History of the Regiment
Baptized in the mud, blood and fire of France and Flanders, the Camerons of today are as fiercely proud of their highland traditions as their forebears were.
Baptized in the mud, blood and fire of France and Flanders, the Camerons of today are as fiercely proud of their highland traditions as their forebears were.
On 1 February 1910 the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada came into existence. This, Western Canada’s first highland regiment, was the result of persistent efforts by Winnipeg’s Scottish community.
The first Scots in Manitoba were the employees and officers of the Hudson’s Bay and Northwest Fur Trading Companies. The Selkirk settlers, the original colonists of the Red River settlement, were Scots. Retired fur-traders, many from the Orkneys, joined those who had settled along the Red and Assiniboine Rivers and formed a healthy and active Scottish community.
The Cameron Highlanders were raised during a time of patriotic zeal for the British Empire, and in recognition for the need of Canada to develop its own defense forces. Many Winnipeg Scots had served in the Northwest Rebellion and the Boer War. The Scottish community therefore found itself with a pool of proud and soldierly men who wished to continue serving their country. The result was a rising demand for a Highland infantry regiment.
As early as 1905 there had been talk of forming a Winnipeg Highland unit. On 20 October 1908 a committee formed of delegates from a variety of Scottish societies met at the Saint Andrews Society rooms in the old Manitoba Club. Their task was to lobby the federal government and gain approval for a kilted regiment in Winnipeg. On 29 September 1909 the prospective officers met and committees dealing with finances, uniforms and the band were formed. On 1 February 1910 the Regiment was officially gazetted, and headquarters were established in the former Dominion Lands Office at 202 Main Street. The availability of the number “79” was fortuitous and enabled the new Canadian regiment to emulate its namesake regiment in Scotland, originally the 79th (Cameron Highlanders) Regiment of Foot. This association with the imperial Camerons became official on 31 January 1911 when King George V authorized the affiliation of the two Highland regiments.
The Regiment’s first Honourary Colonel was Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal (Sir Donald A. Smith) GCMG, GCVO. His ties to the military and Scottish community of Winnipeg were extensive.
Funding a highland regiment was no small undertaking–an initial amount of $25,000.00 was raised, mainly by the Scottish societies and the officers. Some of this went to the basic outfitting of the rank and file, as the government grant did not cover the complete expense. Until February 1913 a $5.00 enrollment fee for other ranks helped defray expenses. In some years all pay was signed over to the regimental fund.
A highland regiment is not complete without its pipes and drums. Initially the band was small–eight pipers and three drummers, but the Regiment took over the brass band of the 18th Mounted Rifles and by 1913 their combined strength was 72. Another basic task was recruiting…”strict attention must be given to ensure that recruits fulfill the regimental requirements–viz they must be of good character–they must fulfill the regulation requirements as regards age and physique, and must be of Scottish birth or descent.”
On 9 October 1910 the Regiment received its first stand of Colours, presented by Mrs. D.C. Cameron, wife of the Honourary Lieutenant Colonel. Eight months later, on 22 June 1911 a contingent of 61 Camerons participated in the coronation of King George V. The Canadian Camerons made an impression on all who saw them: “The Dominion troops came down Lord Street with great swing, their general military bearing being much admired. The Canadian Cameronian (sic) Highlanders attracted profound attention. Two of their number were …of giantesque proportion. From sole of foot to top of highland headgear the Winnipeg man stood eight feet high. He was brought up on porridge, and appeared almost to belong to a prehistoric age. Several companions did not lag much behind in point of height and girth.”–Liverpool Daily Post 10 June 1911.
The regiment became associated with the Winnipeg Highland Cadet Battalion on 3 March 1914. Formed less then a year previously, the Cadet Battalion provided training in soldiering and citizenship for boys and young men. The cadet unit, latter known as Number 407, The Queens Own Cameron Highlander of Canada Cadet Battalion was a valuable source of recruits for the regiment.
Theoretical and practical training took place on evenings and weekends and included instruction in weapons handling, first aide, field craft and drill. Shooting took place at St. Charles Range. More intensive training occurred during the summer, at Camp Sewell in 1912, 1913, and 1914.
