The Rocky Mountain Rangers have a long and proud history in the Kamloops area. As of 1998 they will have been in existence for one hundred years. Throughout the past century the Rangers have witnessed some remarkable changes within the regiment, and members of the Rocky Mountain Rangers have had the opportunity to play important roles in nearly all the conflicts that Canada has been a part of.
The regiment finds its roots in the creation of a number of independent rifle companies in the Kooteney area and in the interior of British Columbia in 1898. These rifle companies joined to form the Rocky Mountain Rangers in the beginning of the twentieth century. By the second decade of the 1900's the regiment had its headquarters in Kamloops and could boast a band, an armory, an extensive membership and a prominent position in the community of Kamloops . The Rocky Mountain Rangers have sent men to the Boer War, World Wars One and Two and to the Korean conflict. More recently, members of the Rocky Mountain Rangers have participated in Canada 's peacekeeping missions all over the world.
One of the most crucial elements in a military regiment is the maintenance of "esprit de corps" among its members. When soldiers possess a strong feeling of "esprit de corps" it generates pride, effectiveness and enthusiasm for the regiment to which the soldiers belong. By relating the history of the Rocky Mountain Rangers it is hoped that the achievements of the regiment and the experiences of its soldiers will illustrate the strong role that the Rangers have had in Canada 's military history. In this way the Rocky Mountain Rangers can carry on the traditions of the past.
THE 1885 ROCKY MOUNTAIN RANGERS
The name "Rocky Mountain Rangers" first emerged in 1885 as the name taken by a militia of one hundred and fourteen men from British Columbia and Alberta who joined to fight in the Northwest Rebellion. The rebellion itself was the culmination of tensions between the Metis and the white population in the Red River area of Manitoba . The tensions were caused in part by white settlers displacing the Metis who had settled in the Red River Valley after Confederation, and also by the fact that the Canadian Government denied the Metis' legal rights. The Northwest Rebellion of 1885 was led by Louis Riel, the Metis leader who returned to Canada from his home in Montana to fight for what he saw as the Metis' right to national self-determination. Although activity during the Rebellion was further east, Alberta residents had reason to fear that the fighting would spread to their province in the form of an alliance of the Cree and Blackfeet tribes against the white settlers.
In 1885 Hon. A.P. Caron, Minister of Militia and Defense, authorized Captain John Stewart to raise four troops of the Rocky Mountain Rangers. Although three of the troops were renamed and put under different leadership, the troop raised by Captain Stewart at Fort Macleod, Alberta retained the name Rocky Mountain Rangers. The Rangers' three duties during the rebellion were "…to guard the 200-mile frontier between Lethbridge and the Cypress Hills; protect the cattle herds from thieves and rustlers; and act as a buffer to keep warlike American Indians from surging north to join their Canadian cousins." General Order No. 3 stated that a unit named the Rocky Mountain Rangers would be raised for actual service under Captain Stewart.
The majority of the troops in the 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers were cowboys, ranchers and ex-Mounties. Although they did not have the appearance of a typical military unit, the Rangers' expertise and knowledge regarding firearms, Indians and the Canadian west rendered their services invaluable. One notable member of the 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers was the hunter, explorer and guide John George Brown, otherwise known as "Kootenai" Brown. Kootenai took his name from his great appreciation of the Waterton (Kootenay) lakes in British Columbia . Upon learning about the situation in the Northwest, Kootenai traveled to Fort Macleod and immediately signed up with the Rangers as their chief guide and scout. It can be assumed that the flamboyant Kootenai Brown was right at home with the Rangers. "Kootenai, in his buckskin shirt, his wide slouch hat, his knife and rifle, and the natural ease with which he sat in a saddle added his own particular touch to what was already a colorful group of men." On 29th April, 1885 the Rocky Mountain Rangers, along with Kootenai Brown rode east from Fort Macleod.
The main function of the 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers was to guard the district around Cypress Hills. As events progressed it became apparent that the Rangers in Alberta would not be participating in as much of the Rebellion as perhaps the troops would have liked. However, two notable incidents did occur. The first was on 19th May when a man herding cattle in the Medicine Hat area was attacked by Natives and half-breeds, and the second incident occurred in early June when a patrol near Cypress Hills was attacked. Thus, "While the threat of trouble might have been present, to most of the action-loving cowboys the daily patrols were a chore." The 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers were never able to participate in full battle during the Northwest Rebellion.
The 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers were disbanded on 17th July that year. There was probably much disappointment among the troops at the disbanding of the corps. However, Captain Stewart was able to obtain the Riel Rebellion medal and the Rebellion scrip. The scrip entitled any Ranger who applied for it either eighty dollars or three hundred and twenty acres of land.
When examining the brief experiences of the 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers it is important to note that there is no connection between this militia and the Rocky Mountain Rangers regiment created in 1898 and existing into the present in Kamloops , British Columbia . The connection is in name only. Perhaps this is because of the romantic associations of the Rangers' name with a group of tough cowboys determined to protect the land below the Rocky Mountain foothills. The 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers are perpetuated by the South Alberta Light Horse in Medicine Hat , Alberta.
