Swift, Charles J.

Bugle Major Swift from a photo of the Staff Sergeants 1904

Bugle Major Charles J. Swift first served with the the Queen’s Own in 1866 during the Fenian Raids of that year as a boy Bandsman of 14. He also was with the regiment during the North West Rebellion where he was seconded to Battalion Headquarters. Most of his 57 years of service was as Bugle Major. He is credited with with turning the Bugle Band into an internationally respected musical force taking them to England on two occasions.

From the book The Bands of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (1860-2010) by Charles McGregor:

 “It was with the appointment of “Drummer C. Swift” as he was first introduced into this narrative, that the fortunes of The Queen’s Own Rifles Bugle Band entered into absolutely “the best of times.” Bugle Major Swift served (as Bugle Major) from 1876 until 192[2] and is credited with setting his band on the path to being among the best known and most highly respected in Canada, the U.S. and England. It was the “Mother Country” that Swift led his buglers and drummers on two separate occasions, in 1902 and 1910. Before that, however, he had accompanied them to Saskatchewan. During the North West Rebellion of 1885, when the Metis in Saskatchewan, led by Louis Riel, rose up against the new Dominion of Canada in an effort to redress their grievances, The Queen’s Own was mobilized in Toronto. A total of 250 soldiers – including Bugle Major Charles Swift and 16 buglers and drummers travelled by CPR train to the frozen western province in bitter March weather.”

“Upon his return, Bugle Major Swift who had been detached from the band to serve with Regimental HQ of The Queen’s Own for the duration of the Rebellion, picked up where he had left off months before.” 

Born: 1852, England
Trade: Shoemaker/soldier
Date of attestation: First recorded service was in 1866

Died: 1922 May 16, of Pneumonia

Timeline of service:

  • 1866, Bandsman Swift serves in Fenian Raids, Library and Archives Canada;
  • 1874-75, listed as Drummer, E Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1875-76, listed as Drum Sergeant, K Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1876 Oct 13, to be Sgt as of 15 June 1875, Drummer Swift, C J, regimental orders;
  • 1876-77, listed as Bandsman (Sgt), K Coy , nominal roll;
  • 1877-78, listed as Band Sergeant, K Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1878 Oct 9, Sergeant CJ Swift awarded Crown and Cross badge for 9 years and upwards good service, regimental orders;
  • 1878-79, listed as Band Sergeant, K Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1879-80, listed as Bugle Sergeant, G Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1880 Apr 21, To be Bugle Major, Bugle Sergt Chas Swift vice Clark discharged, regimental orders;
  • 1880-81, listed as Bugle Major, G Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1881-82, listed as Bugle Major, G Coy, nominal roll;
  • 1885, Sergeant Bugler Swift serves in NW Rebellion, Library and Archives Canada;
  • 1886, listed as Staff Sergeant, photo of Sergeants’ Mess;
  • 1887, listed as Bugle Major, Vice President of Sergeants’ Mess, Globe article;
  • 1888, listed as Bugle Major, member of Mess Committee, Globe article;
  • 1894, listed as Bugle Major, B Coy, list of Staff Sergeants, regimental orders;
  • 1897, in recognition of his many years of faithful service, Bugle-Major Swift was awarded Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee Medal;
  • 1904, appears as Bugle Major in photo of Staff Sergeants;
  • 1922, 7 May, appears as a Captain in a photo of the Regimental Church Parade;
  • 1922, May 16, his death was reported in the Globe;
  • 1922, Listed in funeral arrangements as “Captain” Swift.
Swift (centre) with his musicians during the the NW Canada Campaign
(L to R) Bugle Major Swift, Bugler Doug Williams (who played the charge at Paardeburg during the South African War), Zup Taylor, and Banty Foster


1922 Swift parade
Capt Swift on parade 7 May 1922 just over a week before his death from pneumonia


Grave marker of Bugle Major, Captain Charles Swift, St James Cemetery Toronto, Section K, Lot 26

Bugle Major Swift’s Grave Marker was discovered in St James Cemetery on Remembrance Day 2011. As can be seen from the above photo, it hasn’t stood the test of time and is barely legible. Through the efforts of the Museum Volunteers and generous donations from the Regimental Family a new marker was produced and unveiled by the Regiment 9th June 2018. A description of the event and pictures can be found at the link here;

New Swift Grave Marker Unveiled.

"In Pace Paratus – In Peace Prepared"

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