History

HISTORY OF THE LOYAL EDMONTON REGIMENT
Alberta’s First & Oldest Infantry Regiment


ALBERTA’S EARLIEST MILITIA

The Militia in Alberta goes back to the North West Rebellion of 1885, with people joining hastily assembled reserve units for local defence like the Edmonton Home Guard, and active service forces such as the St. Albert Mounted Rifles. These units were disbanded once the crisis passed, and there was no Militia here for another twenty years.

THE GRIESBACH HERITAGE

Lieutenant Colonel William Antrobus Griesbach

William Antrobus Griesbach, the seven year old son of a local North West Mounted Police Inspector, was among the spectators watching when the Alberta Field Force reached Edmonton in its march from southern Alberta during the 1885 rebellion. Fifteen years later young Griesbach was an Edmonton law student when the call to arms sounded again, this time to support Britain against the Boers in the South African War. Griesbach dropped his studies to join up as a trooper in the Canadian Mounted Rifles, and served a year in the veldt. After his combat tour, Griesbach returned home to establish a law practice, and quickly became involved in local politics. In 1907 he was elected mayor of Edmonton, nicknamed “the Boy Mayor.” Griesbach remained interested in military matters, and successfully lobbied for a militia cavalry unit to be located in Edmonton. On 1 February 1908 the 19th Alberta Mounted Rifles were established, with Lieutenant Griesbach one of its officers. In 1911 the unit was renamed the 19th Alberta Dragoons, by which time Griesbach was a Major. A few years later he played a key role in what was to become The Loyal Edmonton Regiment.

ALBERTA’S OLDEST INFANTRY REGIMENT

The militia infantry 101st Regiment was raised in Edmonton on 1 April 1908, and re-named the 101st Regiment (Edmonton Fusiliers) in 1909. As the active service units raised in this area during the North West Rebellion had all been mounted rifles, the 101st was Alberta’s first infantry unit. The Loyal Edmonton Regiment traces its founding from the 101st, and is therefore Alberta’s oldest infantry regiment. The 101st was similar to The Loyal Edmonton Regiment today, a peace-time unit composed of community members who voluntarily attend military training on a part time basis.

WORLD WAR ONE BREAKS OUT

When World War One broke out in August 1914, Major Griesbach and many of the 19th Alberta Dragoons volunteered for the 1st Divisional Cavalry Squadron of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Many from the 101st Regiment (Edmonton Fusiliers) joined the 9th Battalion, one of the new numbered infantry units established the existing militia structure was set aside in assembling active service units for overseas duty. The 9th Battalion was sent to England but remained there as a static reinforcement battalion sending troops to other units.
THE FOUNDING OF THE 49TH BATTALION

No sooner had Major Griesbach reached Britain than he was recalled to Canada, promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, and given command of the next infantry battalion to be raised from Edmonton and area, the 49th Battalion. Recruiting began on 4 January 1915, and the ranks were quickly filled. At the suggestion of one of the bandsmen, formerly a musician with a Scots regiment, the new unit’s quick march became the sprightly Bonnie Dundee, celebrating the military exploits of Lord John Graham of Claverhouse in Scotland’s turbulent past. An Edmonton women’s club presented the unit with hand embroidered unit King’s and Regimental Colours to carry overseas.

THE 49TH GOES TO WAR

On 29 May 1915, the 49th left Edmonton by train. At Lestock, Saskatchewan a coyote puppy was handed in to be the unit’s mascot, and was named after the town. After a brief stop in Ottawa to parade on Parliament Hill, the unit reached Montreal and embarked on a Canadian Pacific ship Metagama for the sea voyage to Britain. There the unit trained further until the word came to depart for France. The battalion’s Colours were deposited in Canterbury Cathedral for the duration of the war (they are now displayed in the Regimental Museum). Lestock was deposited in London’s Regent Park Zoo, where he lived on to happy old coyotehood.

