The Brockville Rifles - History

Our History

The formation of The Brockville Rifles pre-dates Canadian Confederation. The Brockville Rifles officially came into being on October 5th, 1866. No outline of the Regimental history would be complete without consideration of the Militia Units which lived and fought along the St. Lawrence River and in the northern states in the years prior to Confederation.

The Canadian Military tradition is essentially that of the citizen soldier – the Militiaman. The development of a substantial Regular Force is a very recent occurrence in the history of the Canadian Nation. A glance at a map will indicate that the City of Brockville, situated in Leeds County, lies along the north shore of the St. Lawrence River. When, at the close of the American War of Independence, the remnants of the Loyalists regiments moved north to British Territory, it was to this area that they came. Among these units were: Roger’s Rangers, Jessop’s Corps and the Kings’ Royal Regiment of New York.

The years 1812 to 1814 once again saw the American frontier erupt into warfare. The 1st Battalion, Leeds Militia, based in Brockville and the 2nd Battalion, based in Gananoque, were both active in a number of short, sharp engagements fought along the St. Lawrence as British and Canadian troops laboured to convey men and materials along the exposed river route to Kingston. Nine Battalions were raised in Leeds during this war to serve as frontier guards and take part in such actions as the Battle of Chrysler’s Farm and the capture of Ogdensburg, New York.

The Regiment’s name came even closer to its present form when in April 1856, the unit ceased to be known as the 1st Battalion, Leeds Militia and was officially gazetted the Brockville Volunteer Rifle Company.

In 1861, responding to the threat posed by the outbreak of the American Civil War, a second unit, the Brockville Infantry Company was formed. Both units were very distinct in their uniforms, the Rifles being dressed in the dark rifle green of the rifle regiments, and the Infantry Company in the scarlet tunics characteristic of infantry of the line. Five years later in 1866, a major reorganization occurred and the 41st Brockville Battalion of Rifles came into being. The new battalion had six companies each with 65 men, which were located as follows: No 1 Coy - Brockville, No 2 Coy - Gananoque, No 3 Coy - Perth, No 4 coy - Merrickville, No 5 Coy - Carleton Place and No 6 Coy - Pakenham. At the same time, the 42nd Battalion of Infantry came into existence. This latter unit eventually became the Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment.

The Brockville Rifles tradition was maintained throughout the First World War by the men of the 156th Battalion (Leeds & Grenville), formed in December 1915. The 156th moved to England as part of the proposed 5th Division. Perhaps unfortunately, the 156th was disbanded due to a pressing need for reinforcements on the Western Front, and its people went to the 2nd, 21st and 38th Battalions and to the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. Some 10 officers and 95 other ranks were killed or died of wounds while serving with other units. Many medals and decorations were earned including one Victoria Cross to Major Thain MacDowell, a member of a well-known Brockville family. His portrait hangs in the Officer’s Mess. Because of the contribution of men by the Rifles to the 156th and the engagements these men participated in with other units, the regiment bears on its cap badge the battle honours “Amiens” and “pursuit to Mons”.

Following the First World War, the Regiment was reorganized as The Brockville Rifles, the numerical designation being dropped. In April 1926, at the invitation of the Colonel Commandant of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, The Brockville Rifles became allied to that famous British unit. Today the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and the Rifle Brigade have been amalgamated to form the Royal Green Jackets, hence our affiliation to this famous regiment.

Canada’s first efforts at mobilization in early 1940 saw B Company of the Stormont, Dundas & Glengarry (SD&G) Highlanders provided by The Brockville Rifles. Many men from the “Brocks” fought with this illustrious regiment from D-Day through to the end of the war and as a result, The Brockville Rifles today incorporates the badge of the SD&G Highlanders on their drums, symbolic of this relationship.

In March 1942, the “Brocks” themselves we mobilized as part of the 8th Division. This unit subsequently served on both coasts of Canada and in Jamaica until the war’s end.

A major Militia reorganization saw the regiment converted on 13 May 1946 into the 60th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment (Brockville Rifles). In 1954 it became an artillery locating battery before reverting to an infantry role in 1959.

From 1961 to 1970, each summer saw sixty senior high school students enrolled as members of the Student Militia Summer Course and they trained throughout the summer. Many of these recruits continued with the Regiment after graduation.

The year 1964 was a significant one in the history of the Regiment. Early in that year the Minister of National Defence announced that an extensive study of the Canadian Militia would be carried out for the purpose of increasing efficiency, while cutting the strength by about 30 percent. On November 3rd, 1964 the results of the study were announced. This unit was to continue to be a major unit in the Militia Order of Battle. Other Rifles Regiments were not as fortunate. The Victoria Rifles and the Halifax Rifles were removed from the Militia Order of the Battle and reduced to nil strength. The Victoria Rifles exhausted this Regiment with a number of their Mess trophies and asked that the Victoria Rifles colours be perpetuated by having one drum belonging to the Victoria Rifles on parade with the corps of drums of The Brockville Rifles.

During the period of the investigation, great respect and support for the Regiment was expressed by many groups and individuals within the community and elsewhere. Resolutions were adopted and forwarded to the Member of Parliament by such bodies as the Corporation of the City of Brockville, the Council of the Counties of Leeds and Grenville, the Brockville District High School Board, and the Brockville Branch Number 96 Royal Canadian Legion expressing the desire of the citizens represented by these bodies that the Regiment continue to function as a major unit. In 1966 the Regiment celebrated its centennial, having as its guest of honour Sir Anthony Eden and Lord Avon, former Prime Minister of Great Britain. In 1975 the “Brocks” won the Kitching Trophy and in 1978 they won the Gzowski Trophy, emblematic of the most proficient Militia Infantry Battalion in Canada.

Since that time, The Brockville Rifles has maintained its reputation as an efficient, well trained regiment in the Canadian Forces Reserve. Its members have volunteered for overseas service with the Regular Force all over the world. Recently, many members of the unit deployed to Afghanistan and contributed to Operations ARCHER and ATHENA. The men and women of The Brockville Rifles have always lived up to their regimental motto “Semper Paratus” - Always Ready.

More history on The Brockville Rifles can be found on the History and Heritage website.

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