Tag Archives: 1910 Trip

“A Serious Piece of Business” Part IV

Recently Master Corporal Nikolas A. E. Mouriopoulos of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada) completed a paper for his Masters Degree in History which he undertook at the University of Toronto. Last fall he approached the museum with the hope of researching Canada’s oldest continuous infantry unit. While exploring the archival storage rooms he found several scrapbooks neatly filled with newspaper clippings on the Regiment’s 1910 trip to England, organized and financed by Major General Sir Henry Pellatt. After some further thought and discussion with his advisor, his paper’s them evolved into a comparison of the rampant imperialism of the time vs. rising Canadian nationalism:

“…the voyage of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to the Aldershot exercises of 1910 serves as an excellent metonymic device for helping to understand Canada’s military history and sense of nationhood within the Empire at an important moment in the country’s history. That it is such a unique story only makes it better in the telling.”

Our thanks to MCpl Mouriopoulos for allowing us to reprint his paper in a multi-part series on our blog. Here is Part IV.

__________________________________________________________________

“A Serious Piece of Business”:
Sir Henry Pellatt, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and the “English Trip” of 1910

Part IV “The English Trip”: Conclusion

It is important to note that the expedition of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada in 1910 was not a harbinger of further expeditions to come.  Though a proud moment in the regiment’s history, it was an exception to the norm, never to be repeated (which in part explains the revelry of the 1939 reunion). The soldiers of the Queen’s Own were the fortunate beneficiaries of the largesse and somewhat self- important ambitions of a commanding officer at the pinnacle of his wealth and pride; a commanding officer who, through personal connection and resources, was able to afford bringing nearly 640 men on a trip that was as self-celebration as it was hard training. Without Sir Henry, and specifically his 1910 vintage, there was no trip. What’s more, no other units would follow the Torontonians’ example, and training for militia units in Canada would largely remain restricted to summer camps like that in Erindale until 1914. [108]  And the changes wrought then would be for entirely different reasons.

Thus it is with great care that one must approach the story of “the English trip” when attempting to extract significance. In almost every manner of its planning and execution, it was exceptional. And yet it did not exist in a vacuum. Indeed, where the story of Pellatt and his “crack Canadians” becomes important is in its reflection of the intellectual currents and values of a changing military and nation; or, as Wood puts it, of a time when the “inherited traditions of a late-colonial society” were clashing with the “values of a North American nation,” particularly one whose potential at the time “seemed unlimited.” [109]   The parades were grand but, so too were the manoeuvres. Seven courses lunches were paired with new equipment and sophisticated exercises against His Majesty’s best in a way that suited both lords and lieutenants. Sir Henry ran the show, but the Queen’s Own were seen both home and abroad as representatives of Canada, an emerging (and to some, equal) partner in imperial policy. And the line between King and Country had never been so blurred. The Aldershot expedition, in short, shows a militia in transition: a transition between old and new, between local and international, between show and skill, between imperial and national. Often, it was all these things at the same time. It also reminds readers of Canadian military history that where was an active force worthy of study far before the more dramatic events of later years.

There is one more event of interest from “the English trip.” As mentioned, King George V had taken particular interest in the activities of the Queen’s Own from the very beginning. In the middle of the exercises, he issued a royal command through the Duke of Connaught inviting a small deputation of Canadians, led by Sir Henry, to the royal residence at Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This was to take place while the main body was enjoying the sights and sounds of London. Sir Henry hand-picked a detachment representing the entirety of the unit: four commissioned officers, two colour-sergeants, two corporals, and eight privates. The detachment left Euston station on 11 September and arrived in Ballater (two kilometres from the castle) to a small but boisterous reception served by 2nd Battalion Royal Scots, the King’s guard of honour. From there, the men changed into the traditional rifle-green dress and marched – Sir Henry was ferried by carriage – to Balmoral, where the King awaited with his Queen and Princess Mary, as well as Lloyd George, Chancellor of the Exchequer. Hands were shook and pleasantries exchanged, and then a small parade was formed for the real purpose of the trip: the conferring of honours to the invitees. Sir Henry received the Royal Victorian Order (3rd Class, or Commander), while Major Rennie and Captain Higginbotham received the same in 4th Class (Lieutenant) and Colour-Sergeant Macdonald was presented with the silver medal of the Order.

Speeches were given on both sides and the troops were given a tour of the castle, before a sumptuous dinner on the grounds. [110]

In a later telegraph published in Toronto newspapers on 14 September, the King relayed through the Governor-General the following message:

I had the pleasure of receiving to-day at Balmoral a representative detachment of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and of hearing of their successful work at manoeuvres. The spirit thus shown by the Dominion is a good augury of the future of the Imperial Army. [111]

A skillful display on the battlefield, an audience with the King himself, and Sir Henry had his medal.

