Now that the – mostly – good weather has arrived, it’s time to get out and about. As odd as it might sound, Toronto has some beautiful cemeteries. They’re a great place to get some exercise and remember those members of our regiment (and the WWI battalions that we perpetuate) who have served in the past. These include everyone from riflemen to a full general.
The oldest and most historic cemetery in Toronto is Necropolis which was created in 1850 in the east end of Cabbagetown. So far we’ve identified over a dozen QOR buried here including six who were killed in action, died of wounds, or died of sickness attributed to their service at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866.
A short distance north of Necropolis is St James Cemetery at Parliament and Bloor St where we identified almost fifty QOR gravesites including the first commanding officer, Colonel Durie, and other Fenian Raid casualties.
Another almost fifty QOR graves or memorials have been identified in Mt Pleasant Cemetery (Mt Pleasant north of St Clair East) which is also considered an arboretum and extremely well maintained. Like the others, these include riflemen to commanding officers and every rank in between.
Be sure to check out our Ontario Cemeteries page for more Toronto cemeteries with QOR and maps such as Park Lawn, Pine Hills, Prospect, and a few outside of Toronto as well. And although most of these are mapped yet, we have identified a number of QOR in cemeteries outside of Ontario too.
This work is definitely “in progress” so if you have any information you can add on where QOR riflemen are buried in Canada, please share it with us in a comment below or email email@example.com
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.
In response to our last post about our exploration of St James Cemetery, Bill Paton kindly forwarded a photo of General William Dillon Otter’sgrave marker:
He also reminded us that the QOR’s first commanding officer, Colonel William Smith Durie was buried here as well. And while Rob, Shaun and I knew this was located here and had indeed seen it on our wanderings that day, I’d completely forgotten to mention it!
Bill also kindly included a link to the fascinating story of Colonel Durie’s son Captain William Arthur Peel Durie and who was killed in action during the First World War and the efforts of his mother to have has body returned to by buried in St James Cemetery. Link to his mother’s story here.
And lastly I completely forgot to include Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Lett, DSO who assumed command of The Queen’s Own Rifles in August 1944 and served until the conclusion of the Second World War. The museum was very pleased to acquire his medals in early 2015.
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.