The Queen's York Rangers (1st American Regiment) (RCAC) - History

Our History

The story of the Queen's York Rangers begins in the remote days of the Seven Years War, when companies raised by Robert Rogers served the British in raids along the frontiers of French Canada. Trained in woodcraft, scouting, and irregular warfare, units like Rogers' Rangers finally gave the red-coated British regulars an effective weapon against the guerrilla tactics of French-Canadian habitants and their Indian allies, enabling them to beat the enemy at his own game.

Raised anew among British Loyalists for the American War of Independence, renamed the Queen’s Rangers and now including five troops of cavalry, the green-clad Rangers fought on the side of those loyal to the British Crown. Under the command of John Graves Simcoe, the regiment fought in almost every theatre of war and earned, as the premier Loyalist unit, the title 1st American Regiment. They were never defeated in battle but obliged to join the final British surrender at Yorktown in 1781. The regiment’s colours from this period are now proudly on display in the unit's officers' mess.

When Simcoe was named Lieutenant Governor of the new Upper Canada (now Ontario) in 1791, his unit was rebuilt around the wartime leadership and new volunteers from England. It was the core of the defence of the new colony. Rangers were set to work building the original Fort York and cutting Dundas and Yonge streets out of the wilderness to help build the first town at York (now Toronto). Disbanded in 1802, its members carried on in the battalions of the York County militia, fighting in the War of 1812 and, a generation later – fighting again as the Queen's Rangers, in honour of Britian's new Queen, Victoria – helping disperse the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. Former officers of the regiment, who had become the leaders of the county militia, are recalled in the names of streets of the modern downtown Toronto – Jarvis, McGill and Shaw streets among them.

By the time of Confederation, companies of what was then called York County Battalion were based in Scarborough, Aurora, and King Township; in 1872, they reclaimed their unit heritage, being renamed the York Rangers. In 1885, much of the unit marched west to help put down the forces of Louis Riel in the Northwest Rebellion.

The regiment's history is also that of the 20th Battalion, part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France for the First World War. This battalion, along with the 35th, 127th, and 220th battalions, was raised and trained by the York Rangers and fought in every major Canadian battle of the war. At Hill 70, Sgt Hobson won a Victoria Cross, and in the closing weeks of the war near Cambrai, Lt. Algie won his. Both awards were made posthumously.

Numerous amalgamations led to the creation in 1936 of the current regiment, incorporating the battle honours of the 20th Battalion. In 1939, the regiment was activated for service within Canada, guarding Welland Canal against saboteurs. A second battalion was raised and did much of its training in Newmarket, a source of trained men for units overseas. By 1945, the two battalions had dispatched nearly 2,000 officers and men to fronts around the world.

After the war, the Regiment was converted to heavy armour and trained in Aurora and Camp Borden on Sherman tanks. In 1965, however, it resumed its ancient role as scouts of the army, and reconnaissance remains its specialty today.

With a squadron still based in Aurora, RHQ is today at Fort York Armoury, adjacent to the site of the fort built by the Rangers in the 1790s. The regiment’s mission is to field the reconnaissance squadron of 32 CBG. Now mounted in G-Wagons, it scouts the advance, provides screens of observation posts, escorts convoys, and deals, as a Quick Reaction Force, with threats anywhere in the brigade's area of operations. Much of this training applies to peacekeeping, and dozens of Rangers have served the UN or NATO in Cyprus, Namibia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda and Afghanistan.

More history on The Queen's York Rangers (1st American Regiment) can be found on the History and Heritage website.

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