The Minute Book
Saturday, 8 June 2013

Thomas McKenzie - My Life as a Soldier
Topic: The RCR

Many members of The Royal Canadian Regiment can name Thomas McKenzie as the Regiment's first recruit in 1884. Those first enlistments taking place in the new year after the Regiment was authorized as the Infantry School Corps on 21 Dec 1883. But few can relate many details of Thomas McKenzie's military career.

An ex-British Army regular, with campaign experience in the Indian Mutiny and the Fenian Raids, McKenzie had been serving continuously in uniform since joining as a boy drummer in 1841 at the age of eleven. Late in his career, at age 53, McKenzie would join the new Canadian Permanent Force.

The following is excerpted from the chapter of his autobiography which describes his service with The Permanent Force: My Life as a Soldier (J&A McMillan, 1898), which is available on the Internet Archive for reading in a variety of formats.


In 1883 the government established infantry military schools, three in number, to be formed by January, 1884.

I was the man first enlisted on 7th January, 1884, in the military school permanent corps at Fredericton, and remained that in capacity until 22nd July, 1895, the eleven years and six months, when I was discharged from the corps, or rather transferred to Sussex to take charge of the government camp ground I imagine that the reason I was sent to Sussex was in consideration of long and continuous service in the militia since 1862.

I will give a brief statement regarding this school corps. Previous to the opening, and while I was at Pictou, N. S., I, epecting the Adjutancy of the school, had lectured to the men in camp, and explained fully to them all about the school; or, in other well as words, the duties of the men who would join, as well as the pay, etc., they would receive. Consequently, shortly after the 7th January, several men joined; and in a few months nearly the one hundred men required had enlisted, and the work of drilling, etc., had commenced. We had among them a few others who formerly belonged to Her Majesty's service, who gave very good assistance in teaching the men their barrack-room work. From among these present only two, Color-Sergeant W. A. Daniel and Sergeant J. Wilson, canteen steward, who joined during first month, a few days after the school was formed. There are also among those who joined with me on 7th January, Hospital-Sergeant R. Cochran and Private W. Leek. Others joined at the end of January, one of whom is A.J. Fowlie, who succeeded me in July, 1895, as sergeant-major of the school. This position he is well qualified to fill, and I believe gives full satisfaction to all concerned.

"The RCR March" was composed by Band Corporal George Offen in the period 1905 to 1907.

I may also here mention the sergeants and corporals who were in the school when I left in July, 1895, viz.: Sergeant-Bugler G. Offen, who teaches the band in the corps, whose father was formerly band-sergeant in Her Majesty's 22ud Regiment, and Corporal J. M. Torrance, who teaches the buglers attending the school from other corps. The other non-cornrnissioned officers are Sergeants Nauffts, Bingham, Sheldon, and Paschke, and Corporals Shaw, Hagans, Ross, and Bayers. These perform their various duties satisfactorily, and hold qualifying certificates from the commandant.

Orderly room clerk, Sergeant G. Moore, was lately appointed district clerk, which position he is well quali- and performs his duty very satisfactorily. The present orderly room clerk, Sergeant T. Burke, who came from the military school London, Ontario, is the right man in the right place, for he has his duties at his finger ends. The master tailor, Sergeant George Harris, in an excellent workman. He imports from England all materials, cloth, gold lace, and other trimmings required, from which he supplies and makes the uniforms for officers and non-commissioned officers requiring the same, not only in the Fredericton military school, but to others of the militia corps in different parts of the Dominion.

As I had seen many crimes committed in the service through drink, I shortly after the school was formed organized a temperance club in the corps, and had over eighty to join it in less than three months; which the commandant, Colonel Maunsell, considered a good scheme for the prevention of crime. This club was kept up in the corps for a few years. Then we formed ourselves into a division of the Sons of Temperance, under the Grand Division of New Brunswick, with Major Gordon as our worthy patriarch, and myself as deputy grand worthy patriarch and treasurer of the division. The citizens of Fredericton considered a temperance division among our Canadian soldiers a great benefit. Of course, as the Queen's Regulations allow a canteen for the corps, there were some who violated their pledge but on the whole; men saved in more ways than one by it, and the good character of the corps maintained. While at camps of instruction with other corps of the district, or in barracks, and when at camps, our men were an example for the other corps to follow, in carrying out discipline and obeying orders as soldiers.

The Senior Subaltern

Posted by regimentalrogue at 12:01 AM EDT
Updated: Saturday, 8 June 2013 12:42 AM EDT

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