With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Canada responded by sending the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). The Queen’s Own provided the vast majority of men to the 3rd Battalion. While it was thought The Queen’s Own would be allowed to retain its regimental identity, Ottawa refused to allow the battalion to wear its cap badge. Instead, small groups from the 10th Grenadiers (Toronto) and the Governor General’s Bodyguard (Toronto) were posted into the already over strength battalion, making the 3rd Battalion (Toronto Regiment) CEF a composite unit.
One of the most extraordinary decisions taken by Colonel, The Honourable, Sam Hughes Minister of Militia and Defence at the outbreak of the First World War was that the Regiments and Corps of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (with two exceptions) would lose their proud titles and revert to a quasi-anonymous numbered method of identification. This would cause endless problems after the war with Battle Honours and perpetuation.
The QOR also recruited the 83rd, 95th, 166th, 198th and 255th Battalions. All were QOR battalions and perpetuated by the QOR. The 19th, 35th, 58th, 74th, 81st and 216th Battalions, though not perpetuated by the Regiment, also consisted largely of QOR personnel.
[Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this page indicated that the 123rd Battalion also consisted of largely QOR personnel. While there were indeed QOR members in this unit, it primarily consisted of men from the 10th Regiment (Royal Grenadiers.)]
By the 11 November 1918 armistice, 7,562 Queen’s Own Rifles had served overseas. Of these 1,254 were killed in action, died of wounds or of other causes – approximately one in six. Thousands more were wounded.
Six soldiers who had served with or been attached to The Queen’s Own were awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry:
- Lieutenant George Fraser Kerr, VC, MC, MM (3rd Battalion, CEF)
- Corporal (later Sergeant) Colin Fraser Barron, VC (3rd Battalion, CEF)
- Major Thain Wendell MacDowell, VC, DSO
- Captain George Kerr, VC, MC, MM
- Lieutenant (later Captain) Charles Smith Rutherford, VC, MC, MM
- Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, VC
- 2nd Lieutenant Edmund De Wind, VC