The Royal Canadian Regiment and
The First World War - 1914-1919

The Royal Canadian Regiment

Regimental History Pamphlet dated 1917, by "H.T.C."

Cover of the regimental history pamphlet, 1917.

Cover of the regimental history pamphlet, 1917.
Click for full size image.

BADGES AND MOTTO.

THE ROYAL CYPHER OF QUEEN VICTORIA ENSIGNED WITH THE IMPERIAL CROWN, IN EACH CORNER A FLEUR-DE-LYS BETWEEN TWO MAPLE LEAVES. (Note: This is apparently an error in printing, confusing the description of the regiment's badge with a description of the Regimental Colour.

A BEAVER.

"PRO PATRIA"

BATTLE HONOURS BORNE ON THE COLOURS.

HONORARY COLONEL.

FIELD-MARSHAL H.R.H. ARTHUR W.P.A. DUKE OF CONNAUGHT AND STRATHEARN, K.G., K.T., K.P., G.C.B., G.C.S.I., G.C.M.G., G.C.I.E., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., PERSONAL A.D.C. TO THE KING.


LONDON:
HARRISON AND SONS.
PRINTERS IN ORDINARY TO HIS MAJESTY,
ST. MARTIN'S LANE, W.C. 2.


The Regiment was raised on December 31st, 1883, as a Unit of the new Canadian Permanent Force, for the instruction of the Canadian Militia by establishing schools of instruction for Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers,and by the formation of a nucleus of Officers and Non-Commissioned Officer Instructors to assist at the various Militia Camps.

The Regiment was first known as the "Infantry School Corps," and wore as a badge a beaver on a scroll, inscribed" Pro Patria," within a circle of "Infantry School Corps"; this was mounted on a silver star. The Beaver and motto, which is still worn as a collar badge, signify "Work for One's Country."

The Regiment was first raised as a company at Fredericton, New Brunswick ("A" Company), under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel George J. Maunsell. Other companies were raised at St. John's, P.Q. ("B" Company), Toronto ("C" Company), and later at London, Ontario ("D" Company), companies being afterwards known by numbers. No. 5 Company was raised at Quebec.

In 1884 trouble arose between the Halfbreeds (sic) and Government Surveyors in Saskatchewan, through some misunderstanding regarding the survey of a certain unsettled area. This was brought to a head in March, 1885. by the Halfbreeds breaking out into open rebellion, at Duck Lake. against a party of Police who had come to remove some Government stores. Immediate steps were taken by the Government to organize an expedition to subdue the rebels.

"C" Company at Toronto joined a mixed force of Militia, which marched across the ice along the North shore of Lake Superior, to the North-West, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel W. D. Otter, Infantry School Corps.

In April one half of "C" Company, under Major H. Smith, joined General Middleton's column moving on Batoche, while the other half company, under Lieutenant R. L. Wadmore, was sent to Swift Current on the Canadian Pacific Railway, to guard stores and organise a base for the advance of Lieutenant-Colonel Otter's column, which commenced on the 18th of April. its object being the relief of Battleford.

The company under Major Smith, took part in the action of Fish Creek on April 24th, while that under Lieutenant Wadmore took part in the relief of Battleford on the same day, and in the action at Cut Knife Hill on May the 2nd. On May the 9th, Major Smith's party embarked at Fish Creek in S.S. Northcote, which ran the gauntlet under fire to Batoche Crossing. Both parties took part in the pursuit of the band of Chief Big Bear, during June and July, but with different columns. They however joined each other at Battleford in July, where they remained in garrison under Lieutenant Colonel Otter until October, when, the rebellion having been completely suppressed, they returned to Toronto. The City of Toronto presented a magnificent silver centre-piece to the Officers' Mess to commemorate the Regiment's services in the North-West. This was the first occasion on which Canadian troops had conducted active operations and brought them to successful conclusion without the aid of Imperial troops.

In 1892 the name of the Regiment was changed, to the Canadian Regiment of Infantry, and the following year, on the occasion of Her Majesty's Birthday, the Queen approved of the Regiment becoming a Royal Regiment, known as the "Royal Regiment of Canadian Infantry," and granted permission for Her Imperial cypher, V.R.I. (Victoria Regina Imperatrix), with the Imperial crown, to be worn as a badge.

