Tag Archives: battle of ridgeway

The Toronto Company of Highland Rifles

The article below is an excerpt from The 48th Highlanders of Toronto, by Alexander Fraser, M.A. which was published in 1900 as “The Origin and History of this Regiment and a short account of the Highland Regiments from time to time stationed in Canada.”

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Among the things around which military memories linger in Toronto is the Company of Highland Rifles, at one time attached to the Queen’s Own Rifles. The veterans of to-day delight, as veterans only do, in reminiscences of the time when they served in its ranks, and to them it is a source of regret that no adequate account of it has been preserved.

Within the scope of this work only a brief notice is permissible; yet, as a company in which the Highland idea of soldiering was enthusiastically upheld and exemplified, a short sketch is obviously in place in this volume.

The company was raised on the 18th of September, 1856, those chiefly instrumental in its organization being: A. M. Smith, at one time in the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders; A. T. Fulton, merchant; John Gardner, at one time in the 71st Highland Light Infantry: Robert Sutherland and Mr. R. H. Ramsay. The first officers were: A. M. Smith, Captain; A. T. Fulton. Lieutenant; John Gardner, Ensign; Francis McMannus Russell, Surgeon. It was then known as No. 3 Independent Volunteer Rifle Co. of Toronto.

When the independent companies were formed into No. 2 Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles, the Highland Company was designated No. 4 (Highland). At that time Captain A. M. Smith was appointed Major in the Queen’s Own Rifles, and his place was taken in the captaincy of the Highland Company by Lieutenant Fulton. Ensign Gardner becoming Lieutenant, and John Sheddon, Ensign. This was in May. 1860. Captain Fulton is said by Mr. Chadwick to have been “a splendid drill, and aided by the natural steadiness of the Highlanders, soon obtained a reputation for his company which they ever afterwards maintained.”

In 1863 Captain Fulton retired, and Lieutenant John Gardner was, on the 21st August of that year, appointed to the command of the company, with R. H. Ramsay as Lieutenant, and Donald Gibson as Ensign. ln 1866 Captain Gardner retired from active command and was succeeded by Lieutenant Ramsay as Captain with Ensign Gibson as Lieutenant. and Mr. Henry Scott as Ensign. These were the officers of the company at the time of its dissolution.

Although No. 4 of the Queen’s Own Rifles, at first, the company was, being dressed in the kilt, always placed on the left of the line of the parade, and for this reason the number was changed from 4 to 10, the latter number being the one by which it is familiar to the survivors of those connected with it.

In 1866 Captain Gardner was associated with Captain Ramsay in the Fenian Raid expedition, and commanded at Ridgeway. It is related with pride how the Highland Rifles was the last to retire from the field. Mr. Matheson, druggist, Toronto, acted as company bugler that day, and when the “retreat” was sounded he did not interpret it as a retire call. Some one in the front ranks called out to Captain Gardner that he had heard a retire call. That officer was enraged at the idea and shouted back: “If you say it again I’ll cut you down with my sword. It’s a charge. Are you ready?” Pouches were examined and those who had three or more cartridges left had to share one or more of them with those who had only one or none. The ammunition was nearly all spent. These are said to have been Captain Gardner’s orders We are now to charge. Steady men! Go forward at the double, keeping steady as if on parade. You know how to do it, you’ve done it often at drill. Keep steady as you march on, but cheer for all you’re worth.” The company advanced about twenty paces at the double when an officer rode up and shouted Halt! where are you going with these men, sir? Can’t you see the line has retired?” The order was then given: “The shortest way to the reserve” and the company retired. Among those wounded were John Whyte and Forbes McHardy.

The company lay at Stratford for some weeks, and there a photograph was taken of the company, with its officers in front, which is a much cherished relic in many homes now scattered over Canada and the United States, for members of the Highland Rifles have followed Fortune wherever her smile beckoned.

No 10 (Highland) Company, June 1866
No 10 (Highland) Company, June 1866

On the 1st of October, 1868, the company disbanded because the Government refused to grant an allowance in lieu of the ordinary uniform: or perhaps it would be more correct to say that for the sake of uniformity the military authorities insisted upon the company adopting the same uniform as the other companies of the regiment wore and as the Highlanders were not permitted to wear the kilt, they declined re-enrollment under the Militia Act of 1868. and so became extinct.