As Barnard concludes, the mission of “the great 1910 trip” had “definitely…been accomplished.” [112]

The complete bibliography can be found in the pdf version of this paper on our Research Page.

Notes:

[107] Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 102-3, and Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 1167-8.

[108] While the 65th Rifles of Montreal and the Governor General’s Foot Guards of Ottawa publicly expressed doing something similar in the aftermath, neither would gather the funds or interest to do so. See Wood, Militia Myths, 166.

[109] Wood, Militia Myths, 2.

[110] “The Visit to Balmoral,” The Times, 12 September 1910; “Deputation for Balmoral,” Morning Advertiser, 12 September 1910; “Inspection by the King To-Day,” The Standard, 12 September 1910; and particularly “A Royal Inspection,” unsourced, undated; all in scrapbook 2251, #68, and scrapbook 2232, #18. Also, see Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 100.

[111] As quoted in Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 100-101.

[112] Ibid., 101.

“A Serious Piece of Business” Part II

Recently Master Corporal Nikolas A. E. Mouriopoulos of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada) completed a paper for his Masters Degree in History which he undertook at the University of Toronto. Last fall he approached the museum with the hope of researching Canada’s oldest continuous infantry unit. While exploring the archival storage rooms he found several scrapbooks neatly filled with newspaper clippings on the Regiment’s 1910 trip to England, organized and financed by Major General Sir Henry Pellatt. After some further thought and discussion with his advisor, his paper’s them evolved into a comparison of the rampant imperialism of the time vs. rising Canadian nationalism:

“…the voyage of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to the Aldershot exercises of 1910 serves as an excellent metonymic device for helping to understand Canada’s military history and sense of nationhood within the Empire at an important moment in the country’s history. That it is such a unique story only makes it better in the telling.”

Our thanks to MCpl Mouriopoulos for allowing us to reprint his paper in a multi-part series on our blog. Here is Part II.

__________________________________________________________________

“A Serious Piece of Business”:
Sir Henry Pellatt, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and the “English Trip” of 1910

Part II “The English Trip”: The Prelude

“The Secretary of the War Office announces that the Army Council have decided to accept the generous offer made through the Canadian Government by Col. Sir Henry M. Pellatt to bring the regiment under his command (The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada) to England at his own expense for the purpose of participating in the Autumn manoeuvres of 1910.” [13]   It is with this formal announcement on 12 December 1909, printed in The Times of London, that the expedition of the QOR to the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland was first announced to the imperial public. That the “Canadian Government” was mentioned as an interlocutor between Pellatt and the War Office was perhaps  political courtesy; as an official Canadian confirmation in The Daily Mail on 17 February 1910 admitted, “The Queen’s Own were to go to Aldershot this summer to take part in the manoeuvres but  the Government would not bear any portion of the expense.” [14]  The voyage was the result of negotiations between Sir Henry and Governor-General the Earl Grey, to whom Sir Henry was close and indeed Honourary Aide-de-Camp after 1907, as well as King Edward VII himself, who would not live to see the event but would be willingly replaced by his son George V. [15]   The story goes (as gospel to Barnard, with scepticism by Oreskovich) that George V demanded the regiment come as soon as it could once he heard of the offer. Though this is impossible to confirm, it is true that the coded cable approving of the gesture came straight from Buckingham Palace through the Governor General’s office. [16]  As will be demonstrated later, the visit of this colonial militia unit attracted interest from the highest orders.

In many ways, this expedition would serve as the culmination of a military career that had been building towards this ceremonial climax. A young Henry Mill Pellatt had joined the Queen’s Own as a rifleman at the age of seventeen in 1876, saw “action” at the violent Grand Trunk Railway strike in Belleville in 1877, taken his commission in 1879 at the age of twenty, and had risen through the officer ranks to eventually command the unit as a Lieutenant-Colonel in 1901 (in advance of officers of higher seniority). [17]  He was a man who loved the idea of being a soldier perhaps more than actual soldering – his only campaign medal was a small iron one made for those at Belleville, though he always bore it proudly – but was also someone who took that role seriously: he had once suggested to Sir Frederick Borden that those who avoided military service be taxed. [18]   He was also a man for whom imperial honour meant a great deal, as evidenced by his incessant lobbying to Borden again to be put on the 1905 honours list. [19]   This was ultimately successful, and in 1905 Henry Mill Pellatt became a Knight Bachelor, with the above-mentioned Aide-de-Camp honour coming soon after. As Lord Grey’s private secretary wrote after the fact, “Pellatt is full of glory being Sir Henry an Hon. A.D.C. – and is playing up to it as well as he knows how.” [20]