In May, 1898, part of the Regiment joined a mixed force, under the command of Major Thomas D.B. Evans, Royal Canadian Dragoons, which was sent as the Yukon field force, to police the new gold fields. Embarking at Vancouver they sailed for Glenora. From there they marched four hundred and thirty miles to Selkirk over mountainous and comparatively unknown country. Much difficulty and hardship was encountered, crossing swamps, lakes, and swift dangerous rivers. The column had to construct boats and scows to cross the latter. This journey from Glenora to Selkirk took about four months in all to complete.

In October, part of this force was sent to Dawson City, to assist the Royal North-West Mounted Police, to supply gold train and other guards. In 1899, Lieutenant-Colonel Hemming, of the Regiment, assumed command of the Yukon field force. Half of this force was withdrawn from the Yukon in 1899, the remainder in 1900. Although this force did not participate in any fighting, yet the police duties in such a district were most arduous, and the climatic and other conditions were quite as severe and as trying as any active campaign. This force was thanked by the Government for its good and arduous services.

In 1899, on the outbreak of the South African War, a second (Special Service) Battalion was raised, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel W.D. Otter, and sailed on the 30th October, 1899, in the S.S. Sardinian, arriving at Cape Town on November 30th. It was immediately sent to De Aar, Orange River, Belmont and Gras Pan on the lines of communication, and in February was included in the newly-formed 19th Brigade, which consisted of the 1st Battalion Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 2nd Battalion King's Shropshire Light Infantry, 1st Battalion Gordon Highlanders and 2nd Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment and came under the command of Major-General Smith-Dorrien, C.B., D.S.O., at Gras Pan.

The Battalion took part in several reconnoitring expeditions in the vicinity of Sunnyside and Douglas. The Brigade took part in Lord Roberts' advance on Bloemfontein which relieved Kimberley and Ladysmith, and caused the withdrawal of the enemy from the important point, in Natal and Cape Colony; this changed the whole aspect of the war.

The Battalion particularly distinguished itself in the seven days' fighting which led to the surrender of General Cronje at Paardeberg on the 27th February, the 19th anniversary of the Battle of Majuba, where the British had unfortunately been defeated by the Boers in 1881. The Brigade formed part of the 9th Division, under Lieutenant-General Sir H. Colville as part of the main army. which marched East through the Orange Free State. One company was south of the Modder River, the remainder of the Battalion was on the North side, with the Gordon Highlanders on their left and the King's Shropshire Light Infantry on their left again. The Boers had taken up a position along both sides of the River.

Orders were given for the Regiment and the Gordons to advance on the enemy's trenches, about 700 yards away, and rush them at 2 o'clock in the morning.

However the crunching of stones under the feet of our men warned the enemy of their approach when they were about 60 yards from the trenches, and a tremendous fusillade was opened, which simply swept the whole line of our advance. Our men immediately threw themselves flat on the ground and opened fire at the flash of the enemy's rifles, while the remainder, with a party of Engineers, heroically dug a trench a few yards in the rear of the fighting line.

Into this our men fell back just after daybreak. Somehow the word to retire was given, probably started by the Boers, and as the progress of the trench construction on the left had been slow the troops retired from their former position. However two of our companies still hung on, and at about 6 a.m. General Cronje and his force surrendered unconditionally.

The Regiment on being congratulated by the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts, upon their work, were informed that their action had materially helped in the capture of General Cronje's force. A telegram of congratulation was received from Her Majesty Queen Victoria and Lord Wolseley the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, who was also colonel of the Regiment. Between the end of February and the beginning of June, the Battalion marched six hundred and twenty miles, often on half rations, and seldom on full. They took part in the capture of ten towns, and fought in ten general engagements and in minor actions on twenty-seven other days. During one period of thirty days, it marched three hundred and twenty-seven miles, fighting on twenty-one days. After the capture of Bloemfontein, the Battalion left the 9th Division and took part in the operations of the column under Major-General Ian Hamilton, as far as Pretoria and later in Western Transvaal under General Fitzroy Hart.

The Battalion happened by chance to be not only the first troops of Lord Roberts' Army to enter the Transvaal, but also the first to enter Pretoria. Shortly after this they joined for a time the 7th Division under

Major-General Tucker. In addition to minor skirmishes, the Battalion took part in the following actions, while in South Africa:-

The Battalion was represented at the annexation Ceremony at Pretoria on October 25th by a party specially selected, and on November 7th it embarked in S.S. Hawarden (at Cape Town) for Southampton, arriving on November 29th.