1898: THE CREATION OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN RANGERS
When the 1885 Rocky Mountain Rangers disbanded its members returned home to resume their civilian lives as cowboys and ranchers. Many returned to the interior of British Columbia . In the decade that followed there was no active militia in this area, although in 1885 Captain Edward A. Nash held a meeting in Kamloops and sent forward a petition to Ottawa proposing the creation of a local rifle corps. However, no action was made on this proposal until 1898. On 29th April 1898 Captain Nash announced that the Canadian government planned to create six militia companies in the interior of British Columbia . These companies would be in Vernon , Rossland, Nelson, Kamloops , Kaslo and Revelstoke. Captain Nash had been asked to form the infantry company in Kamloops . Given the importance of the railway as a line of communication at this time, the primary function of the company would be to protect the Canadian Pacific Railway (C.P.R.) line. The creation of this company marked the beginning of the Rocky Mountain Rangers that exist up to the present in Kamloops . By 1st January 1900 the Kamloops Rifle Co. became company No.3 in the corps that were officially named the Rocky Mountain Rangers. The other companies in the corps included those in Rossland, Nelson, Kaslo and Revelstoke. These companies all existed and operated independently of one another. Captain J.R. Vicars was named leader of the company in Kamloops . The independent operation of the rifle companies and independent leadership remained until the 102 nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers was formed in April 1908. Reorganization of the independent companies of the Rocky Mountain Rangers took place between 1908 and 1909. First of all, the four independent rifle companies at Rossland (Co. "A"), Nelson (Co.'s "B" and "C,") and Kaslo ( Co. "D") were joined together and renamed the 102nd Regiment . This was effective April 1908. On 1 June 1909 the Kamloops and Revelstoke companies were amalgamated into the 102nd Regiment. "E" Company was in Kamloops and "F" Company was in Revelstoke. Later in June, General Order No. 75 stated that the 102nd Regiment was to be officially designated the 102nd Regiment Rocky Mountain Rangers. Lieutenant-Colonel W.J.H. Holmes was the first Commanding Officer of the 102 nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers. Headquarters were located in Nelson, B.C. Holmes commanded the regiment from 4 May 1908 until 16 February 1912. On 1 September 1912 the headquarters were moved to Kamloops and Lieutenant-Colonel J.R. Vicars became the Commanding Officer. The significance of the restructuring of the 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers was that it most likely indicated the expansion and growing strength of military presence in British Columbia . For example, in November 1913 a Rangers' company was authorized to be created in Kelowna . In 1914 three more companies were created in Salmon Arm, Vernon and Penticton . What is not specific, however, is exactly why by the 1920's the focus of the Rocky Mountain Rangers shifted almost entirely to Kamloops . Perhaps it was because of disagreement between the various companies regarding the location of training camp. The focus on Kamloops could also have been a result of massive changes in the Canadian militia as a whole that saw the increased funding and concentration of the various military units. Nevertheless, given the evidence of the overall expansion in sheer numbers of Rocky Mountain Rangers it would seem that there was no shortage of strong and willing men who chose to display their sense of patriotism by volunteering for service in the interior of British Columbia . Of great significance also was the drive and ability of the men who commanded the Rocky Mountain Rangers during the first decades of the unit's existence.
The first commanding officer of the 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers was Lieutenant-Colonel W.J.H. Holmes. Originally from Kaslo , British Columbia , he served in this capacity from 1 April 1908 until 16 February 1912. Lieut.-Col. W.J.H. Holmes played a major role in the push for amalgamating the independent rifle companies in the interior of British Columbia . Holmes believed that many advantages would be accrued from amalgamating the rifle companies, and in February 1909 he outlined these advantages in a letter to W.A. Galliher, M.P. for Nelson. For example, Holmes proposed that an annual encampment including all Ranger companies should be held in Nelson. Holmes argued that this would give the unit a chance to work as a group when training and learning duties. An annual encampment would also be extremely beneficial for establishing 'Esprit de Corps' among the unit. Furthermore, Holmes wanted officers in the corps to be given the opportunity for advancement and to make promotion within the militia the reward for ambition. With the assistance of Galliher, Holmes persisted and was able to achieve permission for the creation of the 102nd Regiment. Holmes also wanted a second company to be created in Nelson. When the 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers was created Holmes became the Commanding Officer and saw his proposals fulfilled. Holmes' role in the formation of the 102nd Regiment was an extremely significant contribution to the history of the Rocky Mountain Rangers. It was individuals like W.J.H. Holmes who assisted in creating greater military strength in British Columbia.
Another individual who figures prominently in the history of the Rocky Mountain Rangers is Lieutenant-Colonel John Richard Vicars. Vicars began his illustrious military career on 1 July 1898 when he became Captain of the Kamloops Independent Rifle Company, soon to be the Rocky Mountain Rangers. Through the times of restructuring and amalgamation with the 102nd Regiment, Vicars remained Captain of the company in Kamloops . Finally, when the Ranger headquarters moved from Nelson to Kamloops in 1912 Vicars was promoted and replaced W.J.H. Holmes as the second Commanding Officer of the entire 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers.
By all accounts, J.R. Vicars was an inspirational leader who presented an imposing figure. Prior to becoming Commanding Officer, Vicars was a surveyor. He was well recalled by an associate, H.L. Land, who wrote a vivid description of Vicars' personality: "He stood out in a group of men in the same way that a Douglas fir dwarfs the lesser pines; not by virtue of physical superiority alone, but in the radiation of a personality that made itself felt in any environment." Always a man with a pioneering attitude, Vicars moved to Kamloops in the 1890's and became employed as a jail warden for seventeen years. It was here that Vicars rose quickly up the military ranks to become Commanding Officer in Kamloops .
