48th Highlanders of Canada - History

Our History

In 1891 a group of men gathered in Toronto intent on forming the city's first Highland regiment. The regiment was designated by the Militia Department with the number "48" and the word "Highlanders" and shortly thereafter Lieutenant-Colonel John Irvine Davidson assumed command of the newly constituted 48th Highlanders of Canada.

The Regiment was gazetted on October 16, 1891, and began to drill at Upper Canada College. It first marched out on the 21st of April, 1892, to be greeted by crowds of cheering Torontonians. On the Queen's Birthday that year, the Regiment was presented with its first set of colours by His Excellency Lord Stanley of Preston, the Governor General of Canada.

By 1899 the Regiment had grown into an efficient and enthusiastic group of soldiers. It was during this period that many Highlanders saw their first wartime service as volunteers overseas with the First Canadian Contingent of the Boer war. Enough were involved that the Regiment was awarded its first Battle Honour, "South Africa 1899-1900."

During the First World War the Regiment raised three battalions for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, the 15th, the 92nd and the 134th. From its initial baptism of fire at the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915 to the end of the war, the Regiment was awarded a total of 21 Battle Honours.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, the Regiment was called upon for active service. A battalion of soldiers was quickly raised and sent overseas as part of the 1st Brigade to participate in the defence of France. Upon its withdrawal from the Continent, the Regiment took up defensive duties in England and began training for the liberation of Europe. In the summer of 1943 the 48th Highlanders and the rest of 1st Canadian Division were attached to the British 8th Army for the invasion of Sicily.

The Regiment fought across the island and up the Italian Peninsula, distinguishing itself in battles such as Assoro, Ortona, the Hitler Line (the gateway to Rome) and the Gothic Line. In March 1945, the Regiment was withdrawn from Italy and sent north to assist in the liberation of Holland and Northwest Europe. For its distinguished service during the war, the Regiment was awarded a further 27 Battle Honours. This brought the regimental total to 49 such honours, the most of any unamalgamated regiment in the Canadian Army.

During the 1950s, more than 70 members of the regiment served with Regular Force units overseas in the Korean War. Several hundred more served with NATO forces in Germany during the Cold War. Closer to home, the 48th Highlanders provided guards for Her Majesty The Queen's visits to Toronto in 1984 and 1997; and every year, the 48th Highlanders Pipes and Drums play at the opening game of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Hundreds of troops responded to the emergencies of the Manitoba Floods in 1997 and the Great Ice Storm the following year. For its continuing service to the community at home and abroad, the Regiment has been given the Freedom of the City of Toronto.

Since the end of the Cold War, Highlanders have also seen active service in many operations abroad. They have served with NATO and the United Nations in Cyprus, Somalia, the Golan Heights, Cambodia, Bosnia, Croatia and Kosovo. More recently, 48th Highlanders have fought as members of the International Security Assistance Force, under NATO command, in Afghanistan.

They remain, in the words of their motto, Dileas Gu Brath — "Faithful Forever."

More history on the 48th Highlanders of Canada can be found on the History and Heritage website.

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