between me and Ernie Hartman for the aggregate and darkness was closing in; five more shots were fired to break the tie no result. Again five more shots, in the fading light were fired still tied. By this time it was too dark to see the target so a circle of chalk was drawn on the floor and all members gathered around to watch me and Ernie pitch 5 pennies each and the most pennies in the circle won the shoot. In this case Ernie took it.

As in 1912 we still have a membership of 28 and invite guests to our annual shoot. However, no more than 25 can attend so guests are limited.

Times have changed the atmosphere of the club but we still maintain fatigues, prepare all meals and reminesce the past. Annual dues are $3.00 per member compared to $2.00 in 1912. To become a member a certain quality of marksmanship is required as well as service to the Regiment. Membership is by invitation only as it was in the beginning and ever shall be.

Today [1983] membership is 25 all ranks and they are; Dick Ayton, Cliff McLaughlin, Ernie Stock, Bill Macdonald, Les Smith, Don Pryer, Wilf Durance, Gary Senetchko, Jimmy Kirkwood, Jack Burgess, Gord Moore, Bert Shepherd, Dunc Green, Sam Score, Sid Philips, Jimmy Green, John Strathy, Jack Martin, Stan Storms, Moore Jackson, Fred Burroughs, John Missons, Bill Ives, Bill Lochmavitz and Ernie Mars!.

 JOHN STRATHY, LT. COL

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"