The Minute Book
Saturday, 5 July 2014

RCR Returm to Wolseley Barracks
Topic: The RCR

Royal Canadians Returned Today

Recalls Departure of Little Company in August, 1914
Fine Record in War
Reorganized Regiment Is Under Command of Lieut.-Col. Hill

The Free Press, London, Ontario; 7 December 1920

Shortly after 2 o'clock this afternoon the detachment of the Royal Canadian Regiment, which is to constitute the permanent force for Military District No. 1, in this city, was officially welcomed to the city by Mayor E.S. Little.

The R.C.R. left Toronto at 10 o'clock and detrained at the Quebec street station, where they received the official welcome of the city. The detachment numbers about 200 officers and men, and is under the command of Lieut.-Col. Hill.

Six years ago last August, "K" Company, of the Royal Canadian Regiment, then engaged in musketry training at the Cove ranges, entrained here for Halifax on mobilization orders, and the departure of the only permanent force unit in London district brought home to citizens here more vividly the meaning of Great Britain's declaration of war a few hours later. It was the first time Wolseley Barracks had been without an infantry detachment since the opening of the Royal Infantry School on March 31, 1888, with Lieut.-Col. (now Brig.-Gen.) Henry Smith as Commandant. From the outbreak of the war until after its close there were expeditionary force troops here in varying numbers, but the first permanent force unit to be stationed here since was the new P.P.C.L.I., now transferred.

Lt.-Col. C.H. Hill, D.S.O. (1919)

Lt.-Col. C.H. Hill, D.S.O., Commanding Officer (1919)

The return of the Royal Canadians brings headquarters and two double companies, or more than half the personnel of the regiment. The detachment which left London in 1914, under Capt. (now Lieut.-Col. C.H. Hill, was 40 strong. Lieut.-Col. Hill now commands the regiment.

The Royal Canadian Regiment was established on December 21, 1883. Service overseas was under C.E.F. terms of enlistment and the three-year term in the permanent force expired long before the war was over. But a regiment never dies, and there was still a framework with which to carry on when the R.C.R., C.E.F. was disbanded last fall. The Government then inaugurated a two-year term of enlistment and began recruiting for the three permanent infantry regiments, which replace the one existing before the war—the R.C.R.

The R.C.R. took part in the operations of 1885, went to South Africa in 1899, sent a disciplinary force to the Yukon in 1899, and added luster to Canada's fame in South Africa. Their deeds of valour in the late war were many, and their list of battle honours long.

In the Great War

On the outbreak of the European war the regiment was mobilized at Halifax and brought to war strength by a draft of 900 men at Camp Valcartier. The regiment was then, on September 9, sent to Bermuda to relieve the 2nd Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, remained there until August of the following year, when relieved by the 38th Battalion, C.E.F. It then proceeded to France via England, where it was rearmed and re-equipped.

On November 1, 1915, the R.C.R. landed at Boulogne and moved up to the line, becoming Corps troops under Lieut.-Gen. Sir A.E.H. Alderson, K.C.B. It went into the trenches for the first time at Messines with the 1st Canadian Division.

At the beginning of 1916 it was one of the battalions comprising the 7th C.I.B., under Brig.-Gen. 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 Highlanders of Canada, 49th Battalion, Edmonton Regiment.

The regiment's first general action was that of the German attack on June 2 and 5, on Sanctuary Wood and Hooge, in the salient.

Between June and August the regiment carried on trench raids. In September it moved south to the Somme, where they took part on September 15 in attacks on the enemy northeast of Courcelette. Again the following day, the 16th, two companies of the regiment, with the 42nd Battalion, R.H.C., attacked in broad daylight over ground heavily swept by machine gun and rifle fire, being practically wiped out when 500 yards from the enemy trench, where the whole battalion was reduced to less than 100 fighting men.

In November the R.C.R. moved to Neuville St. Vaast near Vimy Ridge, where nothing of much importance took place, as this was a very quiet sector, although some successful raids were carried out. On April 9 the regiment took part in the attack on Vimy Ridge on a three-company frontage with one company in support. This was one of the most perfectly planned and executed attacks, and every man knew what his job was, and for two months they had practiced over taps trenches. Although we suffered very heavy casualties, both in officers and in men, still very heavy casualties were inflicted upon the enemy and many prisoners taken.

Hill 70 and Lens

At the end of April, 1917, the regiment took part in Hill 70, suffering heavy casualties, and later moved south of Lens, opposite Memcourt. At the end of October it moved up north and took part in the attack on Passchendaele and later, on November 14, held the line here for three days until relieved by the Imperials. Christmas day was spent in Gouchey Valley with the Brigade in the line at Lierin, opposite Lens. In February, 1918, it moved to "Le Pendu" Camp, near Mont St. Eloy; moved in line opposite Avion and put in 56 days in the front and support lines. On May 1 they were relieved by Imperials and moved out to Bourecq, between Aire and Lillers. Here the division came under General Foch and was known as general reserve. At the end of June it moved into the line south of Arras, at Neuville Vitasse, and later to Amiens, where on August 8 it took part in the battle of Amiens, connecting up with the French army, who were also in this attack. Later on in August it moved again to Arras and on August 26 attacked Monchey-le-Preux, where they suffered very heavy casualties.

Lieut. Milton Fowler Gregg, V.C., M.C. Lieut. Milton Fowler Gregg, V.C., M.C.

Lieut. Milton Fowler Gregg, V.C., M.C.

Later in September the regiment took part in the battle of Cambrai, where it suffered very heavy casualties, losing 22 officers and very many men. Here the adjutant was killed and the commanding officer wounded. The latter was then Col. C.R.E. Willetts, D.S.O., who now commands the P.P.C.L.I.

At the end of October the R.C.R. took part in the action at Bois de Raimes, north of Valenciennes, and on November 10 followed up the enemy with the 42nd R.H.C. and were the first troops to capture and enter Mons.

Lt.-Col. C.R.E. Willets, D.S.O.

Lt.-Col. C.R.E. Willets, D.S.O. (1918)

The division did not go to Germany, but was kept in the vicinity of Mons and Brussels, where later in January, 1919, started to move back towards the base, then proceeded to Bramshott, England, and arrived home on March 8 in Halifax, where it was disbanded as a C.E.F. unit.

Numerous decorations were won, Lt. Milton Fowler Gregg winning the V.C. at Cambrai.

The regiment was commanded by Lieut.-Col. A.H. Macdonnell, C.M.S., D.S.O., on first going to France, and in April, 1916, Lieut.-Col. C.H. Hill, D.S.O., took over command and held it until June, 1918, when it was commanded by Lieut.-Col. C.R.E. Willetts, D.S.O., who held command until wounded at the battle of Cambrai. The command was then taken over by Lieut.-Col. George MacLeod, D.S.O., formerly 49th Battalion, who held the command until February, 1919, when the command was again taken over by Lieut.-Col. Hill, D.S.O., who brought the regiment back to Canada.

Researching The Royal Canadian Regiment in the First World War

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT

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