It was not merely personal glory that drove Sir Henry, however. He was also a lover of Canada and its soldiers: as Barnard records, he saw in the regiment “the finest traits of Canadian character.” [21] Pellatt was in some ways the embodiment of Berger’s conclusion that “imperialism was one form of Canadian nationalism” in the pre-World War One era. [22]   More specifically, Pellatt, like many others of his time, understood Canadian nationality as “grounded upon a definite conception of Canada’s past,  her national character, and her mission in the future,” which included “the sense of power to be exercised within the Empire, of responsibility to imperial duties, of attachment to imperial ideals, and of co-operation in the achievement of imperial destinies.” [23]   By 1910, this manifested in “a yearning for significance and a desire to obliterate the stigma of colonialism.” [24]

Thus it was by conscious effort that the trip managed to neatly coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the regiment’s founding in 1860. On top of a garden party at Exhibition Place with nearly 4000 attendees, a parade involving the entire Toronto militia district, and the unveiling of a memorial window to the Ridgeway dead at University College, Pellatt celebrated Canada and the Queen’s Own in June of 1910 with a final two-hour pageant involving 1200 participants, two military bands, bagpipers, 400 school children, “magnificent scenery, gorgeous costumes, stormy battles, and grand tableaux.” Canadian history was split into four “epochs” that were acted out by volunteers, with each ending in battle and victory for the nascent colonials. [25]   Cost was again no issue: the important thing was that “Canada was brought to life as a country of adventure and opportunity with a colourful and romantic history; that Canadian history was integral with British history and that, in the early hazardous days, the regiment” – as they would in Aldershot – “had played a full part.” [26]

These sentiments would both drive and frustrate Pellatt in the two official trips he took to the United Kingdom prior to 1910: in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee under Lieutenant- Colonel W.D. Otter (himself a QOR alum), where he had the honour of leading the Colonial Guard of Honour for the Queen at St. Paul’s Cathedral; and at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, where he lead the Canadian contribution to London (with two officers and five riflemen in the larger body of 26 and 603 respectively being QOR members). The first visit had a profound effect on Pellatt’s own plans for imperial recognition for himself, the regiment and Canada. He was dismayed to find upon arrival in London that the Colonial Guard of Honour included members of Commonwealth dominions with unified “national” uniforms, which contrasted sharply with the varied jackets, coatees and tunics of Canada’s ever disjointed militia units . Furthermore, the trip was dogged throughout by bureaucratic issues, not least of which was the failure of the Canadian government to budget for provisions; these were eventually paid for by the members out of their own pockets. Always dedicated to put his nation (and himself) forward in a positive light, Pellatt sidestepped procedure for the 1902 trip and decided to pay at his own expense for the QOR Bugle Band to accompany the Canadian contingent across the Atlantic, after the Canadian government informed him that there would be no public allowance for such. [27]   Pellatt knew from these that there was much to learn, and he made it clear that his own voyage to Aldershot would be a “serious piece of business,” where the first object was to “learn from a practical point of view, [which] we believe it will be of the best interests of the Canadian militia generally.” [28]

Pellatt was not alone in wishing to see Canada celebrated on an imperial stage, nor in his frustration over the government’s failure to provide the practical elements necessary for such a celebration.  Indeed, it is important to note that the expedition to Aldershot came with two major  events in Canadian militia history in recent view, events that produced similar reactions in other observers of Canada’s militia. The first was the Second South African or “Boer” War. Over thirty members of the QOR had contributed to Toronto’s “C” Company of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, and others managed to get in the quotas of other contributing units. [29]  Though today a minor episode in the broad narrative of Canada’s military history, the effect of this conflict on contemporary Canadian appreciation of the militia cannot be understated: Paardeberg was the “proving ground” and “the landmark in in the development of Canadian nationalism” long before Easter Weekend at Vimy Ridge. [30]  A new militarism became intertwined “with the optimism of a young and expanding nation,” and inspired Laurier to declare that “a new power had arisen to the west.” [31] Canadian contributions – and early Boer victories against British regulars – helped convinced many in Canada that its citizen volunteers made for more “effective soldiers” over the “slum-born, undernourished, British Tommy,” who “lacked the stamina and initiative to defend the Empire.” In a humourous but slightly worried speech to the Empire Club entitled “The Fatuous Insolence of Canadians,” Captain A.T. Hunter opined that the war led “every loose-waisted, paddle-footed, undrilled man in Canada…to think that by virtue of being a Canadian he is a natural-born rifle-shot, warrior, and strategist.” [32]   While this is likely an exaggeration, James Wood agrees that the war confirmed to Canadians a long-held truism: the citizen army was the “backbone of the nation’s defences,” and that this defence was in fine shape. [33]