One of Vicars' most notable achievements was during World War I when he helped raised the 172nd Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force. Vicars rallied his men together in the interior of B.C., and this event demonstrated both his drive and his vibrant personality. For example, a story is told of how Vicars jokingly, but with a serious undertone instructed his soldiers to give up their white handkerchiefs. He then replaced the white handkerchiefs with bright ones. The symbolism behind this was that Vicars in no way wanted his men to have the opportunity to surrender while engaged in battle. During the course of World War I Vicars contracted trench fever and returned to Canada . For the remainder of WW I he participated in the war effort by providing relief assistance to returning soldiers. Vicars was soon promoted to Honorary Colonel and eventually retired from his duties as Commanding Officer in 1925. His awards include the Colonial Auxiliary Forces Officers' Decoration, the Victory Medal (Inter-Allied War Medal) and the British War Medal. The Regiment remembers the loyalty and leadership shown by Honorary Colonel J.R. Vicars with pride.
After the Boer War ended in 1902, many men returned to the interior of British Columbia filled with a strong military spirit. Indirectly, it was this spirit which was responsible for the creation of the 31st B.C. Horse. This cavalry unit was made up of men who lived throughout British Columbia . Generally, the men paid for their own horses and food, and they trained each summer in drills, manoeuvres and horsemanship contests. When World War I broke out in 1914 the Commanding Officer of the 31st Horse, Lt. Colonel C.L. Flick, volunteered the entire regiment. The 31st B.C. Horse distinguished itself during World War I by becoming the largest cavalry unit in Canada . Two Victoria Crosses were brought back by the men of the 31st Horse. In 1920 the unit was reorganised as the 5th B.C. Light Horse. The Rocky Mountain Rangers maintain the history and artefacts of the 31 st B.C. Horse. The camp flag of the 31st Horse is located in St. Paul 's Cathedral in Kamloops , B.C., where it was placed in 1933.
With the creation of the Rocky Mountain Rangers in 1898 came traditions and modes of dress that were specific to the regiment. Uniforms, badges and insignia have been used throughout history in order for various armies, ranks and groups to be able to distinguish between one another. As well, the use of military insignia helps unit members to achieve comradeship and identification with their group. From 1898 onwards the Rocky Mountain Rangers became known for their unique uniform and badge.
The uniform of the Rocky Mountain Rangers during the early period of their history was remarkably distinctive. For dress purposes the soldiers would wear headdress consisting of a black felt hat. It was to be five inches high in the crown with a rim three inches wide, and banded by a dark green puggaree with red line. The rim of the hat was to be turned up on the left and fastened by a rosette of dark green and red.
For undress purposes the soldiers wore a Field Service Cap. The frock coat, as it was then called, was rifle green in color with black buttons. Trousers were also rifle green to match. Aiguillettes of black cord were to be worn on the left shoulder by the officers, and badges of rank were to be in bronze. Citizens of Kamloops and other towns containing companies of the Rocky Mountain Rangers would soon easily recognize the Rangers, who certainly presented a striking image when in full uniform.
The badge emblem for the Rangers was the head of the rocky mountain bighorn ram. This emblem has been used from about the time of the authorization of the companies. The badge itself depicts a rocky mountain ram with a band reading ‘RMR' around it. The ram has a wreath of maple leaves on each side, a crown on the top and the motto ‘Kloshe Nanitch' on a banner across it. The ram's feet show below. The exact specifications of the badge were set out in 1910 in General Order No. 37. The crown at the top of the badge is a symbol of loyalty to the Queen, the Nation and the unit in which one serves. The maple leaves represent the ten provinces and two territories of Canada . The slogan ‘Kloshe Nanitch' is Chinook Indian dialect for ‘Keep a good lookout,' and the ram is used on the badge because it is a local animal known for its alertness and habit of posting sentries to warn the flock of danger. The Rocky Mountain Ranger badge has been used to present times, and the ram remains the regiment's mascot.
During its early years the Rocky Mountain Rangers acted not only a military unit but also as a men's social club. Drills were held at least once a week, but participation in social activities was also an extremely important aspect in the development of tradition for the Rangers. An active social life helped in establishing the feeling of "Esprit De Corps" among the soldiers. Some of the many social activities that the Rocky Mountain Rangers participated in were sporting events, rifle matches, parades, concerts, "smokers" and balls. These events all played a key role in the early development of the unit. Evidence of the growing popularity of the Rocky Mountain Rangers is the fact that in 1901 a Junior Rocky Mountain Ranger contingent was created with an initial membership of thirty-five individuals. Perhaps the importance of the time between the Boer War and World War I was that the Rangers were establishing themselves in the area and establishing themselves as an organized unit. By participating in both social events and in training exercises the Rangers were building their strength and sense of comradeship.
