Sergeant Fred Mercer, CD was born in the city of St. John’s in the country of Newfoundland in 1940. In 1957 at the age of 17, he joined the Canadian Armed Forces to serve his country. He then spent the next 21 years, primarily with the 1st Battalion The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, until it was placed on the Canadian Army’s Supplementary Order of Battle in 1970 and renamed 3rd Battalion Princes Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
Most of his career was spent as a member of the 1st Battal ion’s bugle band, travelling extensively and entertaining audiences with their performances. The highlight was being invited to be among bands from around the world performing at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1962. When he wasn’t performing he served in the Armoured Defence Platoon (Anti-Tank) along with other members of the bugle band. Mercer said that “We were very proud of being the best band in the west, as well as the best anti-tank platoon.”
Ultimately, Fred achieved his career goal of becoming drum major for the band of 3rd Bn PPCLI. After leaving the army he spent 15 years with Loomis Armored Car, in Victoria, BC and upon retirement, took up golf.
Although serving his country was very important to him, what Fred held dearest to his heart was his family. Together with his wife Janice, they devoted their lives to raising four very responsible and loving children. The family bond instilled in the children will be his ultimate legacy. When Fred was first diagnosed with cancer he chose to fight it on his own terms, with dignity and honour. This courageous decision allowed him and his family to live with this illness and support him every step of the way. Fred definitely set the bar very high on how to leave this world. A celebration of his life was held in April in Victoria.
Sgt Fred Mercer was there when The Queen’s Own Rifles opened The 1962 Edinburgh Festival
(Excerpted from the 2013 issue of The Rifleman Magazine)
Following the 1st Battalion posting to Germany in 1959 its bugle band, led by its popular Bugle Major, Sgt Roy Bruce, filled a busy schedule of appearances at a wide variety of events in Europe. The highlight unquestionably was an invitation to appear in the 1962 Military Tattoo held during the annual Edinburgh Festival. Sergeant Fred Mercer was a member of the band which travelled to Edinburgh to participate in the tattoo. The invitation, he said, “was hard to believe. As far as we knew no Canadian band had ever been invited to take part so this was an outstanding honour. We were determined to put on a terrific how.”
ln Edinburgh the band practiced every morning for their tattoo performance, had afternoons off and then went to the castle for the show, which traditionally is held in the forecourt of Edinburgh Castle, in front of packed grandstands, under floodlights. Mercer said that “It was quite an experience to parade in that historic old castle. There’s a thousand years of history there and it was an unbelievable thrill to be the first band on parade every night, to open the show with our fanfare, which was written specifically for the event. That excitement never wore off for any of us. Every night we seemed to get an extra level of applause and we thought that was as much because we were Canadian as it was for the 140 paces to the minute that we marched when we did our performances.”
Mercer said that “We were introduced each evening by the master of ceremonies saying: ‘The Edinburgh Military Tattoo of 1962 opens with the drum and bugle ofThe Queen’ Own Rifles of Canada.” We did the fanfare and later in the program did our four-and-a-half-minute how. We were really very fortunate with our position in the show, where we followed the Sikh Regiment’s Pipe Band. They finished by marching off playing a typically low selection, which was really beautiful music but played at a low, very slow pace, 110 paces to the minute. So then, after we were introduced, we marched in at the rifle’s pace of 140 and it was like a cavalry charge, heavy on the drum, bugles blasting, moving like horse out of the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. We must have made a great impression on the crowd because the applause started right away. We did our whole how at 140 and then quick marched off to wait to appear with the massed band at the close. There was no ‘Canadian music’ in our drums and bugles presentation but ‘The Maple Leaf Forever’ was included in the grand finale, as a tribute to ‘our Canadian friend’ as the announcer said .”