When the Aldershot expedition was announced in the United Kingdom, these themes were repeated frequently as part of a near-universal approval of the “colonial visit.” The London Telegraph in particular offered much praise for the “free life in foreign lands,” which “developed…these qualities in the colonial soldier: ready, alert, self-reliant, keen of his eyes, quick in his hands, resourceful and alive in every faculty.” [34]   That the Queen’s Own was from downtown Toronto was conveniently ignored. Much was made of the “crack” regiment’s “daring deeds” and military history: their founding in reaction to the Trent Affair of 1862, their blooding at Ridgeway during the Fenian Raids, their participation in the North-West Rebellion of 1885 and, above all, their contributions in South Africa as the “heroes of Paardeberg.” [35]   These histories were repeated in all the newspapers covering the event. That all these engagements (minus the last one) were relatively small affairs compared to other battles of His Majesty’s regiments-of-the-line seems not to have mattered; the papers were determined to make them to be imperial heroes.

More than anything else, the British newspapers made one point clear: that the Canadians had earned the right to be the first full “colonial” regiment had participated in military manoeuvres in Great Britain. [36]   While most would assume this to be a point of pride – and it certainly was to many – the egalitarianism this implied worried some high-ranking militia-minded individuals back home in  Canada. That Canadian soldiers now began to believe that they were brothers-in-arms of the their British counterparts, or even worse, that their “fatuous insolence” was beginning to look like arrogance, discomforted some who had hoped to use the lessons of South Africa to increase commitment to and  the training of a properly-trained militia, with eyes towards an expanding United States and troublesome developments in Europe. The same A.T. Hunter ended that Empire Club speech with a cautionary and resignedly downbeat conclusion that “the day of national modesty…is gone forever,” as there was now “no Canadian of thirty [who will refuse to] back his opinions against any Englishmen that ever lived.” [37]   In the same vein, an anonymous contributor to the Canadian Military Gazette opined that

Just now, Canada is suffering from the widespread belief that “she’s alright” from the military standpoint – a belief born, to a great extent, of the Bower War. Because a handful of men went from this country to Africa and did good work, our people have jumped to the conclusion that what the Canadians cannot do is an impossible task.  Worse than that, they have been led to think that Canada is prepared for anything in the fighting line, and, worse still, that our people are born soldiers who can take the field without training. [38]

That the domestic news sources and their British counterparts had united in ‘Tommy’-bashing did not help matters; a later article in the same Gazette warned that “we colonials are getting too conceited, if we may judge from our press with its many allusions to the thickness, etc., of Tommy’s skull – and, on the other hand, how many references we find to our own Heaven-born wisdom.” [39]   In its own way, the Aldershot expedition offered an opportunity to validate the claim of one practical columnist that “courage and intelligence combined will not ‘improvise a rifleman’. Practice is necessary to give our people that skill in the use of the rifle which would make them, combined with the other good qualities we have named” – such as fieldwork, discipline, and an understanding of fortification – “strong in defence in spite of their small numbers.” [40]   Pellatt’s call for a “practical point of view” was in line with these humbled views as much as it was with the newly-won pride.

Much of this caution also had to do with the second important military event immediately preceding the Aldershot voyage: the Tercentenary celebrations in Quebec City in 1908. There and then, over 12,000 Canadian soldiers and militiamen – over half of the entire force – descended on the Plains of Abraham to partake in the event, along with a squadron of the Royal Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. What had begun as a local commemoration was transformed into “celebration not only of Champlain’s landing in Canada but also of the imperial connection” by a Governor-General in Lord Grey who wanted “to teach Canadians…pride in belonging to the mighty British Empire.” [41]   Nothing of this scale had ever been attempted in the young country before. The Prince of Wales (George V again) was invited from the mother country to personally inspect the parade, and he came with the popular  Catholic campaigner the Duke of Norfolk and Field Marshal the Lord Roberts, the renowned imperial hero of Afghanistan and South Africa. “Bobs” had particular significance for the Queen’s Own: he was their honourary colonel, and Pellatt made sure he incorporated the field marshal into the actual parade  to celebrate the regiment’s connection with the man. Characteristically, Pellatt had requested to bring his entire regiment, but space limits at the Lévis camp forced him to bring only a battalion. As will be demonstrated later, the more celebratory events of the Aldershot trip would, as Wood observes, “borrow much of [their inspirations] from the Tercentenary,” with the “imperial connection prominently displayed before a receptive audience of admiring civilians.” [42]

