HISTORY OF WORK POINT BARRACKS
by Jack Bates
PART 8 — 1964 to 1970
BATTALION LIFE – ACTIVITIES AND PERSONALITIES
INTEGRATION ‘N SALTY TALES ‘N ALL THAT
When one stops to consider that the Regimental Home Station sits on the biggest ocean in the world, and is also a lodger unit on a Maritime Command base, a bit of Naval terminology can be expected to creep into our vocabulary.
The February ’69 fire in the Motor Transport building provoked the following broadside from the Co:
OPERATIONAL IMMEDIATE 161500Z JUN 69
FM 1 QOR OF C ESQUIMALT
Base, undaunted, replied with:
Who says the Pacific branch of the Army of the west isn’t bilingual? We speak English and Navy!
REDEDICATION OF THE BOOK OF REMEMBRANCE
During a simple but impressive ceremony conducted at the Service on Sunday, 16 March 1969 in St. Barbara’s Chapel, The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada Book of Remembrance 1866 – 1918; was rededicated and the Regimental and 1st Battalion flags were installed in the chapel to commemorate the relocation of the Regimental Home Station to Work Point Barracks, Victoria.
BATTALION HOCKEY TEAM 69 – 70
The familiar chant of “GO RIFLES GO ! GO RIFLES GO!” echoed through the rafters of the Esquimalt Arena for the last time, as our team played its last season with the Vancouver Island Hockey League.
The Battalion Bugles look forward to another busy, challenging year when they become the Corps of Drums of 3 PPCLI and slow down to 120 paces to the minute.
“Three Blind Mice” became a regular theme song when the Bugles played for Rifles hockey games at Esquimalt arena; which was thoroughly enjoyed by the players, spectators and most of the referees.
CHANGE OF COMMAND PARADE
On Friday, 28 March 1969, a ceremonial parade was held at Work Point Barracks to say farewell to L Col HC Pitts, MC, CD, and to welcome the new Commanding officer, L Col TMC Marsaw, CD.
Lt Col Pitts assumed command of the battalion in January 1967 and had a most hectic tour of duty. During 1967 the unit was involved in many Centennial activities and in 1968 was heavily engaged in training and exercises as part of the ACE Mobile Force (Land). L Col Pitts left us for a most demanding and important position at the US Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
As they had become accustomed, the Regiment performed the Feu de Joie on July 1st at Beacon Hill Park, and the Victoria May Day parade in the City of Victoria providing a 120 man guard, the Bugles, 3 APC’s, a pair of 106’s and a tabloid float. They also provided a 50 man guard for the June 21st Buccaneer Days in Esquimalt and for Remembrance Day, provided a 31 man guard for each of the services held in Esquimalt and Victoria.
Photo July 3, 1969 Rear Rank on Holiday
Rear ranks look little ragged compared with precise positions of Queen’s Own Rifles in Beacon Hill Park. Regiment and 5th Field Battery, RCA (militia), performed feu des joie as part of Dominion Day celebration on Tuesday, and 21 – gun salute followed drill. Other holiday events included a 12 hour rock music festival and 10 mile walkathon around Oak Bay.
The battalion trained in Wainwright as well in 1969.
“CIVILIANS” MANNED COAST GUNS SIX HOURS AFTER ARMY CALLUP
Two of the hundreds who forsook “civvies” for khaki on that historic afternoon 30 years ago are insurance agent C.M. “Chuck” MacLeod and high school teacher, Geoffrey D’Arcy. Three decades later, both men vividly remember the excitement attending the dramatic event.
This is an excellent article written by well- known Vancouver Island author T.W. Paterson, with photographs, telling the tale of the militia manning the guns at Fort Rodd Hill in August of 1939. Included are references from Jack Rippengale, a gunner at the time, who became Superintendent of the Fort Rodd Hill National Park in 1965.
Frederick Dawson Burns, once the Professional at the Macaulay Golf Club passed away at his home at 1131 Lyall Street. He was a veteran of WW1.
