Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment

2 RCR Granted Freedom of the City of Fredericton

Pro Patria #17; August 1973
Originally published in the Daily Gleaner, Fredericton, NB)

All the pomp and circumstance of the occasion was evident as the 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment was granted the Freedom of the City of Fredericton, 2 June 1973.

This was the third such ceremony performed in the capital city of New Brunswick, and the first such honour accorded a military unit.

The other occasions of the granting of the Freedom of the City were to Ann Mathewson, the first and only woman for the honour. She was accorded the distinction in 1949 for her valuable contribution to the community while city editor of the Daily Gleaner.

The other occasion was to Lord Beaverbrook in 1955, when the official opening of the Ladybrook Rink was held.

With the granting of the Freedom of the City, 2 RCR will have permission to march through the streets with bayonets fixes, drums beating and colors flying.

The colorful and ancient ceremony of presenting the Freedom of the City reaches back into antiquity, and it provides the means to honor a military regiment in recognition of its honorable record and to demonstrate the esteem in which it is held. "It is the highest single honor a city may bestow, and is a private matter between the civic officials and the regiment concerned".

Here in Fredericton the ceremonies began as the Chief Constable, Police Chief R.E. Goodyear, halted The Royal Canadian Regiment as it approached the area of City Hall, travelling north on Queen Street.

The Commanding Officer of the battalion, LCol Ian S. Fraser, then halted his troops and permitted himself to be escorted by the Chief constable to Mayor J.W. Bird.

Following a traditional verbal exchange conducted between Mayor Bird and LCol Fraser, the City Council called a formal session, and a resolution granting the Freedom of the City to the RCR battalion was made by Deputy Mayor H.L. McFee4 This was seconded by Councilman C.E. Howe, and was approved unanimously by council.

Following the official approval of the motion, Mayor Bird left the reviewing stand and inspected the troops, accompanied by Major-General D.C. Spry, Colonel of The Regiment and LCol Fraser.

Following the inspection, Mayor Bird then read the Freedom Scroll to the battalion, which reads in part: "...whereas The Royal Canadian Regiment had its beginning in Fredericton in the formation of A Company here in 1884, and in the formation of the first Regimental Headquarters here in 1896."

The Scroll continued "And whereas The Royal Canadian Regiment has since that time served Canada with honor and distinction in both peace and war -and whereas it is considered fitting that the honorable record of The Royal Canadian Regiment should be recognized. ..."

The scroll prepared in ancient lettering, was then placed in a silver casket and presented to LCol Fraser.

Brigadier-General Milton F. Gregg, VC, CBE, MC, ED a former commanding officer of the famed RCR then presented a plaque to the city on behalf of the Regimental Association, and this gift was accepted by Mayor Bird. A second token of appreciation on the part of The RCR was made to the city, through Mayor Bird, by LCol Fraser. The gift was a sterling silver inkwell which was made in 1841.

The ancient ceremony continued after Mayor Bird returned to the reviewing stand, where dignitaries gathered for the occasion.

The significance of the Freedom of the City began for the troops on parade. The order was given to fix bayonets, the Queen's Color and the Regimental Color were uncased and the first bars of the Regimental March - The Royal Canadian Regiment - were sounded and the troops presented arms to their colors. To the skirl of the pipes and the rolling of the drums of the Battalion's Pipes and Drums, the 2nd Battalion, The RCR began to march past the reviewing stand, located directly before the entrance to the City Hall. Mayor Bird took the salute. Hundreds of spectators thrilled to the excitement of the occasion, and after reaching the intersection of Queen and Westmorland, the battalion countermarched and returned in column of route to pass before the reviewing stand once again, moving south on Queen. Again His Worship took the salute, and the troops continued down the street to their dispersal point near the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

The Royal Canadian Regiment has been accorded this honour on three other occasions during its 90 years of service in Canada; in 19S3, the City of London, Ontario, in 1953, the City of Ottawa, Ontario and in 1964 the City of Soest, West Germany.

Among the dignitaries on the reviewing stand, in addition to the Mayor and council of Fredericton were the Colonel of The Regiment Major-General D.C. Spry, CBE, DSO, CD; Brigadier- General, The Honorable Milton F. Gregg, VC, CBE, MC, ED; Lieutenant-Governor Hedard J. Robichaud and Premier Richard Hatfield.

Many others from British Columbia to Newfoundland had an opportunity to view the ceremony on an invitation by the City of Fredericton.

The visit to the city by representatives of more than 50 communities across the country was made more convenient by the meeting of mayors of municipalities in Charlottetown.

The City of Fredericton took the opportunity to invite the other Canadians to make Fredericton better known to other communities in the country.

Pro Patria

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