The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own)
Irish Pipes and Drums http://irishpipesanddrums.com/
Commanding Officer – LCol Bruce Kadonoff, CD
Pipe Major Jordan Seguin
The British Columbia Regiment Irish Pipes and Drums were formed in 1992. Formerly, the group existed as the Irish Fusiliers Pipe Band of the Irish Fusiliers of Canada, based at the Stanley Park Armoury of Vancouver. The Regiment and Pipe Band were placed on the Supplementary Order of Battle and reduced to nil strength in 1964. In June 2002, the Irish Fusiliers of Canada and The British Columbia Regiment were formally amalgamated to preserve the Battle Honours and name of the Irish Fusiliers. With the merger, The BCR Irish Pipes and Drums have become a visible symbol of the Irish heritage of these two outstanding regiments.
The British Columbia Regiment Irish Pipes and Drumsare one of five serving Irish regimental pipe bands in the world and appear under the direction of Pipe Major, Jordan Seguin, and by the kind permission of Lieutenant-Colonel Kadanoff, Commanding Officer of The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own). The band, which is an all-volunteer band made up of civilian women, men and youth of diverse ethnic origins is based out of the Beatty Street Drill Hall in Vancouver.
The Amalgamation of The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) and the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment)
In 2002 National Defence Headquarters decided to remove Regiments from the Supplementary Order of Battle. The Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) had maintained an active association and executive since 1964 and various ways were considered to ensure that the history and traditions of that proud Regiment would not be lost. The Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) had a long and beneficial relationship with The British Columbia Regiment (DCO) throughout its time in the active Militia; one of the most attractive options was an amalgamation with The British Columbia Regiment (DCO) who had maintained an active and vibrant structure as one of the finest Regiments of the Primary Reserve in British Columbia. An amalgamation of the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) was approved and put into effect as of 1 June 2002.
While the amalgamated Regiment maintained the general “look and feel” of the old British Columbia Regiment (DCO) with its 120 years of history and traditions, several significant changes were made in both formal and informal customs and traditions of the Regiment. The collar badge of the dress uniform was changed from the traditional rifle powder horn to a silver Irish harp surmounted by a maple leaf. This insignia was derived from the cap badge of the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment). Additionally, a fusiliers red stripe was added to the traditional British Columbia Regiment (DCO) rifle green, black and silver diagonal stripes, as used on the Regimental tie and other textile accoutrements. The same red stripe was added to the Regimental Camp Flag, along with the new collar badge. With the amalgamation, the Regimental motto was also changed. The old motto of the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) – “Faugh-a-ballagh” (Clear the Way) – was adopted. This Irish battle cry is first recorded as a regimental motto in 1798, by the Royal Irish Fusiliers, and is still in use today by the Royal Irish Regiment.
As a result of the amalgamation of Regiments the list of battle honours was also updated. Four new Battle Honours were added, in addition to those already carried by The British Columbia Regiment (DCO) – Flers Courcelette, Ancre, 1916, Cambrai 1918, and Vaalenciennes. Additionally, one Battle Honour – Pursuit to Mons – which is included in the Battle Honour “Valenciennes” was removed.
The new Regiment also took on the perpetuation of several additional Battalions from the First World War, including the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion CEF, the 30th (BC) Battalion CEF, the 102nd (Northern BC) Battalion CEF, and the 121st (Western Irish) Battalion CEF.The additionally perpetuated battalions also brought significant honour to the Regiment with the addition of two Victoria Cross winners – Company Sergeant Major Robert Hanna, who won the Victoria Cross at Hill 70 in June 1917 with the 29th(Vancouver) Battalion, and Lt Graham Lyall, who won the Victoria Cross at Bourlon Wood and Cambrai in September 1918 with the 102nd (North British Columbia) Battalion.