The huge display evidently impressed the Prince of Wales: he wrote in his diary that “considering they were Militia with very little training,” the parade “was most creditable, the horses excellent.” [43] Lord Roberts confirmed in telegraph to Governor-General Grey that “Canada appears to me to be dealing adequately with the problems affecting her militia and with care and improved organization to be building up a very useful force.” [44]   If the battles against the Boers had spurred confidence and a drive towards increased autonomy, the Tercentenary parade was about re-affirming the “proscenium arch” that was Empire in the Canadian understandings of the military’s purpose. As much as the logistics and effort necessary for the parade demonstrated military competence and the capability of local leadership, Nelles correctly notes that “everything occurred under the cope of British power, in the presence of the prince…[and] with the [British] fleet in the background.” [45]   Lord Grey certainly spared no effort in making “a really impressive Imperial splash.” [46]   Here was the perfect demonstration of Berger’s conclusion that “imperialism, military preparedness, and militarism, or the admiration and exaltation of the martial virtues, were inextricably bound together” in the years before the First World War. [47]   Lord Roberts’ conclusion that the militia showed themselves to be “useful” is also telling: it speaks to a certain strand of British paternalism that would make itself clearly evident in the reaction to the trip of 1910.

Beyond the bright uniforms and imperial approval, however, there were issues.  In-fighting  over the allotted budget between Frederick Borden (Minister of Militia) and now-Major-General Sir William D. Otter, Chief of the General Staff, led to preparations being pushed to the last minute and resulting in much Parliamentary bitterness. [48]   More immediately, the Tercentenary had exhausted regimental coffers: the Toronto Militia District’s Thanksgiving exercises for 1908 had to be cancelled as the regiments looked to recuperate the financial expense of taking their regiments to Quebec (the Queen’s Own included). Such expenditure on pageantry frustrated many militia observers, as it was   felt that the focus on flashy uniforms had “revers[ed] much of what had been achieved in recent years  in terms of encouraging practicality and efficiency.” [49]  Add to this the increasing divide between rich urban regiments (like the Queen’s Own) and those from rural counties who could not afford the nicest dress uniforms – and who would be derided by some aesthetic-focused newspapers for being “perennially ragged performers” – and the Tercentenary was definitely seen by some as a step backward, and not in tune with the realities of what was necessary in the new twentieth century.

In the end, the “English trip” was thus not completely out of the blue; it emerged from a environment in which pride, practicality, imperialism, and nationalism were combining to both maintain and break traditional notions of what the Canadian militia was supposed to do, be and think. Sir Henry and the Queen’s Own were one part of this changing dynamic, and it is to their journey that we now turn.

Part III 

Notes:

[13] The Times, 12 December 1909, as recorded in Lieutenant-Colonel T. Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 92.

[14] The Daily Mail, 17 February 1910, as recorded ibid.

[15] Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 91, and Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada,

[16] The full text is contained in Oreskovich’s biography and is heavily coded; a slightly confusing bit of security surrounding so public a visit.

[17] For full details of Pellatt’s military career, see the chapter “Rusty Knight in Shining Armour” in Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 30-40, and Major C.B. Lindsey, “The English Trip,” in the 1910 re-union programme, AQOR, as well as Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada.

[18] Public Archives of Nova Scotia (PANS), MG 2/164 11000/F4, Pellatt to Borden, 31 December 1904, as recorded in Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt,

[19] Public Archives of Canada (PAC), GG, RG7, 621 684, series of letters between Lord Grey and Laurier and Pellatt and Lord Grey, as recorded in Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 35-8.

[20] PAC, MG 27/11B, 1/23, Sladen to Minto, 23 May 1906, as recorded in Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 39

[21] Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 86.

[22] Berger, The Sense of Power, 259. This work remains mandatory reading for those studying Canadian nationalism and imperialism in the subject time period.

[23] Ibid., 259-60.

[24] Ibid., 259.

[25] For full details, see “Dressing Up History,” Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 82-90, and Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 86-91.

[26] Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Barnard concludes in a jingoist fashion that “[Sir Henry] loved Canada: not in the pale, anaemic fashion of today but with an intensity and single-heartedness that would be quite foreign to many of the present generation.”

[27] Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, 32-5, and Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 77-85.

[28] “Ties With the Empire,” The Standard, 14 August 1910, in scrapbook 9999, #20, AQOR

[29] Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 72-7.

[30] Wood, Militia Myths, 82.

[31] As quoted in Carman Miller, Painting the Map Red:Canada and the South African War, 1899-1902 (Montreal and Kingston: Canadian War Museum and McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993), 440

[32] A.T. Hunter, “The Fatuous Insolence of the Canadians, Empire Club Speeches, 1903-04 (Toronto: William Briggs, 1904), 64

[33] Wood, Militia Myths, See the chapter “Don’t Call Me Tommy: 1901-1904” for further discussion.