THE FINAL FLING
On the weekend of 26 April, 1970, a chapter in the history of the Canadian Armed Forces was completed. Canada’s oldest Regular Infantry Regiment; on the celebration of its 110th anniversary, marched off parade and out of the Regular Order of Battle.
Early on the morning of Saturday, 25 April, dark storm clouds lurked ominously in the western skies; for those who were awake, it looked bad! The clouds persisted all morning and the threat of rain was imminent. Then, about an hour before parade time, the clouds parted, the sun shone through and set the stage for the grand finale.
Words alone are inadequate to describe the spectacle which followed. Imagine if you can, five huge banners of red and green bunting, lining the rear edge of the parade square; skirmishers lining the square, six of them from 3rd Battalion line the forward edge of the square as markers, resplendent in their Regimental period uniforms accurately detailing the various “battle orders” of dress from 1860 to 1970; the Naden Military band playing selections of martial airs as the spectators fill the bleachers lining the two sides of the square; a troop of 5th (BC) Field battery, RCA readying their guns for their part in the Feu de Joie; the Battalion in the forming up place making last minute adjustments to their dress; the battalion Pioneers complete with beards, “clearing the ground;” the Regimental Sergeant Major roaring, “Markers!” This is all part of the preamble and as the Pioneers and Bugles in their traditional Rifle dress; lead the battalion on parade at the Rifles pace of 140 to the minute, a hush falls over the spectators as the First Battalion The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada marches on parade for the last time; dressed for the first time in the new Rifle Green, Canadian Forces uniform.
The inspecting officer, Colonel JGK Strathy, OBE,ED,CD, Colonel of the Regiment; arrived at 1400 hours and the show was on.
The Colonel, accompanied by the Commanding Officer, Lt Col TMC Marsaw, CD, seemed to take a little longer than usual for the inspection, while he said goodbye to many old friends as he inspected his 1st Battalion for the last time.
The ceremonial parade and Feu de Joie which followed will be long remembered by those who saw it. This was their final parade as Riflemen and every man on parade was determined that it would be the finest one ever. The opinion of all spectators and the inspecting officer was that their determination had produced just that! The steadiness, the drill, the marching, the double past, the Feu de Joie; all were superb and executed flawlessly.
Victoria Daily Times
One Last Crash of Rifles as the Queen’s Own Dies
The drums, emblazoned with the regiment’s battle honors, are marched on parade for the last time. The rifles held by the stern faced soldiers crash in a final feu de joie.
Canada’s oldest regiment dies. Today in a ceremony at Work Point Barracks, the officers and men of the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, stand tall.
They celebrate the 110th birthday of their beginning on April 26, 1860. They anticipate another beginning. Monday, in an official ceremony, the QOR’s become the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light infantry.
At today’s ceremony, outward signs of emotion are absent. It is tonight, in the messes, that the Queen’s Own will mourn their own passing.
In 1860 six rifle companies joined to become Canada’s first militia rifle regiment. Those were the days of Canada’s national birth pangs and the militia was to take the place of the departed British troops.
They were a dedicated lot and when they received their first blooding, fighting the Fenians in the Battle of Ridgeway, June 2, 1866, they were ready equipped with valor, humor and loyalty.
Sir William Mulock a sergeant at that battle, wrote of an incident that centred around the adjutant, a captain W.D. Otter, who was later to become Canada’s first general.
The adjutant was fond of dashing around on his horse which one day shied, depositing him in the middle of a creek. As the bedraggled officer scrambled out, a nearby rifleman remarked, sotto voce, “I’ve been here three days and that’s the first dam’ otter I’ve seen in this creek!”
It was this spirit that kept the men going as they trudged northward in 35 below weather to take their part in crushing the Northwest Rebellion.
Sir Henry Mill Pellant, whose old home, Casa Loma, still stands as an historical site in central Toronto, was commanding officer when the regiment reached its 50th anniversary in 1910.
