NWORA Remembrance Vol.4 - NE99

NE99

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I f the tradition of a Royal Canadian Regiment (RCR) Company and training depot in Toronto and the act of serving together in South Africa had created a relationship, the shared experiences of the Second World War would forge an unbreakable bond between the 48th Highlanders and The Royal Canadian Regiment. This bond would only begin to slacken in the early 1970s. The 48th Highlanders were mobilized on 1 September 1939. The Regiment quickly transitioned from a peacetime Non-Permanent Militia regiment into a battalion of the Canadian Active Service Force (CASF). By 15 September the 48th Highlanders had attained full war establishment strength and recruiting was suspended. The Regiment was the very first in the Canadian Army to achieve this goal. The Royal Canadian Regiment was also mobilized on 1 September and shortly thereafter ordered to recruit to war establishment strength. This proved much harder for The RCR to achieve than it was for many Militia regiments. Between the two world wars the Permanent Force had been sadly neglected by the Canadian Government and lacked broad public approval. At this time the total strength of the Permanent Force was a mere 4,500 officers and men. In fact, the Regiment was only at something slightly above 50% strength in 1939. As well, The RCR was dispersed in four different garrisons at the outbreak of war. Wellington Barracks, Halifax was home to A Company; B Company was located at the Horse Palace, CNE Grounds, Toronto; C Company, Headquarters Company, and Battalion Headquarters were stationed at Wolesley Barracks, London, Ontario; and D Company was in garrison at St.-Jean, Quebec. The RCR companies found it difficult to recruit in areas where loyalties were powerfully focused on local Militia regiments. In fact, B Company was expressly forbidden to recruit in its home station of Toronto and was forced to concentrate its efforts on the Niagara Peninsula. Thus, it was only by 11 October that every company of the Regiment was at full strength and not until 14 November that the separate companies began to concentrate as a battalion at Valcartier. With the coming of war the policy of the Canadian Government had been to recruit and organize two active service infantry divisions for possible overseas employment. On 25 September, after much wavering, the political decision was taken to dispatch one division to England. The question now became which battalions would make up this division? The 1st Canadian Infantry Division had gained renown as the "Red Badge Division" during the First World War. It had been the premiere division of Canadian Corps. It soon became apparent that the Army's intention was to dispatch all three infantry battalions of the Permanent Force to Europe with the First Contingent. Therefore, The Royal Canadian Regiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), and the Royal 22nd Regiment (R22eR), would each be seeded in one of the three brigades of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. As the Canadian Army's most senior infantry regiment, The Royal Canadian Regiment would take pride of place in the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade. Having been the first regiment to attain war establishment strength and retaining an outstanding reputation from the Great War, it was inevitable that the 48th Highlanders would be selected as one of the six former Militia battalions to be included in the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. Each of the three brigades would represent a distinct geographic region of the country. The 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade would be an Ontario brigade. Joining The RCR in the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade would be the 48th Highlanders of Canada from Toronto and the Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment. This latter Regiment came from two rural counties in south-central Ontario and drew its men from communities like Picton, Madoc, Bancroft, and Marmora. Each of these three Regiments had a unique identity and the character of each was revealed in the nicknames by which each was referred to by soldiers of the other two Regiments. Coming from two rural counties, The Hastings and Prince Edward Regiment (also known as the Hasty Ps) was dubbed the "Plough Jockeys." A socially prestigious regiment with political clout from the big city of Toronto, the 48th Highlanders were referred to as the "Glamour Boys." A longtime Permanent Force regiment with an impeccable reputation for high professional standards, correctness, and reliability, The RCR came to be known as the "Pukkas." Pukka was an Anglo-Indian term current in the British Army that meant genuine, permanent, or solidly built. On 17 December the 48th Highlanders and The RCR departed Toronto and Valcartier respectively by train for Halifax. On 21 December 1939 (auspiciously, the Regimental Birthday of The Royal Canadian Regiment) the 1st Canadian Infantry Division set sail from Halifax harbour for the United Kingdom (UK). Thus began an intimate wartime association between the two Regiments that would be tested in battle, validated in blood, and endure for six years. Forget-me-not Remembrance Vol.4 33 The 1 st Canadian Infantry Brigade and the Second World War By Capt Ross Appleton, CD, Regimental Adjutant, The Royal Canadian Regiment

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