Skip to content

1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA

by Mark W. Tonner

At the beginning of August 1944, the left (coastal) flank of First Canadian Army was held by the British 6th Airborne Division (of which, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion was a part), whose divisional artillery consisted of one airlanding light field regiment (53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery) equipped with 24x 75-millimetre pack howitzers. To supplement this artillery firepower, 1st British Corps had on 21 June 1944 formed an ad hoc battery of 12x 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments, which was designated “X” Armoured Battery, Royal Artillery (“X” Armd Bty, RA). These 12x 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments, had formerly been operated by the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group[1], elements of which had landed on 6 June 1944, in support of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division to provide supplementary artillery support, and had continued to support various Canadian and British units until it was decided, due to their losses (in both personnel and equipment) from enemy action, accidents and mechanical breakdowns, to withdraw the Royal Marines Armoured Support Group from Normandy. From 21 to 24 June, the Royal Marines crews trained the crews of the newly formed ad hoc “X” Armd Bty, RA, who were drawn from Royal Artillery reinforcement holding units in Normandy, on the 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipment.

image 1

An example of the 75-millimetre pack howitzer with which 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, was equipped. (Authors’ Collection)

These 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments, were based on the British designed and built Cruiser Tank, Mark VIII, Centaur (A27L). Only 80 of these close support versions of the tank, mounting a 95-millimetre howitzer in the turret, in place of the standard armament of a 6-pounder gun were produced, and were simply known, as the ‘Centaur IV.’ The crew consisted of a commander, gunner, loader, driver, and co-driver. Fully loaded, the Centaur IV weighed 28 tonnes, and was 6.4 metres in length, by 2.5 metres in height, by 2.9 metres wide. The Centaur IV was armed with a 95-millimetre tank howitzer (Ordnance Quick Firing) and a co-axial 7.92-millimetre BESA machine gun, both of which were mounted, side by side, in the turret. The turret could be traversed manually by hand, or by a hydraulic power system, which enabled the turret to be completely traversed in14-15 seconds at the highest speed. The 95-millimetre tank howitzer had an elevation of minus 5-degrees to plus 34-degrees, and a nominal maximum range of 5,486 metres, and used fixed ammunition, in the form of either a high explosive (HE) shell, or high explosive hollow charge (HES) (capable of penetrating either armour, or concrete) shell, each weighing 11- kilograms, or a 7-kilogram smoke shell. There was stowage within the vehicle for 51 rounds of 95-millimetre ammunition (28 HE, five HES, and 18 Smoke), and for 4,950 rounds of 7.92-millimetre ammunition, contained in 22 boxes (with each box containing one 225-round belt). Like all other British tanks of the period, the Centaur IV had a 51-millimetre smoke bomb thrower (for localized smoke protection) mounted in the turret roof, with stowage inside the tank for 24 bombs, and was also equipped with a No. 19 wireless set (radio), which was housed in the turret. The No. 19 wireless set included an “A” set for general use, a “B” set for short range inter-tank work at troop level, and an intercommunication unit for the crew, so arranged that each member could establish contact with any one of the others. There was also an armoured box attached to the rear hull plate, which contained an “Infantry Telephone,” by which targets could be indicated to the crew commander from those being supported.

image 2 IWM (B5457)

A 95-millimetre howitzer equipped Centaur IV, seen here in service with “H” Troop, 2nd Battery, 1st Royal Marine Armoured Support Regiment, Royal Marines Armoured Support Group. (IWM (B5457))

By August 1944, it had become necessary for the British to withdraw these reinforcement personnel from the ad hoc “X” Armd Bty, RA, to be employed as Royal Artillery reinforcements elsewhere, and they informed First Canadian Army, that they could no longer maintain this supplementary battery to the 6th Airborne Divisional Artillery, and that they would be withdrawing their personnel as of 8 August 1944. Since it was felt that the continued existence of this ad hoc battery was of an operational necessity at this time to provide artillery support within the 6th Airborne Divisional area of operations, Staff Duties, General Staff Branch, Headquarters First Canadian Army, on 4 August, drew up a request for the approval of Lieutenant-General H.D.G. Crerar, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief First Canadian Army, for the authorization to form a temporary Canadian unit to man the 12x 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments of the battery. This request was duly authorized by Crerar, on 6 August 1944, with a note that the continued authorization of this temporary Canadian unit, was to be reviewed monthly.

image 3

The submission of 4 August 1944, to the GOC-in-C First Cdn Army from Staff Duties for the authorization to form 1st Canadian Centaur Battery.

Details of the organization of this proposed unit were attached to the Staff Duties request of 4 August, as Appendix “A,” under the heading of “Temporary SP Bty RCA (95mm CENTAUR),” under which, the proposed title of the unit was given as “1 Centaur Bty RCA,” with the proposed personnel strength of the unit given as 11 officers, and 100 other ranks, and that the 12x 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments, and ammunition were already available. It also went on to state that administrative personnel and vehicles were not included in the proposed War Establishment, as the administration of the proposed unit was to be entirely undertaken by the British 6th Airborne Division, and that the formation of the unit would be made under the arrangements of First Canadian Army, with effect from 6 August 1944, and that the unit was to operate under the command of 1st British Corps. Lastly, it was stated that the unit would be disbanded as soon as its present operational necessity ceased (which was forecasted as within three to four weeks).

 

image 4

Appendix “A” to the Staff Duties submission of 4 August 1944, to the GOC-in-C First Cdn Army from Staff Duties for the authorization to form 1st Canadian Centaur Battery.

With Crerar’s authorization of 6 August for the formation of 1 Centaur Battery, RCA, things followed along quickly. Under Canadian Section General Headquarters 1st Echelon, 21 Army Group Administrative Order No. 5, dated 7 August 1944, the authorization for the formation of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 6 August 1944, in the North-Western European Theatre of Operations, under instructions of Headquarters First Canadian Army, and the approved Table of Organization for the battery was published. This was followed on 8 August by a letter from the Canadian Section General Headquarters 1st Echelon, 21 Army Group, to Canadian Military Headquarters (London), with an attached copy of the approved Table of Organization, informing them that the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief First Canadian Army (Crerar), had authorized the formation of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 6 August 1944. Subsequently, and after having received Privy Council authorization from National Defence Headquarters (Ottawa), the formation of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 6 August 1944, was notified under Canadian Military Headquarters Administrative Order No. 139, dated 18 August 1944.

image 5

Cdn Sec GHQ 1 Ech 21 A Gp Admin Order No. 5/44, under which the authorization for the formation of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 6 August 1944, was published.