While in England all ranks were most generously entertained, and were received at Windsor Castle by Her Majesty the Queen, who thanked them for their services and entertained them to lunch.

On December 11th the Battalion embarked at Liverpool in S.S. Lake Champlain and sailed for Canada, arriving at Halifax on December 23rd, where it was disbanded.

The casualties in South Africa were thirty-nine killed, twenty-eight died of disease, one hundred and twenty-three wounded. These casualties, although extraordinarily light in comparison with those of the present war, were the heaviest suffered by any Canadian Contingent serving in South Africa.

It was during the South African war that the name of the Regiment was changed to the Royal Canadian Regiment of Infantry. His Majesty King George, then Duke of York, presented colours to the Regiment at Toronto on October 11th, 1901, during his tour of the British Empire.

A 3rd (Garrison) Battalion of the Regiment was raised at Halifax to release the 1st Battalion Leinster Regiment (Royal Canadians) for service elsewhere. This Battalion was brought to a high state of efficiency, and formed the greater part of the garrison in the Fortress at Halifax.

It was, however, disbanded shortly after being relieved by an Imperial Regiment, the 5th Battalion Royal Garrison Regiment, in September 1902.

In 1902 the name of the Regiment was once again changed, becoming known by its present distinctive title of The Royal Canadian Regiment.

In 1904, a special Banner, given by His Majesty King Edward VII to commemorate the Regiment's services in South Africa, was presented at Ottawa on October 4th, by His Excellency the Governor-General, Lord Minto.

Imperial troops having been withdrawn and the defence of Canada taken over by local troops, the Regiment moved to Halifax, the Establishment being raised to 10 companies. It was about this time that the Regimental March, usually known as the "R.C.R. March" was first used. This march with its fascinating lilt and spring, was written by a sergeant of the Band. It is entirely original, and The Royal Canadian Regiment is the only regiment which is entitled to march past to this tune.

In 1908 part of the Regiment attended the Quebec Tercentenary Celebrations where, at the march past before His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Major-General Otter ordered it to proceed last. When it came to the saluting base, the Prince of Wales asked what regiment it was, General Otter told him it was "The Royal Canadian Regiment" of the Permanent Corps. "But," said His Royal Highness, "should they not have marched past first?" to which General Otter replied: "I ordered them to march past as they are doing, Sir." "Ah," said the Prince of Wales, "I see, you have kept the good wine till now."

The Regimental Band and a party of officers and men attended the Coronation of His Majesty King George V. in 1911. The band gave. several concerts in London and elsewhere.

On the outbreak of the European War in August, 1914, the Regiment was mobilised at Halifax, occupying the various forts. It was brought up to war strength by a draft of four hundred volunteers, men from the newly formed camp, at Va1cartier, for the Expeditionary Force then being raised. Being trained regular troops and the only ones available for service overseas, the Regiment was sent to Bermuda on September 9th to relieve the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, and were the first Canadian troops to go abroad. In August the following year, the Regiment having been relieved by the 38th Canadian Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, it proceeded to France via England, where it was re-armed and re-equipped.

It landed at Boulogne on November 1st, and on moving up the line it immediately became Corps Troops to the Canadian Corps under Lieutenant-General Sir A. E. H. Alderson, K.C.B. It went into the trenches for the first time, with the First Canadian Division, opposite Messines.

At the beginning of 1916 it was one of the battalions composing the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade under Brigadier-General A. C, Macdonell, C.M.G., D.S.O., of the newly-formed 3rd Canadian Division, under Major-General Mercer, C.B. The Brigade consisted of The Royal Canadian Regiment, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, 42nd Battalion (Royal Highhlanders of Canada) and 49th Battalion (Edmonton Regiment), and later 7th Canadian Machine Gun Company. The Regiment went into the line with the Brigade at Wulvergham, moving afterward to Kemmel and then to Ypres.