The members continued to meet at their old rendezvous, and not having now the bond of military duty to keep them together, the idea occurred to some of them that they should form themselves into a Scottish society. About that time the old Highland Society of Toronto was less active than usual, and an amalgamation was brought about between it and the members of the Highland company, the combined body being named the “Caledonian Society of Toronto,” including Highlander and Lowlander, under the Gaelic name “Caledonia,” usually derived from “CoilIe daoine.” “Woodlanders.” It is interesting to note that the society thus formed. should, twenty-three years afterwards, in 1891, have retained so lively a recollection of the experiences associated with the old Highland Rifles as to be among the most enthusiastic promoters and generous donors of the 48th Highlanders at the period of its organization.

Pipe Major Alexander M. Oliphant, Toronto 1865
Pipe Major Alexander M. Oliphant, Toronto 1865

The interesting list of the original members is as follows: the officers as already mentioned Quarter-Master-Sergeant George Ocil. Col.-Sergeant Robert Sutherland, Sergeants Robert Morrison and James Gray. Corporals Robert Jaffray and Wm. Ramsay. Piper Donald MacRae, Bugler Wm. Wallace, Privates Archie McFarlane, Wm. Bansley, Alexander Barrie, Henry Braid, John Calver, William Cos, Nicholas Cumming, Andrew Fleming, Peter Gardner. George Gilchrist, William Goldie. George Gratton, Alexander Gray, Allan Walker, Walter Wilson, Daniel Rose, James Mowan, John Atchison, Neil Johnston, Wm. G. Kemp. Alexander Moodie, Malcolm Morrison, Joseph McGeorge, Wm. McGeorge. Alaistair MacDonald. Thomas MacIntosh. Duncan MacKjnnon, Alistair H. Oliphant. Henry McLeod, Robert H. Ramsay, Adam Reid, David Ross, Alexander Thorburn, George Wills, James Wilson, and Sam. Hutcheson.

The uniform was the same as that of the 93rd Sutherland Highlanders, with the exception of the feather bonnet the glengarry being worn —and the tunic, which was of green material with red facings.

Another Highland company which was connected with the Queen’s Own Rifles. Toronto, was “F” or No.6 company of Whitby. It was incorporated with the Queen’s Own on the formation of the latter in 1860. It does not appear to have ever paraded with the regiment although not gazetted out until November. 1862. It is now No. 1 Company of the 34th regiment.

Museum display at 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway

The morning of 2 June 1866 was hot and humid as the volunteers of the Queen’s Own and 13th Battalion marched down main street of Ridgeway, Ontario towards battle with the invading Fenian Army. 150 years later, Saturday 4 June 2016 was just as hot and humid but for the volunteers of the Queen’s Own Museum and Archives the biggest enemy was trying to assemble the army tentage as they set-up their display at the Crystal Ridge Arena in Ridgeway. The museum volunteers had been preparing since early spring when it was decided that the museum would participate in the commemoration event of the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway.

It was agreed upon that despite the risk, we would take one of our most important artifacts; the tunic belonging to Ensign Malcolm McEachren who fell in the battle that day and would become the first soldier to die in battle from the regiment. The tunic would be the centre piece of the display.

Ensign McEachern's tunic on display
Ensign McEachern’s tunic on display

The volunteers also produced a set of pop-up signs and posters describing the battle and the part the Queen’s Own played in it.

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Museum display tent

At the last minute it was determined that the Snider Enfield rifle that was carried by Rifleman John Mewburn during the battle until he was shot would also be available to be put on display thanks to a generous and trusting owner. The rifle was taken back to the University of Toronto by his student comrades after he fell in battle. It was held by the school for many years but it is said it was sold-off after a fire in the late 1890’s.

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from L-R, Rifleman Mewburn’s Snider Enfield, listing of casualties, Fenian Raid medal, trophy presented to Mrs Pring by officers of the regiment in 1866

 

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One of the most popular exhibits was a cut-out of QOR soldiers for people to pose for pictures with.