Another reason why social events were important was that they kept the Rocky Mountain Rangers in the public eye and thus played a role in the Rangers' achieving public support. Newspapers such as the Kamloops Inland Sentinel contained numerous accounts of the Ranger's activities. For example, the Annual Rocky Mountain Rangers Ball was a much-anticipated event that generated lots of publicity and support for the Rangers. It is easy to imagine the vivid costumes, decorations of flags and military paraphernalia and the Rangers themselves that made the ball a fabulous social event. The Annual Ball was held from 1899 onwards, and of particular significance was the ball held on January 1902. Here, Mrs. Vicars unveiled a Coat of Arms for the corps, painted by Mr. J.W. Hutcheson. Reaction to this ball was so favorable that there was even a poem written about it:
"There was a sound of revelry by night,
And the Inland Capital had gathered there
Her Beauty and her chivalry, and bright
The lamps shone o'er fair women and brave men;
The Rocky Mountain Ranger Band was created in 1903, and from that point onwards it became an integral part of the military unit. This band performed live at numerous functions, and its presence was greatly appreciated by the citizens of Kamloops . During an age before radio and television the Rangers' band was one of the chief sources of entertainment in Kamloops . "For many years no civic function was complete without the services of the R.M.R. band, which was partly subsidized by city funds until 1913, when it became a strictly military organization."
Membership in the band decreased during the war, and then increased during the interwar period. During World War II the band evolved from strictly a brass band to another band being created that was composed entirely of Bugles. Leadership of the Rocky Mountain Ranger band was by notable individuals such as J.T. Perle in the 1920's and W. Sjoquist in the 1930's and 40's. The band practiced at Riverside Park on every Sunday, and the community could watch the event without paying a nickel. The importance of the Rocky Mountain Ranger Band was that it helped contribute to the community spirit and also lent the Rangers high visibility in the community.
In 1902 the Armory for the Kamloop's Rocky Mountain Rangers was built in the 300 block of Battle Street . Up until the 1920's this location became central for numerous social activities such as dances, balls and smokers during which the Ranger Band performed. The armory also served the purpose of representing military presence in Kamloops . Thus, through the use of the armory and the creation of the Band, "…the role of the militia was woven into the social fabric of the community."
One interesting aspect regarding the early development of the Rocky Mountain Rangers was the use of the Bugler in the Regiment. Buglers were usually young men in their late teens, and always appeared to take their duties with a great degree of seriousness. For example, Cecil Hunt was a bugler who joined the Rocky Mountain Rangers at Revelstoke in 1913. He served in this capacity during 1916 at the Mara Lake Internment Camp near Sicamous. At the internment camp Cecil Hunt had an amusing experience when trying to perform his duties. He recalled that the civilian aliens at the camp did not like it when he had to blow the ‘Revelry' and the ‘Rouse' at six in the morning. Rather than getting out of bed, the soldiers' response to Cecil was to throw their boots and other items of clothing at him. Cecil was dismayed but he soon retaliated. The following morning he took the boots that the men threw at him and placed them in the snow. It is needless to say that for the rest of the day everyone had extremely cold feet. However, from then on they always woke up without complaint at the sound of Cecil's bugle. Such was the life of the bugler in the Rocky Mountain Rangers!
It would seem that the significance of the early regimental traditions and experiences of the Rocky Mountain Rangers is that they created a bond among members of the unit that was not easily broken or forgotten. The creation of the regimental badge was important because it is this badge and the slogan ‘Kloshe Nanitch' which are used up to the present by the Rocky Mountain Rangers. Although the Rangers' uniform has changed numerous times throughout the past one hundred years it remains a mark of distinction for the soldiers who wear it. The active community participation of the unit and especially of the Rocky Mountain Ranger Band helped in developing an important bond between the general public and the Rangers. Within the unit itself activities such as parades and balls helped establish "Esprit de Corps." The creation of "Esprit de Corps" within a military unit is crucial because it is the manner by which soldiers become familiar with one another. It is also the way in which they develop regimental pride and loyalty. The feeling of loyalty and comradeship engendered by "Esprit de Corps" is carried onto the battlefield. Finally, through their collective experiences in the early 1900's the Rocky Mountain Rangers were able to make traditions long lasting. The end result was that the regiment could act with pride, efficiency and effectiveness.
1899-1902: THE BOER WAR
On 11 October 1899 war broke out in South Africa between Great Britain and the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State . Tensions between the Dutch colonists (Boers) and the English-speaking Uitlanders had been growing, and the Dutch president Kruger hoped to create a sovereign Dutch South Africa. In the early fall of 1899 the British were issued an ultimatum to leave the colony, which they refused. Not only would the loss of South Africa have been humiliating for Britain , but it also would have set a dangerous precedent for other colonies. It was for these reasons that the Boer War erupted. It was a war which was to last from 1899 to1902.
When war broke out Canadian opinion was sharply divided as to whether or not the Canadian military should participate on behalf of Britain . Immediately prior to the outbreak of war British Prime Minister Chamberlain had stated that the British government would gladly accept troops if Canada volunteered them. The issue in Canada however, was whether the Canadian government should intervene or pursue a policy of isolation from Britain . On one hand, English Canadians wanted to participate in the Boer War because they sympathized with the English-speaking Uitlanders. On the other, French Canadians led by Henri Bourassa were firmly opposed to Canada assisting Britain . They saw the war, "...as an example of imperial aggression..." and, "...were concerned about the Boers' 'national' rights..." Canadian Prime Minister Wilfred Laurier's compromise was to announce that Canada would volunteer a force of one thousand men to Britain for the war in South Africa, but only on the condition that Britain would take financial responsibility for the Canadian troops once they reached South Africa. The first contingent sailed at the end of October, 1899, and a second was sent in December. As well, Lord Strathcona, the High Commissioner in London raised a unit of mounted rifles in Canada . Altogether more than seven thousand Canadians served as either volunteer horsemen or infantrymen in the Boer War.