The Irish Fusiliers of Canada (The Vancouver Regiment)
As amalgamated with The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own)
A Short History
Soldiering in Southwest British Columbia – The Regiment’s Heritage
There have been soldiers on the southwest coast of what is now British Columbia since time immemorial. The First Nation residing in the area, the Salish, used citizen soldiers raised from the general male population to form self-defence forces and raiding parties to gain resources or undertake retaliatory operations against invaders. These marine light infantry of the Salish rarely raided amongst themselves. However, conflict with the Kwakiutl from the northern part of Vancouver Island and the adjacent mainland area was long standing. The last major raid in this conflict took place around 1860 when a force made up of Salish soldiers from the Cowichan, Saanich and Songish areas annihilated a Kwakiutl war party at Maple Bay near Duncan. The party then travelled north in their enemies’ canoes and destroyed the Kwakiutl village from which the raiders had set out.
The European settlement of British Columbia goes back to the early explorers of the Northwest Fur Trading Company, later taken over by the Hudson’s Bay Company, who first established trading posts west of the Rocky Mountains. In 1843, at the height of the Oregon Territory dispute, the Governors of the Hudson’s Bay Company decided to establish Fort Camosun on the southwest part of Vancouver Island. Three years later the name of the fort was changed to Fort Victoria.
Tension continued between Britain and the United States in the Pacific Northwest; a dispute over the San Juan Islands in 1849 came close to hostilities. Shortly thereafter the outbreak of the US Civil War increased suspicions on both sides. In early 1861 the Governor of the Colony accepted an offer from a prominent black merchant, Mr Mifflin Gibbs, to raise a militia company. In July of that year 50 black soldiers were sworn in and formed the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Company, known informally as the Africa Rifles. In 1864 this Volunteer Rifle Corps was reformed with two full rifle companies and continued to flourish.
With the outbreak of the Fraser Valley Gold Rush in 1858, the crown colony of British Columbia was established on the mainland. The British dispatched a detachment of approximately 165 Royal Engineers, under the command of Colonel Richard Clement Moody, to the colony to help develop infrastructure and provide a foundation for the establishment of defence forces. These men later formed the nucleus of the volunteer soldiers who formed the first local militia unit on the mainland – in November 1863 The New Westminster Volunteer Rifles were formed with a strength of 73 all ranks.
Enthusiasm for local defence got a boost in 1866 with the Fenian scare. The Fenians were Irish Americans who, after the American Civil War, were determined to invade and conquer Canada and use the occupation to negotiate the independence of Ireland from Britain. Several skirmishes took place in the Niagara peninsula, where battles were fought between the Fenians and the British Regulars reinforced by Canadian Militia.
A force of Fenians arrived in San Francisco soon after the US Civil War ended and tried to hire a boat to sail north to the British colony on the Pacific. They were unsuccessful. In response to the Fenian threat the Seymour Artillery Company was formed at New Westminster on 16 July 1866. Many members were former Royal Engineers.
The British Columbia Regiment is Established
On 12 October 1883 the British Columbia Provisional Regiment of Garrison Artillery was formed by amalgamating the existing British Columbia militia companies into a single unit. The British Columbia Regiment traces its formal history to this amalgamation of those independent companies.In 1886, the City of Vancouver was incorporated and went into a period of rapid growth; by 1892 it was a city of some importance. When, in 1894, authority was given to raise Number 5 Company of the Regiment in Vancouver, Major Thomas O. Townley, who was later to become the Mayor of Vancouver, was placed in command. This company later became the 2ndBattalion of the Regiment, which Townley also commanded upon promotion to Lieutenant-Colonel.
Conversion to Infantry
Since the late 1880s there had been talk of raising an infantry force on the mainland of British Columbia; in July of 1899 the Regiment was directed to convert to infantry. The CO, Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Worsnop, requested that the unit be designated a rifle regiment. The request was duly approved by Ottawa and the unit was designated the 6th Battalion Rifles. The official date was set for 1 August 1899 and the reorganization was declared complete on New Year’s Day, 1900. The 6th Rifles was organized with 2 companies based in New Westminster and 4 companies in Vancouver, co-located with Regimental Headquarters.
