The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada
A Brief History
The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada was formed on April 26, 1860. Originally the Regiment's name was the Second Battalion, Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada. The cap badge still bears the number two as recognition of the unit's seniority. In 1863 the name changed to 2nd Battalion "Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto." It was under this name that the regiment fought at the Battle of Ridgeway, during the Fenian Raids of 1866. Thereafter, the unit was called the 2nd Battalion "Queen's Own Rifles of Canada" in 1882.
When Louis Riel launched the North-West Rebellion in 1885, the "Queen's Own" fought the Cree Chief Poundmaker at the Battle of Cut Knife Hill. The Regiment's first overseas action came when the Queen's Own provided thirty-three soldiers for duty in the South African War 1899-1900. These men became part of "C" Company (representing Toronto), of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion, Royal Canadian Regiment.
When World War I broke out in August of 1914, Canada responded by sending the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The Regiment provided the bulk of the men to the Third Battalion CEF, however, Ottawa refused to allow the battalion to wear the Queen's Own cap badge. Initially, many thought the Queen's Own would be allowed to retain its Regimental identity. Instead, small groups from the 10th Grenadiers and the Governor General's Bodyguard were posted into the already over-strength battalion, making it the Toronto regiment, a composite unit. 3Bn CEF fought in Northern France and Belgium, from Amiens to Langemark. Twenty one battle honours, were won during the war. By the war's end 7,562 Queen's Own had served overseas, of these 1,254 were killed in action, died of wounds or of other causes.
Upon returning home, the officers of the Third Battalion found they could not resolve their conflicts with the officers of the Queen's Own who had not fought in Europe. The solution came with the formation of the Toronto Regiment that was officially authorized on May 1, 1920. This was also the date of the unit's last name change. It became The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, leaving out the "Second" designation.
The Queen's Own was mobilized for the Second World War on May 24th, 1940. The Regiment's first assignment was the defence of Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Eventally, the Regiment was posted to England, in July 1941, as a part of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade of the 3rd Canadian Division. The Queen's Own first action, was in the leading wave of the D-Day invasion. The Regiment landed on Bernieres-sur-Mer at 08:12hrs, on the 6th of June 1944. The fighting took them through Normandy and into Northern France. The Regiment fought their way north into Belgium, freeing the crutial channel ports.
The Regiment entered the Netherlands, in early October of 1944. The impossible terrain of the Netherlands made fighting costly and difficult. In February the Rifles finally crossed the border into Germany, pushing toward the Hochwald. In capturing the little hamlet of Mooshof, Sergeant Aubrey Cosens was awarded the Victoria Cross. The Queen's Own Rifles last action of the war was at 12:00 hrs on May 4 when C Company attacked a cross roads just east of Ostersander, Germany. It was taken by 15:00 hrs then the order came through not to fire on the enemy unless fired upon. The official Cease Fire came at 08:00 hrs on May 5, 1945. The battalion paraded to a church at Mitte Grossefehn and Major H.E. Dalton, the acting Commanding Officer, addressed the Regiment. During the war 393 Queen's Own were killed in action and a further 873 were wounded, many two or three times.
On the 16th of October 1953, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Rifles became the 1st Battalion and 2nd Battalion, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, of the Canadian regular Army. The regular Battalions drew many recruits from members of the Queen's Own who had seen action in World War II. The militia battalion that was serving in Toronto became the 3rd Battalion. The Canadian Rifles Depot was also formed in early 1953 and was later renamed The Queen's Own Rifles Regimental Depot. The 2nd Battalion was de-acitivated on August 31st of 1968, the 1st was deactivated on April 26th, 1970 and the Regimental Depot on December 7th, 1968.
On January 1, 1983 the QOR received an operational tasking to provide an Airborne Platoon to support 3 Commando of the Canadian Airborne Regiment. In September 1984 the tasking was upgraded to providing two Platoons and a Company Headquarters. In fulfilling this tasking, the Queen's Own have sent Riflemen on the Basic Parachutist Course, Airborne Indoctrination Course, DZ LZ EZ Controller Courses, Packer Rigger Course, Jumpmaster Course and Parachute Instructor Course. The Regiment has also sent Riflemen on exercises and postings (call-outs) with the Airborne Regiment and has supported Tactical Airlift Exercises of the Air Force. After the disbandment of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, an unofficial liaison was formed with 3RCR, Airborne Holding Unit. Today our official tasking is to support the Canadian Parachute Centre in Trenton Ontario.
For a more complete history of the Queen's Own please read "The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada 1860-1960 One Hundred Years of Canada" by Lieutenant-Colonel W. T. Barnard, E.D., C.D. or visit the Regimental Museum at Casa Loma in Toronto.
"In Pace Paratus - In Peace Prepared"