Managing the Regiment was not without its problems. Among the most serious were manpower retention, missing kit, poorly fitting uniforms, a shortage of uniforms and equipment, lack of training and office space, and a shortage of money! Despite these difficulties, the success of the new venture can not be questioned. Raising of the Regiment was a successful undertaking thanks to dedicated leadership and community support. In only four short years the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada had evolved from a simple idea into the reality of over five hundred uniformed, equipped, well trained and enthusiastic volunteers. The outbreak of war may well have shocked them, but it did not catch them unprepared. They were, as their motto declares, “Ullamh,”-Ready!
The Camerons spent part of June 1914 maneuvering over the sand hills of Sewell Camp. It had been a very hot summer and when they returned to Winnipeg in July they were ready for a break. The break was short lived. On 28 June the Heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne was assassinated. The ensuing chain of events: a complex series of ultimatums, mobilizations and declarations of war; soon drew England and then Canada into world war.
The Commanding Officer of the 79th Cameron Highlanders placed his regiment at the disposal of the Department of Militia and Defense. However, as militia regiments were now to remain in Canada acting as drafting units, only a company of 7 officers and 250 other ranks were initially accepted. They mustered at Camp Valcartier, Quebec where, along with the 50th Gordons, 72nd Seaforth, and 91st Canadian Highlanders, they formed one of the new overseas units- the 16th Battalion (Canadian Scottish) CEF. The battalion left Quebec for England with the first contingent on 30 September. Their new home, Salisbury Plain, would soon suffer its worst winter in years.
The 79th Camerons next recruiting task was to supply a company (10 officers, 250 other ranks) for the 27th (City of Winnipeg) Battalion. The Camerons also provided the second-in-command and signal section. The 27th served in France and Belgium with the 6th Infantry Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division. It received no further Cameron reinforcement drafts so that due to casualties inflicted during the course of the war the Cameron Company eventually lost its identity.
The first complete Cameron battalion was formed on 18 December 1914. The 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlander of Canada) CEF spent the winter of 1914-1915 training in Winnipeg. They left Winnipeg on 29 May to the cheers of thousands. At Montreal they embarked for England on 1 June 1915 with a complement of 39 officers and 1020 other ranks. The 43rd provided two reinforcement drafts for the 16th Battalion, after which the 79th Cameron Highlanders of Canada Overseas Drafting Detachment in Winnipeg brought up the 43rd to strength. Eventually the 43rd were given a place in the 9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division. They proceeded to France on 21 February 1916.
In January 1916 two more Cameron overseas battalions were authorized. The 179th Battalion was formed from the Overseas Drafting Detachment and mobilized in February. They spent the summer of 1916 in training at Camp Hughes. The 174th Battalion mobilized trained at Camp Hughes during the summer of 1917. Both units were absorbed by reserve battalions, which provided reinforcements for the units serving in France.
The first Camerons in action were serving with the 16th Battalion at the second Battle of Ypres. On 22 April 1915 the Germans used poison gas, and broke the allied line on an 8000 yard front. The left flank of the Canadian Division was exposed. The 10th and 16th Battalions attacked Kitchener’s Wood on the night of 22-23 April..
.”all we could see to the front was a dark spot, and the spit, spit of fire from rifles to our front and left. We went flat down. Then up. Then down again, but the only distinct impression is of a bare flat piece of ground, the German flares going up and the ceaseless angry zip zip of the bullets and machine gun fire. Then came the cries of those who were hit…and still we went on.”
Over the next several days, the Canadian Division and British reinforcements closed the gap and held the enemy to a small territorial gain. The 16th were next in action at Festubert, 17-21 May 1915, in operations to divert the Germans while the French unsuccessfully attacked Vimy Ridge. This was followed by the action at Givenchy in June 1915. Further operations in the Ypres Salient included the 27th Battalion’s participation in the Battle of St. Eloi 2-7 April 1916. At the Battle of Mount Sorrel, 2-13 June 1916 the Germans attempted to dislodge the allies from positions north of the Ypres-Menin Road. This was the first battle of the 43rd Battalion. On 4 June they cleared Maple Copse, occupied Border Lane Trench and repulsed a counterattack.