 

image 6

CMHQ Admin Order No. 139/44, under which the authorization for the formation of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 6 August 1944, was published.

Under the Table of Organization that was published under both Cdn Sec GHQ 1 Ech 21 A Gp Admin Order No. 5/44, and CMHQ Admin Order No. 139/44, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, was to consist of 11 officers, and 103 other ranks, organized into a Battery Headquarters (two officers, and ten other ranks), and three Troops, with each Troop consisting of a Troop Headquarters (three officers, and 11 other ranks), and two Sections (each of ten other ranks), for a total Troop strength of 34 all ranks. Each Troop was to be equipped with one motorcycle, one Car 5-cwt (a Jeep), one Truck 15-cwt (fitted for Wireless (Radio)), one Observation Post Tank, and four (two per Section) 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments, for a total battery strength of 12x 95-millimetre Centaur IVs.

image 7

‘Section (i) Personnel’ of the Table of Organization for Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, that was attached to CMHQ Admin Order No. 139/44, as Appendix “A,” showing the distribution of personnel throughout the battery.

image 8

‘Section (iii) Transport’ of the Table of Organization for Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, that was attached to CMHQ Admin Order No. 139/44, as Appendix “A,” showing the distribution of vehicles throughout the battery.

image 9

‘Section (v) Organization’ of the Table of Organization for Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, that was attached to CMHQ Admin Order No. 139/44, as Appendix “A,” showing a breakdown of the battery’s organization.

On 9 August 1944, Captain F.D. Miller (Royal Canadian Artillery) arrived at “X” Armoured Battery, Royal Artillery, 6th Airborne Division, to begin the process of the handover of the battery to 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, and found that it was going to be necessary to keep the 95-millimetre Centaur IVs in action during the handover of the battery’s equipment from British to Canadian hands. The next day, Captain Miller met the incoming Battery Commander, Major D.M. Cooper (Royal Canadian Artillery), and a draft of Royal Canadian Artillery personnel, who were drawn from No. 12 Canadian Base Reinforcement Battalion (No. 2 Canadian Base Reinforcement Group), consisting of six Lieutenants, six Sergeants, and three other ranks. After meeting with the Brigadier, Royal Artillery, Headquarters First Canadian Army, from where three 15-cwt trucks were obtained, Major Cooper, Captain Miller, and the nine-member draft proceeded to join “X” Armd Bty, RA. Upon arriving in the battery area, Major Cooper, assigned two Lieutenants, and two Sergeants, to each of 1st Canadian Centaur Battery’s three Troops, and appointed Captain Miller “C” Troop Leader, following which, Major Cooper met with Major Marchand (Royal Artillery), the Battery Commander, “X” Armoured Battery, RA. Marchand informed Cooper, that his battery was nothing more then predicted shooting on counter mortar, counter bombardment, and harassing fire tasks, and that the current policy of Headquarters 6th Airborne Divisional Artillery, because the position of the division was static, was maximum harassing fire on the enemy’s administrative areas, and vigorous and immediate retaliatory fire, to that of the enemy.

image 10 IWM (B5458)

Another image of a 95-millimetre howitzer equipped Centaur IV, seen here in service with “H” Troop, 2nd Battery, 1st Royal Marine Armoured Support Regiment, Royal Marines Armoured Support Group. (IWM (B5458))

From 11 to 14 August, the men of 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, learned their respective jobs, and duties from their British counterparts of “X” Armoured Battery, and familiarized themselves with the 95-millimetre Centaur IVs. The battery’s Gunners were also greatly aided by three Instructors in Gunnery who were rushed over to Normandy from No. 1 Canadian School of Artillery (Overseas) in the United Kingdom to help the gunners in mastering the workings of the 95-millimetre tank howitzer. Also, during this period, another 22 personnel of the Royal Canadian Artillery, were brought forward to the battery from No. 12 Canadian Base Reinforcement Battalion, and the three Troops of the battery were organized with one Sherman Observation Post Tank, four (two per Section) 95-millimetre Centaur IVs, and one Truck 15-cwt. On 14 August, another 38 personnel of the Royal Canadian Artillery, arrived from No. 12 Canadian Base Reinforcement Battalion, and as of 8:00 P.M., that evening, Canadian personnel took over completely from their British counterparts. This was followed by the next day being spent in fine tuning the organization of 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, and also saw the establishment of Battery Headquarters, in rear of “A” Troops position, and the move of Major Cooper up to the battery position from Headquarters 6th Airborne Divisional Artillery. Captain E.J. Leapard (Royal Artillery), who had served with “X” Armoured Battery, RA, since its formation, was attached to 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, and was appointed Battery Captain. Also, 15 members of the British Royal Corps of Signals, and one mechanic (gun) from the British Corps of Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, who had served with “X” Armoured Battery, RA, were attached to 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, fulling the earlier stated commitment of the British in undertaking the administrative needs of the battery. 16 August saw the withdrawal of the remaining Royal Artillery members of “X” Armoured Battery, RA, and the arrival of Captain W.A. Walker, and Captain J. Else (both Royal Canadian Artillery), who respectively, were appointed “A” Troop Leader, and “B” Troop Leader. At 11:00 P.M. that evening, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery was warned to be prepared to move the next morning, as 6th Airborne Division began their advance toward the mouth of the River Seine along the coast, as part of First Canadian Army’s push to the River Seine, with 1st British Corps on the left, and 2nd Canadian Corps on the right.

image 11

A ‘Sketch’ map showing First Canadian Army’s push to the River Seine, with the 6th Airborne Division on the left (coastal) flank, as mentioned in the text.

On 17 August 1944, under command of Headquarters 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery came into action near Troarn, France, in support of the British 6th Airlanding Brigade. From 17 to 27 August, the battery continued in support of elements of the 6th Airborne Division, which included 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, and Dutch infantrymen of the Royal Netherlands Brigade (Princess Irene’s), and of elements of the British 49th (West Riding) Infantry Division, as 1st British Corps continued their advance toward the River Seine. By the morning of 27 August, the battery had only one Sherman Observation Post Tank, three 95-millimetre Centaur IVs, and one 95-millimetre Cromwell VI[2] left in action due to enemy action, accidents and mechanical breakdowns, which had occurred along the way since first going into action on 17 August, and had taken up gun positions to the rear of Toutainville, France. During the afternoon of 27 August, the 15 members of the British Royal Corps of Signals, who had been attached to the battery, were released and sent back to British 31 Reinforcement Holding Unit, and the battery’s tank crews who had accompanied their broken down, or damaged Sherman Observation Post Tanks, and 95-millimetre Centaur IVs, to workshops, rejoined the battery, leaving only the individual drivers behind.