The day turned out to be a complete success; almost 500 people visited the display, the weather was perfect, the volunteers were able to to tell the story of the regiment and its soldiers, and all the artifacts were returned safely to the museum and their owners.

Thomas Lockie: The First to wear the London Scottish uniform in Battle; 1866

The following article was written by Anthony Partington in June 2015 for the London Scottish regimental news and we are pleased to repost it here with his permission as we anticipate the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Ridgeway. {Photo above No. 10 Highland Company after Battle of Ridgeway]

The Battle of Ridgeway, June 2 1866, was probably the first battle fought entirely by members of the Volunteer Movement in either Britain or Canada. It was also the last battle fought in Canada against a foreign invader. For the London Scottish Regiment, and long forgotten, the battle was the first time that our uniform was worn in action.

Lady Elcho, speaking in the Fall 1866 prize-giving, said: “It is with no small pride that we, this year, heard of one who had served in the ranks of the London Scottish having greatly distinguished himself by his enthusiasm and steadiness in the field against the Fenians in Canada. This refers to Colour-Sergeant Lockie, of No. 8 Company, who went into action in the uniform of the London Scottish, which thus came under fire for the first time.”

Thomas E. Lockie, – a Volunteer from the London Scottish

In June 1866, the Governor General presented to both houses of the Legislature the Adjutant-General of Militia in Canada’s report on the state of the Volunteer system in the Province of Canada (note Confederation was yet to come in 1867). It makes special note of the presence of young Thomas Lockie who fought in the Battle of Ridgeway (also known as Lime Ridge) with the true martial spirit of the British and Canadian Volunteer Movement.

“It would be impossible to detail the many individual instances of devotion to Canada which have been afforded by her sons; but the behavior of a stranger not long arrived in the country from England should not be left without notice. Mr. Lockie, a young gentleman of the London Scottish (Lord Elcho’s Regiment), who had distinguished himself at Wimbledon, came to Canada 18 months ago. When the Fenians landed at Fort Erie he had only been a few weeks returned from England with a young bride. He immediately fell into the ranks of the Queen’s Own as a private, and fought at the Battle of Lime Ridge, where the grey colour of his uniform, that of the London Scottish, exposed him particularly to the fire of the enemy. His coolness and bravery were conspicuous, and during the retreat he was always seen in the rear, encouraging his comrades and leading and firing with as much deliberation as if on a field day.”

Col. Garnet Wolseley, Deputy Adjutant-General of Militia in Canada, had arrived on the battlefield on June 3 and took command of the British forces in the area. In all probability, it was he who placed the glowing praise of Mr. Lockie in the Addenda to the Militia Report. Wolseley had served in the 84th Regiment in the Indian Mutiny with Lord Elcho’s brother-in-law Major Augustus H.A. Anson V.C., M.P. They were both best friends with Lord Elcho. Their reports back to Lord Elcho of the unsuitability of scarlet, blue and green uniforms in a modern battle probably sensitized Wolseley to the presence of the Hodden Grey on the battlefield.

There is a photo of No 10 Company taken at Stratford where the British and Canadian forces regrouped after the battle under the command of Col. Wolseley. The muster roll shows three official Volunteers in the company, including Lockie, discharged from strength by June 6. He could be the man in the photo as it would be of those who had fought. Of note is how the civilian dress in grey of the one Volunteer stands out against the rifle green tunics and Black Watch tartan trews of the Highland Company supporting the comment in the Adjutant-General’s report. The Hodden Grey uniform of the London Scottish would have been similar.

Thomas Eman Lockie was born 6 January 1838 in Kelso, Roxburghshire to Andrew Lockie, a wealthy farmer with 800 acres of arable land and 100 acres of grass employing 13 men, 8 women and 3 boys. Thomas spent his formative years in a boarding school and, by 1861, he was a merchantile clerk living in Lambeth. Lockie was noted as being a Colour-Sergeant of No. 8 Company, under Captain Macgregor in March 1862. He arrived in Canada in late 1864 or early 1865 but returned to England to marry Janet Eman in Lambeth in the first quarter of 1866 (curiously a woman with the same surname as his mother and most likely his cousin). Within a matter of weeks, Lockie and his bride made the long voyage back to Canada and a new life in Toronto. Despite his young age, he had both strong qualifications and good connections as, in short order, he became the secretary for the newly founded Toronto Steel, Iron and Railway Works. The young couple’s domestic tranquility, however, was short-lived and within a few days of arriving back, Lockie was volunteering to fight the Fenians.