[34] As quoted in “The Colonial Soldiers,” in The Canadian Military Gazette, 15, 13 (3 July 1900): 10

[35] For some examples, see “The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada,” Whitehall Review, July 1910; “Canada’s Crack Corps,” Daily News, 3 July 1910; “Records of Famous Regiments: The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada,” unsourced, 13 August 1910; and “A Crack Canadian Regiment,” unsourced, undated; all found in scrapbook 9999, #2-15, AQOR

[36] “Famous Regiment in Camp at Aldershot,” The Standard of Empire, 2 September 1910 is one example, but scrapbooks 9999, 02233 and 02251 are full of Evidently a small troop of New Zealand cavalry had visited some months before, but this was discounted quickly and quietly by every article that bothered to mention it.

[37] Hunter, “The Fatulous Insolence of the Canadians,” 63

[38] “Comments,” Canadian Military Gazette, 19 March 1908, as quoted in James Wood, Militia Myths, 84

[39] “Comments,” Canadian Military Gazette, 16, 3 (5 February 1901): 3.

[40] “The Summer Camps,” Canadian Military Gazette, 15, 10 (15 May 1900): 10

[41] Wood, Militia Myths, 139; Nelles, The Art of Nation-Building, For a complete understanding of Quebec’s Tercentenary of 1908, Nelles’ work is essential.

[42] Wood, Militia Myths, 142-3.

[43] As quoted in Nelles, The Art of Nation-Building, 210

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid., 199.

[46] As quoted

[47] Berger, The Sense of Power, 233

[48] Nelles, The Art of Nation-Building, Colonel Denison, a staunch imperialist and old foe of Otter, was particularly incensed at the lack of initial support for the parade. For further discussion, see the citation.

[49] Wood, Militia Myths, 142

“A Serious Piece of Business” Part I

Recently Master Corporal Nikolas A. E. Mouriopoulos of The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment of Canada) completed a paper for his Masters Degree in History which he undertook at the University of Toronto. Last fall he approached the museum with the hope of researching Canada’s oldest continuous infantry unit. While exploring the archival storage rooms he found several scrapbooks neatly filled with newspaper clippings on the Regiment’s 1910 trip to England, organized and financed by Major General Sir Henry Pellatt. After some further thought and discussion with his advisor, his paper’s them evolved into a comparison of the rampant imperialism of the time vs. rising Canadian nationalism:

“…the voyage of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to the Aldershot exercises of 1910 serves as an excellent metonymic device for helping to understand Canada’s military history and sense of nationhood within the Empire at an important moment in the country’s history. That it is such a unique story only makes it better in the telling.”

Our thanks to MCpl Mouriopoulos for allowing us to reprint his paper in a multi part series on our blog. Here is Part I.

__________________________________________________________________

“A Serious Piece of Business”:
Sir Henry Pellatt, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, and the “English Trip” of 1910

Part I

On Friday, the 6th of January 1939, a gala dinner was held at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto for members both past and present of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada (QOR). The dinner was to honour two events: the eightieth birthday of Major-General Sir Henry M. Pellatt, C.V.O., V.D., D.C.L., once-Officer Commanding of the regiment and proud servant to his unit for over sixty-three years; and the twenty-ninth anniversary of “the English trip,” or “the occasion in 1910 when the Regiment moved off to England and learned a lot of soldiering with the British Army,” as the reunion programme describes it. Those veterans of the trip who had survived the Great War and old age congregated for a black-tie affair in which a traditional “Aldershot buffet” was served, toasts to royalty were proclaimed, and Sir Henry, slowed and near penniless by this time but once of the wealthiest men in the Dominion, was stylishly fêted one last time before his beloved regiment. [1]  The timing was important, as in two months Sir Henry would be dead, commemorated in a funeral that would attract thousands to St. James Cathedral in Toronto. [2]

“The English trip” was in fact the journey in August and September of 1910 of nearly the entire regiment, nearly 640 men and officers total, to participate in the summer exercises of His Majesty’s armies at Aldershot, Hampshire, in the United Kingdom. The men and officers were gone for over a month, leaving behind jobs, friends and family in order to participate in hard training, visit the King, and tour both London and the English countryside. As both Canadian and British newspapers at the time made clear, the voyage was remarkable for two reasons: for one, it was the first time a “colonial” regiment had visited the mother country for the purposes of training, or indeed at all as a complete unit; and secondly, that its resulting wages, equipment, and transport there and back was paid for almost entirely by Sir Henry Pellatt, then-Colonel of the regiment’s two battalions. These same newspapers covered the story throughout and cheering crowds greeted the regiment at every stop along the way, on both sides of the Atlantic.