TANKS AND AFVS OF THE BRITISH ARMY 1939-45

An example of a 95-millimetre Cromwell VI. (IWM (KID 961))

Earlier, on 24 August, while 1st Canadian Centaur Battery was out of action in a concentration area pending deployment for an attack beyond Pont-l’Évêque, France, the Brigadier Royal Artillery, Headquarters First Canadian Army, and the Officer Commanding, 53rd (Worcestershire Yeomanry) Airlanding Light Regiment, Royal Artillery, met with the Battery Commander, Major D.M. Cooper. During this meeting they suggested to Major Cooper that he endeavour to operate the battery as a six-gun battery, instead of that of a 12-gun battery, due to the battery’s losses (in both personnel and equipment) from enemy action, accidents and mechanical breakdowns, and that the battery would probably only be in operation for another two weeks, with the pending withdrawal of the 6th Airborne Division from 1st British Corps. Major Cooper was also informed at this time, that the 15 members of the British Royal Corps of Signals, were to be withdrawn from their attachment to the battery on 27 August (as noted in the paragraph above).

From their gun positions to the rear of Toutainville, France, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery remained in action until 12:00 P.M., 28 August 1944, at which point they ceased fire for the last time. During the afternoon, the battery moved back to a concentration area, and the reorganization from a 12-gun, to a six-gun battery took place. This reorganization lead to the release of Captain Walker, Captain Miller, two Lieutenants, and the gun crews (24 other ranks) of six 95-millimetre Centaur IVs (less drivers), who were all sent back to No. 2 Canadian Base Reinforcement Group, as Royal Canadian Artillery reinforcements. On 29 August, Major Cooper, Captain Leapard (Royal Artillery), and Captain Else, went to Headquarters Army Troops Area First Canadian Army, where Major Cooper received authority to disband 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, Royal Canadian Artillery, with effect from 30 August 1944, and also instructions on the disposal of the battery’s guns, vehicles, equipment, and personnel.

Solent News & Photo Agency

Another example of a Centaur IV, seen here in service with “S” Troop, 5th Royal Marine Independent Armoured Support Battery, Royal Marines Armoured Support Group. (Authors’ Collection)

On 30 August, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery moved to a concentration area near Pont-l’Évêque, France, where the process of the disposal of the battery’s guns, vehicles, equipment, and personnel began on the morning of 31 August. Between 31 August – 2 September 1944, the battery’s vehicles, and equipment were returned to the applicable Canadian Army Vehicle Park, or Ordnance Stores. The battery personnel themselves, were dispatched to No. 13 Canadian Base Reinforcement Battalion (No. 2 Canadian Base Reinforcement Group), as Royal Canadian Artillery reinforcements.

Having learned of the planned withdrawal of the 6th Airborne Division from 1st British Corps with effect from 30 August, Staff Duties, General Staff Branch, Headquarters First Canadian Army, drew up a request (dated 29 August 1944) for the approval of Lieutenant-General H.D.G. Crerar, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief First Canadian Army, for the authorization to disband Serial CM 802, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 30 August 1944, which was duly authorized by Crerar. Notification of the authorized disbandment of Serial CM 802, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, under instructions of Headquarters First Canadian Army, was published under Canadian Section General Headquarters 1st Echelon, 21 Army Group Administrative Order No. 10, dated 9 September 1944. This was followed by a message from Canadian Section General Headquarters 1st Echelon, 21 Army Group, to Canadian Military Headquarters (London), with an attached copy of the submission authorizing the disbandment of 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA (signed by Crerar), and a copy of Cdn Sec GHQ 1 Ech 21 A Gp Admin Order No. 10/44, under which it was notified. Subsequently, the disbandment of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 30 August 1944, was notified under Canadian Military Headquarters Administrative Order No. 149, dated 13 September 1944.

image 14

The submission of 29 August 1944, to the GOC-in-C First Cdn Army from Staff Duties for the authorization to disband 1st Canadian Centaur Battery.

image 15

Cdn Sec GHQ 1 Ech 21 A Gp Admin Order No. 10/44, under which the authorization for the disbandment of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 30 August 1944, was published.

image 16

CMHQ Admin Order No. 149/44, under which the authorization for the disbandment of Serial CM 804, 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, RCA, with effect from 30 August 1944, was published.

Of the three Sherman Observation Post Tanks, and 12x  95-millimetre Centaur IVs, that 1st Canadian Centaur Battery had originally taken over from “X” Armoured Battery, Royal Artillery, only one Sherman Observation Post Tank (Census No. T149788), and four 95-millimetre Centaur IVs (Census Numbers T185007, T185107, T185373, and T185387) were in serviceable and operational condition when turned into 259 Delivery Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps (the ‘Corps’ delivery squadron for 1st British Corps), on 4 September 1944. These five vehicles were duly turned over to “F” Squadron, 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment (The Elgin Regiment), Canadian Armoured Corps (the ‘Army’ delivery squadron for First Canadian Army), on 5 September 1944, from where they were returned to the applicable Ordnance facility. The remaining two Sherman Observation Post Tanks, and eight 95-millimetre Centaur IVs, having been struck-off-charge of 1st Canadian Centaur Battery, were in various workshops throughout the 1st British Corps area, undergoing repairs, of one sort or another.

image 17

The ‘Vehicles Received’ portion of the daily balance sheet for 259 Delivery Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps, dated 4 September 1944, showing the receipt of four Centaur IVs, and one Sherman Observation Post tank from 1st Canadian Centaur Battery.

image 18

The ‘Vehicles Issued’ portion of the daily balance sheet for 259 Delivery Squadron, Royal Armoured Corps, dated 5 September 1944, showing the issue of one Sherman Observation Post tank, and four Centaur IVs to “F” Squadron, 25th Canadian Armoured Delivery Regiment (The Elgin Regiment), Canadian Armoured Corps.