Serving as a Private in the Queen’s Own Rifles, Lockie fought at the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2 1866 near Fort Erie in the Niagara peninsula. He survived the battle but just over a year later, he died of liver failure, a disease contracted during his military service. His fate and his connection to the London Scottish were again duly reported in local and national newspapers and by the QOR.

The Globe of Oct 21, 1867 stated:

“ DEATH OF A VOLUNTEER- Mr T. E. Lockie, a member of the Highland Company of the Queen’s Own Rifles, died in this city on Saturday, and will be buried today with military honours. The deceased prior to his arrival in this country, was a member of the London Scottish Regiment of Volunteers, and, during his connection with the Queen’s Own, experienced all the hardships of their Fort Erie campaign, and there contracted a disease which accelerated his death. At the Battle of Ridgeway, he appeared in the grey kilt and hose of his former regiment, and at the retreat his conduct was marked by bravery. After the fight, the behavior of the peculiarly-dressed individual, as he was styled, elicited the admiration of even the Fenians, he, while the retreat was going on, having remained so far behind as to be under the fire of both sides, while his cool and collected behavior during the engagement was a source of encouragement to his comrades-in-arms. He was secretary of the Toronto Steel and Iron Works since the opening of that establishment, and conducted himself there to the satisfaction of his employer.”

The Globe of Oct 22, 1867 stated:

“VOLUNTEER FUNERAL- The funeral of the late Corporal Lockie, of the Highland Company, Queen’s Own Rifles, took place from the residence of the deceased to the Necropolis yesterday afternoon. The deceased was buried with full military honours. A firing party from the company to which the deceased belonged, headed the funeral cortege and immediately in rear was the regimental band of the battalion, the hearse, a number of the volunteer force, and friends of the deceased in carriages, bringing up the rear. On their arrival at the ground, a volley was fired over the grave by his comrades, and the earth closed over a volunteer whose record in our force was honourable, and whose memory deserves to be warmly cherished.”

“Aperture Sight”, the columnist in the Volunteer Review and Military and Naval Gazette of October 28 credits both reports above originally to Lt. Col. Gillmor, O.C. the QOR. As an aside to the battle report, many southern Fenians wore their ex-Confederate States’ grey uniforms with green facings in the battle, which was why friendly forces would shoot at Lockie.

Curiously, Lockie lies in an unmarked grave belonging to John Lang Blaikie, along with two of Blaikie’s infant children, in the Toronto Necropolis. Both Blaikie and Janet Eman Lockie were Executors of Lockie’s will and estate in Canada. These facts suggest both Executors did not do justice to this man, considering that he left an estate worth $4,078, and probably some collusion. Blaikie was a wealthy and prominent Toronto stockbroker and businessman; a man who, like Lockie, had immigrated to Canada from the small Scottish shire of Roxburgh. While the connection between Blaikie and Lockie is not clear, one may assume that Blaikie had known Lockie’s family in Scotland and had most likely mentored the young Lockie on his arrival in Toronto into the Toronto Steel, Iron and Railway Works and managed his investments.

Eight months later, the Department of Militia and Defence in Ottawa also recognized Lockie’s contributions. There is a post in the Canada Gazette on June 1, 1868 noting that Thomas E. Lockie, “Queen’s Own Rifles, died of disease contracted at the Battle of Ridgeway” and that his widow had been awarded a gratuity of $200.

What had started out with such promise ended in the bitter loss of a brave and promising young man so soon after his moment of glory.