The South African War
In 1899 war broke out between Britain and the two Boer Republics in South Africa. The Prime Minister, Wilfred Laurier, decided to send a limited force of 1,000 volunteers for a term of service not to exceed twelve months. Volunteers were selected from each province and 24 members of the Regiment became part of ‘A’ Company, 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment. The battalion was commanded by Lt-Col W.D. Otter, ADC to the Governor-General, Lord Minto. The Regiment showed great distinction. On 18 February 1900 they participated in a wild and unsuccessful charge on the Boer positions during the Battle of Paardeberg. Nine days later the battalion attacked again under the cover of darkness and Boer General Cronje surrendered with 4100 of his men. It was the largest single defeat of the Boers, and ironically fell on the anniversary of an earlier Boer Victory at Majuba Hill.Other members of the Regiment served with The Lord Strathcona’s Horse. One member was killed with the Strathcona’s and two with the Royal Canadian Regiment. Their names are immortalized on the brass plaque on the Drill Hall Floor which was donated to the Regiment by the grateful citizens of Vancouver. Queen Victoria inspected the Canadian Contingent on its way home from the South African War. A fourth member of the Regiment was killed in 1901 while serving with the South Africa Constabulary, which was formed to suppress the guerrilla war that dragged on after the formal surrender of the Boers.
The 6th Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles
On 1st May 1900 the Regiment was formally designated Sixth Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own Rifles) and the Regiment became formally affiliated with the Rifle Brigade.
The Establishment of the 11th Irish Fusiliers of Canada
British Columbia in general, and Vancouver in particular, underwent a rapid increase in population in the first decade of the 20th Century. That increase in population brought with it a general demand for additional Militia units. In 1913 another infantry regiment was authorized for Vancouver and on 15 August of that year Lieutenant-Colonel George McSpadden raised the 11th Irish Fusiliers of Canada. As the Drill Hall was simply too crowded for another unit the Irish found their first home at Britannia High School while they waited for their own purpose-built armoury. The Irish successfully conducted their first large scale training camp at Vernon in the early summer of 1914, and upon their return served alongside the DCORs during the Komagata Maru incident, where a ship with 376 Sikh passengers attempting to immigrate to Canada were forced to return to their homeland against their wishes.
At the outbreak of the First World War the Canadian Minister of Militia decided to mobilize Canada’s main war effort by raising numbered battalions rather than employ the existing Militia Regiments intact. According the 11th Irish Fusiliers turned its efforts toward the recruitment and training of mobilized battalions for the Canadian overseas contingents. The 11th Irish Fusiliers provided major contingents to the 7th (1st British Columbia) Battalion, the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, the 47th Battalion, the 54th Battalion, and the 102nd (North British Columbia) Battalion. All of these battalions fought as infantry units in the Canadian Corps of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
The 11th Irish Fusiliers of Canada formed the 121st(Western Irish) Battalion in the spring of 1915 under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel McLellan. The 121st mustered 1065 officers and men, and sailed for England on 14 August 1916. Upon their arrival the 121st(Western Irish) Battalion was absorbed by the 16th Reserve Battalion and its soldiers were sent as reinforcements to the various British Columbian battalions on active service with the Canadian Corps in France. A large contingent of the Western Irish Battalion reinforced the 7th Battalion, with the 47th and 102nd also receiving drafts of Irishmen. Three Lieutenants of the Western Irish: Brown, Lett, and Ryan, would later serve as COs of the post-war Irish Fusiliers. Of these perhaps the best known is Sherwood Lett – he would command the 4th Infantry Brigade at Dieppe in 1942 and in the opening actions of the Northwest Europe campaign in 1944. Wounded twice during the 2nd World War Brigadier Lett, CBE, DSO, MC, ED, KC, would later become a diplomat, serving in Japan and Vietnam. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of BC in 1955.
Between the Wars
The Irish Fusiliers were little affected by the major reorganizations that took as the Militia adjusted to a peace time footing in the early 1920s. The Regiment’s name was changed to “The Irish Fusiliers of Canada” and they became the perpetuating Regiment for the 121st(Western Irish) Battalion from the Great War. Many of the officers and NCOs were veterans of the Great War and the quality of training was quite good; however a lack of funding and a scarcity of modern equipment were continuing problems. As the veterans left the Regiment for reasons of age, medical condition or family and career considerations the strength of the Regiment declined. By 1924 Irish Fusiliers were down to 245 all ranks. Shooting and sports were major activities in the Militia between the wars and the Irish Fusiliers were well known for the quality of their marksmanship.
