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The Calgary Highlanders 1910-1945

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The Regiment traces its origins to a unit which was formed on 1 April 1910, when General Order No. 38/1910 gave authority to Lieutenant Colonel WCG Armstrong to raise an infantry battalion in Calgary. The battalion was granted the number 103, uniformed and equipped as a Rifle Regiment, and designated The 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles).

The raising of the Regiment was the culmination of a number of years of work on the part of Lieutenant Colonel Armstrong and the citizens of Calgary who, twice before in 1902 and in 1904, had sought authority to raise a regiment. Finally, in 1910, approval was given and they continued as a unit of the Canadian Militia until 1921.

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As a Militia unit, the Calgary Rifles trained part time on weeknights and weekends. Members of the unit came from all walks of life and performed their military duties in addition to their civilian occupations. It was expected that should Canada ever go to War, the Militia would be mobilized and expanded to a full time armed force. In 1914, that did not happen, and the 103rd Calgary Rifles remained a Militia unit throughout the Great War, training in a part time capacity and providing soldiers to Canada's full time army, the Canadian Expeditionary Force. After the Great War, the 103rd continued in its role as a Militia unit until reorganizations resulted, in 1921, in a change of designation.

10th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1914-1919

The Canadian Expeditionary Force was formed in 1914 as the overseas contribution to the war in Europe.  The 103rd Regiment contributed many men to the CEF, most notably to the 10th and 50th Battalions, who served in the First Canadian Division and Fourth Canadian Division respectively.  The Tenth Battalion participated in every major Canadian battle of the war, from the first gas attacks at Second Ypres in 1915, through the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele and eventually the last 100 Days and final victory.  Some 1,313 men of the battalion were killed, and two were awarded the Victoria Cross.  The Tenth Battalion - jointly formed from both the 103rd Calgary Rifles and the 106th Winnipeg Light Infantry - had by war's end become an Alberta unit, and it was in Calgary that the battalion was disbanded.   The Tenth Battalion earned two Victoria Crosses, and at Hill 70 in August 1917 would gain the distinction of winning more medals than any other Canadian combat unit in a single action, earning over the course of two days a Victoria Cross, three Distinguished Service Orders, seven Military Crosses, nine Distinguished Conduct Medals, and sixty Military Medals.

While medals alone are a far from perfect measure of a battalion, the esteem with which the Tenth Battalion was held is nonetheless reflected by the scale of individual honours merited.  In total, for the course of the war the Regiment's major individual awards included two Victoria Crosses, 18 DSOs (including 3 bars and 1 second bar), 64 MCs (including 12 bars), 66 DCMs (including one bar - the first to be awarded to a Canadian in the Great War), and 291 MMs (including 21 bars and one second bar). One might compare this to the award totals of the 16th Battalion, which served alongside the Tenth in the First Division and who also distinguished themselves at Kitcheners' Wood.  During the course of the war, soldiers of the Sixteenth Battalion were awarded four Victoria Crosses, 9 DSOs, 40 MCs, 30 DCMs and 204 MMs.  The Battalion suffered 1412 fatal casualties, comparable to the Tenth Battalion's fatality statistic of 1313 losses.

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Sergeant George Marcellus. As a Lance Corporal in August 1918, Marcellus was awarded the Military Medal.   Marcellus proudly wears the red shoulder titles of the First Division, surmounted by the red square denoting the Tenth Battalion, as well as the distinctive "C-over-10" collar badges and brass Tenth Battalion cap badge.

The Calgary Highlanders 1921 to 1939

General Order 32/1920, amended by General Order 95/1921, as part of a wide series of reorganizations throughout the Canadian Militia, created the Calgary Regiment. The Regiment was to consist of five battalions, with each battalion perpetuating the history of one of Calgary's wartime CEF Battalions. The first battalion perpetuated the 10th Battalion CEF, the 2nd perpetuated the 50th, the 3rd the 56th, the 4th the 82nd and the 5th the 137th. In actual fact, however, only two battalions of the Calgary Regiment were ever raised.