In terms of military history, the significance of the Boer War was that it was the first time Canada provided contingents to fight overseas. In terms of the history of the Rocky Mountain Rangers, a number of men from the interior of British Columbia volunteered for service, and many of these men were Rocky Mountain Rangers.
The first Rocky Mountain Rangers to serve in the war were R.B. Campbell and H.P. Hicks. Both men enlisted in Kamloops on 20 October 1899. From their enlistment records we are able to ascertain that both Hicks and Campbell were twenty-two years old and the picture of good health. Hicks was about 5 feet 10 inches tall, with a fair complexion, brown hair and blue eyes. Campbell was very similar in appearance. He was also 5 feet 10 inches tall with brown hair and blue eyes. In all likelihood Hicks and Campbell probably looked like brothers. Hicks listed his occupation as a clerk, and Campbell was a rancher. Together, they served overseas for nearly one and a half years. They both received the Queens Medal. Hicks' medal had three clasps: "Paardeberg," "Dreifentein," and " Cape Colony ." Campbell 's medal had four clasps: "Paardeberg," "Dreifentein," " Johannesburg " and " Cape Colony ." After Hicks and Campbell enrolled for service, many more Rocky Mountain Rangers followed.
In February 1900 Officer J.O. Wilson arrived in Kamloops to select men to serve with Strathcona's Horse. The men were chosen by lot, and in order to determine which men were fit for service Officer Wilson tested the numerous volunteers in the saddle and in rifle practice. The men also had to undergo a medical examination. In the end, twenty men from Military District No. 11 were selected to serve with the Strathcona Horse.
In 1901 Baden-Powell's Constabulary arrived in Kamloops to recruit more men for service. Again, there were many more applicants than available spaces, and out of about sixty volunteers only twenty men were chosen. At least eight of these men were from the Kamloops area; the rest originating from other areas in B.C. In conclusion, the sheer number of volunteers for both Strathcona's Horse and Baden-Powell's Constabulary indicated that enthusiasm for joining the war effort was great among the Rocky Mountain Rangers.
Canadian casualties in the Boer War numbered over two hundred men. While many men died in battle, it is significant to note that many more died because they contracted "trench fever." In terms of the Rocky Mountain Rangers there were at least two men listed as killed in action. The two were T. Hunter and H.W. Ingram. We are fortunate to have a profile of the wartime experiences of Ingram.
William Henry Ingram was a rancher from Grande Prairie , Alberta . Only twenty-five years old, William was killed in South Africa on 23 December 1900. In a letter to William's brother from T.T.M. Custance (Acting quartermaster), Custance relates a touching account of Ingram's death. It appeared that while under orders of a Major Jarvis, William was sent out to a ridge near Clocolar with two other men, one named Corporal McDonnell and the other named "Fernie." Their goal was to draw enemy fire. Upon clearing the ridge the men found themselves within thirty-five yards of the enemy. The enemy Boers refused to surrender and began to fire their weapons. There were seven Boers and the Canadians shot four of them. However, as soon as this occurred Ingram was shot in the heart and Corporal McDonnell was wounded. It was obvious that Ingram's wound was fatal, but McDonnell stayed with him on the ridge until he died. The squadron later gave William Ingram a funeral and ensured that he was properly buried. Ingram's bravery and death for his country indicate the seriousness with which the Rocky Mountain Rangers, like all other Canadian soldiers, took their duties.
One of the most significant battles that Canadians played a role in during the Boer War was the Battle of Paardeburg Drift. Victory here took place on 28 February 1900. Initially, the Royal Canadian Regiment was to attack the Boers across the River Modder, near the Paardeburg Drift. However, they suffered many casualties, and this was the first time that many members of the Royal Canadian Regiment members had been shot at. Within about two minutes there were sixty deaths. Fortunately, events at Paardeburg improved and an early morning attack on the Boers resulted in victory as the Royal Canadian Regiment opened fire and the Boer's responded by waving their white flags in surrender. The battle of Paardeburg Drift was a milestone because it was one of Canada 's first major overseas victories.
Overall, Canada 's participation in the Boer War meant that for the first time Canadian soldiers had the opportunity to distinguish themselves internationally on the battlefield. Their bravery and willingness to fight meant that in the future, Britain could depend on Canadian volunteers for assistance. This would certainly prove to be the case during World War I.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO WORLD WAR I
Prior to the fateful summer of 1914, tensions in Europe had been mounting and alliances had already been formed among the major European powers. Specifically, Germany , Austria-Hungary and Italy were allied against Russia and France . Great Britain was trying to operate in isolation and therefore had no formal alliances. However, Britain had made a commitment to guarantee the neutrality of certain European countries such as Belgium . This was to prove significant since Germany 's invasion of Belgium meant that Britain had to abandon its isolationist policies and become involved in the war.