In 1923 the Irish Fusiliers moved to a new facility at the corner of Pender and Howe. In July of that year the Regiment was chosen to furnish the Honour Guard for the visit of American President Warren Harding during his visit to Vancouver. In the same year the Regiment was allied to the Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria’s) in the United Kingdom. In 1928 the Irish were again called upon to furnish a guard, this time for the visit of the Prince of Wales.
In 1936 the Militia in British Columbia was again subjected to a major reorganization. The world wide depression had a particularly acute affect on western Canada and manpower and funding was cut back even further; the only rational choice was to reduce the number of battalions. The Irish Fusiliers were amalgamated with the Vancouver Regiment to form a new Regiment under the name “The Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment).” This new Regiment maintained many of the traditions and accoutrements of the Irish Fusiliers of Canada, including its alliance to the Royal Irish Fusiliers. The amalgamation was particularly well managed by the leaders of both contribution Regiments. The new Regiment settled in at its new quarters at the Stanley Park Armouries, a converted horse show facility. The Regiment returned to a strength it had not seen since immediately after the Great War – the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) paraded 237 all ranks for its summer concentration in 1937. War clouds were looming once again in Europe, budgets were increased and new equipment began to arrive. The Vancouver militia held a major concentration in Vernon during the summer of 1939; the last time such a concentration had been held was in the summer of 1914. Upon their return the Regiments of Vancouver were placed on Active Service on 26 August 1939. War was declared two weeks later. A new era had arrived.
The Second World War
The Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) received their initial mobilization orders in advance of the declaration of war. Shortly thereafter the Regiment adopted a multiple battalion organization with the 2nd Battalion forming a depot for training and recruitment while the 1st Battalion took over the initial detachment deployed to Prince Rupert to protect this important and remote port facility.
In the first months of the war the Prince Rupert defence force was gradually increased as men were recruited and trained. In early spring of 1941 the 1st Battalion turned over their duties protecting Prince Rupert to another unit and moved to Vancouver Island for garrison duties and training. In early 1943 the Battalion received orders to proceed to Jamaica, where it formed part of the garrison of the British West Indies for the next 16 months. In August 1944 the 1stBattalion was brought back to Canada and stationed at Camp Dundurn, Saskatchewan in preparation for deployment to England. Upon arrival in England the Battalion was informed that it would be broken up and that its personnel would be sent forward as infantry reinforcements to 2nd Canadian Corps, whose units had suffered heavy infantry casualties in the fighting in northwest Europe. The diaspora of Irish Fusiliers from Vancouver served well as fighting soldiers in most of the infantry regiments involved in overseas combat.
The Regiment was authorized to raise a 3rd Battalion at Vernon, BC in 1942, as a part of the west coast defence structure to guard against potential Japanese attacks or incursions. As the threat of Japanese operations off the west coast of Canada diminished, many of the units of the home defence forces for the Pacific Area were disestablished. The 3rd Battalion, the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) was disbanded in 1943 and the personnel from the Battalion were made available for employment overseas or other operational duties.
The only element of the Regiment to serve intact in the European Theatre of Operations was the Band of the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment). That superb collection of musicians was adopted by General Crerar as the First Canadian Army Headquarters Band. General Crerar took a great personal interest in the Band and they served on strength of the Headquarters until the end of the war.
The Regiment also contributed to the “Canloan” scheme, where Canadian junior infantry officers surplus to the numbers needed were loaned to British units to make up for shortfalls. Four officers from the Regiment were posted to the 1stBattalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers of the British Army. One of then was Lieutenant Colonel MJ Crehan, who reverted to the rank of Captain for the opportunity to serve on operational duties. Shortly after arriving at his unit he was promoted to Major; he was killed in Italy while serving as a company commander. The other three officers survived the war. It was the fate of the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) not to be chosen for employment as a fighting unit in the Second World War. However, many of its officers, NCOs and serving soldiers performed very satisfactory service in other combat units, and in the roles assigned to the Regiment in Canada and abroad. Members of the Regiment could be proud of its war record.
The Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) after 1945
In March 1946, the unit was converted to anti-aircraft artillery and henceforth known as the 65th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Irish Fusiliers), Royal Canadian Artillery. This was a major change and most personnel were very disappointed to leave their traditional infantry role. To soften the blow, the unit was permitted to retain those articles of dress peculiar to Irish regiments, as well as its affiliation with the Royal Irish Fusiliers in the United Kingdom.
In 1948 the unit, along with other units in British Columbia, was called out to help combat the serious flooding in the Fraser Valley. The unit was on duty for approximately three weeks and performed admirably.
For a period of twelve years the Regiment served with distinction as an anti-aircraft artillery unit. However, this phase of the Regiment’s history ended abruptly. Without warning, word came down that effective 1 September 1958 the Irish Fusiliers would be reorganized as an Infantry unit under their old name. This order was received with a welcoming cheer by members of the Regiment. The conversion to Infantry also brought amalgamation with the 120th Independent Field Battery, an artillery unit located in Prince Rupert, who became D Company of the Regiment. With that amalgamation, the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment) took on perpetuation of the 30th (British Columbia) Battalion CEF and the 102nd (Northern British Columbia) Battalion CEF from the First World War.
Unfortunately, tragedy would soon hit the Irish. During the early hours of March 18, 1960, the Stanley Park Armoury was completely destroyed by fire. It was a total loss of treasured trophies, regimental property, records and equipment. Temporary accommodation was provided at the Jericho Beach Army Base and subsequently in the Shaughnessy Barracks, a collection of temporary buildings erected during the Second World War. In spite of these difficulties, the Regiment carried on and, in 1962, won the coveted Wallace Trophy, awarded to the best Militia Regiment in British Columbia. Early in 1964 however, the Canadian Government issued a white paper on Defence. The Irish Fusiliers were reduced to nil strength effective 31 December 1964, and placed on the Supplementary Order of Battle. The sole saving grace was the technicality that a regiment placed on the Supplementary Order could, if necessary, be reactivated. In effect, the Regiment had ceased to exist. This was a sad blow to a unit with such a rich and proud history. The opportunity was afforded to all ranks to transfer to other Militia units. Many did, including the forty that joined the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own).
The amalgamation of The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) and the Irish Fusiliers of Canada (The Vancouver Regiment) on June 25, 2002 was to the significant benefit of both contributing Regiments. The history and traditions of one proud regiment, the Irish Fusiliers (Vancouver Regiment), were preserved, while the history, honour and traditions of The British Columbia Regiment (DCO) were significantly enhanced. The Regiment lives on!
The Monument Committee wish to convey our sincere thanks to Keith D Maxwell, OMM, CD, Colonel (retired) for providing such an extensive history of the British Columbia Regiment. We are very grateful for this help.
- The Regiment was organized in Toronto on 15 October 1915, commanded by Lt.Colonel Boyd Magee, formerly of The Royal Munster Fusiliers.
- The impetus came from the Irish Club of Toronto and the Irish Rifle Club. As was common in the First World War the Regiment recruited two numbered battalions, the 180th and the 208th.Irish.
- By the time the war ended the 58 officers and 1519 men had suffered over 60% casualties. They had ten battle honours, including Arras, Ypres and the Pursuit to Mons.
- In World War II the Regiment was almost continually in action in Italy from November 1943 until February 1945 when all Canadian troops in Italy joined the rest of the Canadian Army in Belgium.
- The Regiment then took part in the liberation of Holland. The “Irish” won twelve battle honours, including the Liri Valley, the Gothic Line and Coriano, among the greatest battles of that war. They had fifty three awards for bravery in action. Seven hundred and twenty were killed or wounded.
- The Regiment wore the saffron kilt from 1931. Their pipe band accompanied them throughout World War II, both as a band and as medical staff.
- They were reconstituted in 1965 in Sudbury, Ontario, where they operate as a militia unit.
- Their motto if FIOR GO BAS (Faithful unto Death).
- Their Quick March is GARRY OWEN and their Slow March ENDEARING YOUNG CHARMS.