The Princess of Wales' Own Regiment - History

Our History

The regiment was created on January 16, 1863 as the 14th battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada from the amalgamation of Kingston’s seven independent rifle companies. Shortly after the wedding of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the regiment asked for and was given permission to become The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment.

During the Fenian Raids of 1864 and 1866, when Irish extremists attempted to bring Britain to her knees by attacking Canada, the regiment was called to active duty, both to Niagara and later to Cornwall. The band mace presented to the regiment by its officers “IN REMEMBERANCE OF CORNWALL” is in the regimental museum.

In 1885, during the Riel Rebellion, the PWOR was again activated but not for field service in the west, rather for garrison duties at Tete du Pont Barracks (now Fort Frontenac) and Fort Henry.

The Boer War in South Africa again brought members of the 14th to active service in 1899. A number of members served in various units and due to the 14th’s contribution, “South Africa 1900” became the first battle honour. As a matter of interest, a PWOR officer by the name of Captain Carruthers made his own way to South Africa after being turned down for service in Canada. He was “signed-on” as a Lieutenant and distinguished himself sufficiently that he was asked to join the Regular force. When he returned to Canada, he was asked to set up the Canadian Signal Corps.

The outbreak of war in 1914 resulted in a response by members of the regiment that was quite remarkable. Very quickly a contingent of 80 men was formed under Captain George T. Richardson (for which George Richardson Stadium is named - he became the PWOR’s first officer fatality). The contingent was sent to the 2nd Battalion CEF, 1st Division which was part of Canada’s first overseas contribution.

At the same time, the 21st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force was formed in Kingston under the Commanding Officer of the PWOR Lieutenant-Colonel St. Pierre Hughes. The PWOR also contributed officers and men to the 59th, 146th and 253rd Highland Battalions CEF.

The history of the 21st Battalion, which the PWOR perpetuates, is far too long to relate here. Suffice to say, eighteen Battle Honours were won in three years of frontline service. A great deal of the 21st Battalion history, including its Colours is found in the regimental museum.

During the post-war re-organization of the Militia in 1920, the 14th Battalion Rifles was re-designated as a line infantry regiment so that it could carry the Battle Honours and Colours of the 21st Battalion, CEF (a rifle regiment carries its Battle Honours on its drums).

The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment became allied on July 15, 1926 with the South Lancashire Regiment (Prince of Wales’ Volunteers) who count among their Battle Honours Louisburg and Niagara. In the mid-1960s, the South Lancashire Regiment was amalgamated with other Lancashire regiments to form the present allied regiment, The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment.

In the Second World War, the decision was made not to mobilize the Regiment because of the heavy losses suffered in the First World War. Instead, the Regiment provided one complete company to the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders which was camped at the Kingston fairgrounds. The “Glens” went ashore on D-Day under a PWOR officer, Lieutenant-Colonel G.H. Christiansen, as part of the 9th (Highland) Brigade, commanded by another PWOR officer, Brigadier D.G. Cunningham.

In June 1942, the 1st battalion PWOR was formed under Lieutenant-Colonel E. Cockburn and it served in Sherbrooke, Quebec and Debert, Nova Scotia, where it was deployed for east coast defence. All told, the regiment supplied 1500 men for active service including one Brigadier, four Colonels and eight Lieutenant-Colonels.

In 1963, the PWOR celebrated its Centennial and was granted “freedom of the city” of Kingston. It was presented with the new Colours by the Lieutenant Governor, the Honorable Earl Rowe. On the Colours was emblazoned the badge of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders, 1939-1945, commemorating the service of our members in that fine regiment.

The PWOR went through a decline during the 1970’s and 1980’s where a measure of a unit’s success was simply the ability to remain active and keep off the increasing list of units relegated to the supplementary order of battle. The Regiment was reduced to a minor unit with only one authorized company for most of the 1970’s, until finally in 1978, it was again elevated to major unit status.

The Regiment has always acquitted itself well in competition over the years whether in sports, shooting or skill at arms. In 1895, the Regimental Quarter Master represented Canada at Bisley. His rifle and some of his winnings are on display in the museum. More recently, a member of the unit was part of the 1990 Canadian Forces Bisley Team and a member of our Cadet Corps distinguished herself on the same ranges.

Today, the Regiment is composed of men and women from all walks of life including students, policemen and farmers. Members of the Regiment have distinguished themselves on overseas tours in Cyprus, the Former Yugoslavia and Afghanistan.

Today, the Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment continues to maintain itself as an effective component of the “Total Force” army, prepared to fulfill its role if called upon as a first-rate infantry unit.

More history on The Princess of Wales' Own Regiment can be found on the History and Heritage website.

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