On the evening of 9 June 2018, the Regiment marched from Moss Park Armoury to St James Cemetery where they joined our museum team and other members of the regimental family to dedicate a new grave marker for Bugle Major Charles Swift.
Swift first served with The Queen’s Own Rifles in 1866 at the age of 14 as a boy musician at the Battle of Ridgeway. In 1885 Swift and the QOR were again mobilized in response to the North West Rebellion. As Bugle Major for 46 years, he helped raise the international profile of the Regiment, leading the band on tours to England in 1902 and 1910. He served with the Regiment for an incredible 57 years!
The short ceremony included a recitation of Swift’s service, a prayer of dedication, the Last Post, Rouse, and Sunset, and of course the unveiling.
After the unveiling, those in attendance broke into three groups and were led on tours of the graves of other members of the Regiment who were buried in St James – including three casualties from Ridgeway, the first Commanding Officer, and the CO who led the Regiment through most of Europe during WWII. Soldiers in each group placed small QOR flags at each QOR grave.
You can find the complete walking tour of forty-seven QOR soldiers buried or memorialized at St James, below:
The Regiment then marched back to Moss Park Armoury where some awards and promotions were presented, after which everyone enjoyed a BBQ dinner prepared by the QOR Association Toronto Branch.
Bugle Major Charles Swift began his 57 years of service with the regiment as a 14 year old boy bandsman at the Battle of Ridgeway and would become the longest serving Bugle Major in our history – from 1876 to 1922 – an incredible 46 years!
During the 1885 North West Rebellion he was attached to Battalion Headquarters, but his skills as an accomplished and renowned musician resulted in leading Bugle Band trips to England in both 1902 and 1910. By now a Captain, the 70 year old Swift died of pneumonia in May of 1922 and his coffin was laid to rest by his fellow Queen’s Own officers.
Because he died unmarried and had no close family, the regiment purchased his grave marker. As you can see from the photos it hasn’t weathered the last 95 years very well and the only vaguely legible wording left is his surname Swift. Sadly his memory is at risk of being forgotten.
A very distant Swift cousin recently contacted us about replacing the marker and while that isn’t practical, The Regimental Trust Fund has agreed to add a small ground level plaque similar to those created for the Ridgeway casualties a few years ago.
The cousin will be making a contribution but we also invite members of the regimental family and friends of the regiment to help us reach our goal for the remaining $2,100. Donations of any size are appreciated and a charitable tax receipt will be issued by CanadaHelps. And if you allow CanadaHelps to share your contact info with us, we’ll be sure to invite you to the plaque dedication ceremony.
The photo above was printed in the Toronto Globe in May 1924: “Graves of departed veterans of the Queen’s Own Rifles, located in several of Toronto’s burial places, were decorated yesterday by the Q.O.R. Chapter, Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire. Rev. Canon Cody conducted the service of the Church of England suitable to the occasion.”
This year when the Regimental Church parade was finished, two former RSM’s CWO (Ret) Shaun Kelly and Captain (Ret) Rob Chan joined the museum curator at St James Cemetery. We had recently been researching information about Bugle Major Charles Swift who served as the Bugle Major of The Queen’s Own Rifles for most of his 57 years of service – service which included the Battle of Ridgeway and the North West Rebellion. We’d come across a page inserted in a Bugle Band minute book which outlined arrangements for his funeral that indicated he’d been buried at St James Cemetery.
So our object on that sunny Sunday afternoon was to find his grave. Unfortunately the cemetery office was closed so we thought we’d just take a look around and see if we could spot it ourselves. Three hours later we actually found it – just as we were about to give up!
Sadly as you can see from the photo at right, the marker has not weathered well and little can be read aside from the large “SWIFT” on its base. Subsequently the cemetery office did confirm that this was indeed his gravesite. Perhaps its time for the regiment to consider placing an additional marker as we’ve done for those from the Battle of Ridgeway….
What surprised us most that afternoon, was the number of other Riflemen we came across as we crisscrossed the cemetery.
Among one of the oldest was that of Sergeant Robert Taylor. Research by Shaun has found he was listed in the nominal rolls as the regiment’s Sergeant Major from at least 1864 to 1867 although the appointment may just have been temporary. (A note that we did NOT place the QOR stickers which are found on many of these grave markers but believe they were put there but a member of the bugle band who has since passed away.)
Another Nineteenth century Sergeant Major was Samuel Corrigan McKell who rose to that appointment in 1889 after serving in the Northwest Rebellion.
Unfortunately McKell would not be in the position long, by December of 1890 he had died from blood poisoning. The funeral service was a large one as McKell was not only popular within the regiment but also outside of it so there were scores of soldiers from the Grenadiers and the Body Guard as well as around 460 Riflemen from the Queen’s Own in attendance.
The large memorial was erected by his comrades.
Other Riflemen buried there include the following:
Captain Richard Scougall Cassels served with The Queen’s Own Rifles in the Northwest Rebellion (during which he kept a diary) but later became a founding officer with the 48th Highlanders. He was also a partner of the law firm Cassels Brock which still exists today.
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph M. Delamere commanding The Queen’s Own Rifles from 1896 to 1900. His service included the Battle of Ridgeway, the St Patrick’s Day riots, the Belleville Riots, and the Northwest Rebellion. His son also rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and his grandson Colonel John Morison Delamere, MBE, ED, CD also commanded the QOR.
The thirteenth Commanding Officer was Colonel Arthur James Ernest Kirkpatrick VD, who joined the regiment in 1893 and would command C and D companies of the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force at the 2nd Battle of Ypres and after a valiant stand, was taken prisoner.
Colour Sergeant William F. Busteed was a veteran of the Fenian Raids of 1866.
Major Villiers Sankeywas also the City of Toronto chief surveyor and Villiers St in the Port Lands is named for him. His youngest son, Lieutenant Colonel Richard H. Sankey would command the 3rd Battalion (CASF) , Queen’s Own Rifles during the Second World War (May 21, 1942 to Aug 15th 1943.)
Less well know though was 18 year old Rifleman Thomas Wilson, who died in Detroit when the ferry steamer Windsor burned at the docks with 31 lives lost on 26 April 1866. The orginal marker was placed by his fellow Riflemen and a newer marker by the regiment in 2010.
Lastly we found the marker for General William Dillon Otter, adjutant at the Battle of Ridgeway, commander of a column in the Northwest Rebellion, commander of Canadian Troops in South Africa and Canada’s first Canadian born full General. Unfortunately we don’t seem to have a photo of his grave marker so it will definitely mean a trip back to St James in the future.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.