Notes

  1. The Royal Marines Armoured Support Group (equipped with 80x 95-millimetre Centaur self-propelled equipments) consisted of the 1st Royal Marine Armoured Support Regiment (1st Battery (“A,” “B,” “C,” and “D” Troops) and 2nd Battery (“E,” “F,” “G,” and “H” Troops)), the 2nd Royal Marine Armoured Support Regiment (3rd Battery (“J,” “K,” “L,” and “M” Troops) and 4th Battery (“N,” “O,” “P,” and “Q” Troops)), and the 5th Royal Marine Independent Armoured Support Battery (“R,” “S,” “T,” and “V” Troops). Its five batteries were divided up between the British 50th (Northumbrian) Infantry Division, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, and the British 3rd Infantry Division, for the assault phase of the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944, and continued to support British and Canadian troops in Normandy, until the Group was withdrawn.
  2. The 95-millimetre Cromwell VI, was based on the British designed and built Cruiser Tank, Mark VIII, Cromwell (A27M), and was the close support version of the Cromwell (A27M) tank, mounting a 95-millimetre tank howitzer in the turret, in place of the standard armament of a 6-pounder gun, and was simply known, as the ‘Cromwell VI.’ This particular 95-millimetre Cromwell VI, had been acquired by 1st Canadian Centaur Battery from the 8th Kings’s Royal Irish Hussars, the armoured reconnaissance regiment of the British 7th Armoured Division on 24 August 1944, and was returned to them during the disbandment process of the battery.

Sources:

– Library and Archives Canada – RG24, C2, Vol. 12245, and Vol. 12249.

– Library and Archives Canada – RG24, C3, Vol. 14248, and Vol. 14640.

Click on the stars below to rate this article

 

 

The Career Private

by Capt. Richard JS Law

From time to time Regimental museums hold artifacts that are sometimes overlooked, perhaps sitting in a dusty cabinets, or drawer and forgotten to the annals of history. These medals, held by The Brockville Rifles Regimental museum, tell an interesting tale; a tale of a painter by trade who sought military adventures around the globe. From left to right they are the Canada General Service Medal (1866-1870) with Fenian Raid 1870 clasp, the Queen’s South Africa Medal with Cape Colony clasp, the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal, and the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal – each one is named to T. Glazier with various Regimental numbers and Regimental affiliations. On its own this grouping would indicate at a minimum 45 years of service and conflict on three continents. Perhaps even more impressive is that throughout the span of this time, this humble man remained at the rank of Private.

1

Private Glazier’s medals, now in the collection of The Brockville Rifles museum

Brockville native Torrence (also found as Torrance and Torence) Glazier fought during the Fenian Raids as a member of the 42nd Battalion of Infantry, a Brockville based Line Infantry unit formed on 5 October 1866, simultaneously to the 41st Battalion of Rifles. Evidence supports that he also participated in the Red River Rebellion as a member of the Provisional Battalion of Infantry despite not being awarded the Red River clasp[1]. For his service at Red River the Government provided him with a land grant which he transferred shortly after.[2] Later, he traveled to New Orleans on his own means to sail to South Africa where he joined the Scott’s Railway Guards (regimental number 351) with whom he served in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1901. This small unit consisted of roughly 500 all ranks under the command of Lieutenant Colonel R.G. Scott, VC, DSO and was a South African Colonial Corps tasked with defending railways which were under threat of the Boers.

There are also allegations, according to the third issue of The Legionary magazine from 15 June 1926 that Glazier had fought in the American Civil War; however no further evidence supports this claim. He allegedly attempted to join the Japanese in fighting the Russians during the Russo-Japanese war in 1907 when he traveled to the Pacific, again of his own means, but was unsuccessful in joining their forces. He received his Colonial Auxiliary Forces Long Service Medal as a member of the 41st Regiment (Brockville Rifles) in 1921.[3]

Twice, in 1914, Glazier attempted to join the 21st Battalion (Eastern Ontario) Canadian Expeditionary Force, but was rejected.[4] He attested with the 92nd Battalion (48th Highlanders) Canadian Expeditionary Force in Toronto on 13 August 1915 being assigned Regimental number 194971, but was subsequently discharged being found unfit for duty on 2 September 1915 due to “overage”.[5] On his attestation he divulges his military experience with the Scott’s Railway Guards as a Private in the Anglo-Boer War but nothing is listed regarding the Fenian Raids of 1870, likely in effort to avoid being rejected due to his advanced age. Interesting to note, his attestation papers list his year of birth as 1871, despite the fact he was 71 years old at the time he joined the CEF.

2

Attestation papers clearly showing the notation “Discharged” Library & Archives Canada

In order to qualify for the 1914-1915 Star he would have had to be in continental Europe prior to 1916. He seems to have completed his wartime service as a Pioneer, Regimental number 125495, with the 11th Pioneer Battalion, Royal Engineers of the British Army whom he joined 24 October 1915 after traveling to the United Kingdom, once again by his own means. Within a week he of joining he was in France where he spent nearly two months in the trenches.[6] Upon being affected by rheumatism he was returned to England in January of 1916 where his age was revealed upon inspection by a Medical Officer at the Bagthorpe Military Hospital.

4

February 1916 account of Glaziers storied past and his challenges in joining the Colours.

Once again he was discharged due to his age, but undeterred he allegedly attempted to join the CEF upon his return to Canada. He died 25 March 1930 and is buried in the Oakland cemetery in Brockville, Ontario. His grave is marked by a humble head stone inscribed “Private Torrence Glazier RE CEF 25th March 1930.” No plaques or flowers surround it.

7

Glazier’s tombstone. He is buried in Oakland cemetery in Brockville

He is undoubtedly one of the more interesting characters of Canadian military history, and most likely, the oldest Canadian veteran to attest during the First World War which has seemingly been forgotten for years as a footnote of a proud Nation’s history. All told, he is confirmed to have fought in three separate wars, with three different Armies, on three continents.


Notes

[1] Red River Expeditionary Force 1870-1877: Appendix II

[2] LAC, RG15-D-II-9-a File no 3362, Private Torrance Glazier of the Provisional Battalion of Infantry, 1875-10-09

[3] General Order 21/233

[4] Clarke, Nic, Unwanted Warriors : Rejected Volunteers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, UBC Press, 2015.

[5] LAC, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 3580-11, item 420432, GLAZIER, Torrence (125495)

[6] Patriotism of a Veteran Fighter Shames Slackers, The St Lawrence Republican, Ogdensburg NY, 16 February 1916

Captain Law, The Royal Canadian Regiment, is currently serving as the Regimental Adjutant to The Brockville Rifles

Rate this article by clicking on the stars below

COLOURED FIELD SERVICE CAPS OF THE EDMONTON REGIMENT AND LOYAL EDMONTON REGIMENT

by James J. Boulton

The coloured field service caps of this regiment are of particular interest because most officers did not wear the regulation pattern and added a badge that had not been approved, and finally many of the caps worn by other ranks were of higher quality than normally seen.