In light of the fact that the First World War was still in recent memory – a war to which the regiment contributed, and suffered, much – and rumours of another one in the near future were beginning to abound, the above reunion appears to have made much of a relatively insignificant historical event. A pleasurable trip, yes, and of some practical value to be sure, but not worthy of the same study or commemoration due to Ypres or the Somme, to 1914 or 1918. And yet, it is clear that this was not the case for those who undertook it. The memories of this event persevered into 1939 and beyond and today form a major part of the regiment’s own sense of history, if displays at Casa Loma – Pellatt’s one-time mansion and current home to the regimental archives – can be taken at face value.

Moreover, for the modern reader of history, the voyage of the QOR to Aldershot in 1910 provides a fascinating window into the complex and often competing understandings of Canadian militia development prior to the Great War, understandings that have only recently been analysed at length by historians.

On the one hand, the expedition to Aldershot was very much the product of one man’s ambition to be the ultimate imperial servant, both in his own mind and in others. It speaks to the incredibly personal nature of the Canadian militia in 1910 that Sir Henry, driven in part by a desire for honours and in part for a desire to bring fame to his home and regiment, was able to outfit and control a massive military undertaking with only the barest of auspices of control from the federal government, the nominal head of militia affairs. He was referred to in his lifetime by friends as “the most generous and enthusiastic amateur soldier in Canada,” [3] and the title is not without some merit in this instance: the  cost of the expedition was staggering. A figure of £20,000 was repeated throughout newspapers of the time (occasionally £30,000), while Pellatt biographer Carlie Oreskovich estimates the cost to have been anywhere from $30,000 to almost as high as $150,000 in contemporary Canadian currency. Today, the value of those amounts is anywhere from one to three million Canadian dollars. [4]  Though the British government contributed approximately $11,400 for rations at the camps, there is no doubt that the Aldershot expedition was very much Pellatt’s project. [5]

And yet, the expedition was also both the product and symbol of a very dynamic and conflicted point in Canada’s nascent military development. As will be demonstrated in this study of the “English trip,” Pellatt’s motives and the QOR’s participation in military exercises in 1910 very much stemmed from a context in which the militia was slowly shifting from Victorian traditions and parochial idiosyncrasies towards something resembling modern professionalism, preparation and self-awareness; and a country in which the lines between imperialism and nationalism were becoming increasingly blurred, often as much in conjunction with one another as they were separating. What’s more, the “English trip” was also just that: a trip to the mother country, and a mother country at that whose own ideas of Canada and its armies came from and were manifest in a very different perspective than that present in Toronto. Seen in this light, the voyage of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada to the Aldershot exercises of 1910 serves as an excellent metonymic device for helping to understand Canada’s military history and sense of nationhood within the Empire at an important moment in the country’s history.

That it is such a unique story only makes it better in the telling.

A Note on Historiography

It is one of the great misfortunes of Canadian historical writing that so vibrant and dynamic a figure as Sir Henry Pellatt left so little in the way of personal records. As Pellatt biographer Carlie Oreskovich notes in his preface to Sir Henry Pellatt: The King of Casa Loma (1982), Pellatt “left no massive tomes of personal thoughts nor insightful, random musings or diaries.” He was a businessman first and foremost, and “not a literary person.” [6]  His later financial troubles and the auction they necessitated to support him have only made the task more difficult. Oreskovich’s work is still the only full-length biography of the man: while it is to be celebrated for this, the work suffers occasionally from its attempts at romantic narrative construction and occasional hagiography.

Still, Oreskovich at least offers a starting point in his three chapters on the Aldershot voyage. Unfortunately, few works in the growing Canadian military genre discuss Pellatt or the expedition to Aldershot in any length, if at all. From George F.G. Stanley’s Canada’s Soldiers: The Military History of an Unmilitary People (1954) to J.L. Granatstein’s Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace (2002), or Stephen J. Harris’ Canadian Brass: The Making of a Professional Army, 1860-1939 (1988) to Desmond Morton’s A Military History of Canada (revised in 2007), these works’ focus is on the traditional subjects of military history: the battlefield, the wars in general, or in Harris’ and Morton’s case, the politics in Ottawa that shaped Canada’s military organization approach to these things in its first decades. [7]   Desmond Morton’s earlier work Ministers and Generals: Politics and the Canadian Militia, 1868-1904 (1970) mentions Pellatt once, but only in regards to the patronage involved with his appointment to lead the coronation contingent for Edward VII in 1902; it too focuses on Ottawa and the development of the militia at a national level. [8]   There is no place in these for the peacetime project of a financier with no obvious connections to national defence ambitions.

