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History and Uniform of the 3rd "Montreal" Field Battery, 1855 to 1970
by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand


Subaltern Officer of the 3rd "Montreal" Field Battery, 1893
(artist: R.J. Marrion - copyright :Canadian War Museum)

The following is an extract from the book Military Uniforms in Canada, 1665-1970 by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand (Ottawa: Canadian War Museum, 1981) and is reproduced here by the kind permission of the Canadian War Museum. Reprinting or duplication of the text or illustration without permission from the Canadian War Museum is prohibited.

HISTORY

Although there has been an organized militia in Canada for more than 300 years, militia artillery units have a more recent origin. Not until 1725 was it reported that militiamen were being trained in gunnery at Quebec, and that a nominal roll of militia artillerymen was maintained. The Loyal Company of Artillery of Saint John, which still exists, was raised in 1793. A Royal Militia Artillery Company was formed in Montreal in 1812, and at least three militia artillery companies and two troops of drivers were embodied during the War of 1812-14. The Royal Quebec Volunteer Artillery, a militia unit for many years, originated in 1830, and it was the guns of the 1st Toronto Artillery Company that blew Mackenzie's rebels out of Montgomery's Tavern on 7 December 1837. In 1838, a General Order dated 28 February constituted the New Brunswick Regiment of Artillery under Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hayne.

For the most part, these early artillery corps disappeared with the circumstances that stimulated their creation. For our purposes, the artillery of Canada originated with the Militia Act of 1855, which provided for seven field batteries and five foot companies of artillery in a new volunteer active militia. One of the first of the new artillery units was the Montreal Field Battery, which was gazetted on 27 September 1855. By the spring of 1856 the battery had recruited to its full establishment of seventy-five all ranks, and had been equipped with three 6-pounder brass smooth-bore muzzle-loading guns and one 12-pounder howitzer.

Its commander, Major W.F. Coffin, set an exacting standard for his battery. He paraded it for gun drill each Wednesday afternoon, and for foot drill every morning at 5 AM! He demanded and received full attendance at all parades. As a result, the Montreal Field Battery gained an excellent reputation throughout the British Army.

One of the more unusual feats of the battery was climbing Mount Royal with all of its guns on 10 November 1862 to fire a Royal Salute in celebration of the Prince of Wales' twenty-first birthday. Until this time the mountain had been considered inaccessible to horse-drawn vehicles, and the battery's ascent led to the acquisition of Mount Royal as a public park by the City of Montreal.12
On 1 June 1866, the Fenians crossed the border and the battery was ordered to the frontier near Huntingdon. While it fired no shots at the enemy, the unit became deeply involved in a battle of administrative mismanagement. On 25 May 1870, armed with 9-pounder smooth bores, the battery was dispatched again to the Huntingdon area to repel the Fenians. Again it returned to Montreal without firing a shot.

One of the more unpleasant duties of the militia was to aid the civil authorities when the local police were unable to maintain public order. The militia units of Montreal were called on to perform more than their fair share of such service. Elections were spirited events in the 1860s, and Montreal mayorality contests were especially vigorous. On one such occasion the battery was under arms for four days.

In 1872, the Government purchased a number of British 9-pounder muzzle-loading rifled wrought-iron guns. This was ideal equipment for the Canadian artillery, for "during its service the 9-pounder proved a simple, robust gun, admirably suited to the rough handling of a half trained but enthusiastic force in a rugged, little-developed country." During the next six years, all the field batteries were equipped with this serviceable piece of ordnance.

When numbers were assigned to the militia artillery units in 1895, the corps was officially designated the 3rd "Montreal" Field Battery, Canadian Artillery.

There was great excitement in the battery when, in the spring of 1898, it was rearmed with six 12-pounder breech-loading rifled guns, the most up-to-date field equipment in the British Army. However, subsequent experience in South Africa demonstrated that the recently acquired 12-pounder was totally inadequate for modern warfare. It was replaced by the 18-pounder quick-firing gun, which began to arrive in Canada in 1906 and soon became the standard armament of the Canadian Field Artillery.

In August 1914, the 3rd "Montreal" Field Battery finally went to war. At Valcartier, the 3rd "Montreal" and the 22nd "Sherbrooke" batteries were amalgamated under the command of Major A.G.L. McNaughton to form the 4th Battery, Canadian Field Artillery (CFA). It was assigned to the 2nd Brigade, CFA, of the 1st Canadian Divisional Artillery. In November, the unit was redesignated the 7th Battery, CFA, when the field-artillery brigade establishment was changed from three six-gun batteries to four four-gun batteries.