The 1866 Fenian Raid

For a young man with military experience, Thomas E Lockie’s arrival in Canada was opportune. With the conclusion of the American Civil War, the Fenian Society decided to organize disbanded Irish soldiers from both the Union and Confederate Armies into Volunteer units for the invasion of Canada. The intent was to secure a piece of Canada by force that could be traded for the freedom of Ireland. Some 1500 Fenian troops crossed the Niagara River north of Fort Erie with many more waiting to cross. The campaign was the first to be fought under the flag and title “Irish Republican Army”.

The British forces mobilized to fight this Fenian incursion were split into two. Included in the northern force were elements of the 16th and 47th Foot of British Infantry, a battery of Royal Artillery, along with local companies of Volunteer Militia from the Niagara area. Their objective was to protect the railway routes north to Niagara Falls and the only bridge to the USA and west towards the Welland Canal. The southern force, consisting of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto (QOR), the 13th Battalion Canadian Volunteer Militia (later The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry), the Caledonia and York companies of Militia, the Dunnville Naval Brigade, the Welland Canal Field Artillery Battery (with no field guns), were to protect the railway line leading west to Port Colborne and the southern entrance to the Welland Canal.

Despite a massive call-out in March 1866, preparations were inadequate for an attack.
Ammunition ration for target practice was limited and few Militiamen had ever fired their rifles. The Militia units had no knapsacks or water bottles to campaign with. This wasn’t as obvious a problem until the QOR went into battle unfed, with no water and only 20 rounds of ammunition –sufficient for about seven minutes of heavy fire! No fear – they proposed to bayonet the Fenians, a tactic almost unheard of in the American Civil War. Many soldiers drank ditch water because of the lack of water bottles and possibly this was the reason for Lockie’s disease. The March call-out had been a ‘cry wolf’- nothing had happened and nothing was done to correct deficiencies. Many small businessmen and students suffered commercially and time-wise such that many did not report for the June call-out. The shortfalls allowed Thomas Lockie an opportunity to serve as a trained soldier.

The Fenian intelligence was excellent. They knew that the northern force was mainly British regular soldiers while the southern force was untried Canadian Militia. They chose to attack the 841 Militia at Ridgeway first, then the British regulars. The ill-equipped and relatively untrained Militia troops attacked aggressively. A ‘cavalry’ alarm caused the Canadians to form square (a Napoleonic War tactic still in the British Drill Book) in front of trained American infantry, resulting in many fatalities and injuries. Nine men died that day from the QOR with others in the weeks following. Perversely, the error in command probably saved lives since the QOR and the 13th Battalion were just about to engage the Fenian main force with insufficient ammunition. The experienced and well-supplied Fenians would have cut them to pieces. The battle at Ridgeway was a tactical defeat for the Canadians, yet a strategic victory, since the Fenians withdrew back to the USA the next day after the US Government cut off reinforcements and supplies to the Fenians.

The Canadian Volunteer Militia

The Volunteer Movement in England produced many fine battalions including The London Scottish Volunteer Rifles and also influenced the creation of many Volunteer regiments in Canada that in time became the majority of the Canadian Army. Many were called out in March and June 1866 and at other times up to 1870 in response to the three-pronged planned Fenian attack. The western attack from Detroit never happened. The eastern attack into Quebec was effectively a police action while the central attack through Fort Erie was an actual battle involving the Queen’s Own Rifles.

The 2nd Battalion, Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada was formed April 26, 1860 in Upper Canada from four independent rifle companies in Toronto and a company each from Barrie and Whitby. The ‘Queen’s Own Rifles of Toronto’ title was given in March 1863 when they became part of the Service Militia of Canada with a role as a fighting force in contrast to the remainder of the Volunteer companies that acted generally as military police / Frontier Constabulary. The impetus in Upper and Lower Canada was the American Civil War with numerous small raids by Union or Confederate forces across the border and the desire by Britain to withdraw the remaining regular regiments. By 1866, the QOR consisted of 10 companies solely from Toronto including No. 10 (Highland) Company. The Highland Societies of Toronto formed the Highland Company in 1860, similar to the foundation of the London Scottish, but disbanded it in 1868. Later the Highland Societies raised the 48th Highlanders of Toronto in 1891.