General Order 64/1924 reorganized the Regiment into two units, with the First Battalion of the Calgary Regiment becoming the Calgary Highlanders (the Second Battalion remained designated the Calgary Regiment, later becoming the Calgary Regiment (Tank) and eventually the King's Own Calgary Regiment). Since the main basis of the 10th Battalion on formation had come from the 103rd Calgary Rifles and the 106th Winnipeg Light Infantry, dual perpetuation of these units was permitted. Accordingly, The Calgary Highlanders and The Winnipeg Light Infantry adopted certain common distinctions. Both were eventually awarded the Battle Honours of the original 10th Battalion, CEF, and both adopted, with certain modifications, the Cap Badge of the "Fighting Tenth".

The Calgary Highlanders also perpetuate the 56th Battalion, CEF, and the 82nd Battalion, CEF. The authority to raise the 56th Battalion was General Order 56/1915 and the Battalion served in Canada from 14 April 1915 to 1 April 1916. Arriving in England on 9 April 1916 it served until July when it was absorbed into the 9th Reserve Battalion, CEF. The Commanding Officer of the 56th from 1 April to 6 July 1916 had been Lieutenant Colonel W.C.G. Armstrong who had previously commanded the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles).

The 82nd Battalion, CEF, was raised under the authority of General Order 103A/1915. Its members were recruited from the Calgary area and it served in Canada from 1 September 1915 to 22 May 1916. The 82nd landed in England on 29 May 1916 and served there until it was absorbed by the 9th Battalion on 18 July 1916. Lieutenant Colonel W.A. Lowry commanded the 82nd Battalion from 5 May to 18 July, 1916.

The first Commanding Officer of the First Battalion, Calgary Regiment was Lieutenant Colonel (later Brigadier General) HF MacDonald, CMG, DSO who had survived the battle of St. Julien.

During the interwar years, the Regiment existed as a Battalion of the Non Permanent Active Militia and carried out normal infantry training with such limited facilities as were available. In 1917, the construction of Mewata Armoury was completed; the Armouries has been the home of the Calgary Highlanders throughout its history.

A number of notable events occurred in the interwar period. Perhaps the most import ant was the approval of the alliance with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (Princess Louise's) in 1925 by His Majesty, King George V. This led to the adoption of the Argyll's uniform which was approved by HRH Princess Louise in 1932.

Also during this period, the Right Honourable R.B. Bennett, PC, KC, LLD, Prime Minister of Canada from 1930-1935, became the Honourary Colonel. By General Orders 64 and 65/1934, the Regiment, along with the Canadian Scottish and The Winnipeg Light Infantry, were granted permission to wear a special distinction to commemorate Kitcheners' Wood. For the Calgary Highlanders, the badge consists of an oak leaf and acorn, with the letters CH superimposed. The badge is worn on both shoulder straps or sleeves of the uniform jacket. On 24 April 1938, Honourary Colonel Bennett presented the commemorative oak leaves to the Regiment.

On 8 May, 1939 The Calgary Highlanders were chosen to present a Guard of Honour on the occasion of the visit to Alberta of Their Majesties King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Not only did the unit provide the Honour Guard in Calgary but the unit was rushed by train to Edmonton for the ceremonies in the provincial capital.

The Calgary Highlanders 1939 to 1945

In the last week of August, 1939, units of the Canadian Militia were called out for guard duties across the country. On 1 September the Calgary Highlanders received an one word telegram, ordering them to "Mobilize". By the time Canada declared war on the 10th of September, two Divisions were being recruited and organized, the force being officially called the "Canadian Active Service Force"(CASF). The Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel HH Riley, MM, was declared medically unfit and command was given to the Commanding Officer of the 15th Alberta Light Horse, Lieutenant Colonel JF Scott, OBE, ED.

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Lieutenant Colonel Scott leads the regiment on parade in Calgary, 1939.

Recruiting began at Mewata Armoury and expanded to various towns in southern Alberta. Between 3 September and 4 October 1939 the Regiment had recruited 20 men over their allotted number. The unit conducted its initial training at Sarcee Camp. On 29 March, 1940 the Colours were laid up at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer as the unit prepared to depart. On 25 May, the Regiment left for Camp Shilo, Manitoba where it became a part of the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division and continued its training. On 27 August, the Regiment departed from Halifax on the SS Pasteur, arriving at Gourock, Scotland on 4 September to begin more than 3 years of training in Great Britain.