The Regiment's first general action was that of the German attack on June 2nd to June 5th, on Sanctuary Wood and Hooge in the Ypres salient. Here the Regiment distinguished itself by its steadiness under the heaviest concentration of hostile artillery and trench mortar fire which up to that date had ever been brought to bear on British troops. By its rifle and machine gun fire the attempted infantry assaults against its lines were frustrated, and it was virtually due to the action of the machine guns, assisted by the 7th Canadian Machine Gun Company, that prevented a great disaster to the whole Ypres salient. These guns had been unable to get away after being relieved on account of dawn breaking. On June 5th the Germans blew up three very large mines at Hooge, annihilating its garrison. The guns which were some distance in the rear, immediately mounted fully exposed on the Menin Road, and by their coolly delivered fire threw back the German infantry, thus preventing them from swamping our line and outflanking it both north and south on the Menin Road. The action of June 2nd to 5th exemplified the value of long training. The older men who had been in the Regiment for years. and who were considered as almost past their day, came to the fore wonderfully by their steadiness and discipline. This was shown particularly when during the hostile infantry attacks and intense shelling they remained cool and steady and withheld their fire only letting forth their perfect deluge of lead when a good target appeared. this encouraged and gave added confidence to the younger men. It was certainly the old soldiers' day.

Between June and August some extremely gallant trench raids and expeditions were carried out by the Regiment. One raid carried out was discovered by the enemy before starting, and came under the intense fire from rifles, bombs and machine guns at close quarters. In spite of this the party rushed forward and inflicted heavy losses upon the enemy, but every man except one was wounded. Two officers and some men came out into the open and worked for two hours under fire collecting and bringing in the wounded.

The following message from Brigadier-General Macdonell, C.M.G., D.S.O., was received afterward:-

"Please convey to the Officers, N.C.Os., and Men concerned in your recent raid, my hearty appreciation of the splendid gallantry and tenacity of purpose with which they pressed their raid.

"While I am proud of the courage displayed, I am prouder still of the fact that from start to finish a high state of efficiency and training was evinced, worthy of the best traditions of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

"The knowledge of the facts of this raid will send a thrill of pride through every member or ex-member of the R.C.R. and will steel the heart of many a man to endure to the end when he remembers the deed wrought by those men whose uniform he has the honour to wear."

In September the Regiment moved south with the Canadian Corps under Lieutenant-General Sir Julian H. G. Byng, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., M.V.O., to the Somme, where until November they took part in very severe fighting at Courcelette, Regina Trench, and elsewhere.

The Battalion, owing to the high state of training and discipline, performed a very difficult feat on September 15th, when it came up from reserve and occupied a line just after dusk over absolutely strange ground, made unrecognisable by shell fire, and in so doing was obliged to change front twice. They occupied their position on time.

Again on September 16th, two companies went forward to attack an enemy trench over open ground, in full view of the enemy, in face of deadly rifle and machine gun fire, starting at a distance of over 800 yards and being practically wiped out when less than 50 yards from the enemy's trench.

On October the 8th at Regina Trench The R.C.R. and one other battalion were the only Canadian battalions to capture and for the time hold objectives.

There, by its gallantry and determination, the Battalion held on throughout the day outflanked and unsupported. A battalion of German marines was threatening the left, which necessitated a change of front. This was successfully accomplished. The enemy charged the position on three separate occasions, but were driven back with heavy loss each time. This, however, was accomplished only by heavy loss to the Battalion.

After the fighting on the Somme the Regiment was so depleted that it was obliged to reorganise. The fighting had been of the bitterest hand-to-hand kind. The following order was published on leaving the Somme area:-

7th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

This Brigade has just finished a series of operations of which every member may be justly proud.

The performance of the 15th of September, 1916, when the R.C.R., P.P.C.L.I., 42nd and 49th Battalions went into an unknown area on (our and a half hours' notice, in broad daylight, and under heavy shelling, reached and jumped off on time, not from prepared assembly trenches, but from a battered trench captured that morning, and, changing direction twice, captured and held three difficult objectives, together with some three hundred prisoners, has been characterised as one of the finest accomplished by any brigade in the war.

No one, as time goes on, can fail to be more and more impressed with the extent to which each arm of the military machine is dependent upon others for ultimate and lasting success; a Brigade may do better than ever before, and still fail to gain their objective, owing to another arm not having fully accomplished its task.

The attack on September 16th, 1916, adds to, rather than dims, the glory. Both the RC.R and the 42nd Battalion (R.H.C.) knew the barrage had failed, that the ZOLLERN TRENCH was fully manned, and that the chances of success were slight. Notwithstanding, the attacking companies of these Battalions did their duty, knowing that the attack of the 9th Canadian Infantry Brigade, timed for 6.30 p.m., depended entirely on their capturing their objective. They thrust the attack home gallantly and well, but, under the circumstances, with the odds so heavily against them, it was impossible to make good the ZOLLERN TRENCH.

