In 1919, as units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force returned to Canada, the military was faced with a problem brought about by the Minister of Militia and Defence, Colonel Sam Hughes, who had ignored the existing structure of the Militia in 1914, as well as pre-existing mobilization plans drawn up in 1911, and built up the CEF from newly created units.
Long before hostilities ended, many officers and men in the Canadian Expeditionary Force overseas were giving serious thought as to what place their particular unit might have in the structure of Canada’s post-war militia…(T)he mobilization which followed his “call to arms” in August 1914 had created an order of battle of newly-formed units whose numerical designations showed their complete lack of identity with (units) of long standing in Canada’s militia organization. These CEF units quickly established their own individuality; and the part they played in the war had given them a high espirit de corps and traditions of their own. The problem was now was how to preserve these new traditions.1
In January 1918, in anticipation of the war’s end, the Chief of the General Staff Major General W.G. Gwatkin recommended to the new Minister of Militia, Sydney Chilton Mewburn, that a “Demobilization Committee” be appointed, to be chaired by Major General Sir William Dillon Otter. Otter had earlier submitted a draft demobilization scheme, and thought the demobilization would be an opportunity to reorganize the Active Militia along more efficient lines. After the Armistice in November 1918, requests for perpetuation of CEF units – primarily infantry and artillery – began to inundate the Militia Department. In April 1919, the “Committee on Militia Reorganization” was appointed; this committee is usually referred to as the Otter Committee by historians.
The solution to the problem of continuing both the histories of the pre-war Militia units – such as the 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles) – and the Canadian Expeditionary Force units – such as the 10th Battalion – that fought the war, was to reorganize the former while introducing a system of “perpetuations” to transfer the battle honours of the CEF units to their custody.
In the case of the 10th Battalion, CEF, a dual perpetuation was granted, as two regiments had contributed materially to the initial creation of the battalion.
The 103rd Regiment (Calgary Rifles) had been reorganized as The Calgary Regiment in 1920 by General Order 32/1920. In 1921, the regiment was reorganized into five battalions on paper. The 1st Battalion was designated “1st Battalion (10th Battalion, C.E.F.) Calgary Highlanders”. The 2nd Battalion was to perpetuate the 50th Battalion, CEF with the 3rd, 4th and 5th Battalions designated “Reserve” battalions perpetuating the 56th, 82nd and 137th Battalions of the CEF.
The Calgary Highlanders came into being in actuality on 3 January 1921, with a core of 80 percent of 10th Battalion veterans and Lieutenant-Colonel H.F. McDonald, CMG, DSO as the first Commanding Officer. Both the C.O. and the battalion’s second-in-command, Major D.L. Redman (later also to command the Highlanders) were survivors of the Battle of St. Julien, having fought there with the 10th Battalion.
Correspondence with The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders about a regimental alliance began in 1924. Approval of the alliance permitted The Calgary Highlanders, which became a regiment separate from The Calgary Regiment on 15 May 1924, to adopt the unique dress regulations of the Argylls. This included the red and white diced glengarry and the six-point horsehair and badger head sporrans among other distinctions.
The Calgary Highlanders served in the Non-Permanent Active Militia (NPAM) in the interwar years, in a part-time capacity. One of the most noteworthy events was the Royal Visit of May 1939, the first such visit of a British monarch to North America. A Guard of Honour was provided to receive His Majesty King George VI and Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth on their arrival at Calgary on 8 May 1939, and a regimental guard and pipe band were provided in Edmonton as well.
In the prewar years, Canada was divided into several Military Districts; Alberta lay in Military District 13. The units in existence in September 1939 are shown below: