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Island-based regiment marks 100 years

Oct 20 2012
Wallace the dog and the Jeep, the utility vehicle of the Second World War with Pipes & Drums, Pipe Major A. MacMillan
and Piper McGeorge. Monk's Common, England, 1943. 

Wallace the dog and the Jeep, the utility vehicle of the Second World War with Pipes & Drums, Pipe Major A. MacMillan and Piper McGeorge. Monk's Common, England, 1943.

Photograph by: Canadian Scottish Regimental Museum , Times Colonist

Scratch a Victorian and you will find a connection with 100 years of service from the Canadian Scottish Regiment, said Honorary Col. Richard Talbot.

"It's hard to find a person in Victoria that doesn't have some kind of connection with the regiment," Talbot said.

"There has always been a strong Victoria component and there is all sorts of associations that get involved," he said. "Very often, there is family connections that have served at some stage - either grandfathers have served or fathers have served or they themselves have served."

This weekend, the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) - the only infantry regiment based on Vancouver Island - will celebrate its 100th anniversary with kilts, pipes, pomp, remembrance and reverence.

The unit, first known as the 88th Victoria Fusiliers, set out for France in 1914 with Victoria's 50th Gordon Highlanders and several other Canadian Highland regiments in a battalion that would be informally dubbed "the Canadian Scottish."

Members of the battalion would be among the first Canadian soldiers to see action in the First World War. They later fought at Ypres, Vimy and Passchen-daele.

In 1920, a number of Victoria units were brought together in the Canadian Scottish Regiment. Ten years later, King George V appointed his daughter Princess Mary to be the regiment's honorary colonel-in-chief, a title now held by Princess Alexandra, Princess Mary's niece and the first cousin of the Queen.

Members of the Canadian Scottish were among the first troops to land at Normandy on D-Day during the Second World War. Members have also served in Korea. Reservists from the Canadian Scottish have served in the former Yugoslavia and the Middle East.

In recent years, the Canadian Scottish have served in Afghanistan, where 22 per cent of Canada's military effort was performed by reservists, now recognized as a vital component of the country's military capacity.

The Canadian Scottish Regiment has close to 250 serving members on Vancouver Island, with headquarters in Victoria and regional command centres in Nanaimo and Courtenay.

Lt.-Col Eric Boucher, commanding officer of the Canadian Scottish, said the unit performs its duties without attracting a great deal of notice. Soldiers have full-time jobs or are students attending classes, and train on weekends.

"And ever so quietly our soldiers head off to help with our military commitments overseas," Boucher said. "And they come back without a lot of fanfare, or pomp or ceremony."

The Canadian Scottish has also turned out to serve when civilian emergencies or duties arise, he said.

When fires raged in the Okanagan in 2003, the Canadian Scottish deployed 100 members within 72 hours to assist the City of Kelowna.

They performed security detail at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

During the 1996 blizzards in Victoria, the Canadian Scottish turned out with big-wheeled vehicles to get citizens to medical appointments and ferry doctors and nurses to and from hospital.

"People might not see visible, tangible evidence of the Canadian Scottish Regiment right in front of them," Boucher said, "but there is ongoing activity all the time."

SUNDAY'S EVENTS

The 100th anniversary of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary's) is being celebrated this weekend.

Sunday's events are open to the public and free.

Princess Alexandra, the colonel-in-chief of the regiment, was scheduled to attend, but is unable to make it due to illness.

? 11 a.m. - Church parade at Christ Church Cathedral (Quadra Street and Burdett Avenue), followed at noon by a memorial service at Pioneer Square.

? 12: 45 p.m. - Formal military parade at Royal Athletic Park, 1014 Caledonia Ave. This event offers the biggest pomp with march pasts, artillery gun salutes and rifle volleys.

? 3: 45 p.m. - Regiment gathers at Victoria City Hall, where it will exercise its Right to Freedom of the City and march through the city with bayonets fixed, drums and banners.

? The Royal B.C. Museum is marking the occasion with a special exhibition of Canadian Scottish heritage items - including four Victoria Cross medals awarded to members - running until Dec. 2. Regular admission applies.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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