He decided to celebrate in style and financed at trip to England for the men. The aim was to show Britain that Canada stood ready at her side.
Toronto city council insured all the men while they were overseas. While the officers were expected to finance their own keep, riflemen were paid 25 cents a day, non commissioned officers received an extra dime.
Today’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thorold Marsaw, is proud that the QOR’s were the first Canadian troops to see action in the First World War. The regiment was to have seven battalions over there before it was over.
They brought home six Victoria Crosses and 368 other decorations.
In the Second World war, Sgt. Aubrey Cosens was to become the regiment’s seventh VC. He died shortly after he and the four remaining member of his platoon captured a vital position at the village of Mooshof in Holland on Feb. 26. 1945.
The battle honors of the regiment trace its path through the struggles of northwest Canada, and those of South Africa in 1899 and 1900, to 20 pitched stands during the First World War, and 19 hard fought battles in the Second World War, beginning with the testing at Normandy.
Marsaw says “I’m rather anxious to encourage my people to start picking Patricias. To this end, he’s created a “brain washing” room in the mess where officers can get familiar with the ways and traditions of the regiment to which they’ll now belong.
He says the Patricia’s executive have been zealous in efforts to welcome their new battalion.
“They’ve bought a new belt buckle with their insignia, for every officer and man – and our cadets as well. They’ve also given us a loan to help finance the new red uniforms we’ll have to wear.”
Red Uniforms! The QOR’s have always worn forest green. Always the vanguard of the infantry, the forest green made them harder targets for snipers. For the same reason, the QOR’s have never carried colors. Used as a rallying point, they would have been a dead give away to the enemy. Instead they relied on drums, or more often a horn, which in time of action, controlled the skirmishes.
Marsaw asserts that the disbanding of his regiment, along with the Black Watch and the Canadian Guards, is a good thing for his officers and men. “With Canada’s regiments reduced from six to three, the regimental family is bigger and the opportunities for the right men to become leaders, greater.”
What of his men? Do they echo his sentiments? In time they may, but now the wrench is too hard, too close. Cpl. Joe Hickey, with 11 ½ years under his QOR belt buckle, says: “If they’re going to wipe out one unit, why don’t they make a clean sweep of it and give us all numbers – from 1 to 10.”
A veteran of 19 years with the regiment, Sgt. Dan McAllister is more guarded. He agrees with the colonel that he and his comrades have a job to do, irrespective of what regimental badge they wear. But, he adds, “The QOR’s have always had a good name – from the Lakehead out to here.” He pauses for a while, draws another breath: “It’s going to be pretty hard for some of us old sweats to slow down from 140 to 120 paces.”
The QOR’s march much faster than other regiments, the significance being that, as advance troops, they had no time to loiter on the way to battle, and had to move fast when returning to the main force.
Another corporal tells a significant story. “As far as accepting Patricia history – in the Christmas holidays someone sent a picture of Lady Patricia Ramsay to the mess. It was flung out the window and was soon floating around the bay.” He too, makes a reluctant concession to reality. “Give us another year – and it should be easier.”
Marsaw admits that today is one of mixed emotions. “We don’t want to see a tear.”
The final testing comes Monday when General C.B. Ware arrives from Kingston, Ont. Honorary Colonel of the Patricias, Ware will take part in a ceremony at the main gate.
There the Queen’s Own Rifles sign will come down, to be bundled along with other regimental treasures, and sent to the Toronto armouries where the QOR’s militia will start a museum. A new sign will take its place. The officers and men at Work Point will gradually learn to absorb the traditions of the name on the new sign.
Bur tonight is different. It will be spent reminiscing, recalling old pals and other days. Perhaps the words that spurred them on in those other days will be sung:
“JOB TO DO”
Under the blue sky and the billowing clouds at Work Point Saturday afternoon the officers and men of the 1st Battalion, Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, gave three cheers for the regiment and the thousands of people who lined the parade square joined in the cheering.
The occasion was the firing of the final Feu de Joie to mark the 110h birthday of the regiment with the longest continuous service in Canada’s armed forces.