Four years later, the battery returned from the First World War with battle-proven professional competence, and resumed militia duties in Montreal. The militia was mobilized again in 1939, and the 7th "Montreal" Battery served throughout the war as a unit of the 2nd Field Regiment, RCA, of the 1st Canadian Division.

In the 1946 reorganization of the militia, the 7th Field Battery remained on the order of battle to preserve the traditions and continuity of service of one of the most venerable units of the Royal Canadian Artillery, the 3rd "Montreal" Field Battery.

Uniform

The first uniform of the Montreal Field Battery, selected by the officers in 1855, was highly original. The officers' dress consisted of a dark-blue frock-coat like that of the Royal Artillery, with two rows of eight gilt buttons and a plain high blue collar that carried the rank badges. In period photographs, the pointed cuffs appear to be of a different colour from the coat - probably red - and the shoulder scales end in solid metal crescents.

Dark-blue trousers trimmed with a wide scarlet stripe were worn over black boots with steel spurs. Major Coffin, the battery commander, wore riding boots that came well up on the thigh and were fitted with jack spurs.

A crimson net sash was worn over the left shoulder, and the white leather sword-belt, fastened with a square metal belt-plate, was worn about the waist. Sword-slings were of white leather.
The most unusual feature of the uniform was the shaggy black monkey-fur cap. It was similar to a guardsman's bearskin except that the front of the crown projected slightly, and the front of the cap was ornamented with a large bullion tassel suspended by a gold cord.

The dark-blue round forage cap with gold lace band and black leather dropped peak had a full crown, and was similar to the forage caps of British officers of the Crimean War period. A large embroidered grenade was worn on the front of the forage cap.

The sole period description of the original dress of the men states only that they wore blue uniforms and black monkey-skin busbies.

Officers' winter dress included a round black astrakhan cap and a long double-breasted greatcoat of dark cloth with collar and front opening trim of black astrakhan. The coat was braided across the front with six loops of black cord, each ending in a crow's-foot, and the cuffs were trimmed with an Austrian knot of black braid. The white leather sword-belt was worn over the greatcoat. Knee-length winter boots were worn with jack spurs.

The original uniform of the battery was short-lived, as a standard artillery uniform was adopted in 1863. Thereafter, the general pattern remained much the same until full dress was discarded in 1914.

For full dress, the battery adopted the fur busby of horse-artillery pattern with gilt curb chain, red bag, and a white plume - feathers for officers and hair for other ranks - fixed at the front of the cap. A gold cord cockade was set top centre in the front of the officer's busby, and the gold cap lines were fastened around the neck and looped up on the left breast.? Yellow woollen cord appeared on the busbies of other ranks.

The plate illustrates a subaltern officer of the 3rd "Montreal" Field Battery in mounted review order in 1893. The dark-blue cloth tunic had nine buttons in front and two behind at the waist; the front was edged in scarlet cloth. The coat was split behind to the waist with a blue flap on the back of each skirt; the skirt opening was edged with scarlet cloth. Each flap was edged with gold cord and ornamented with three gilt buttons.

The scarlet collar was edged with gold lace, and trimmed around the base with gold cord; embroidered grenades in frosted silver were set at each side of the collar opening. The blue cuffs were trimmed with an Austrian knot of gold cord and laced according to rank. The shoulder-straps were edged with gold cord with rank badges embroidered in silver. In 1893, the shoulder-straps of militia artillery officers were ordered to be of red cloth.

Dark-blue trousers with a wide scarlet stripe down the outside seam were worn over black Wellington boots fitted with steel spurs; pantaloons were worn with black butcher boots and steel jack spurs. As can be seen in the plate, the officers of the battery wore a white leather pouch belt and sword-belt with sword slings of white leather, and a plain black sabretache with gilt badge and white slings.

The dress of the NCOs and gunners was like that of the officers except that the collar and cuffs were edged with yellow cord, and the backs of the skirts were without flaps. In 1883, the gunners discarded the black leather leggings issued to field batteries and replaced them at their own expense with black riding boots and pantaloons.

Other ranks carried swords with steel scabbards, and white leather sword-knots and slings. The white waist-belt was fastened by a gilt belt-plate ornamented with the battery badge; the white pouch belt held a black leather pouch.

In addition to full dress, the men were issued with a blue serge service dress, which was worn with the round blue pillbox forage cap.


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