With the introduction of the 1937 pattern field service cap to the British and Canadian armies, the officers of each regiment and corps were invited to submit proposed patterns for officers and other ranks up the chain of command to National Defence Headquarters where final approval was given by the Master-General of the Ordnance.

Officers

Officers’ caps were generally distinguished by superior, quality fabric, fine construction and satin or silesia linings with a velvet sweatband. Metallic French braid (circular in cross section) was restricted to officers’ caps. Both gold wire and metallized celluloid braid are seen.

The pattern selected by officers of the Edmonton Regiment was blue and scarlet, corresponding to the officers’ blue undress forage cap with scarlet piping on the crown. It was finished with gold French braid.

While some cap patterns were unique to the unit, the pattern selected by the regiment was similar to that of generals, brigadiers and substantive colonels of both the British and Canadian armies and shared with the officers of the Prince Edward Island Light Horse and Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke.

The approved regulation patterns consisted of:       TableEdmonton Regt. Officer's CFSC rev

The regulation pattern coloured Field Service cap and badge for officers. The gold metalized celluloid French braid on the curtain is to be noted. (JJB collection, courtesy WG Hughes

The regulation pattern for officers was included in the Dress Regulations 1943, specifying gold French braid on the crown, front and back seam and the curtain.

Numerous examples and the photographic record show, however, that scarlet piping on the curtain was commonly substituted, creating a handsome and distinctive pattern. This notwithstanding, the Dress Regulations 1947 continue to specify gold braid throughout.

The reason for this unauthorized change is so far unknown. It is not likely, but possible, that the British manufacturer, Hobson and Sons, suggested the alteration because of the resemblance of the regulation pattern to that of generals and senior staff officers and may indeed have been reticent to produce it for the regiment.

It is, however, curious that the change was not presented to the Master-General of the Ordnance, given the considerable correspondence on coloured field service caps at every level of the army throughout the war.

CFSC.LER.off

Officer’s cap, attributed to Lt. T.P.H. Darlington. A common variation with the substitution of scarlet piping on the curtain. (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum collection)

Caps for the Edmonton Regiment were made in both Britain and Canada. It  is believed that all Canadian-made caps were the regulation pattern.

Other Ranks

Many examples of the caps for the other ranks of the regiment are unusual in that they approximate officers’ quality interiors, including the velvet sweatband, whether of Canadian or British manufacture and whether with quality or standard shell fabric.

The other ranks’ pattern resembles the coloured field service caps for officers of the Midland Regiment, the Prince of Wales Rangers and the Westminster Regiment.

 

CFSC.LER.or

An other ranks’ cap by Hobson and Sons, London. Officers’ quality construction with a black satin lining and black velvet sweatband. British bright gilt General Service buttons. (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum collection)

Badges

Officers of the regiment generally used issue brass badges available through the Quartermaster, but the coloured field service caps were attractive, expensive and often great care taken in finishing them with handsome badges.

Occasional, costly fire gilt (gold frosted) officers’ badges are seen. Many officers’ caps bear gold wire embroidered badges made in England reflecting homage to the 49th Battalion, CEF, but not yet officially approved. A War Office order in March 1941 actually prohibited embroidered badges.  In 1943, the regiment was re-designated the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, the change reflected in a revised badge.

ER.BDG.gilt

Left, rare fire gilt officers’ badge. Center , a fine wire-embroidered  badge. Right, a brass badge. The scarlet backing was added pursuant to orders in July 1944 and March 1945.

Buttons  

British General Service buttons are common on caps made in England. Canadian made caps usually were finished with Canadian general service buttons.  A regimental pattern is known. One British-made example curiously bears 1901 pattern Canadian Militia buttons that the maker had available.

The regulation size was 20-ligne (1/2 inch, 13 mm) but there was a small range of sizes seen in use.

BTN.Brit.GS

Left to right, British GS, Canadian GS, regimental, Canadian Militia buttons

 

LER.officer.2

Lt. Colonel W.G. Stillman in July 1941. He commanded the regiment when it was mobilized. (MilArt Photo Archives)

FSC.LER.rev.

The very fine appearance of the most common officers’ cap pattern and badge.  (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum collection)

LER.officer.1

Major A.F. McDonald, pictured in England in May 1943.  The buttons are British general service and the badge is embroidered wire. There is gold braid on the crown and seams and red piping on the curtain. (Milart Photo Archives)

1989.2.96 cropped

Officers of the regiment pictured in Britain in 1941. All are wearing coloured field service caps. Included in the group are an officer of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps and one of the Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps, wearing their respective corps coloured caps. The chaplain at far right, a honorary captain, is wearing a khaki field service cap. (Loyal Edmonton Regiment Museum archives)

 

CFSC cover option 2a

Reference:  Boulton, J.J. and C.M. Law – Canadian Field Service Caps Service Publications 2014

You can rate this article by clicking on the stars below

 

What is Old is New Again: Formation Signs of the Canadian Army 2015

by Bill Alexander

In 2011, the Land, Sea or Air Elements of the Canadian Forces were re-designated as the three traditional services, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army. Unification of the Canadian Forces was officially ended. The Canadian Army continued with re-structuring and in 2013 the LAND FORCE (LF) Areas of Canada were renamed divisions, with each of the four land force areas named after one of the overseas divisions of the Second World War.

Under the new structure, 1 Canadian Division, re-organized in 2010 as a regular force command and control headquarters retained its designation while the other four divisions were distributed across Canada by renaming the existing LF areas:

  • LF Atlantic Area became 5 Canadian Division,
  • Secteur du Quebec de la Force Terrestre (SQFT)/LF Quebec Area, 2e Division du Canada,
  • LF Central Area, 4 Canadian Division, and
  • LF Western Area was re-named 3 Canadian Division.

Concurrent with this re-designation, formation signs were authorized for wear by each division.[i]

Following the army precedent for formation patches since the First World War, the new division signs are made in the standard size of two by three inches. The patches were to reflect the colours used for the Second World War division signs. Using a Pantone system, colours were selected based on the historic division signs. The new division formation signs are made of a Melton material with an embroidered border bonded to a second layer of plastic backing.  The patches are trimmed along the embroidered edges.

1-cdn-div-1990-2011

1 Canadian Division had been organized and disbanded twice between 1950 and 1999 and it was reactivated for a third time in 2010. With the 2014 re-organization, it was indicated that the new pattern division signs would be provided for 1 Cdn Division shortly. The implication was that the latest incarnation of 1 Cdn Division was not wearing a patch or they were using another pattern. The division sign was the traditional crimson red worn by all previous iterations of 1 CID. 2e DC adopted a medium blue colour, more similar to the Second World War pattern than the dark blue of the First World War division patch. Some problems crept into the grey colour selected for 3 Canadian Division. The initial choice was determined to be incorrect in the shade of grey and a second slightly darker grey was selected; only a small number of the incorrect patches were issued. 4 Canadian Division adopted a medium green patch and 5 Canadian Division, a shade of maroon. The new melton materials reflect different shades of the chosen colours depending on lighting. The new formation signs came into wear in 2014 and the issue was to be complete by 2015.

2e-dc3-cdn-div-15

The new division signs are worn on the army DEU and the introduction of the new signs required some modifications to dress regulations.  The Land Force Areas had been organized into ten brigade groups in 1997. The brigade structure continued under the new division organization and personnel wear both their appropriate brigade patch and the new division sign. The brigade patches are worn 7 cm below the shoulder seam on the right sleeve of the army DEU uniform. The division signs are to be worn 7 cm below the shoulder seam on the left sleeve.

4-div-145-div-14

At the same time that new division signs were approved, the Canadian Army HQ (CA HQ) and the Canadian Army Training and Doctrine Centre (CATDC) were also authorized formation signs. Drawing on historic precedent, the Second World War First Canadian Army formation sign, a diamond shape with a central blue bar on a red field became the basis of the new CA HQ sign and the CADTC uses the sign of 1 Cdn Corps, a plain red diamond. Manufactured in the same manner as the division signs, with embroidered cut edges and, a fully embroidered blue bar for the CA HQ, these formation signs are worn on the left sleeve of the DEU. New formation signs are strictly controlled and issued in limited numbers to personnel.  In the last year (2016), Level 1 and Level 2 formation headquarters commanders and RSM began wearing the Div patch on the right arm of the CADPAT uniform.[ii]

cadtc-1ca-hq

The new patches are an interesting revival of formation signs and provide continuity for the historic formations of the Canadian Army. Though somewhat arbitrary in the assignment to geographic areas, the new division signs recognize the past organization of the Canadian army and perpetuate their insignia in the contemporary army.


Notes

[i] 1 Canadian Division could be the formation that refused to die. First organized in World War One, the division was reformed in World War Two, again disbanded and reformed in the 1950’s and again in the 1990’s. The latest incarnation was authorized in 2010.

The re-designation of LF areas to Divisions creates some interesting anomalies. During the war, the order of battle of the overseas divisions was not drawn on a regional basis. Today, each of the regions has regiments that served in several of the five overseas divisions. For example, in the Maritime provinces, the Princess Louise Fusiliers and Cape Breton Highlanders served in 5 Canadian Armoured Division, while the Royal New Brunswick Regt (Carleton & York Regiment) and West Nova Scotia Regiment were in 1 Canadian Infantry Division, the North Shore Regiment (New Brunswick) and North Nova Scotia Highlanders were in 3 Canadian Infantry Division and the New Brunswick Rangers perpetuated by the Royal New Brunswick Regiment served in 4 Canadian Armoured Division.

[ii] Level 1 includes the army HQ and CADTC and Level 2 includes division headquarters command officers and RSM’s.

Cold Signs: Winter Exercise Patches 1944-1950

© B.Alexander 2016

Over time, cloth sleeve insignia has evolved from identifying positions of authority and membership in units, regiments or formations to incorporate other purposes, including participation in short term operations or taskings. Intended to be worn only for the duration of the particular deployment, this use for Canadian insignia appeared during the Second World War. Unique formation patches were worn by some Canadian personnel participating in Task Force 9, the invasion of Kiska.  Ordered taken down when these units returned to Canada, their issue had established a precedent. Unique patches for a short term deployment were issued for personnel participating in winter exercises held in northern Canada.

image09

Formation patches worn by Canadians of the 13th Infantry Brigade participating in Task Force 9, the invasion of Kiska. Author’s collection

Defence of the northern reaches of Canada took on a new priority towards the end of the Second World War. The spectre of Soviet Russian expansionism impacted strategy and operations; developing the capability to defend Canada’s northern territory in the event of an incursion or invasion figured prominently in NDHQ planning. The army recognized the need to develop winter warfare capabilities and staged several exercises for this purpose. Over the winter of 1944-45, Exercise Eskimo was held in northern Saskatchewan to test equipment and develop doctrine for dry cold conditions. Two other exercises were held the same winter; Exercise Polar Bear and Exercise Lemming. Exercise Polar Bear, a corollary to Ex Eskimo was held in northern British Columbia and was intended to test equipment and doctrine for wet cold conditions. Exercise Lemming, conducted in late winter, focused on operating vehicles in barren lands of the far north.  Approximately 1750 personnel were committed to Ex Eskimo, another 1150 to Ex Polar Bear, but only 17 personnel were assigned to Lemming.[1]

image07

The exercise patch created for Exercise Eskimo held in northern Saskatchewan over the winter of 1944-45. Author’s collection

A special patch was made for Ex Eskimo. In white embroidery on a blue Melton circle, it shows an igloo with a plume of smoke and the North Star in the upper right quadrant. A white half circle border is embroidered around the upper half of the tasking sign. The patch was intended to identify participating personnel only for the duration of the exercise. Consistent with contemporary formation sign policy, the patches were worn on both sleeves. Photo evidence indicates that they were worn both on battledress and winter parkas. It is not known if the patch was also worn by the personnel of Ex Polar Bear, the wet cold scheme held in British Columbia.  The small size of Ex Lemming and its remote location make it unlikely the patches were issued to this group. Along with the exercises’ stated purposes of testing uniforms and equipment, the patches were subjected to evaluation. At the end of the scheme the patches were deemed acceptable.

image08

The Ex Eskimo patch was worn in battledress as well as on the parka and was displayed on both sleeves.