The 49th landed in France early in October 1915, and soon moved to the front. The next three years passed in the grinding conflict of “the war to end wars”. Early in 1916 the unit adopted a new cap badge to replace the maple leaf with unit number design generic to Canadian Expeditionary Force units. The design submitted by Private George Brown contained four blades of a windmill to symbolize the Flanders terrain in which the 49th was located, with a wolf’s head for Lestock (a coyote not then being an acceptable animal for heraldic designs) at the centre, flanking maple leaves, and underneath the numerals “49″ from the battalion’s official name. Underneath was a scroll with the words “Edmonton Regiment”, as by then the military authorities had started to include a unit’s locality in its title. Before heading into combat some members of the 49th proposed the unit adopt Fears No Foe as its motto. Boer War combat veteran Griesbach commented they had best wait until they had met the foe in battle before making such a statement. The unit did begin using the motto, but it was not officially adopted until many years later. In 1916 during the Battle of the Somme Private John Chipman “Chip” Kerr won the Victoria Cross with a single-handed attack on an enemy trench. In February 1917 “Billy” Griesbach was promoted to command a Brigade and left the unit. In March 1917 the unit was part of the famous capture of Vimy Ridge by the Canadian army. Later in 1917 Private Cecil John “Hoodoo” Kinross won the unit’s second Victoria Cross during the Battle of Passchendaele, knocking out an enemy machine gun. After the armistice brought the war to an end on 11 November 1918, the 49th returned to Edmonton on 22 March 1919, marched from the railway station to the armoury, and dispersed. The unit was formally disbanded on 11 September 1920.

CREATION OF THE EDMONTON REGIMENT

Canada substantially disarmed in the anti-militarist atmosphere after World War One, reverting to the pre-war pattern of a small regular force and a countrywide reserve force based on the existing militia units. The 101st Regiment (Edmonton Fusiliers) militia had continued through the war, but naturally the combat veterans of the 49th Battalion felt their unit should be formally recognized in the post-war reserve structure. This came about on 5 March 1920, when the 101st was re-organized as The Edmonton Regiment, consisting of two active militia battalions named to show the units they perpetuated: 1st Battalion (49th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force), and 2nd Battalion (Edmonton Fusiliers) (9th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force). Officially The Edmonton Regiment was not a new unit but the continuation of the militia unit which originated as the 101st Regiment on 1 April 1908.

Brigadier Griesbach, who had been active in seeking the perpetuation of the 49th Battalion, retired in 1921 and was promoted to Major General. His political career also reached its peak that year with his appointment to the Senate of Canada.

The marriage of convenience between the heirs of the 49th Battalion and the Edmonton Fusiliers lasted only until 1924, when another re-organization separated the two active battalions into separate regiments, The Edmonton Regiment, and The Edmonton Fusiliers. Again, officially the new version of The Edmonton Regiment was considered a continuation the previous units originating with the 101st in 1908.

The unit’s colours of grey and green came from the formations the 49th Battalion belonged to in World War One, grey for the 3rd Infantry Division, green for the 7th Infantry Brigade.

The cap badge of The Edmonton Regiment was that of the 49th Battalion, with the numerals 49 changed to a third maple leaf, because of policy then in effect against showing units by a number.

ALLIANCE WITH THE LOYAL REGIMENT

The Edmonton Regiment soldiered on as a militia unit through the rest of the 1920’s and on into the “dirty thirties.” In 1933 a proposal was received from The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) that the Edmonton Regiment officially be linked with the British unit; this was approved. . “The Loyals” were one of the oldest regiments of the British army, and had a strong identification with Canada. One of their antecedent units the 47th Regiment of Foot had garrisoned Halifax after the Maritimes were taken by the British, and in 1759 formed the centre of the British line at the Battle of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham, where they won the title “Wolfe’s Own”.

When The Edmonton Regiment allied with “The Loyals”, we added black as part of the unit’s colours, since “The Loyals” had a black strip in their colours as a mark of mourning for General Wolfe.