The Somme was chosen as the area for the main allied thrust of 1916. The 43rd Battalion joined the Battle of the Somme near Courcellette, clearing high ground overlooking Ancre River. On 20 September “D” Company captured a portion of Zollern Trench and on 26 September elements of the 16th Battalion joined the battle at Thiepeal Ridge. On 8 October the 43rd Battalion were back in action at Ancre Heights where they assaulted Regina Trench. The Cameron objective was on a reverse slope. The artillery failed to cut the thick barbed wire obstacles, which protected it. Alert enemy defenders met the unsuccessful assault: heavy casualties resulted. Only 6 officers and 67 other ranks were present at roll call the following morning. The Commanding Officer, Lieut. Col. R.M. Thompson was among the dead. The Battle of the Somme ended on 18 November. The result: 125 square miles captured at a cost of 1,265,000 casualties–both Allied and German.
The Allied offensive of 1917 on the Western Front targeted the Aisne River sector and was supported by British diversionary attacks in the area of Arras. The Canadian core objective was Vimy Ridge. The 16th Battalion participated in the successful main assault, which began on 9 April. The 43rd Battalion had been relieved on the 8th following trench raiding operations. On the morning of 12-13 April they took up positions on Vimy Ridge, pushed out patrols, then advanced to the Arras-Lens Road. On 28 June the 43rd Battalion was again in action, attacking the positions facing Avion.
Following the largely unsuccessful attacks in the Aisne and Arras sectors, the British launched a major offensive into Flanders. Their intent was to smash through the German front and drive for the Belgium coast. The 43rd Battalion entered the waterlogged wasteland of Passchendele on the morning of 21 October 1917. The first phase of the Passchendele operation included the capture of Bellevue Spur. Lt. Robert Shankland’s conduct during this action earned him the Empire highest award for valour– the Victoria Cross. The Battalion was relieved on the night of 27-28 October having taken Bellevue Spur with 349 casualties.
From March through July 1918 the German army pressed its last major offensive of the war. Though successful in its limited territorial gains, it failed to achieve a decisive breakthrough.
With the failure of the German offensive and the steady build up of American troops on the Western Front, the Allies regained the initiative. A series of successive blows at various points along the German front was planned. The Amiens offensive began on 8 August. The 43rd Battalion occupied a position of honour, on the right of the British line and penetrated two miles into enemy territory. The next blow fell to the north, in the Arras sector, directed at Cambrai, through the strong defenses of the Drocourt-Quent Line and the major obstacle of the Canal Du Nord. The 43rd entered the second battle of Arras at the Scarpe on 27 August. The following day they participated in the 3rd Division attack on the Fresnes-Rouvroy Line, capturing the village of Remy. On the 29th the Camerons were relieved, having sustained heavy losses. Back in action on 28 September, “D” Company captured Fontaine Notre Dame with most of its garrison, and the high ground overlooking Cantaing, south of the Bapume-Cambrai Road. “A”, “B” and “C” Companies advanced to within 400 yards of the Marcoing Line, the final defenses protecting Cambrai. At 0500 hours on 1 October the Battalion swept forward from its assembly area capturing the village of Tilloy and the high ground overlooking Cambrai from the north.
The Canadian Corps captured Cambrai on 9 October and Valenciennes on 1 November following which the enemy was pursued to Mons. The morning of Armistice Day, 11 November 1918 found the 43rd Battalion (Cameron Highlanders of Canada) on the western outskirts of Mons. At 1450 hours the Battalion marched proudly through her streets to pass in review before their Corps Commander, and the cheering citizens of Mons. Following brief stops in Belgium and England, the Camerons finally returned to Winnipeg on 24 March 1919. Following a parade held in their honour, they marched to Minto Armoury where each man received his discharge. The 43rd Battalion now ceased to exist, but the 79th Regiment remained to carry on the tradition of the Cameron Highlanders…
With the return of peace, returned men from the various Cameron Overseas Battalions were encouraged to re-enlist with the old regiment. However, after four years of war many of them had had enough of the army, its hardship, danger and discipline. Recruiting moreover, was not the only problem. Funding for the military was drastically reduced as Canada returned to a peacetime economy. Training was restricted and no new equipment was forthcoming. The financial situation of the Regiment, occasionally required men to sign over their pay…
“to supplement the funds and assist towards running expenses, all ranks have voluntarily assigned their pay, and thus helped offset the rather meager financial assistance furnished from the ‘seat of power…”
Despite these obstacles the Regiment maintained an average enrollment of over two hundred. Morale was high, and a fierce regimental pride motivated its members.
The Regiment did not forget its returned veterans. Its ‘Cameron Club” catered to their social welfare. Facilities included spacious lounge rooms, reading, writing and billiard rooms and a refreshment bar.
In May and June 1919 Winnipeg found itself sharply and violently divided between opposing factions of a general strike. To cope with these civic crises detachments of police and the military were moved into the city. Militia volunteers, including the Camerons, were called into action.
A reorganization of the Canadian militia took place in 1920. The numerical designation ‘79th’ was dropped from the Regimental title making it simply, the Cameron Highlanders of Canada. The Regiment was reorganized as three battalions: the 1st Battalion “43rd Battalion CEF”, 2nd (Reserve) Battalion (174th Battalion CEF) and 3rd (Reserve) Battalion (179th Battalion CEF). The 1st Battalion was, in effect, the only active militia unit. The 2nd and 3rd Battalions were reserve units where non-active personnel could transfer for an interim period or upon retirement and remain subject to future recall.
In 1923 the Regiment formed an alliance with the Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa (38th Battalion CEF). The following year on 24 October, his Majesty King George V was “graciously pleased” to grant permission for the Regiment to be named the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada.
The Scottish National War Memorial was inaugurated on 14 July 1927. The Role of Honour of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada containing the names of 49 officers and 1180 other ranks killed on active service in the Great War, was deposited there. The following First Presbyterian Church replaced St. Stephen’s as the spiritual home of the Regiment. The Colours of the 79th Regiment, 43rd Battalion, and the Winnipeg Highland Cadets are deposited there. On 3 October 1929 the Great War Battle Honours of the Regiment were gazetted and arrangement to emblazon them on the Regimental Colour were made.
The Regiment celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1935. The three day celebration (4-6 May) was attended by more than 700 Camerons…”An orchestra dispensed lively music throughout the evening, but there was no program; it was useless to attempt one.; every one wanted to talk to every other body. Men who had not met for years exchanged greetings, and many old friendships were renewed, and a good time was had by all.” -79th News
The Depression years brought a different challenge to the Regiment. Many Camerons found themselves without civilian employment due to generally poor economic conditions. Activities such as musketry, picnics and parties involving and entertaining the families of unit members helped maintain a high level of esprit-de-corps.
.Training remained the top priority. Provisional and Royal Schools of Instruction provided courses on various aspects of infantry training. They were conducted by Permanent Force members of the School of Infantry at Fort Osborne Barracks. Although some courses were open to all ranks, the emphasis was on producing a knowledgeable and experienced cadre of officers and senior non-commissioned officers. In addition to regular training nights, The regiment was authorized to run Regimental Courses of Instruction to provide infantry qualifications for the men. Annual summer camps also provided valuable training and the opportunity to gain practical experience in tactics. Summer camps were suspended for the first few years following the war. However, in 1925 a camp was held in Winnipeg and from 1926 to 1928 the Camerons trained at Camp Hughes (formerly Camp Sewell).
The Regiment held its own camp at Matlock, on Lake Winnipeg, in 1933. The daily routine began at 6 a.m. At 6:15 there was cocoa, then bathing parade followed by breakfast of traditional oatmeal porridge. For the remainder of the day-training and sports. In 1936 official summer camps resumed at Camp Shilo and continued annually until the beginning of the Second World War.
Athletic and sports were an important part of training. It is recorded that a regimental snowshoe race was organized in the winter of 1937/38 and run over a course from Churchill to Winnipeg. The winner finished in record time, although he had to contend with slush ice while crossing the Nelson River, and the odd pot-shot from Indians who mistook him for a buffalo.
The life of a Militia Highland Regiment was not complete without its Hogmanays, Burns Suppers, Ceilidhs, and the Annual Christmas Tree Party given for the orphans of veterans and the children of serving members. The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada was not only an organization for military training, but also a centre for social recreation involving all members of this extended group of Kith and Kin…
With the approach of summer 1939, war was again close at hand. Between 1936 and 1939 Germany flagrantly violated the territory of most of its neighbours in an effort to gain leibensraum (living space). Poland was invaded on 1 September 1939. Britain and France declared war on Germany on 3 September. Canada’s declaration followed on the tenth, but preparations for war had already begun. The Canadian Active Service Force was formed, and selected units of the Militia were activated. The Government had learned from its mistakes of the previous war, and mobilization proceeded smoothly.
