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History and Uniform of the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's), 1848 to the Present
by Jack L. Summers and Rene Chartrand


Officer of the 8th Canadian Hussars in mid-1890s
(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

At the close of the American Revolution, the men of several disbanded Loyalist regiments settled in the valleys of the Saint John and Kennebecasis rivers, then part of Nova Scotia. These men brought with them a tradition of military service that was to develop into one of Canada's best known regiments of cavalry, the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's).
Although military service came naturally to the new settlers, conditions were not conducive to the formation of cavalry units. The primitive pioneer farms cut out of the surrounding forest had few horses and fewer roads. As the settlements developed into a group of thriving communities connected by road, the number of horses increased, and with the horses came cavalry. In 1825, the Militia Act of the Province of New Brunswick provided for the raising of troops of volunteer cavalry, attached to a county militia battalion of infantry.

The story of the regiment began with Militia General Order No. 1 of April 1848, which authorized the amalgamation of eleven independent troops of cavalry to form a regiment designated the New Brunswick Yeomanry Cavalry. Major Robert James, formerly of the 7th Hussars of the British Army, became the first commanding officer of the new regiment.
In 1865, Captain John Saunders, grandson of the John Saunders who commanded a mounted troop of the Queen's Rangers, replaced Lieutenant-Colonel James as commanding officer. Thus, a link was forged between the Queen's Rangers and the New Brunswick Yeomanry Cavalry. His enthusiastic and effective leadership in these formative years earned Saunders his reputation as the father of the regiment.

On Confederation, the unit became a regiment of the Canadian militia, a change in status formally acknowledged in General Orders of 30 April 1869, which designated it the New Brunswick Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry. It was retitled the 8th Regiment of Cavalry in May 1872; that particular number was assigned because New Brunswick constituted Military District No. 8. The regiment was recognized as one of the best-trained units of volunteer cavalry in Canada, with summer training carried out at Fox Hill, the home of Lieutenant-Colonel Saunders.

Governor-General the Marquis of Lorne paid an official visit to New Brunswick in 1879, accompanied by his wife, Princess Louise, daughter of Queen Victoria. This charming woman captivated the men of the vice-regal mounted escort provided by the 8th Regiment of Cavalry, and they applied immediately to have the regiment renamed for her. After following the usual convoluted path of such requests, the unit was officially redesignated the 8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Regiment of Cavalry in July 1884, and proudlybears her name to this day.

The regiment had acquired a distinctive title, and was recognized as a very efficient cavalry unit; but it still lacked battle experience. The commanding officer offered the services of the regiment to Britain during the Sudan campaign of 1884. The proposal was acknowledged but declined. Neither was the unit invited to participate in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885, much to its disgust. However, the regiment was officially recognized as a hussar unit when it became the 8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Hussars in 1892.

While some of the 8th Hussars saw active service when the regiment volunteered both infantry and mounted units for South Africa in 1900, there was considerable disappointment when the regiment was not mobilized immediately on the outbreak of war in 1914. Not until January 1915 was the 6th Canadian Mounted Rifles raised, with A Squadron coming from the 8th Princess Louise's New Brunswick Hussars.

When the militia was reorganized after the First World War, the regiment resumed its pre-war title and peace-time routine. But the days of horsed cavalry were over, and in 1936 the unit went to camp to train in rented automobiles as a motorized cavalry regiment.

The 8th Hussars was not mobilized on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. In July 1940, however, it was placed on active service as a motorcycle regiment, and was converted to an armoured regiment in February 1941. As the 5th Armoured Regiment (8th Princess Louise's (New Brunswick) Hussars), the regiment served with distinction in Italy and North-West Europe as a unit of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.

After the war, the regiment returned to reserve status, and to the training grounds of Sussex, New Brunswick, where it carried on its tradition of hard work, enthusiasm, and efficiency. Widely regarded as one of Canada's most effective militia armoured units, the regiment was designated the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) in 1957, and contributed a regular component to the Canadian Army. The militia unit continues to serve in New Brunswick, and maintains close relations with the regular regiment.

In June 1973, the regiment celebrated the 125th anniversary of its formation. On that occasion, as a tribute to its origins, the commanding officer of the regulars led the formal march past mounted on a horse. Parades were held at Petawawa, the home base of the regulars, and at Moncton, where the 8th Canadian Hussars (Princess Louise's) (Militia) received the freedom of the city.