As the Calgary Highlanders, CASF, left for England, orders had come down to fully recruit a second unit, known as the Calgary Highlanders, NPAM. The NPAM unit was to remain in Canada and perform the same duties the part-time Militia always has. Eventually, the CASF unit was officially designated First Battalion, Calgary Highlanders while the NPAM unit became the Second Battalion. The Second Battalion was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Norman Dingle, ED, KC, and served as a home service battalion until April, 1946.

On 23 November, the Calgary Highlanders replaced the Fusiliers Mont Royal in the 5th Brigade when the latter were sent to Iceland for Garrison Duty. The Brigade consisted of the Highlanders, the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada and Le Regiment de Maisonneuve. photo42.jpg (41856 bytes)

Life in England presented many challenges; the Canadian Army was not fond of English wartime food, barracks were cold and draughty, the climate was much wetter than men from the Canadian prairie were accustomed to, and driving at night in blackout conditions was positively dangerous.

As the months went on, long periods of garrison duty, coastal defence duty, and  repetitive training had their effects on morale, as did the sense of being left out of momentous battles being fought in Asia and Africa as the Canadian Army trained in the UK.

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The Highlanders persevered and rapidly became proficient, receiving commendations from numerous high ranking officers and establishing a good reputation for itself. After a visit by the Commanding Officer to the 47th London Division in 1941, the unit started a form of training which was to become standard throughout the whole Canadian Army. This was "Battle Drill" which emphasized gruelling physical training and realistic exercises under live fire. Battle Drill was a revolutionary change from the repetitive and unrealistic instruction given since the beginning of the war.

On 19 August 1942, the 4th and 6th Brigades, supported by the Calgary Tanks, landed at Dieppe. Captain TM Insinger, a Calgary Highlander Officer serving with Second Canadian Division as GSO3, was killed, becoming the unit's first fatal battle casualty of the War. The only part of the unit to go to Dieppe was the mortar platoon commanded by Lieutenant FJ Reynolds which came under the command of the Royal Navy and which distinguished itself in its role of defending their ship and rescuing wounded from the beach. Sergeants Pittaway, Lyster and Anderson managed to shoot down a German aircraft with an anti-aircraft gun, earning a Mention in Despatches. The battalion had been lucky to be reassigned to the Fifth Brigade; the Fourth and Sixth Brigades had been decimated and had to be rebuilt practically from scratch. During 1942 and 1943, all four rifle companies of the First Battalion received commando training in Scotland, qualifying them for the storm assault role.

The Highlanders were still in England on 6 June 1944 when D-Day took place, but moved to France shortly afterwards, landing on 6 July. The first battle casualties suffered in Normandy resulted from German shelling on 12 July. The unit's first battle took place on 19 July; an independent battle action at Clair Tizon that was the forerunner of events of the better part of the next ten months. The Regiment fought through the battles of Verrieres and Falaise, pausing with the Division at Dieppe in September to take part in a memorial parade there, and went on to fight in the Lowlands and the epic battle of the Scheldt. eurmapmini.gif (10892 bytes)

The culmination of the Scheldt battle was the Battle of Walcheren Causeway on 31 October, 1944. Here companies of the Battalion attacked successively across a 2,000 yard long, 50 yard wide causeway which was heavily defended and established, without cover, a small bridgehead at the north end, which they held until relieved by Le Regiment de Maisonneuve. This battle is now commemorated annually in the latter part of the month of October and it was chosen by the Regiment to represent all actions of The Calgary Highlanders during the Second World War.

General H.D.G. Crerar, Commander of First Canadian Army (1944-1945) stated:

"The Battle reputation of the 10th Battalion made that night in 1915 (St. Julien Wood, 22 April 1915) was consistently upheld by the success of The Calgary Highlanders throughout the many months of fighting which led the First Canadian Army from the beaches of Normandy to Northwest Germany. No unit of that army came through that test with a better record than that of The Calgary Highlanders".

After the winter stalemate from November 1944 to February 1945, the Regiment was once again in action, fighting through the Hochwald and Rhineland to finish the war on enemy soil, its last battle being around the German town of Berne on 3 May 1945.

The Regiment left the Netherlands for England on 24 September and paraded triumphantly through Calgary upon return on 24 November 1945.


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