Events that led to the outbreak of war occurred quickly. The breaking point was on 28 June 1914 when Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo , Bosnia by a Serbian nationalist named Gavrilo Princip. This event caused outrage because Archduke Ferdinand was the heir to the Austrian throne. Thus, on 26 July 1914 Austria declared war on Serbia . Russia , with its historical ties to Serbia , mobilized against Austria on 30 July. Committed to supporting Austria , Germany declared war on Russia and on France during the first week of August. As previously mentioned, Britain was drawn in when Germany invaded Belgium in its attempts to gain French territory. On 4 August 1914 Great Britain declared war and, "...when Britain was at war Canada was at war."
The Canadian Minister of Militia and Defense at this time was Colonel Sam Hughes. In Canada , and especially in English-Canada, there was much popular support for Britain 's war efforts. Colonel Hughes issued a personal "call to arms" for all Canadian men to participate in the war, and enthusiasm was so tremendous that by September there were 32 666 soldiers ready to depart for France.
Enthusiasm for the war effort was also great in the interior of British Columbia . During the course of World War I the Rocky Mountain Rangers were to play significant roles both domestically and on the battlefields in Europe . At home, the Rangers assisted by providing soldiers for internment camps and by guarding railway bridges along the CPR line. On the battlefield, the Rangers were recruited to serve in other battalions. Most significantly, the Rangers formed the 172nd Battalion. However, they soon found themselves separated in order to supplement other units. The Rangers were especially used as replacements for casualties. In total, over 4000 Rocky Mountain Rangers participated in the war, demonstrating the regiment's commitment and dedication.
THE CALL TO ARMS
When World War I broke out on 4 August 1914 Lieut. -Col. Vicars enthusiastically volunteered the services of the 102nd Regiment, Rocky Mountain Rangers. In a letter he wrote:
"To the Editor of the Montreal Star.
The duty of all Canadians is to shed their last drop of blood in defense of their dear old Mother-Land. But why ask such a question? Is there a cur with a drop of British blood in his veins who doubts his duty? As for myself and the Rangers we are ready. Only let Sam (Hughes) give the word. I speak for my men. They know me, and I know them.
The Canadian government did not immediately accept this offer. However, by late August a contingent one hundred and twenty Rangers was mobilized for duty. This was the first contingent of the Rocky Mountain Rangers that was sent overseas during World War I. On 29 August 1914 a train left Kamloops destined for Camp Valcartier in Quebec , the mobilization point for the First Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Rangers then went to the staging area in England , and finally on to the battlefields in France .
Advertisements were placed in local newspapers in order to encourage men to join the war effort. Qualifications for service were that men had to be at least five feet, three inches tall with a chest width of thirty-three and one-half inches. The army also required that the men be between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years old. In Kamloops it was a Dr. Archibald acting as the army medical officer deciding who could join the force. Of course, the army preferred to enlist unmarried men first, but would also recruit married and family men. Thus, one can discern that among the eager men who enlisted in Kamloops many left loved ones and dependants at home.
Unfortunately, for the duration of the war the Rangers were never able to fight together as a unit. Even the 172nd Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, which was composed entirely of Rocky Mountain Rangers was split up once it arrived overseas. The disbanded of the 172nd Battalion occurred to the extreme disappointment of Lieut. -Col. Vicars. To summarize, the Rocky Mountain Rangers sent two contingents to serve in 1914. In July 1916 the 172nd Battalion, C.E.F. was raised according to General Order No. 69. On 25 October 1916 it departed for England and overseas service with the Canadian Corps on the RMS Mauritania. Recruitment headquarters were located in Kamloops , and the Rocky Mountain Rangers sent drafts to support a variety of battalions such as the 72nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders, the 54th Battalion, C.E.F., the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles, the 47th Battalion, C.E.F. and the 7th Battalion, C.E.F. It is important to note that while the Rocky Mountain Rangers' primary duty was to provide infantry support, a few Rangers were also were drafted to fill positions in the Tunneling Coys. (33 drafts), the Forestry Drafts Vancouver (13 drafts) and even for the Serbian Army (1 draft). The fact that the Rocky Mountain Rangers were never able to fight together as a unit is a point of sorrow for many individuals. For example, when the unit was split up it meant that the soldiers could not wear the badge or uniform of the Rocky Mountain Rangers. Rather, they had to adopt the uniform of the unit into which they had been drafted. For Lieut. -Col. Vicars this was particularly difficult, since he had wanted to see "his boys" fight in battle together. Nevertheless, the fact that the Rocky Mountain Rangers were not able to fight as a unit does not mean that there were not important battle honours won by the Rangers. Indeed, the Rocky Mountain Rangers hold no less than six battle honours for World War I. They are: Amiens , Arras , Hill 70, Hindenburg, Ypres and Valenciennes .
As previously mentioned the majority of Rocky Mountain Rangers who participated in World War I performed infantry duties. However, there were a number of Rangers who were deployed across Canada in order to fulfill a variety of domestic duties. These duties were predominantly to guard the railway bridges across Canada and to guard British Columbia 's internment camps. Soldiers who were sent to perform domestic taskings were usually either too old, too young or for some other reason not fit for overseas service. However, one should not assume that these posts were without danger. Domestic sabotage and terrorist activities were a real and present threat in Canada during World War I.