The Camerons were officially notified of the impending war on 1 September when ordered to mobilize and recruit to a strength of 807 all ranks. Within seventeen days the Battalion was at full strength. With a general mobilization barrack space was at a premium. For the first two months the Camerons returned to their homes at the end of each day. Temporary quarters were eventually found at the Robinson Store on Main Street.
In April 1940 the Cameron turned in their kilts, and the new battledress trousers and jackets were issued. They would not fight in the traditional highland garb as had their fathers twenty-five years earlier. On 24 May, the Battalion moved to Camp Shilo, Manitoba. At Shilo, unit training from section to battalion level took place as well as brigade exercises. The 2nd Battalion was formed as a component of the reserve army. By late August it was almost at full strength. Its role throughout the war was that of home defense and reinforcement training.
The 1st Battalion embarked for overseas on 16 December 1940, arriving in the UK on Christmas Eve. At Cove, Hampshire the Battalion was assigned a defensive task adjacent to the Aldershot area.
Numerous training exercises and inspections highlighted 1941. By July the Camerons were in the Newhaven area of the channel coast near Sussex, in a coastal defense role.
On 19 August 1942 the Camerons took part in a large-scale raid on the French port city of Dieppe. The Camerons landed at Pourville Beach. Their objectives were the Dieppe-Saint Aubins airfield; battery 265 at Rouxmosnel-Calment and a suspected German divisional headquarters at Arques-la-Battaile. Although the Camerons made the deepest penetration of the day, the main landing at Dieppe had been unsuccessful, and as German resistance stiffened the Battalion was unable to carry its objectives. Of 503 Camerons on the raid, 346 were casualties: 60 Killed in action; 8 died of wounds after evacuation; 167 prisoners of war (8 of whom died of wounds). Of the 268 returning to England, 103 were wounded. The concept and value of the raid is a matter of controversy. However, the lessons learned would be useful in planning the Normandy invasion- still two years away.
For the next two years the objective was to rebuild and maintain a battle-fit fighting unit for the ultimate invasion of Europe.
On 6 June 1944 the Allies invaded German-occupied France. The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada, unlike their Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa cousins, were not “a Normandy D-Day unit”. The Camerons of Canada landed at Graye-sur-Mer on 07 July 1944 as part of 6 Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division, and took up positions first won by the Royal Winnipeg Rifles at Carpiquet. It was here that they were subjected to artillery and mortar fire for the first time since the Dieppe Raid.
During this time the British army conducted diversionary operations to draw German armoured troops away from the west end of the bridgehead while developing a threat towards Falaise. These operations assisted the Americans in breaking out of the bridgehead. The Camerons joined in these operations on 20 July at St. Andre-sur-Orne followed by subsequent actions at St. Martin-de-Fontenay (24/25 July).
As the Americans successfully broke out of the bridgehead and drove south and then east, British and Canadian forces attacked toward Falaise. Thus began a large encirclement, which ultimately destroyed much of the German Seventh Army. The Camerons of Canada part in the Falaise operations begun on 7 August with an assault on Fontenay le Marmion (Operation Totalize). On 13 August the Battalion cleared pockets of enemy resistance west of the River Laize then seized a bridgehead at Clair Tizon. On 15 August at La Cressioniere three counterattacks were repulsed. On 16 August 6th Brigade entered Falaise, which fell on the following day. The gap between the British and U.S. armies was finally closed on 21 August.
With the German army in Normandy beaten, the Allies swung eastward in pursuit of the escaping enemy racing toward the Seine.
At Vermontiers two Cameron scouts captured the German commander and his staff but, as the town had not yet fallen, were forced to hide out with their prisoners until the advance caught up. At Orbec the Battalion came under fire from across the Orbec River. The village was outflanked, and they crossed the Orbec River at a different location…The Risle River south of Breonne was crossed on 25 August in operations to cease its bridges. In the final drive for the Seine the Camerons attacked through the Foret de la Londe, which covered Rouen and its Seine River crossings. Here they met strong opposition. Bitter fighting followed with heavy casualties on both sides. On 30 August the Germans withdrew. The Camerons entered Rouen the following day to the cheers of its remaining inhabitants.
The allied advance continued across France with the Canadians on the left flank. To them fell the task of clearing the channel coast. The Camerons began their motorized move to the coast on 1 September, entering Dieppe, wisely abandoned by the Germans without a fight. On 6 September the battalion moved up the coast past Calais into Belgium, and occupied Furnes. Swinging back toward the coast on the 10th they advanced southwest to LaPanne and then northeast to Dunkirk. The battalion went into action at Braydunes, an outpost of the Dunkirk defenses, where D Company occupied the crossroads. Cut off for two days, they managed to hold their objective until relieved on 15 September. By the end of September the channel coast had been cleared.
On 4 September the port of Antwerp was captured. Its use as a major supply base was essential to the allies. However, it could not be utilized while the enemy controlled the banks of the Scheldt Estuary, which led from the port to the North Sea. The Camerons moved to the Antwerp-Turnhout canal on 23 September. For the next month they faced danger, hardship and miserable wet weather. They took part in operations at Sternhoven, Camp de Brasschaet, Woensdrecht, Beveland canal and Goes. By 8 November resistance ended. On the 29th the first Allied convoy sailed up the Scheldt to Antwerp.
With the enemy south of the Maas River defeated, the Canadians moved northeast into the Nijmegan Salient, along the German-Dutch frontier, where they dug in for the winter. The Camerons took up positions along the edge of the Reichwald, the northern hinge of the Seigfried Line, near Mook on 8 November. Movement by day was impossible as the enemy held positions only 50 to 200 yards.
Operation Veritable the clearing of the Rhineland–commenced on 8 February 1945. The Camerons joined in the second phase, Operation Blockbuster on 26 February. The Battalion objective was Calcar Ridge
“…all unit objectives were taken and held against counterattack. By midday on the 26th the 6th Brigade task in phase one of Blockbuster had been successfully completed. It was an excellent example of what detailed planning, a high standard of training and excellent morale can accomplish.”
During the Battle for Xanten, the Regiment received its second Victoria Cross nominee. Major David Rodgers was recommended to receive the Victoria Cross for his actions on 23 February 1945 at Goch-Calcar Road. The citation was approved at every level until it reached 21st Army Group where Field Marshall Montgomery downgraded the award to an immediate DSO.
The final phase of Blockbuster, the Battalion participated in the 2nd Division attack on the Hochwald. On 5 March, after 5 days of bitter fighting, the Camerons dug in on the edge of the Hochwald. The following day the Battalion launched an attack to prevent the enemy consolidating in front of Xanten, where they were withdrawing over the Rhine. By 10 March all enemy resistance west of the Rhine had ceased.
Next came the task of clearing northern Holland. The Camerons, having crossed the Rhine, advanced north -reaching Netterden, Holland on 29 March. Netterden was surrounded the following day. On the 31st the Battalion attempted to clear Velthutten but was unsuccessful. The following morning the enemy withdrew. Steenderen was captured on 4 April and on the 6th Olden, both without encountering opposition. Next, a bridgehead was established on the northern bank of the Schipbeek canal.
Boarding troop-carrying vehicles on 10 April, the Battalion took part in 2nd Division quick advance north to Groningen. Groningen was cleared on the 16th. Second Division now swung east into Germany. The Camerons reached Wildeshausen on 21 April. Two days later a German battle group put up stiff resistance at Kirchatten. On 21 April operations to clear the Oldenberg forest got underway. By the end of April the Battalion was moving through scattered resistance toward its final objective, Oldenberg, which was reached on 3 May. The following evening the long awaited announcement came. German forces in northwest Europe would surrender at 0800 on the 5th. The news was received with great joy, but also with sadness as comrades remembered those lost in the drive from Normandy to Germany.
Garrison duty kept the Battalion in Germany and Holland until the end of September when they returned to England. The Camerons lift the U.K. onboard the RMS. Queen Elizabeth on 13 November. On the evening of November they arrived at the CPR station in Winnipeg. Thousands had gathered to meet them, at to the strains of “The March of The Cameron Men,” they paraded through the rotunda. Thus ended the Regiment’s part in World War Two.
When the 1st Battalion, The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada demobilized in 1945, the Regiment did not cease to exist. Its Reserve Army component, the 2nd Battalion, remained and was officially redesignated the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada on 1 April 1946.
In the years immediately following the Second World War attracting and retaining recruits was a major problem. Attempts were made to bolster recruiting by airing a weekly radio program entitled The March of the Cameron men. In the end it was a small and dedicated band of keen and loyal militiamen who carried the Regiment through these difficult years.