In the winter of 1946, a far more ambitious non-tactical exercise was mounted. Designated Exercise Musk Ox, it was “intended to study the problems of living and moving with over-snow vehicles in the Arctic barrens in winter”. A team of army personnel would navigate the Arctic barrens, starting in Churchill Manitoba, proceeding north, circumventing the Northwest Territories, and finally heading south to end in Edmonton Alberta, 3100 miles later. The convoy was manned by 48 officers and men plus some observers, with an additional 221 army personnel in supporting roles. Resupply of the expedition was by 1 Air Supply Unit No 9 Transport Group RCAF. [2]

image05

Patch worn for Exercise Musk Ox, held over the winter of 1946. Author’s collection

As with the previous year’s exercise, Ex Musk Ox personnel wore a unique tasking patch. Reflecting the land, sea and air elements, and their round, fully embroidered, cut edge, patch had representations of an aircraft, a naval vessel and once again an igloo. These were placed on a background of arctic mountains and a fjord. The fully embroidered patch was made with field colours in white and pale blue, with details picked out in black embroidery and a black embroidered border. Photo evidence indicates the patch was worn on both sleeves of the battledress tunic. The patches were worn by both the convoy team and supporting elements.  The patches became redundant with the successful conclusion of Ex Musk Ox in the spring of 1946.[3]

image01

After 1946, dedicated arctic exercises fell off the agenda for NDHQ.  Demobilization of the army and setting and implementing post war defence policy pushed arctic adventures to the back-burners of the planners in Ottawa. That abruptly changed. The growing Soviet threat and the strategic importance of the north necessitated a military capability to defend Canadian sovereignty. The US Army, already interested in northern operations, had staged Exercise Yukon, held only in Alaska, from late 1947 into March 1948. Concepts and doctrine for winter warfare were tested.  For the participating elements of 2nd Division, US Army, a special fully embroidered shoulder arc reading Exercise Yukon, in white on black was issued. With no Canadian military participation in this exercise, no Canadians were issued the arc.

image03

No Canadians participated in Ex Yukon. Author’s collection

A year and a half later, in February and March 1950, a joint US-Canadian scheme named Exercise Sweetbriar was held in Alaska and the Yukon. Based on the premise of an enemy incursion into an area along the Alaska Highway, a combined operations response was launched to eliminate the threat. Elements of the US 5th Army and the Canadian army including 1 PPCLI, an artillery troop from the RCHA, an Air OP Section, detachments from the RCE, RCCS, RCAMC, RCASC, RCEME, and the C Pro C, supported by elements of the RCAF conducted tactical exercises to test winter warfare doctrine and the equipment of both armies. As part of the exercise, a company of the PPCLI staged an air assault on an objective in extremely cold weather.

image04

Cover page of the post-exercise report for Exercise Sweetbriar. Author’s collection

To mark participation in Exercise Sweetbriar, a shoulder arc, (called a “blaze” in period documentation, but more commonly called tabs), was issued. The fully embroidered cut edge title read US ARCTIC CAN embroidered in white on a blue field with a red embroidered border. The US 5th Army components were issued the blaze, to be worn above the army formation sign. Evidence shows some Canadian personnel wearing the titles, but it is not clear if the entire contingent wore the arc during the exercise. It has been suggested that the tabs were given to Canadian participants as a souvenir.[4]

image02

Two variants of the shoulder title worn by some Canadians at Exercise Sweetbriar, held in February and March 1950. Author’s collection

The patches worn for Exercises Eskimo, Musk Ox and Sweetbriar marked a transition in the purpose of formation signs worn by the Canadian army.  In addition to identifying a formation or unit, the signs now marked participation in an exercise and served to show the short term tasking of the personnel. Ultimately they became a souvenir for the participants. This would become a common practice for many future deployments.


Notes

[1]Halliday, Hugh A. (1997) “Recpaturing the North: Exercises “Eskimo,” “Polar Bear” and “Lemming,” 1945,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 6: Iss. 2, Article 4. Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol6/iss2/4

[2] “Exercise Musk-Ox”, Reports Re, Dept of External Affairs, General File No. 8458-40. RG 25 Vol. 3811. And Thrasher K.M. Exercise Musk Ox: Lost Opportunities, M.A. Thesis Submission, Dept of History, Carleton University, 1998. LAC distribution.

[3] Halliday, Hugh A. (1998) “Exercise “Musk Ox”: Asserting Sovereignty “North of 60”,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 7: Iss. 4, Article 4.Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol7/iss4/4

[4] Rottman, Gordon L., SFC. “The US and Canadian Arctic Blaze” publisher unattributed and undated. Clipped article found in an LAC file.

Rate this article by clicking on the stars below

 

Marksmanship Badges of the Canadian Militia

Clive M. Law

Napoleon famously stated that an army marches on its stomach. It can also be said that an army is motivated by peer-recognition and nowhere is this more evident than in the awarding of insignia – ‘bling’ in modern parlance.

The Canadian Militia in the early 1900s certainly recognized this and, emulating the British Army, instituted a number of skill and prize badges which could be worn by Militiamen of Permanent Force. At the time the PF consisted of the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD), Royal Canadian Mounted Rifles (RCMR), Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA), Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery (RCGA), the Royal Canadian Engineers (RCE) and The Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR). The various Corps (Service Corps, Veterinary Corps, Ordnance Stores, etc..) were not eligible.

Most recognizable are the badges awarded for shooting and the 1905 Musketry Instructions outlined criteria for several levels of skill badges (awarded to all who met a standard) as well as prize badges (awarded to the top competitors).

Several years establishing the criteria, the Department of Militia and Defence (M&D) issued the “Regulations for the Clothing of the Canadian Militia – Permanent Force” which provides the modern researcher with details of the competitions and descriptions of the awards.

The basic badge was that of the Marksman. This consisted of a pair of crossed rifles and was awarded to each man who qualified by attaining a set score. This was a skill at arms badge.

IMG_4622

Marksman’s badge

The remaining shooting badges are prize badges which required the winner to be the top shooter within his Company, Battery or Squadron. Only marksmen were able to compete for these badges.

Best shot in company, etc…  A badge consisting of crossed rifles and star. Limited to a squadron, battery or company in which not less than thirty men have competed, and will be awarded to that marksman who makes the highest score. Casuals or men attached from other units or companies were not eligible.

IMG_4624

Best shot in Company, Battery or Squadron

Best shot of Sergeants and Lance Sergeants. In the RCA, RCE, and RCR*, a badge of crossed rifles and crown surrounded by a wreath of bay leaves. This badge was awarded to the winner of a competition agreed to by the Officers Commanding RCA, or RCR, as well as the officer administering R.C.E., with a view to test all round shooting skill, and was open to all Sergeants and Lance-Sergeants of these arms of the service who were marksman.

IMG_4547

Best shot of Sergeants and Lance Sergeants

Best shot of Corporals and Privates, in RCA, RCE, and RCR*  A badge consisting of crossed rifles and star surrounded by a wreath of bay leaves. The terms were the same as for Sergeants and Lance-Sergeants (above).

IMG_4636

Best shot of Corporals and Privates

For the prize badges a winner was selected from each company.