The 48th Highlanders contained a number of expatriate London Scots who corresponded with the London Scottish Gazette for many years and who were known to Lt. (later Captain) Colin C. Harbottle. Lt. Col. CC Harbottle later commanded the 75th Battalion in WW1 and The Toronto Scottish Regiment after the war. The London Scottish Regiment has deep and abiding connections with Canada and now one more can be added to the roster – the story of Thomas E. Lockie, the first to wear the regimental uniform in battle.

Strike Sure and Carry On
Anthony Partington

Decoration Day held once again at Volunteer Memorial

Last week, for the first time in decades, citizens gathered to lay flowers on the National Volunteer Memorial which was created to remember those militiamen who served and died in the service of their country at and following the the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) on June 2, 1860.

Nine of those were members of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada – 7 killed in action and 2 more died shortly thereafter of wounds. Several others were wounded – two requiring amputations.

KILLED

Rifleman William D. Smith No. 2 Company
Lance-Corporal Mark B. Defries No. 3 Company
Ensign Malcolm McEachern No. 5 Company
Rifleman Christopher Alderson No. 7 Company
Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest No. 9 Company
Rifleman Malcolm McKenzie No. 9 Company
Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn No. 9 Company

WOUNDED

No. 1 Company Ensign William Fahey knee
No. 1 Company Rifleman Oulster leg (calf)
No. 2 Company Sergeant Hugh Matheson thigh
(died June 11)
No. 2 Company Corporal Francis Lakey mouth
(died June 11)
No. 2 Company Rifleman William Thompson neck
No. 3 Company Captain J. B. Boustead contused
No. 3 Company Lieutenant J. H. Beaven thigh
No. 3 Company Rifleman Chas. Winter thigh
No. 4 Company Chas. Lugsdin lung and arm
No. 5 Company Chas. Bell knee
No. 5 Company Rifleman Capp wrist
No. 6 Company Lieutenant W. C. Campbell shoulder
No. 6 Company Corporal Paul Robins knee (since
amputated)
No. 6 Company Rifleman Rutherford foot
No. 7 Company Sergeant W. Foster side
No. 9 Company Rifleman E. T. Paul knee
No. 9 Company Rifleman R. E. Kingsford leg
No. 9 Company Rifleman E. G. Paterson arm
No. 9 Company Rifleman W. H. Vandersmissen groin
No. 10 Company Colour-Sergeant F. McHardy arm
No. 10 Company Rifleman White arm (since
amputated)

You can read more about the battle here.

Thanks to journalist, author and educator, Peter Vronsky for organizing the ceremony. Participants included QOR Skirmishers, bugler and padre; and period soldiers from the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry who fought at Ridgeway as the 13th Battalion.

Photos below are courtesy of retired Captain Larry Hicks, CD.

9 Reasons the QOR Remember Decoration Day

You might be excused if you’ve never heard of Decoration Day – but from 1890 to 1931 it was our first official day of remembering those who had died in the service of their country.

Peter Vronsky wrote:

“After nearly twenty-five years of silence, in 1890, suddenly murmurs and whispers of Ridgeway began to bubble to the surface in public discourse. A short paragraph in the Globe, ―Ridgeway Remembered‖ reported that the veterans of the battle had ―taken the matter in hand and would meet for the first time publicly on the twenty-fourth anniversary to lay flowers on the monument to the fallen on the U of T campus near Queens Park. The Globe described the ceremony under the headline, ―Our Decoration Day and reported that from now on it would be commemorated annually. It was the beginning of Canada‘s national Remembrance Day.”

As time passed it also came to also serve as a day to remember those who had died in the Northwest Rebellion and the South African War. Then came the First World War and the massive casualties which soon overshadowed these earlier and in comparison, less significant conflicts. An Act of Parliament in 1931 would change our national day of remembrance to November 11 and as the last of the Fenian Raid survivors died off, so did the June 2nd Decoration Day.

If you’re on Facebook, you’ve all seen those “lists” designed to tweak your interest and click through to their website – hotels with breathtaking views, amazing animal photos, abandoned Olympic facilities. Today we present our own list – the list of those of The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada who were the first to die in the service of their country and the reason we still remember Decoration Day:

1. Ensign Malcolm McEachern – No. 5 Company
Thirty five years of age, this father of five young children was the first to fall on June 2nd.