On the 8th October, 1916, Regina Trench was not battered in nor the wire cut, but we all have good reason to be proud of the performance of our Battalions that day - The R.C.R. and 49th Battalions, for their attack, the P.P.C.L.I. for their good work in the vacated front line, and the 42nd Battalion (R.H.C.) for cheerfully going in again to take over the defence of the line, although they had been withdrawn a few hours before, and were desperately tired. The Machine Gun Company also comes in for its share of the well-earned praise for its excellent barrage work and support of the Infantry.

We all feel particularly proud of the splendid work of the R.C.R. in driving through to their objective and holding it so long against odds. No one could have done better and few so well.

(Signed)
A. C. Macdonell, Brig.-Gen.,
Comd'g. 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade.

15.10.16

In November the Battalion moved north again to Neuville St.-Vaast, nothing of much importance happening with the exception of raids, these commenced after Christmas and became almost a daily occurrence, daring deeds of all degrees were performed by all ranks, with the result that the battalion was morally and actually master of the situation and owned "No Man's Land."

On April 9th, 1917, the battle of Vimy Ridge commenced. This was one of the most perfectly planned actions that has ever occurred. Every man knew exactly what he had to do and how to do it, and where he was to go. The strong ridge which the Germaas had held and fortified to the best of their ability fell into our hands with comparative ease. Many trophies were captured by the Regiment, and all their objectives were taken without any delay or hitch of any kind. This was accomplished in bitter weather and mud knee deep; the ground captured was held intact in spite of the furious and continued counter attacks launched by the enemy to wrest our gains from us.

The discipline of the Regiment has always been high. It being the only regular and the senior regiment of infantry in Canada, the people of the Dominion look to it as a pattern and an example to the more newly formed regiments.

The Regiment has performed most valuable work in the present war in supplying Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers as instructors to the Militia serving both in Canada and with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in England and elsewhere.

These Non-commissioned Officers have in the majority of cases gained commissions and been promoted to high rank and held various Staff appointments.

The following distinctions and rewards have been gained by the Regiment in the present war:-

Commanding Officers of the Royal Canadian Regiment.

1883. GEORGE J. MAUNSELL. Senior Lieutenant-Colonel of the Regiment; retired 15th of July. 1898. Saw service during the Fenian Raids, 1866.

1898. BEAUFORD HENRY VIDAL. Brigadier-General 1st October, 1907. Saw service in the Abyssinian Campaign, 1867-1868.

1899. WILLIAM DILLON OTTER, K.C.B., C.V.O. Brigadier-General 1st October. 1905. Major-General 26th June, 1912; saw service during Fenian Raids, 1866 and 1870; North-West Canada, 1885, Mentioned in Despatches; South Africa, 1899-1900, Mentioned in Despatches.

1899. LAWRENCE BUCHAN, C.M.G., C.V.O. Brigadier-General 1st April, 1908. Saw service in South Africa, 1899-1900.

1900. GEORGE ROLT WHITE. (Commanded 3rd Battalion.) Saw service during Fenian Raids, 1866-1870.

1905. ROBINSON LYNDHURST WADMORE, D.O.C. Military District No. 11, 1st September, 1910. Saw service in North-West Canada, 1885.

1910. SEPTIMUS JULIUS DENISON, C.M.G., D.O.C. 4th Divisional Area, 1st January, 1913. Brigadier-General 1916. Saw service in South Africa, 1889-1900. Twice mentioned in Despatches.

1913. ALFRED OCTAVE FAGES. D.O.C. 5th Divisional Area, 1st January, 1915. Brigadier-General 1917. Saw service in North-West Canada, 1885.

1915. ALBERT EDWARD CARPENTER. To command of R.C.R.-P.P.C.L.I. Depot, September. 1916. Saw service in South Africa, 1899-1900.

1915. ARCHIBALD HAYES MACDONELL, C.M.G ., D.S.O. Brigadier-General 20th April 1916. Saw service in South Africa, 1899-1900. Mentioned in Despatches. West Africa, 1901, 1902, 1903 and 1904. Mentioned in Despatches.

1916. CLAUDE HARDINGE HILL, D.S.O.

Pro Patria

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