Battle Honours of The Royal Canadian Regiment

Great War Battle Honours Revisited; 25 or 49?

By: Captain Michael O'Leary, The RCR (2009)

In articles in past editions of Pro Patria, I have raised the subject of our regimental Battle Honours. During my time as Regimental Adjutant, I showed that the Regimental Catechism had erroneously reported for many years that "the Regiment [had] been awarded 54 battle honours" and established that the correct number should read 57.i

"Should we not, as a Regiment proud of our history and heritage, take care that each separate battle honour awarded to each perpetuated unit is known and recognized as part of our regimental history?"

I have also identified that only 16 of the Regiment's 25 battle honours for the First World War were awarded for the actions of The Royal Canadian Regiment as a unit of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).ii The other nine battle honours we carry for the Great War come from our perpetuation of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion (8)iiiand the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps (1).iv Notably, four of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion's battle honours date from before The RCR arrived in France.

As we examine the Regiment's history, and prepare ourselves for the centennial years of the First World War, there is merit in re-examining how we consider, and count, our battle honours. Besides having a responsibility to commemorate and honour its own experiences of the Great War under the eight-pointed star, The RCR also perpetuates five battalions of the CEF (1st, 33rd, 71st, 142nd, and 168th) and one battalion of the Machine Gun Corps (2nd Bn, C.M.G.C.).

The First World War battle honours carried by The RCR today were awarded to The RCR, the 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn. and the 2nd Bn., C.M.G.C. These battle honours, listed together as a result of the Regiment's perpetuation of the other CEF units, increased the Regiment's original 16 First World War battle honours to a list of 25 named battles. But does this actually represent 25 battle honours?

The perpetuation of units of the CEF has not been a widely recognized or well-understood aspect of our Army's history in recent decades, in our regiment or others. At times it has been claimed within our own oral traditions that the heritage of the Militia regiments, which became the 3rd Battalion (now the 4th Battalion) in 1954 (The Canadian Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) and the Oxford Rifles), was only invested in the Reserve Battalion of the Regiment. In counter-point, those who might make such a claim never went on to state which battle honours were "only" held by the Reserve Battalion as well. It should be quite clear that this view was, and is, incorrect.

The perpetuation of those Militia units and the CEF units is a regimental responsibility, not divisible to individual battalions. As the entire Regiment celebrates Paardeberg, it has a similar regimental responsibility to honour our perpetuated heritage. In the late 1950s, the Regimental Executive Committee recognized that fact when it sought and gained approval for The RCR to carry forth those perpetuations.

Perpetuation of CEF Units

1.      The Regimental Executive Committee accepted the perpetuation of CEF units of 3RCR and requested authority to perpetuate them in a letter RC(2)2001-1 dated 29 Dec 58 to AHQ.

2.      AHQ approved through Headquarters WOA under authority of WO 2001-603/3R1 (DAAG) dated 27 Feb 59. Direct quote from para 2.d. As follows:

"Perpetuations -- The CEF perpetuations of 3RCR will be continued by The RCR; these include 1st, 33rd, 71st, 142nd and 168th CEF Battalions and 2nd M.G. Bn. CEF"

But, to return to our central question, how many battle honours for the First World War does The RCR have?

In the staff duties approach to battle honours and they way they are listed, when units are amalgamated and perpetuated honours list combined, each battle honour name in any subordinated list is shown on the new list of battle honours. Honours won by a single unit receive equal recognition among those awarded to two or more perpetuated units. For example, "Gravenstafel"(carried by The RCR only because of the perpetuation of the 1st. Cdn. Inf. Bn.) and "Cambrai"(unique to us from the heritage of the 2nd Bn, C.M.G.C.) are equally as important to our regimental history as the "Pursuit to Mons"which was originally held by both of those units and The RCR too.

Should we not, as a Regiment proud of our history and heritage, take care that each separate battle honour awarded to each perpetuated unit is known and recognized as part of our regimental history?

While the battle honours from these three unitsvcombine, in the staff-work result, to a list of 25 battles (or 22 names with the contraction of similar names with appropriate year dates), they actually represent 49separate unit actions on the field of battle. (See the table below.)

Each of these battle honours is worthy of distinct and separate recognition within our regimental history. At any given memorial to the First World War, the Regiment may be invited to stand for one, two, or three fighting units, and as well as to represent the heritage of those other perpetuated units which were absorbed into the reinforcement system. It is important that we should be prepared to ensure our regimental participants are aware of the perpetuated units of the Great War, which The RCR today carries a responsibility to remember and commemorate for all Canadians.


Notes:

i.      A simplistic count of battle honours names, giving 54, did not account for the fact that Ypres, Scarpe and Arras, with their appropriate year dates, each represented two distinct battle honours. Ensuring these names were counted twice resulted in the count of 57 battle honours.

ii.      The RCR's sixteen battle honours for the First World War were authorized by General Order No. 110 of 1929.

iii.      The 1st Cdn Inf Bn's 24 battle honours for the First World War were authorized by General Order No. 110 of 1929.

iv.      The 2nd Battalion, Cdn MG Corps' nine battle honours for the First World War were authorized by General Order No. 123 of 1929.

v.      It is also interesting to note that our regimental battle honours represent three different Divisions of the Canadian Corps.


Origins of the Great War Battle Honours
of The Royal Canadian Regiment (The RCR)

The RCR, CEF 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn., CEF 2nd Bn. CMGC, CEF The RCR
(since 1954)
Ypres, 1915Ypres, 1915
GravenstafelGravenstafel
St. JulienSt. Julien
Festubert, 1915 Festubert, 1915
Mount SorrelMount SorrelMount Sorrel
Somme, 1916 Somme, 1916Somme, 1916
PozieresPozieres
Flers-CouceletteFlers-CouceletteFlers-Coucelette
Ancré HeightsAncré HeightsAncré Heights
Arras, 1917Arras, 1917 Arras, 1917
Vimy, 1917Vimy, 1917Vimy, 1917
ArleuxArleux
Scarpe, 1917Scarpe, 1917
Hill 70Hill 70Hill 70
Ypres, 1917Ypres, 1917Ypres, 1917
PasschendaelePasschendaelePasschendaele
AmiensAmiens AmiensAmiens
Arras, 1918Arras, 1918 Arras, 1918Arras, 1918
Scarpe, 1918Scarpe, 1918 Scarpe, 1918Scarpe, 1918
Drocourt-Queant Drocourt-QueantDrocourt-Queant
Hindenburg LineHindenburg Line Hindenburg LineHindenburg Line
Canal du NordCanal du Nord Canal du NordCanal du Nord
Cambrai, 1918Cambrai, 1918
Pursuit to MonsPursuit to MonsPursuit to MonsPursuit to Mons
France and Flanders 1915-1918France and Flanders 1915-1918France and Flanders 1918France and Flanders 1915-1918

16

24

9

"49"

The Battle Honours for The RCR (CEF), the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion (CEF) and the 2nd Battalion, Canadian Machine Gun Corps were published in General Order 100 of 1929.

Pro Patria

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