Guarding the railway bridges of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) was one of the primary domestic functions for the Rocky Mountain Rangers. The railway was the foremost mode of communication, transfer of goods, and most importantly the transfer of soldiers in Canada at this time. It was crucial that the railway be guarded against sabotage. For example, there was always the possibility that the railway bridges could be destroyed.
In fact, that is exactly what happened on 2 February 1915. According to an article in the Kamloops Inland Sentinel a dynamite explosion severely damaged a bridge at St. Croix . The accused in the incident was a German resident of the U.S. named Van Horn. This individual's name is not confirmed, but the fact that the newspaper specified that he was a German is significant.
During World War I the Canadian government was fearful of any individuals who could be deemed a threat to national security. Specifically, the government wanted to restrict the movement of individuals of central European decent. For this reason internment camps were created across Canada for the purpose of detaining those who were perceived to be "enemy aliens." It has been estimated that during World War I there were twenty-four internment camps established, and these camps contained a total of 8579 individuals. The majority of POW's were Austro-Hungarians, these numbering about 5954 individuals. The Rocky Mountain Rangers provided soldiers to guard some of the internment camps, for example the camp located at Mara Lake . There were other camps or worksites in Revelstoke, Monashee, Vernon , Edgewood and Fernie. The soldiers' primary duties were to act as sentries upon the enclosures and buildings, to act as escorts to working parties and to police and supervise the inmates' quarters. POW's in the internment camps had their land and often their belongings removed from them and were sent to the camps for the duration of the war. This was regardless of whether those deemed "enemy aliens" were Canadian citizens, or even second-generation Canadians. Overall, there are records of six individuals shot and four wounded during various escape attempts at the camps. However, there are no records of any members of the Rocky Mountain Rangers being involved in these incidents.
On a lighter note, soldiers serving on inpost duties with the Rocky Mountain Rangers had to be on constant alert for all types of danger. Due to the nature of the countryside and the fact that the Ranger's were guarding areas located in the stark wilderness, the unexpected could actually occur very frequently. For example, during October 1939 a report of a bear attack on the Cutback and Stoney Creek posts was sent to headquarters in Kamloops . Apparently a man had entered his tent only to discover he had three rather large and uninvited guests. The bears utterly destroyed his tent; all that was left was a piece of the tent no larger than two square feet. In the end, the attacking bears had to be shot. The Rocky Mountain Ranger War Diaries describe the event and state that the bear menace at the time was reaching "serious proportions."
The Canadian government took threats to domestic security during World War I overall, very seriously. It was because of such real and perceived threats that the Rocky Mountain Rangers were deployed across Canada to protect the railway and to protect Canadian citizens from terrorists and saboteurs.
The men of the Rocky Mountain Rangers fought valiantly in many of the most important battles of the war. Their outposts were all along the Western Front, and most saw action in France and Germany . The Rangers have been awarded six battle honours for their participation in World War I, and these honours are emblazoned across the Rangers' regimental colors.
Ypres , July 1917
The 3rd Battle of Ypres, for which the Rocky Mountain Rangers have battle honours, began at the end of July 1917. The battle was characterized by brutal conditions on a battlefield that had been completely destroyed. The Canadians had been to Ypres before. However, by 1917 the place was nearly unrecognizable with bodies laying everywhere and the battlefield engulfed in a terrible stench. "The swollen flanks of dead horses and mules shone in the rain; human remains lay on every side…some of the recently killed were white, others gray, green, black or decomposed. A disgusting odor of sickly, sweet-smelling death pressed heavily on the senses."
The 3rd Battle of Ypres is also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, and this event has become notorious for the number of deaths that occurred in the area. For example, the capture of Passchendaele caused 15 654 deaths and for many this seemed to be a hollow victory indeed. However, the battle did mark the nearing to the end of the campaign on the Western Front.
Hill 70, August 1917
The Battle of Hill 70 began when General Currie decided to launch an attack on Lens, a town approximately six kilometers north of the Canadian forces at Vimy Ridge. Hill 70 was two hundred meters to the north of Lens and looked over the town. The plan was that heavy artillery would be used to paralyze the German machine gun forces and the German-held trenches. The battle began at about 4:30 am on 15 August 1917, and the Canadians experienced fierce German counter-attacks. The Germans forces did not surrender until they had experienced nearly 20 000 casualties, and fighting continued until the end of August. Soldiers at Hill 70 achieved their objective of preventing the German reserves from moving to Ypres .
Arras 1917, 1918
Between 26 August and 4 September, 1918, the Canadians were deployed along a five-mile front. A series of ridges, rivers, and canals provided the Germans the advantage of natural fortifications. The valiant Canadians advanced six miles and pierced the German line. When the smoke had settled, 10 200 prisoners fighting each step of the way were taken. Along with this were one hundred artillery pieces, one thousand and one hundred machine guns and seventy-five trench mortars. This was at the high cost of approximately 11 000 casualties.
The Hindenburg Line, 2 September 1918
The 1st and 4th Canadian divisions launched an assault on the Hindenburg Line early in the morning of 2 September 1918. At the cost of 7218 casualties the Canadians penetrated nine thousand yards through the German's Hindenburg defense system. By the night of 3 September the Canadian line was ten miles long. The Canadians successfully broke the line and outflanked the Germans to the south, forcing them to reorganize in order to meet the advancing British. This battle assisted in opening the way for the Allied victory over Germany .