A few key studies, however, do offer some valuable insight into the world in which Sir Henry and his Queen’s Own were operating in 1910. R.G. Moyles and Doug Owram’s Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British Views of Canada, 1880-1914 (1988) and Carl Berger’s classic The Sense of Power: Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914 (1970), for instance, offer interesting analyses of contemporary Canadian and British perceptions of Canadian nationalism as expressed through the military, while H.V. Nelles’ The Art of Nation-Building: Pageantry and Spectacle at Quebec’s Tercentenary tells of a specific event that sheds much light on both these perceptions and the state of Canada’s militia in the years just before the Aldershot voyage. [9]   Stepping outside military studies, Cecilia Morgan’s ‘A Happy Holiday’: English Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870- 1930 (1999) provides valuable insight in to how Canadian visits to the United Kingdom played a role “forging and sharpening…identities and perceptions.” [10]   The chief work on the subject of the militia in Canada’s society and culture at the turn of the 19th Century, however, is James Wood’s recent Militia Myths: Ideas of the Canadian Citizen Soldier, 1896-1921, published in 2010. A study of “ideas and attitudes” more than “the reality…of defence planning and wartime achievements,” it seeks to explore the realities and perceptions of the citizen-soldier myth and how these ideas “formed the basis of a distinctly Canadian military culture,” a hybrid of old and new and imperial and autonomous far before the traditional starting point of 1914. [11]

A final mention must go to the regimental archives of the modern-day Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, still serving Canada as a Reserve Force regiment over 150 years after its founding. Located appropriately in Casa Loma, the archives are maintained by a volunteer force who dedicate weeknights and weekend days to preserving the history of Toronto’s most senior infantry regiment. The archives offered two vital sources of information for this study. The first was Lieutenant-Colonel W.T.  Barnard’s The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 1860-1960: One Hundred Years of Canada, produced on the centenary of the regiment’s founding. [12]  While prone to hyperbole, a veteran’s rose-tinted glasses and a lack of professional bibliography, Barnard’s history rests as the only organized and lucid  chronicle of the regiment’s early history, which is particularly helpful for a time period when records of this nature are few and far between. The second source emerged during a peremptory visit before this paper was started, when a trip to a rarely-used storeroom led to the discovery of almost a dozen similar- looking heavy scrapbooks, all full of newspaper clippings from various Canadian and English newspapers that covered the expedition from start to finish. While not organized in a perfect chronological fashion, these books were clearly crafted with care by those who partook or had connections to the visit, as the clippings are almost as clear as the days they were printed almost 100 years ago. These articles form the backbone of the primary research into this topic, and are where this study will begin.

Notes:

[1] Major B. Lindsey, “The English Trip,” in the 1910 re-union programme, Archives of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, hereafter referred to as “AQOR”. The abbreviation “QOR” will denote the regiment for the rest of this paper, along with the shortened “Queen’s Own.”

[2] Carlie Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt: The King of Casa Loma (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1982), 5

[3] As quoted in Henry James Morgan, , The Canadian Men and Women of the Time, 2nd ed. (Toronto, 1912), 894.

[4] Values obtained using historic currency converter at MeasuringWorth, “Purchasing Power of British Pounds from 1270 to Present,” accessed 20 August 2014 at http://measuringworth.com/calculators/ppoweruk/

[5] The Evening Telegram, 3 October 1910, 13, as quoted in Carlie Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt,

[6] Oreskovich, Sir Henry Pellatt, xi-xiv.

[7] George Stanley, Canada’s Soldiers: The Military History of an Unmilitary People (Toronto: The Macmillan Company of Canada, 1960); L. Granatstein, Canada’s Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002); Stephen J. Harris, Canadian Brass: The Making of a Professional Army, 1860-1939 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada, 5th ed. (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 2007).

[8] Desmond Morton, Ministers and Generals: Politics and the Canadian Militia, 1868-1904 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 20

[9] Moyles, R.G., and Doug Owram, Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British Views of Canada, 1880-1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1988); Carl Berger, The Sense of Power:Studies in the Ideas of Canadian Imperialism, 1867-1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970); V. Nelles, The Art of Nation-Building: Pageantry and Spectacle at Quebec’s Tercentenary (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999).

[10] Cecilia Morgan, ‘A Happy Holiday’, English Canadians and Transatlantic Tourism, 1870-1930 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), 19.

[11] James Wood, Militia Myths: Ideas of the Canadian Citizen Soldier, 1896-1921 (Vancouver: UBC Press, 2010), 2

[12] Lieutenant-Colonel W.T. Barnard, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, 1860-1960: One Hundred Years of Canada (Don Mills: The Ontario Publishing Company, 1960).