WORLD WAR TWO

On 10 September 1939 Canada declared war on Germany. This time the military authorities decided the country would mobilize for war using the names of existing militia units, and The Edmonton Regiment was one of those chosen to form a “war substantive battalion.” The unit trained in England until 1943, when it went to participate in the invasion of Sicily.

A LOYAL REGIMENT OURSELVES

During this campaign, on 7 July 1943, King George VI granted a name change to reflect our alliance with The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). Now our unit became The Loyal Edmonton Regiment. After the war The Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire) was amalgamated into The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment (with which we are still allied), so that we are now the only regiment titled “Loyal” in the Commonwealth.

To reflect the new name, the unit’s cap badge added the red rose of Lancashire beneath the crown, and the word “Loyal” was added to the unit name on the scroll. At the same time, the numerals “49″ were restored. Except for the change to the Queen’s crown after the King’s death in 1952, and some purely stylistic revisions to the artwork, this established the badge we wear today.

FINISHING THE FIGHT

Lieutenant Colonel James Curry Jefferson, who had originally enlisted as a private in The Edmonton Fusiliers then joined The Edmonton Regiment, commanded the unit when it went into combat in Sicily and on the Italian mainland. He was still commanding the “Loyal Eddies” in their most important fight during the war, the Battle of Ortona, which to this day is considered a model for the techniques the unit developed for fighting in built up areas. Soon afterwards Lieutenant Colonel Jefferson was promoted to Brigadier. After Italy was secured for the Allied cause, the unit was transferred to northwest Europe to help finish off the German forces.

After the war red was added to the unit colours, from the patch of 1st Infantry Division, in which the unit had fought throughout the conflict.

During the war Major General Griesbach, although by then in his sixties, arranged to go back on active service as Inspector General of the army in Western Canada. His health weakened from his strenuous routine, and he died in January 1945, after one of Canada’s most distinguished citizen-soldier careers.

Throughout the war, a reserve battalion of the regiment continued to train in Edmonton. One of its officers was Lieutenant Ernest Manning, the Premier of Alberta. After the war ended, the war substantive battalion stood down, and the reserve unit continued to carry the regimental name into the post-war militia.

AFFILIATION WITH THE PPCLI

Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry were raised in August 1914 as a new unit for Canada’s effort in World War One. When the 49th Battalion arrived in the trenches it joined the same brigade as the PPCLI, and the two units fought side by side through the rest of the conflict. After that war the Patricia’s formed part of Canada’s small regular force. In World War Two the PPCLI and The Edmonton Regiment, later The Loyal Edmonton Regiment, were again in the same brigade throughout the war. After the war the Patricia’s again remained a regular unit, and in 1950 a second battalion was raised to go to Korea. Command of this unit was given to a former Loyal Edmonton Regiment commanding officer from World War Two, Lieutenant Colonel James “Big Jim” Stone, recalled from civilian life. Under his command 2 PPCLI won a U.S. Presidential Unit Citation for the Battle of Kapyong. After Korea he remained in the regular force, was promoted to Colonel, and finished his military career as Provost Marshal of the Canadian Army.

Shortly after the Korean conflict it was decided that militia units should be formally affiliated with regular force units. Although this policy was never universally applied, The Loyal Edmonton Regiment was one militia unit chosen to affiliate with a regular unit, and in view of the close association in the past with the PPCLI, on 19 October 1954 we were re-named The Loyal Edmonton Regiment (3rd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry). When a regular force third battalion was raised for the Patricia’s we were re-numbered to 4th Battalion on 1 April 1970. Although The Loyal Edmonton Regiment has its own Honorary Colonel and Honorary Lieutenant Colonel, we still share the Colonel-In-Chief of the PPCLI, who is Lady Patricia Brabourne, the Countess Mountbatten of Burma.

A MOTTO AT LAST

In the late 1980’s, it was noticed that no action had ever been taken on the World War One proposal for a motto. This was rectified, and “Fears No Foe” is now officially the unit motto.

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