Rank and trade qualification schools were held in the summers of 1945 and 1947 at Camp Shilo, Manitoba and in 1946 and 1949 at Dundurn, Saskatchewan.
With the arrival of spring 1950, the Regiment was faced with a monumental task. The Winnipeg Flood was one of those “emergencies” which clearly bring to light the value of a trained militia. The Regiment mobilized in aid of the Civil Power on 8 May. The Battalion was organized into five work parties. Piped to the dykes, the Camerons worked in round the clock shifts for 17 days, until the danger of a universal flood diminished.
During the 1950’s the Regiment continued to train at Shilo and Dundurn; except in 1958 when militia personnel were attached to regular army battalions. The Camerons were attached to the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, Currie Barracks, Calgary, Alberta.
From 1954 to 1958 the Regiment operated in a new role. On 1 October the Camerons became a motor battalion-the infantry component of an armoured brigade. The battalion establishment was increased, and recruiting improved greatly.
All Regimental quarters finally came under one roof, on 16 April 1955, when Battalion Headquarters, and Officers’ and Sergeants’ Messes moved from 202 Main Street into Minto Armoury. To generations of Camerons, 202 Main had been a kind of second home. Leaving “202” was a wrenching, nostalgic moment for old Camerons. The move from Main Street had barely been completed when, on 26 January 1956, fire gutted Minto Armoury. During the extensive renovations the Regiment trained at Carpiquet Barracks, returning to Minto in the winter of 1957.
By October 1958 the Camerons had received the new F.N. self-loading rifle. It replaced the old but dependable Lee Enfield and has since been replaced (1990) by the C7 rifle-the Canadian version of the U.S. M16.
In 1959 National Survival in the event of a nuclear disaster became the primary training role of the Militia. This involved traffic and population movement control, first aid, communications, decontamination, rescue of survivors, movement of supplies, and readiness to repel an invasion.
The Regiment marked its first half-century on 1 February 1960. The official celebrations took place took place from 30 September to 2 October and were very successful. Some seven hundred ex-Camerons came together to celebrate-and remember.
The 1960s saw significant changes for the Army Reserve as a whole. Undermanned and issued with aging or obsolete equipment, the reserves were not seen as playing any useful role in a major overseas conflict, particularly with the belief that the conflict would go nuclear from the onset. Under this premise, the focus of the Militia moved away from war fighting and concentrated more on domestic operations, particularly territorial defence and survival ops after a nuclear conflict.
In 1964 the Government adopted a new policy for the Militia. Support of the Regular Force became the primary role while the National Survival diminished in importance. Four members of the Regiment were attached to 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade Group in Germany in mid-August 1967. This marked the beginning of Militia flyovers, which continued through the late 1980’s and provided valuable NATO operational experience with the Regular Force.
During the early 1970’s, the Camerons continued to experience the effects of post-war neglect and were again seriously under strength. Change, however, was on the horizon. In late 1973 the Minister of National Defense announced drastically increased rates of pay, acceptance of Militia personnel for service with the Canadian component of the UN Middle East Peacekeeping Force and increased emphasis on flyovers to Germany with the Canadian NATO Component. With the implementation of these policies began a long series of postings to the Canadian Contingents of UN Peacekeeping forces in Egypt, on the Golan Heights and in Cyprus. At this time also opportunities for Militia personnel to take parachute training with the Regular Force were made available and several Camerons have subsequently earned their “jump wings.”
Several incidents of note took place during 1974: the Pipes and Drums were seen on television across North America as part of the City of Winnipeg Massed Pipes and Drums, leading the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, California; several members of the unit spent two months of the summer in Germany with the Winnipeg District mechanized Platoon attached to the 3rd Canadian mechanized Commando and the Regiment received the new Canadian Forces green service dress uniform which replaced the old khaki battle and service dress uniforms. The Regimental Museum also opened.
Extensive winter warfare training was carried out during the 1976-77 training season, culminating in field exercises at Pine Ridge prior to operating under sub-arctic conditions in the vicinity of Churchill, Manitoba. During 1978 the Regiment, now equipped with 106 mm heavy anti-tank weapons, busied itself qualifying men for the Armoured Defence Platoon.