Uniform

Volunteer cavalry troops raised in New Brunswick under the Militia Act of 1825 were required to provide their own horses, uniforms, and equipment. As each troop designed its own uniform, the resulting military splendour was curbed only by imagination and funds. Some wore red jackets, others wore blue, and at least one troop imported hussar uniforms from England.

Early in its existence the regiment adopted the hussar uniform, and the mounted escort for the Prince of Wales during his visit to New Brunswick in 1860 was dressed in blue.

After Confederation, the unit obtained cavalry uniforms through government supply channels: a dark-blue hussar jacket with white collar, braided on the chest, cuffs, back seams, and skirt edges with yellow worsted cord. Blue cloth overalls were trimmed down the outside seam with a double white stripe. The round pillbox forage cap with white band and button, and black leather chin-strap was the only headgear issued by government stores. However, the regiment purchased hussar busbies with white plumes and bags for ceremonial wear.

The men were equipped with a white pouch belt, black leather pouch, and a sword-belt with white leather slings, worn under the jacket. In the early years the unit was issued the Enfield rifle; but its length made it difficult to carry on horseback, and it was replaced by the Spencer carbine in the late 1860s. In turn, the Spencer was succeeded by the Snider carbine in 1872. The basic dress of the 8th Hussars changed little during the final years of the nineteenth century. The white helmet with brass spike, chin chain, and helmet plate was issued for full dress in 1885. For service dress, the officers adopted a dark-blue patrol jacket trimmed with black mohair braid and tapes, a plain brown leather pouch belt, and black leather sabretache with regimental badge.

The plate illustrates a mounted junior officer of the mid-1890s in full dress. On each side of his dark-blue hussar jacket are six loops of gold chain lace with caps and drops, fastening with six gold-net-covered olivets. The entire jacket is edged with gold chain lace. On each back seam is a double row of the same lace forming a crow's-foot at the top, passing under a netted cap at the waist and terminating in an Austrian knot at the hem of the skirt. The white collar is trimmed top and bottom with gold lace, and the blue cuffs are trimmed with a gold-chain Austrian knot.

The busby has a gold oval cockade in front of the eight-inch white plume. The white busby bag is trimmed with gold braidand a single gold-lace-covered button. The gold cord cap lines fasten about the neck with the free ends looped up on the right shoulder.

Dark-blue pantaloons with double white stripe are worn with black Wellington boots and steel spurs.

The shoulder-belt is of gold lace with a white silk centre stripe, silver buckle and slide, and silver prickers and chain. The pouch is of black leather with silver flap ornamented with Queen Victoria's Cypher. The sword slings are of gold lace with a white centre stripe and gilt fittings. The sabretache is of white cloth edged in gold lace with the Queen's Cypher and regimental device embroidered in gold and red. White leather gloves complete the rider's dress.
A black lambskin covers the saddle, while the dark-blue shabraque edged with gold lace has a regimental device in the rear corner. The throat plume is white, and a regimental badge is worn on the circular breastplate.

In addition to full dress, officers provided themselves with a plain dark-blue patrol jacket with breast pockets, blue collar, plain cuffs, and white shoulder-straps. A dark-blue folding field service cap with chin-strap was worn with this order of dress. Pouch belt, sword slings, and gloves were of brown leather. Blue overalls with black boots were worn in dismounted order, while blue pantaloons with black Wellingtons and steel spurs were worn for mounted duties.

The men were issued a new-pattern serge patrol jacket with breast pockets, white collar, and blue shoulder-straps and cuffs piped with yellow braid.l Blue breeches were worn with black Stohwasser-pattern leggings or blue woollen puttees.

By 1907, all ranks had adopted the dark-blue naval pattern cap. Officers' caps were worn with a white cover, while those of the men had a white welt around the edge of the crown and a white band. Shoulder-chains replaced the white shoulder-straps on officers' jackets. The men were issued a plain blue patrol jacket with white shoulder-straps.

Weapons also changed. The ancient Snider carbine was replaced by the magazine-loading Lee-Metford carbine in 1898. In 1911, the regiment was armed with the controversial Canadian Ross Rifle, Mark II.

Though details of regimental dress and equipment changed over the years, the basic uniform retained the hussar pattern. In 1966, when the regular component of the regiment received its guidon, a mounted escort in the colourful full dress of the 8th Canadian Hussars served as a reminder of the origins of this distinguished corps.


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