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History and Uniform of the
Royal Regiment of Canada, 1862-1970
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.
By the 1850s, Canada was well on the way to self-government; nonetheless, she still looked to Britain for her defence, and British regulars garrisoned her frontiers and fortresses. Events in the Crimea forced Britain to recall her regiments in 1854, leaving fewer than 1,900 regulars in Canada, and only 1,400 in the Maritime colonies. In order to increase Canadian military resources, a commission was appointed to investigate the state of the militia and to recommend ways to improve its effectiveness.
Based on the commission's report, a new Militia Act was passed in 1855. It retained the Sedentary Militia and the concept of universal military service; but it also created a small, volunteer "Active Militia," to be armed, clothed, and paid at public expense. The Active Militia was to receive regular training, so that it could assemble immediately in a crisis and provide a core for the Sedentary Militia in case of a general mobilization.
The Canadian public's response to the formation of a volunteer force of part-time soldiers was immediate and enthusiastic. On 21 December 1861, a meeting was held in Toronto to discuss the raising of a regiment of volunteers from among the artisans of the city. A motion was passed that "a battalion of Volunteer Rifles, capable of executing field works, be immediately raised...." Steps were taken at once to raise funds by subscription for the purchase of clothing and equipment, to enrol recruits, and to appoint a committee to nominate officers for the battalion.
On 14 March 1862, the new unit was gazetted as the 10th Battalion Volunteer Rifles, Canada. However, a request was granted that the regiment be dressed in scarlet, and be infantry rather than rifles, as were the other companies being raised throughout Canada at the time.2 On 21 November 1862 the corps was renamed The 10th Battalion Volunteer Militia Infantry), Canada. On 10 April 1863, the regiment was ,ranted permission to adopt the title Royal, and was re-designated the 10th, or Royal Regiment of Toronto, Volunteers.
The Fenian raids of 1866 provided the 10th Royals with its
first taste of active service. The regiment was rushed to the Niagara Peninsula of 1 June; and, while it did not arrive in
time to take part in the confused skirmish of Lime Ridge, it was
engaged in mopping-up operations. Later that summer, the
regiment was called up for a period of continuous service on the
On the outbreak of the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, the Royal Grenadiers mobilized a small battalion, which was sent to join the North West Field Force. The battalion was early on the scene and, as part of General Middleton's own column, took part in the engagements of Fish Creek and Batoche. Throughout the campaign, the regiment served with distinction and earned its first battle honours.
A draft of volunteers from the regiment in 1899 formed part of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment, which served in South Africa. In the mobilization muddle of 1914, volunteers from the 10th Royal Grenadiers were incorporated into the 3rd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Throughout the war, the regiment maintained a depot, which raised the 123rd Battalion and sent substantial drafts to the 19th, 35th, 58th, and 75th battalions, in addition to maintaining a continual supply of officers and men for the 3rd Battalion. By the end of the First World War, some 4,000 men had passed through the ranks of the 10th Royal Grenadiers to the Canadian Expeditionary Force.
When the militia was reorganized in 1920, numbers were dropped from unit titles, and the regiment became The Royal Grenadiers, In 1936, it was amalgamated with The Toronto Regiment, and titled The Royal Regiment of Toronto Grenadiers. At the request of its members, however, the unit was renamed The Royal Regiment of Canada on 11 February 1939.
The regiment was mobilized on 1 September 1939 and recruited to full war establishment by 19 September. In June 1940, The Royal Regiment was sent to Iceland, and subsequently to England to become part of the 4th Infantry Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division. With this formation, the Royals took part in the Dieppe Raid and the campaign in North-West Europe.
The Militia Act of 1855 specified that the infantry element of the newly created Active Militia was to be companies of rifles. The rudimentary dress regulations prescribed a uniform of dark green with red facings. The request of the 10th Battalion to be designated infantry rather than rifles implied that its men would be clothed in the traditional red tunic of the British line regiments. The uniforms ordered from England were slow to arrive, and it was not until 6 July 1863, when colours were presented, that the unit appeared on parade in full
The full-skirted single-breasted red tunic had eight buttons and white piping down the front. The dark-blue collar, rounded at the front, was piped with white along the edge; the dark-blue pointed cuffs were edged with white braid ending in an Austrian knot. The tunic skirt was closed behind with a plait on each side; the plaits and centre vent were edged with white cloth. There were two large buttons on each plait, and two at the waist.
The original issue of trousers was dark blue with a red welt down the outside seam.
The waist-belt and sword slings were of white leather; the sword was of infantry pattern with gold knot. Junior officers had black scabbards with brass fittings; the adjutant, a steel scabbard; and field officers, brass scabbards.
Undress uniform for officers of the 10th Royals included the round flat forage cap. Rather like a peaked pillbox, the cap had a red band, straight black leather peak, black button, and brassnumerals. The loose-fitting undress patrol jacket was of dark blue; the blue collar was trimmed with black tape. Rank badges were worn on the collar, and the jacket was without shoulder-straps or cords.
The jacket front closed with hooks, and was braided across the chest with four rows of black cord ending in drop loops, with olivets in the centre. The front of the jacket and the skirt were edged with black tape. Back seams were trimmed with black braid forming a crow's-foot top and bottom, and double eyes at the waist. Cuffs were trimmed with black braid ending in an Austrian knot.
The dark-blue trousers had a red welt up the outside seam. In undress, the sword-belt was worn under the jacket.
The plate illustrates a private of the 10th Royal Regiment of Toronto Volunteers in full marching order. To the white buff-leather waist-belt is attached a small white leather pouch, called a ball bag, and a white bayonet frog. The wide white leather cross-belt supports a black ammunition pouch on the right hip. The white canvas haversack, worn folded over the bayonet scabbard, is suspended from a white canvas strap over the right shoulder. The square black canvas pack or knapsack is supported by two white shoulder-straps. Although the pack and haversack were rarely issued to militia units, they are included in the illustration to depict the full marching order of the period. This cross-belt equipment of Crimean War vintage served the Canadian Militia through two campaigns, until it was replaced in 1898 with the Oliver equipment.
The weapon first issued to the 10th Royals was the Long Enfield rifle with triangular bayonet. In 1867, the Enfield was replaced twice, first by the Spencer rifle, and then by the Long Snider-Enfield breech-loading rifle.
The regiment adopted the blue home-service pattern helmet in 1879; however, when they were redesignated grenadiers, new forage caps of the Grenadier Guards pattern were issued in
1883. Ultimately, the bearskin cap of the Guards was approved for full dress; it was first worn on parade in November
1893. The full dress of the Grenadier Guards is still worn by detachments of the regiment on special ceremonial occasions.