Although Le Régiment de Hull was not officially founded until August 1914, the Canadian Militia was present in Hull long before then.
In August 1820, the founder of Hull, Philemon Wright, commanded a group of Militia responsible for according honours to the Governor, Lord Dalhousie, when he visited Hull.
Contemporary records report that the Hull Militia at the time had only a single artillery gun to fire the 19 shots required. The gun, weakened with age, exploded, injuring the artilleryman firing it. The Governor was touched by this tragedy and ordered two copper cannons, 60 sabres, 60 rifles and a large quantity of ammunition to be sent to Hull.
Sixty-four years after this incident, a general directive of the Canadian Militia dated 15 March 1984 ordered the transfer of the 2nd Company of the 43rd Ottawa and Carleton Battalion of Rifles from Mount Sherwood to Hull.
The headquarters of the Company remained at Hull until 1987, when all the dispersed companies were regrouped at the Battalion headquarters in Ottawa.
Birth of the Regiment
On 7 August 1914, a general order of the Canadian Militia authorized the formation of a unit at Hull. Three days earlier, Canada had entered the war against Germany; World War I had broken out.
As was the custom of the day, the unit was designated by a number. The Regiment's first official name was accordingly the "70th Regiment". This designation became "The Hull Regiment" on 15 March 1920, and the "Le Régiment de Hull" on 1 May 1923.
Initiatives to create a Militia unit in Hull had nonetheless been under way since the spring of 1914 by a group of Hull citizens, including M.A. Allard, J.A. Cloutier, I. Landre, R. Déziel, J. Paré, J.A. Thibault, J. Gauvin and Lieutenant H. Heyendal. They met at the Collège Notre-Dame.
The creation of the Hull Regiment also coincided (on 7 August 1914) with the acceptance by Great Britain of the Canadian Government's offer to pay all the costs of a military contingent. This first contingent left for England on 3 October of that year.
In Hull, as everywhere else in Canada, the public greeted the war with enthusiasm. Thousands wanted to leave for the front and to take part in what they believed would be a great adventure.
World War I: 230th Battalion
The first task of the 70th Regiment was to serve as a recruiting centre for the Hull military district. The Regimental records show that the unit enrolled 2,108 men, who were subsequently distributed to a variety of battalions, including the 22nd, 38th, 41st and 57th.
Although it was not mobilized for service overseas, the 70th Regiment provided personnel for the 230th Battalion of les Voltigeurs Canadiens-Français. This unit of the Canadian expeditionary corps was formed almost entirely of members of the 70th Regiment recruited in the Outaouais. It is for this reason that Le Régiment de Hull perpetuates the memory of the 230th Battalion.
After a stay in England, the 230th was assigned to the Forestry Corps in November 1916 and went to France. Before the war, England imported an enormous quantity of wood every year. And while the war had generated even greater demand, the cargos needed were increasingly scarce as a result of German submarine attacks. This scarcity delayed the dispatch of reinforcements, ammunition, rations, fodder and other essential items.
Canadians not only responded to the call, they set new production records. Over 70% of all the wood used by the allied armies during World War I came from Canada's forests. According to the official Canadian history, the participation of the Canadian Forestry Corps was "remarkable and contributed to the defeat of the submarine campaign".
Between the Wars
The Armistice enabled some 350,000 members of the Canadian Expeditionary Corps to return home. Over 60,000 Canadians had died in battle. Thousands more were seriously wounded and many of them would never be able to resume normal life.
The return to civilian life after so terrible a war is often difficult for veterans. Similarly, the resumption of activities by the Hull Militia was not without its problems.
Since the government had decided no longer to designate units by a number, the 70th Regiment officially became "The Hull Regiment" in 1920, a designation which was changed to its French equivalent in Spring 1923.
As was only to be expected after such a murderous war, enthusiasm waned significantly, a state of mind that was only exacerbated by equipment shortages and the need to meet in cramped, inadequate quarters. The Regiment was housed at 84 Principale in Hull, moving to number 29 on the same street in 1922.
Against all odds, the Regiment grew and flourished. In 1924, the Governor General, Baron Byng of Vimy, presented the unit with its regimental colours, the gift of honorary Lieutenant-Colonel J.E. Gravelle.
This impressive ceremony took place on the square in front of City Hall in Hull in the presence of thousands of onlookers. The flag is unique in the Canadian Army in that it displays the Regimental crest on an entirely white background.
As early as 1923, the Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel Rodrigue Girard, had dreamed of a proper armoury. This was to be a lengthy undertaking requiring the devotion of successive Commanding Officers.
Finally, thanks to their perseverance and to the combined efforts of the civilian, religious, political and military authorities of the day, the first subsidies for what was to become the Salaberry Armoury were voted by Parliament on 18 February 1937, in large measure due to the efforts of the MP for Hull, Alphonses Fournier, QC.
The ceremony of laying the foundation stone and the blessing of the new armoury took place on 21 July 1938. The plans had been drawn by a local architect, Lucien Sarra-Bournet. Six months later, on 28 January 1939, less than a year before the declaration of World War II, the Governor General of Canada, Lord Tweedsmuir, presided over the official opening of Salaberry Armoury.
Sixty years on, this armoury remains one of Canada's most impressive military buildings. It was named in honour of Colonel Charles Michel de Salaberry, celebrated as "the saviour of our country" following his victory at Châteauguay, one of the most important battles of the War of 1812.
Salaberry Armoury originally stood at the intersection of Taché and Saint-Joseph Boulevards, on an enormous lot owned by Lieutenant-Colonel W. F. Hadley, VC, the Commanding Officer of Le Régiment de Hull from 1927 to 1931. Since then, almost half the land along Saint-Joseph Blvd has been converted into a park.
There are, in fact, two identical armouries in Canada: one in Gatineau and one in Vancouver. The plans used for the Regiment de Hull armoury were also used for the construction of the Seaforth Highlanders’ armoury. While the exterior architecture is the same, the layout of the interior rooms differs slightly. In Vancouver the offices are located on the top floor, the classrooms are on the second level and the mess is on the main floor. And obviously, the regimental cap-badge carved in stone on the outer walls are different in the two locations.
World War II: the Defence of Canada
When Canada declared war on Germany on 10 September 1939, the Regiment did not expect to be mobilized for war. Detachments of the Regiment were assigned to mount guard at points considered vulnerable to saboteurs, specifically Rockcliffe Aerodrome and the Residence of the Governor General.
Many members of the Regiment enrolled in the active Army and initially served as instructors in numerous training camps, including in Saint Jérôme, Quebec and in Cornwall, Ontario.
The first Battalion of Le Régiment de Hull was mobilized for active service on 29 July 1941. A few days later, National Defence Headquarters entrusted command of the Regiment to Lieutenant-Colonel Marcel Grison.
In the meantime, an initial group of officers had been sent to Brockville to undergo special training and the Regiment left for Valcartier, where it underwent intensive training from December 1941 to mid-April 1942. It was subsequently sent to Nanaimo, British Columbia, where it participated in the defence of Canada as part of the 13th Infantry Brigade, 6th Canadian Infantry Division. This was the first time that a Francophone regiment had been stationed on Vancouver Island.
The Kiska Landing>
In August 1942, Le Régiment de Hull took part in the invasion of the island of Kiska, in the Aleutians. The Regiment was at the time under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Dollard Ménard, DSO, a hero of the Dieppe raid.
The Japanese had invaded the Aleutians in June 1942. Although Kiska was 4,500 km from Vancouver, the enemy presence caused considerable concern in Canada and the United States. While the US Navy imposed a blockade, air raids were carried out. The blockade and the bombing nonetheless did not succeed in dislodging the enemy, and the Americans decided to attack the islands directly. On 12 May, US troops landed at Attu, resulting in one of the fiercest and most costly battles of the entire war. Of the 3,000 Japanese in the garrison, only 11 were taken prisoner; all the others were killed or committed suicide.
Since Kiska was defended by a stronger garrison (some 5,400 soldiers), the Americans asked Canada for help. The 13th Brigade was chosen to participate in the invasion of Kiska, comprising, in addition to Le Régiment de Hull, the Canadian Fusiliers, the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Rocky Mountain Rangers.
"D" Day for Kiska was set for 15 August 1943. Since the enemy had secretly abandoned the island, our troops were not called upon to fight. The Regiment nonetheless had to stay on the island until January 1944, during which time the soldiers were subjected to the worst weather conditions endured by the Canadian Army anywhere, throughout its entire history.
World War II: Victory!
After being repatriated in February 1944, the Regiment embarked at Halifax for the United Kingdom on 25 May 1944. Its new barracks were at Camp Gandale in Yorkshire. Our soldiers were expecting to take part in the eagerly awaited invasion of occupied Europe.
Shortly after its arrival, however, the Regiment was temporarily renamed the "4th Training Battalion" and assigned to this thankless task until its release on 18 September 1945. Many members of the 1st battalion of Le Régiment de Hull were nonetheless involved in fighting on the continent of Europe as reinforcements for other Canadian regiments, an honour for which some paid with their lives.
During this time, a 2nd battalion was formed at Hull to provide reinforcements for the 1st. In addition to undergoing rigorous training, the members of the 2nd battalion contributed to the Army's recruiting efforts, guarded locations considered to be of strategic importance, took part in guarding prisoners of war and subscribed to numerous campaigns to sell Victory Bonds, in which they even set records!
The Postwar Period
After the Armistice, a new life began for the Regiment. It was at this time that Le Régiment de Hull changed corps, moving from the infantry to armour.
This new calling was officially confirmed on 1 April 1946, when the Regiment's name officially became the 21st Armoured Regiment (Le Régiment de Hull). Twelve years later, on 19 May 1958, the Regiment adopted its current name: Le Régiment de Hull (RCAC).
The Regiment should thenceforth have rallied around a cavalry guidon, but continued to serve under its old white regimental colours from infantry days, in the form of the flag it had received in 1924.
During the years that followed the end of World War II, the Regiment took part in training exercises for a war in Europe against the Soviet Union. This was the start of the Cold War and relations between East and West were tense.
It was against this background that, when Communist North Korea invaded South Korea, Canada agreed to send a contingent to serve as part of the UN Forces. More than 60 members of the Regiment volunteered to serve in the 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade.
At almost the same time, the Regiment formed the “Y” Troop to reinforce the armoured squadron of the 27th Canadian Infantry Brigade in Europe. This Brigade, the first Canadian force sent overseas in peacetime, was stationed near Hanover, in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The Cold War
In the late 1950s, the role of the Militia changed; this was the era of civil defence. The members of the Regiment took part in rescue exercises and emergency measures in the event of a nuclear war. The unit subsequently resumed its armoured training.
From 1970 to 1973, the Regiment's heavy armour role was gradually modified to that of a light armoured formation. The unit was equipped with jeeps for the purpose. This is why, since 1974, the Regiment has acted as a reconnaissance unit in the Eastern Area, which has now become Land Force Quebec Area.
In 1979, the Regiment won the Worthington Trophy for the best Militia armoured unit. This was the crowning achievement after a series of trophies won in various military competitions, including the prestigious Buchanan Trophy, which is awarded to the best Quebec unit.
On 16 October 1982, the Governor General, the Right Honourable Edward Schreyer, presented the Regiment with its new colours. The next day, the old regimental colours were deposited at la Maison du Citoyen, in Hull. The new guidon incorporates 2 rams, recalling the unit's service in the infantry, and 2 fleurs-de-lys, symbolizing its Francophone status.
The Regiment celebrated its 75th anniversary in 1989. Ceremonies marking the occasion brought together former members of the unit in Salaberry Armoury.
Since 1948, Canada has taken part in many peacekeeping operations, either with the UN or other international organizations. Over 100,000 members of the Canadian Forces have served in these operations. As of 1 January 2000, 107 Canadian soldiers have died in the course of these missions.
Canadian soldiers have developed an unusual degree of expertise and are now highly sought after for such missions. Members of Le Régiment de Hull are no exception to the rule: many of them have had an opportunity to participate in missions in Cyprus, Israel, Haiti and the former Yugoslavia. Members most recently served in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Alongside their colleagues in the Regular Force, the members of the Regiment in 1988 shared the honour of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to "blue helmets" throughout the world.