History repeated itself in 1979—with the spring thaw, the Red River jumped its banks, rising to the level of 1950. While Winnipeg was by then protected by a massive floodway, many farming communities to the south were less fortunate. Within an hour of the call for assistance the Camerons had assembled and dispatched a platoon to assist the 2 PPCLI, operating inside the ring dyke around Morris, Manitoba. For the next week the Camerons took part in sandbagging operations to keep the dyke intact. Once again, the Regiment had shown itself to be ready in time of need.
In the 1980s the role of the Militia was once more re-defined. The belief that any conflict would only turn nuclear after a series of conventional battles became prevalent. This scenario would give the belligerents adequate time to mobilize their reserves and commit them to battle. The eventual result of this thinking was the Total Force concept in which the Reserve and Regular components were to be more fully integrated.
The Regiment marked its 79th birthday in 1989 with celebrations at Minto Armoury. The itinerary included military skills demonstrations, a performance by the Pipes & Drums, and an all-ranks Regimental Dinner.
The 1990s proved to be a very busy decade for the Regiment, both operationally and ceremonially. Falling out of Total Force was an increasing role for Reserve augmentation on overseas operations. Starting with OPERATION HARMONY Roto 1 in 1991 (Croatia) the Camerons began to provide a steady stream of augmentees to Regular Force units deploying on Operations.
1994 and 1995 were the years for big parades. First, the Regiment participated in the Freedom of the City parade marking the 50th anniversary of the D Day invasion. Next, the Regiment celebrated its 85th Birthday in 1995, with a parade at the Manitoba Legislature. Finally, the Camerons participated in the Freedom of the City parade marking the 50th Anniversary of VE Day.
Fully focused on training for war once again, the late 1990s found the Regiment increasingly involved in Domestic Operations. In 1997, the Regiment was at ground zero for the “Flood of the Century”. This time the scope of the flood was so enormous, not even the floodway could protect Winnipeg as it had in 1970. The Camerons provided volunteers for the 38 Canadian Brigade Group (38 CBG) Composite Company and spent the spring sandbagging and building dykes throughout Southern Manitoba. When the possibility of the Y2K bug threatened to paralyze the nation at the end of 1999, the Regiment was tasked to provide Provincial Task Force Manitoba (PTFMB) Company 2 for OPERATION ABACUS. The company headquarters was stood up several days before the end of December and was prepared to initiate a mobilization on order.
The new millennium carried on in much the same fashion as the last decade of the previous. When the Reserves were tasked with raising a formed Rifle Company to augment 1 PPCLI on OPERATION PALLADIUM Roto 11 to Bosnia in 2002, the Camerons provided the Company second-in-command, Company Administration Officer, and eight other augmentees.
2002 marked the sixtieth anniversary of the ill-fated Dieppe Raid. The Regiment contributed a Sergeant, three soldiers and a piper to the CF Honour Guard traveling to France to commemorate the occasion.
The Regiment was honoured to receive the Colonel-in-Chief, His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh, who took time in between official functions to stop by Minto Armoury during the Royal Visit in October 2002. The Commanding Officer took the opportunity to present Prince Phillip with the newly minted Regimental Coin.
In August 2003, disaster struck again. With forest fires raging out of control in many areas of BC, the Regiment was called to provide augmentees to fight fires (OPERATION PEREGRINE). Once again, Camerons responded to the call.
October 2003 saw the Regiment issued with the new CADPAT (Canadian Disruptive Pattern) combat uniforms, turning in the venerable OD Green Combats after three decades of service. The new uniforms were followed by new load bearing equipment a year and a half later. March 2005 saw the 82 Pattern Webbing replaced with the new CADPAT Tactical Vests.
Today, as an infantry regiment within the Army Reserve, the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada form part of the combat arms capability of 38 Canadian Brigade Group. Organized with a Battalion Headquarters, Headquarters Company, a Rifle Company (A Coy) and Pipes and Drums, the Camerons fulfill both military and ceremonial functions at home and abroad. As an infantry regiment, the unit’s main focus is provide trained infantry soldiers to meet the operational requirements of the Canadian Forces. Whether it is augmenting Regular Force units on overseas operations such as Bosnia or Afghanistan or fighting floods and forest fires at home, the Camerons provide a ready source of trained soldiers.
Battle Honours listed in CAPITAL LETTERS indicate those carried on the Regimental Colour.