Amiens , 8 August 1918
The battle of Amiens lasted from 8-17 August 1918. Overall, Amiens has been considered, "...an outstanding example of co-operation between infantry, tanks and artillery, and between the ground forces and the air." During the battle of Amiens the Canadian Corps held the line between Avre and Ancre, and while under heavy German bombardment they broke through the German lines and gained fourteen miles. An incredible large amount of enemy territory, weaponry and prisoners were captured at Amiens , and it is perhaps for this reason that it is considered "the Black Day" of the German army.
Valenciennes , October - November, 1918
The Battle of Valenciennes was one of the last major battles prior to Armistice. In October of 1918, the British and Canadian troops began a steady advance into German occupied territories. On November 1st, they swept east on a ten-mile front successfully capturing Valenciennes . Fifteen hundred Germans were captured at the cost of one thousand casualties. Within ten days of the battle at Valenciennes the Armistice was signed, marking the end of the First World War.
When describing military strategy, organization and battle honours it is often easy to forget the individual experiences of the soldiers who fought bravely on the battlefield. However, it is the experiences of the fighting soldier that are most often able to relay the sense of what it was actually like to be in the midst of battle.
Probably the most distinguishing feature of battle in World War I was the prevalence of trench warfare. This type of warfare was primarily defensive in nature, and an outstanding attack would be considered an advance of five hundred meters on a battlefield. What this meant for the individual soldier was that he would spent the majority of his time in the trenches. The trench would become his home – the place where he ate, slept and carried out all bodily functions. For some, the trench was the place where they would meet death. Conditions there were notoriously wretched, with trenches usually muddy cesspools likely to be filled with all types of vermin at any time. Bad food, a constant lack of sleep and ailments such as ‘trenchfoot' were common place. In the midst of these conditions there was the ever-present threat of enemy attack, and often soldiers in the trench could expect to be hit with a rain of enemy artillery at any time. Some attacks could last for days.
Fortunately, soldiers send letters, keep diaries and write down their experiences so that future generations can appreciate the impact and magnitude of war. Excerpts from a diary left by Sgt. W.L. (Lee) Cochrane describe his experiences in France during World War I. More importantly, Cochrane's experiences are a stark reminder about the grim reality of trench warfare.
In 1916 Cochrane enlisted with the Rocky Mountain Rangers in Kamloops , and later that year departed for more training to England . There, he joined the 72nd Battalion, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada and soon left for the battlefields in France . Cochrane gives the following detailed account of his experiences:
June 24th, 1917
"It had been raining pretty hard but had cleared off pretty well by afternoon when we left the Shato Dela,...and after a five kilometer march arrived at Vimy Ridge just up from a little place which had once been a village called Givenchy, there was very little of it left; but bricks scattered all around...our front line was at the time Portage trench, a good trench it was too. We laid there all night and the next morning we were supposed to go over at 5:30 but it was cancelled and we went at 7:00 sharp, things went jake that trip, as far as casualties went. I got my ear burned by a bullet, the corporal that was with me got shot through the leg. Later on I got buried twice within fifteen minutes carrying messages..."
September 30th, 1917
"It was a nice day for a change, we lay back of Passendale Ridge at a place called Abrain Heights ...We relieved 38 Battalion. We dug new trenches and fixed everything up the best we could but, 'Oh! The mud and shells.' It was worse than Hell, for we had no chance of fight; and in holes and waiting for death or a blighty. Sometimes it was death very often in fact, poor fellows....we started to pay old Fritz a visit. Men were continually getting stuck in the mud, we had a line forage, some of our own shells were dropping short and we lost many a good man through following to close to it. We reached our objective after a stiff fight. Fellows laying all around, dead, dying, and wounded and they smelled something awful. I have seen a few fights since but none like that, our prisoners mostly were kids, some of them bawling like babies, I felt sorry for them, others fought like so many devils..."
Cochrane survived the bloodshed and terror of the war and received the first bar to the Military Medal for his part. Although he obviously experienced and witnessed much suffering during his time on the front, Cochrane was fortunate in that he survived. Many of his fellow soldiers were not so lucky.
ARMSTICE DAY AND THE RETURN HOME
By 11 November 1918 the Armistice agreement had been signed and World War I was officially over. In total, 619 636 Canadians had served in the war, and among these there had been 233 494 casualties with 59 544 deaths. For the remainder of the soldiers overseas, the long process of disbanding and repatriation would now occur. It took a little over a year for the Canadian soldiers to return home. Once back in Canada the soldiers of World War I received a small payment for his service, the amount depending on how long he had served overseas. As well, medical treatment and vocational training was made available to veterans, and it was during this time that the government established the Department of Veteran Affairs.During the interwar years the entire Canadian military system was at a low point. It was evident after World War I that many were tired of war, and for this reason membership in the reserve forces dropped. As well, the Canadian Expeditionary Force was disbanded. The 102nd Battalion, C.E.F. was permanently disbanded in 1919, with the Rocky Mountain Rangers perpetuating the battalion. The Great Depression in the 1930's meant that funds for the militia were at an all-time low and that the government could not afford to provide much funding for any extra military endeavors. Such was the situation in Canada when World War II erupted in 1939.