Once awarded, they were to be taken into wear as soon as possible after they had been won, and would be worn until the next year’s awards had been published in unit orders. The badges were ordered to be worn on the left fore-arm.  When a soldier had won a prize badge he would no longer wear the marksman’s badge but he could, if earned in the same year, wear any combination of the three prize badges concurrently.

By 1909, when Service Dress had been fully issued to the PF, badges were of worsted material but the badges were also available for the coloured serge frock and tunic, in gold embroidery for Sr. NCOs and worsted yellow embroidery for the rank and file. This was later changed to gold embroidery for all ranks.

Commanding officers were responsible to ensure that the badges were only issued to or worn by men whose names were published in the unit’s orders, a copy of which was to be attached to the issue roll for the month in which the issue is made.

As the rate of issue was a single badge to each qualifier (others could be privately purchased by the soldier) Commanding officers would indent in the usual way on nearest ordnance depot for only such badges as have been qualified for.

  • No mention is made in the instructions concerning the RCD or RCMR but it is assumed that they qualified on a similar basis.

Rate this article by clicking o the stars below

The Albert Pattern Helmet and the 1st Hussars

Maj (ret’d) MR McNorgan

In 1843 the dragoon regiments of the British army adopted a steel helmet termed the ‘Albert pattern.’ This headwear had front and back peaks and was held on the wearer’s head by means of a metal chin strap backed with leather. The front of the helmet carried a unit badge, while the top had a plume-stem from which emanated a horse-hair plume of appropriate colour or colours.

Canadian cavalry regiments were quick to adopt the stylish new item. Although worn primarily by regiments of dragoons and dragoon guards, it was also used by regiments of horse and even by some hussars in lieu of the busby. In the 1870s the design was somewhat simplified with some of the elaborate embellishments on the front peak being removed while brass was substituted for steel as the principal material of the helmet’s body (see A Cavalry Helmet to the 6th Canadian Cavalry Regt. (Hussars) for an example of this later pattern). Today Albert pattern brass helmets can be seen on the heads of soldiers in full dress from The Royal Canadian Dragoons, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (RC) and the Governor General’s Horse Guards, to name but a few.

19810156-001

One of two surviving examples of the helmet can be found at the Canadian War Museum. Courtesy CWM

The 1st Hussars date their origins from the year 1856 when two volunteer cavalry troops were raised under the terms of the Militia Act of 1855. This act provided for Militiamen to be paid whereas prior to this they served at their own expense. The elder unit, in St Thomas, dates from 20 March 1856 and would eventually become ‘A’ Squadron of the 1st Hussars, while the next was raised in London on 24 July 1856, becoming in the fullness of time the Hussars’ ‘B’ Squadron. However, there were two Militia cavalry units in the area before 1856 and they are also a part of the Regiment’s history. The older of these two units was the ‘1st London Independent Troop of Cavalry’ raised on 9 May 1851 (General Order (3) 9/5/51) and drawing its personnel from Middlesex County. The next was ‘The First Middlesex Light Dragoons’, raised on 24 April 1853 (General (1) 24/4/53) and drawing on the Town of London for its recruits. It would appear to be typical military logic that the unit with the name Middlesex would recruit in London while the unit with London in its title recruited in the county! Either that or the compiler of the records transposed information between the two files!

The 1st London Independent Troop of Cavalry was issued with an Albert pattern steel helmet, 1847-pattern. The unit badge shows a numeral 1 in front of the name LONDON with the initials CW below. CW stood for Canada West, the name by which what is now Ontario was known between the years 1841 and 1867. Above the designation 1 LONDON is a beaver facing left. The beaver was a common symbol on Militia badges of the time. The Queen’s cipher ‘VR’ for Victoria Regina is at the top of the badge. The horse-hair plume is black.

1H_Helmet

The helmet obtained by the 1st Hussars at auction. Sadly this distressed example is both cracked and holed. Courtesy 1H Museum

On 24 March 2007 an example of this helmet was put up for auction in Paris Ontario. The Regiment’s Don Bondy, accompanied by Mike Steele, attended the auction with the intent of securing this piece of regimental history. Unfortunately, there was an American militaria collector also bidding on the item, by telephone, and the price climbed high before the two Hussar representatives were successful. In researching their prize they would discover that there is only one other example known, a helmet held by the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. The War Museum’s version is in excellent condition, which unhappily the Regiment’s version is not. The helmet purchased in Paris has a large hole in its right side and several cracks in the metal. Nevertheless, for an object so old and rare it is a prized find.

1 Hussars Rivers

A recently discovered portrait of Captain Rivers who was the first commanding officer of the 1st Troop of Volunteer Militia Cavalry of London. The portrait clearly shows the Albert-pattern helmet by his side. Courtesy Rivers family.

In 2016 the 1st Hussars were contacted by a local family who were doing genealogical research. They had two Victorian-era ancestral portraits depicting one Captain James W.B. Rivers and his wife. They were hoping that the Hussars could give them more information on Captain Rivers, who was shown wearing a cavalry uniform. This chance request proved to be a gold mine of information for the Regiment. Captain Rivers was none other than the first commanding officer of the 1st Troop of Volunteer Militia Cavalry of London, raised on 24 July 1856 and the direct progenitor of ‘B’ Squadron, 1st Hussars. We now have a direct link between what is officially recognised as one of the Regiment’s two founding units and the 1851-era 1st London Independent Troop of Cavalry. We now have a portrait, in colour no less, of one of the first two commanding officers of the antecedent units. We have a rare image, again in colour, of a mid-Victorian Canadian cavalry uniform. And finally, we have a link showing the provenance of the Regiment’s Albert pattern helmet.

There are more questions to be asked and researched once a clear copy of the painting is obtained. The details of the uniform and its badges will add to our meagre store of knowledge on these matters. This painting is a gold mine indeed.


Notes

Note 1: What was called a cavalry troop in Victorian times would today be called a squadron. These various troops should be therefore thought of as independent squadrons to better understand their role.

Note 2: The reader may be getting confused by the similar sounding titles and so they are listed here for ease of comprehension. Captain James Rivers commanded both of these units:

  • 1851 – 1st London Independent Troop of Cavalry
  • 1856 – 1st Troop of Volunteer Militia Cavalry of London

Editor’s note. An earlier version of this article appeared in the 1st Hussars’ “The Bulletin”.  McNorgan, Mike.  “The Albert Pattern Helmet and the 1st Hussars.”  The Bulletin Sept 2015 Vol 15 No 2: 7-8.  Print.

You can rate this article by clicking on the stars below

 

%d bloggers like this: