Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment

1914 and 1939

Lieut. Colonel R. J. S. Langford
The Connecting File, January 1948

On a certain autumnal evening in 1939 I visited the C.P.R. railway station in North Toronto to say "Good Bye and Good Luck" to Headquarters and C Company of The R.C.R. on the train, which was taking them to Valcartier en route to Europe and World War II. I remember asking the Commanding Officer, Lieut.-Colonel Holloway, all sorts of damfool questions, but one of these queries brought forth the fact that "The Regiment is to be the 1st Battalion of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division!"

What a contrast to 1914! The first few weeks of World War I were spent in digging trenches at Halifax, Sydney and Canso. While engaged in this tedious and boring operation, the birthright of the Regiment was being stolen from it, by the formation of a new regiment which was entirely unconnected with any unit in the Militia List-and this regiment, with the blessing of the Governor-General, the Colonel-in-Chief of The Royal Canadian Regiment, was sent almost immediately to the place where The Royal Canadian Regiment, at that time the only regular infantry unit in Canada, had a prior claim over every other infantry unit in Canada! The place was in the line - facing the Hun!

The next tragedy was the sending of the regiment to Bermuda to relieve the 2nd Lincolns. One must admit that we were asked, through our Commanding Officer at the time, Lieut.-Colonel A. O. Fages, if we were willing to go? He, in turn, put it up to the Company Commanders, the majority of whom apparently consented - Thank God, I most emphatically refused my consent! Before sailing for Bermuda, the regiment was paraded on the barrack square at Wellington Barracks, Halifax where we were addressed by the Duke of Connaught. He sympathized with us for not going immediately overseas, but promised us that it would not be long before we joined our gallant comrades in Belgium. And so, for many long and weary months we lingered on in Bermuda. After the first few of these months, it was generally agreed that any officer who could wangle a job with the units in Canada that were earmarked for over seas, was quite entitled to do so and should not be regarded as I traitor to the regiment.

This wangling was seldom successful, but Lieut. R. O. Alexander first achieved it through the good offices of our former Commanding Officer, Major-General S. J. A Denison, who got him the appointment of Junior Major of the 24th Battalion, C.E.F., the command of which he eventually obtained. I was the next successful wangler. Shortly after Alexander's depart ure, the Adjutant, Captain A. E Willoughby, notified me that a wire had come from Sir Sam Hughes (Minister of Militia) that I was to proceed back to Canada at one for an appointment with the 2nd Canadian Division. I, at once summoned all my pals to the Officers' Mess to celebrate at my expense it was a costly party!

The next tragedy? On arrival at Halifax, I reported to Militia Headquarters and - they knew nothing whatever about an appointment for me! Until they got word, I was to be employed assisting in the instruction of the 25th Battalion, C.E.F., at Halifax and the 26th Battalion, C.E.F., at St. John, N.R They never did receive any word about me! Major General R. W. Rutherford, the D.O.C., then did a bit of wangling on his own, and so successfully that, alas, I found myself appointed, not to an overseas unit, but as G.S.O. Halifax Fortress, the duties including assisting the G.S.O. I of the Maritimes, Colonel A. H. Powell, I was naturally heartbroken and, I'm afraid, almost mutinous. However, it was an ill wind, as due to my being where I was, I became the means of getting the regiment out of Bermuda and overseas.

It happened in this manner. The Duke of Connaught came to the Maritimes to inspect all overseas units: I was ordered to accompany him and my General. The Duke insisted on my sitting next to him at all meals as he wished to hear all about the R.C.R. of which he was the Colonel-in-Chief.

One evening just before the end of our trip, he asked me to stay behind after all the others at dinner had left the table: he plied me with some of his excellent port after a few glasses, I felt like the drunken mouse who said "Bring on your damned cat!" However, instead, I reminded the Duke of his promise to us, before sailing for Bermuda, that we should soon be joining our gallant comrades in Belgium! The effect was electrical - he immediately summoned Colonel Stanton, his Secretary, and ordered him to make an appointment for him with Sir Sam Hughes immediately after his return to Ottawa.

Believe it or not, but it was exactly three weeks later that the regiment sailed from Bermuda ell route to Belgium via Halifax.

The final tragedy? I completely forgot to ask the Duke to make sure that I accompanied my own regiment overseas. Well, dammit, one can't think of everything! Especially, after drinking port with a member of the Royal Family.

Pro Patria

Follow The Regimental Rogue on facebook.

QUICK LINKS