2. Rifleman William D. Smith – No. 2 Company
Sadly we know very little about Rifleman Smith.

3. Lance-Corporal Mark B. Defries – No. 3 Company
He worked as a cellarman or malster in this brother Robert’s East-end Brewery.

4. Rifleman Christopher Alderson – No. 7 Company
He’d married his wife Janet Black exactly 3 months before the Battle of Ridgeway.

5. Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest – No. 9 Company
His father, a Whitby medical doctor who had rushed to Ridgeway to assist the wounded, discovered the corpse of his son.

6. Rifleman Malcolm McKenzie – No. 9 Company
He enlisted in the University Company and was the first in his to fall, killed instantly with a shot to the heart.

7. Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn – No. 9 Company
His father had scraped together nearly $400 to put him through a year of school, but his grades were so good that he was expected to win the annual University College Scholarship.

8. Sergeant Hugh Matheson – No. 2 Company
Matheson was wounded in the leg on June 2nd but infection set in and despite amputation, we would die on June 11th.

9. Corporal Francis Lakey – No. 2 Company
Lackey also suffered horrible wounds to his face and head on June 2nd and would like Matheson, die a few days later.

Each year members of the Queen’s Own and the QOR Association still travel to the Battle of Ridgeway Memorial and conduct a ceremony of remembrance and decoration.

The QOR at Ridgeway Memorial on Decoration Day 2012
The QOR at Ridgeway Memorial on Decoration Day 2012

Who do you Remember?

Shortly many of us will be standing in front of cenotaphs, wrapped up from the biting cold wind, wearing poppies, laying wreaths and silently remembering during the silence between Last Post and Reveille.

As a Regiment, the Queen’s Own Rifles have much to remember:

  • In its baptism of fire during the Battle of Ridgeway in June, 1866 the QOR saw its first casualties – 7 killed in action and 2 later dying of wounds – some of whom had left their final University of Toronto exams the day before. Nineteen more were wounded including Rifleman White whose arm was eventually amputated.
  • In 1885 the Regiment sent a contingent 274 soldiers to Canada’s Northwest to put down a perceived rebellion by local Métis and First Nations. While all the QOR returned alive, five suffered wounds.
  • In the South African War Canada contributed troops for overseas service for the first time through a Service Battalion to which the Queen’s Own contributed – three would not return. Two died of enteric fever (typhoid) and one was killed in action.
  • During the First World War, The Queen’s Own through recruitment sent 210 officers and 7,352 men overseas and of these 47 regimental officers and 1,207 other ranks were killed in action, died of wounds, or died from natural causes – almost 1 in 6. To this day, Major General Malcolm Mercer remains the highest ranking Canadian Officer to be killed in combat. And of course this doesn’t include those who did return but with missing limbs, lungs damaged from gas, blinded, or suffering shell-shock.
  • The Second World War also saw significant casualties: 28 officers killed; 365 other ranks killed while serving with the 1st Battalion, QOR; 3 died in England; 1 in Canada; 1 in Holland; 61 Queen’s Own men died whilst serving with other units. Fifty officers and 823 other ranks were officially reported as wounded – many more than once.
  • WWII was hardly over before the QOR found themselves in Korea where six gave the ultimate sacrifice.
  • Since then numerous soldiers have died in accidents and of natural causes while serving in the Regular Force and Reserve battalions.

Thousands of QOR soldiers have given their lives since 1866 and this November 11th we will once again honour and remember them.

However each Remembrance Day I also remember those closer to home. An ancestor who fought in the War of 1812, a grandfather and several great uncles who fought in the First World War – some came home and one didn’t. And perhaps most poignantly, my paternal grandfather who during the Second World War, left a wife and 4 young children to serve in the 5th Canadian Field Ambulance. He lies buried in a hilltop Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery with all his fellow Canadians who were killed in Sicily.  Mt Etna smokes in the distance and one realizes how far from home it was.

