Topic: Battle Honours
Battle Honours; 1866 and 1885
In 1912, correspondence was exchanged between the office of the Governor-General of Canada and that of the Under Secretary of State, Colonial Office, regarding the possibility of awarding Battle Honours for the the Fenian Raid of 1866 and the North West Rebellion (Canada) 1885.
Initiated by a letter from the Deputy Minister for Militia and Defence on 11 June 1912, the following request was forwarded to the Military Secretary to H.R.H. The Governor-General:
I have the honour, by direction, to state that, in connection with the Fenian Raid of 1866 and the North West Rebellion (Canada) 1885, certain regiments of the Canadian Militia furnished companies and detachments for service.
2. It is understood that the Honours and Distinctions Committee at the War Office have had under considerations certain proposals in this connection.
3. I have the honour, therefore, to request that His Royal Highness The Governor General may be moved to enquire of the Imperial Authorities what decision, if any, has been arrived at by the Army Council relative to the same, in order that it may be determined whether any of the units which furnished detachments for active service as above are entitled to have "Fenian Raid 1866" and "North West 1885" inserted in the Canadian Militia List after the name of the regiment.
This query was duly forwarded to the Imperial Authorities at Downing Street and on 8 August the reply of the War Office (itself dated 30 July) was returned to Canada.
I am commanded by the Army Council to acknowledge receipt of your letter No. 19791, dated the 10th July 1912, on the subject of certain regiments of the Canadian Militia being entitled to "Fenian Raid 1866" and "North West 1885" as honorary distinctions. In reply I am to say with reference to the Fenian Raid of 1966 that the Council are of the opinion that the operations were not of such a character as to merit the distinction of being recorded in Army Lists, or on colors or appointments, as a battle honour; at least that would certainly be their view in the case of a unit of the Home Army.
2. With reference to the North West Rebellion in 1885, I am to invite your attention to the correspondence with this office in 1905, commencing with your No. 5994, dated the 15th March, in which it was agreed, as a very special case which was not to be quoted as a precedent, to award "North West Canada 1885" to the Royal Canadian Dragoons and The Royal Canadian Regiment. You will observe that in War Office letter No. 058/2889, dated the 25th September 1905 of the correspondence referred to, it was stated that according to custom a unit must have had its Headquarters and 50% of its strength present in order to qualify for the grant of an honorary distinction (for operations in its own country). In the case of the units referred to in your letter now under reply, it would appear that detachments only were present.
This exchange in 1912 was not the final resolution of the inquiry into new honorary distinctions and battle honours, as shown by this reply from the War Office, dated 30 April, 1913:
I am commanded by the Army Council to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, No. 11583, dated the 14th April, 1913, forwarding an application by the Officer Commanding the 12th Regiment "York Rangers" for authority to have "Fenian Raid, 1866" and "North West Rebellion, 1885" inscribed on the Regimental colours of the Regiment.
2. In reply I am to state with reference to the Fenian Raid of 1866, that the Council can see no reason for departing from the opinion that expressed in paragraph 1 of War Office letter No. 058/3553 (A.G.1.) dated 30th July 1912.
3. The Army Council are at present considering an application from the 90th Regiment "Winnipeg Rifles" for recognition of their services at the actions of Batoche and Fish Creek, during the operations in the North West of Canada in 1885, and it would be desirable to consider the claims of all units engaged in these operations at the same time. I am, therefore, to suggest, for the consideration of Mr. Secretary Harcourt, that the Officer administering the Government of Canada should be requested to forward the claims of all units which, in his opinion, fulfilled the conditions qualifying for the grant of an honorary distinction by having had Headquarters and 50 per cent of the strength of the regiment present during the operations, so that the claims of all units may be considered by the Army Council at the same time.
4. As it is necessary that full information be available to enable a decision to be arrived at, a statement is required for the 12th Regiment "York Rangers" and for any other unit considered to have a claim for an honour for the 1885 operations, showing:—
(a) The part taken by it in operations.
(b) Whether it served during the whole period of the campaign, or, if not, for what portion.
(c) The casualties incurred.
(d) The total strength of the regiment at the time of the operations, and the numbers actually engaged therein, showing Headquarters, Officers and other ranks separately.
(a) and (d) have already been supplied for the 90th Regiment "Winnipeg Rifles" with your letter No. 36993 dated 28th November, 1912.
5. The honours already granted for the operation in question are "North West Canada, 1885" and "Saskatchewan", the former for the operations as a whole and the latter to cover the actions at Fish Creek, Cut Knife and Batoche, and unless there are strong reasons to the contrary, the Army Council think it would be inadvisable to introduce any additional honour for the campaign.
The approaches and inquiries regarding battle honours for the Fenian Raids gained no traction and no such awards were granted. It is apparent, however, that the requests for consideration of battle honours for the North West Rebellion in 1885 in 1912-13 were not supported and none were granted at that time.
But the matter did not end there. Inquiries into the possibility of awards of battle honours for 1885 were once again initiated in 1929. As a result, in 1929 and 1930, the battle honours "Fish Creek", "Batoche", "North West Canada, 1885" (singly or in combination) were awarded to nineteen regiments of the Canadian Militia.