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Regimental Museum and Archives - Virtual Tour Page 3 (Calgary Highlanders and the Interwar Years)

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After the First World War, the battle-hardened battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force were disbanded and the militia was re-organized. On March 15, 1920, a new infantry unit, the Calgary Regiment, which was comprised of two active battalions, was authorized to replace the old 103rd Calgary Rifles. On September 15, 1921, the first battalion of the new regiment was converted to a Highland (kilted) unit and The Calgary Highlanders were born.

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The first Commanding Officer of the regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Harold F. McDonald, a veteran of the First World War. The creation of a Highland regiment in Calgary was largely due to the efforts of the Honourable Richard B. Bennett, a member of Parliament from the city, and future Prime Minister of Canada. Bennett was also to become the new regiment's first Honorary Colonel.

The regiment, whose headquarters was the recently completed Mewata Armouries on 11th Street West, perpetuated the memory of the 10th Battalion and carried their hard-won Battle Honours. A regimental tradition which was begun during these early years and continues to the present day, is the annual church parade in April to commemorate the battle of St. Julien.

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Throughout the lean years of the 1930s, the Calgary Highlanders soldiered on. Although the militia soldier was entitled to pay for his services, it was usually assigned to the Regiment to help defray expenses. In exchange, a soldier often received street car tickets to enable him to attend weekly parades at the armoury.

The culmination of the training year was the summer camp at Sarcee, where the soldier lived in tents and practiced the skills taught throughout the winter months at the armoury. Several days before departure, the men received their clothing, equipment and weapons -all of outdated patterns used during the First World War. Eating utensils, cleaning materials and books were brought from home.

Training at camp consisted of periods of instruction, stints on the rifle range, route marches and a sports day. The highlight of the camp was a two day exercise involving the six infantry regiments of Alberta's two militia brigades.


Shown here in the interwar gallery is a Calgary Highlander working on his Vickers machine gun during summer camp. He wears the kilt apron designed to keep the kilt clean while training, and is wearing the glengarry traditionally worn for dress occasions. Within the bell-tent, we can see the "paliasse" or field mattress, and other related items of this era.  The bell tent would be a feature of Militia life well into the 1970s; the Vickers Gun too would soldier on for many decades past the end of the Great Depression.  Sadly, to some, the kilt would not continue on as an item of field dress beyond 1939-40 when it was banned as "unsuitable for modern war."

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The new Regiment would not have been complete without regimental music; a brass band and a pipe band were started in short order.  The life size piper shown in the gallery wears a piper's uniform circa 1935.  The pipers of the regiment adopted the Royal Stewart Tartan, not knowing at the time that Royal Stewart was the prerogative only of Royal Regiments!   Pipers of the Regiment wore the tartan until the First Battalion arrived in England, when Imperial authorities were quick to correct the regiment on their error.  The Second Battalion pipers continued to wear the tartan briefly in Canada.

In the 1990s this gaffe was commemorated by official permission by the Directorate of History for pipers of The Calgary Highlanders to wear Royal Stewart tartan ribbons on their bagpipes - this time, in honour of the connection between the Regiment and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who by that time was the Colonel-In-Chief of the Regiment.

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