As we lead up to this November 11th when we will honour all those who have served and sacrificed, I invite you to tell us in the comment section below, who do you remember?

Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn

John Harriman Mewburn, died of wounds while in Fenian captivity during the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

Mewburn served with the volunteer company (No. 9) of University of Toronto students that was a company of The Queen’s Own Rifles.

On June 1st, he was called out from his final exams to go to Ridgeway to defend Canada against the Fenian invaders. He sustained a head wound. He was left on the field and he died in Fenian custody. The Fenians behaved relatively gallantly everywhere, but in this one case, they treated him rather roughly. He was tied, thrown onto a floor of a cabin and he died on the floor of a cabin.

Chief Warrant Officer Mark Shannon (left) and Lt.-Col. John Fotheringham, of The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, examine the tombstone of Niagara Falls rifleman's John Mewburn at St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church. Mewburn was one of nine members of the Queen's Own who was killed during the Battle of Ridgeway on June 2, 1866.
New (November 12, 2011) gravemarker of Rifleman John Harriman Mewburn, killed at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

Ensign Malcolm McEachren

Ensign Malcolm McEachern, first QOR soldier to fall at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866

“At thirty-five, he was older than the average militia volunteer. Born in Islay, Scotland and raised in Lower Canada, he came from a humble background and had originally wanted to be a minister. Born a Presbyterian, he had only recently joined the Wesleyan Methodist and was a Sunday school teacher. McEachren was married to Margaret Caroline, aged thirty-one and the couple had five children: two boys, eight and twelve, and three daughters, two, four and six years old. He was a store manager in Toronto with an annual salary of nine hundred dollars, plus free rent for the family in an apartment above the premises. McEachren was sufficiently organized to have purchased life insurance but not sufficiently wealthy to acquire more than a $250 policy – in [2005] dollars about $6,675.

Ridgeway (Vronsky) pp.61-62

He was gazetted as an Ensign March 30, 1866 and was the first to fall in the Battle of Limestone Ridge, fought against American Fenians near the town of Ridgeway in the vicinity of Fort Erie on June 2, 1866.

McEachren’s green tunic with bullet hole in the lower chest is displayed in our Museum.

Tunic of Ensign Malcolm McEcheran, first casualty of the Queen's Own Rifles at the Battle of Ridgeway (or Limeridge) June, 1866
The rededication of Malcolm McEachern's headstone in the Toronto Necropolis is shown. McEachren was Canada's first combat casualty.

Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest

Rifleman William Fairbanks Tempest, Killed in Action at the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866.

William Tempest was born in Whitby or Oshawa on November 30, 1845, son of Dr. William Tempest and Mary H. Fairbanks.

One of his uncles was Colonel Silas B. Fairbanks, the first commanding officer of the 34th Ontario Regiment which was formed in 1866 after the Battle of Ridgeway in the Fenian Raids. Another uncle was Hugh J. Macdonell, Clerk of the Peace and Clerk of the Ontario County Council. A third uncle was Duncan C. Macdonell, Division Court Clerk of Ontario County.

The family moved to Toronto in 1860 and William joined the Queen’s Own Rifles, No. 9 Company (University of Toronto). On June 2, 1866 at the age of 23, he was killed in the Battle of Ridgeway when a bullet cut his jugular vein. In the weeks before the battle, he had premonitions about his death.

Tributes were paid to him by the Ontario County Council, then in session at Whitby and all the town’s businesses were closed from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. on the date of his funeral in Toronto. The town bells tolled mourning and the Whitby Brass Band marched through the streets playing the Dead March. All flags on public and private buildings were at half mast. He was buried in a public funeral at St. James’ Cemetery in Toronto.

In 1873, the Federal Government granted his mother a yearly pension of $298 in compensation for his death. She died in Toronto on July 7, 1902.

“The last invasion and Canada’s forgotten first casualties”

Check out this Saturday March 24, 2012 Star Online article (and in Sunday print edition) by Peter Vronksy.

Peter Vronsky is a historian at Ryerson University and author of Ridgeway: The American Fenian Invasion and the 1866 Battle That Made Canada. His website on the Battle of Ridgeway is www.ridgewaybattle.ca