On Monday the battalion becomes the 3rd Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, and the Queen’s Own becomes a militia regiment, based in Toronto.
Saturday afternoon the Battalion Bugles and the Naden band played Auld Lang Syne as the battalion carried out its final march past. Col. J.G.K. Strathy of Toronto, colonel of the regiment since 1960, took the salute.
The moment had its nostalgia but also its look toward the future. “We have so many Patricias with us now and there are so many new recruits that I think we’ll fit into the new role very well, said Sgt. Donald Anderson later Saturday.
What could present difficulties are the different commands, the sergeant added, and the different marching pace, “But we’ll soon get used to it.” Pte. Allen Bablitz said he would miss the smart step of the 140 paces to the minute, which is now replaced by 120.
“We’ve got a job to do,” interjected Sgt. Anderson in clipped, soldierly accents “and we’ll get on with it.” That was pretty much the message that the commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thorold Marsaw gave at the Feu de Joie.
Lt. Gen. G. A. Turcot, commander of Mobile Command attended with senior members of his staff. There was a message from Princess Alexandra, colonel in chief of the regiment, who sent best wishes and regrets at losing the battalion.
The key word of the afternoon was precision in all movements from the moment the battalion marched onto the parade square, through the march past in quick time, the march past in double time and finally the march off.
A thrill ran through the crowd as the moment of the Feu de Joie approached, guests were asked to hold their young children and their pets.
At the head of his battalion, Lt. Col. Marsaw, in a resounding voice, gave the command to fire. The gun of the 5th (B.C.) Field Battery, Royal Regiment of Artillery, boomed out seven times. There was a volley of rifle fire as the battalion of the Queen’s Own fired their Feu de Joie in the air.
This as repeated until the 21 gun salute had been fired and the battalion had fired three volleys. The Feu de Joie was over.
Photo – Young spectators watch No. 1 Company, led by Capt. William Ligett, trailing arms.
M Gen Herb Pitts
“Some will reflect on the change of regimental affiliation of these riflemen as a privilege. If ever the change HAD to be made, this particular change would probably be grudgingly acknowledged as better than most that could be offered. It was not, however, thought to be the best course of action and we’ll dispute to this day, the rational behind the decision. The working life of a soldier devolves around the trust between all ranks built up over many years (even more than a century). We know each other, know our history, know our jobs and most importantly know our capabilities. Being stuffed into another “uniform” is not an easy adjustment but the mitigating factor in this instance is that we all went together!”
The Powder Horn
AFFILIATED CADET CORPS
2483 THE QOR OF C (ESQUIMALT) CADET CORPS
REGIMENTAL SERGEANT MAJOR:
The 1969 – 70 training year has been most successful and eventful for the corps, in all phases of training and activities. At the commencement of the training year during October, the corps was very highly honoured by a visit of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh who, on a special parade at Bay Street Armoury, presented the following members of this corps with The Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme Badges and certificates:
The corps rifle team was again successful in the shooting field and for the eighth consecutive year, has retained the Brigadier Adams and The Squadron Leader Carter trophies. The team also won the Strathcona Trust, Tri Service small bore competition, City team trophy. Cadet WO 2 Baker won the Strathcona Gold watch for the high score and also secured a position on the 1970 Bisley team. Cadet WO 1 McAra for the second consecutive year retained the Confederation Life Association trophy with a perfect score of 1000 for ten targets.
The Corps Bugles which was under strength, placed second in the Tri Service band competition held in Vancouver. They were awarded a very fine trophy in this event.
The following four cadets qualified as Master Cadets:
Cadet Sgt Hallam was selected to proceed to the Outward Bound School at Towyn, Wales while the other three were selected to attend the National Cadet Camp at Banff, Alberta.
The corps placed first in the corps assessment of cadet corps in BC for the year 1969 – 70. The Most Proficient Cadet Corps Award Shield and crests, were presented on a special presentation parade to Cadet WO 1 T Ross and cadets, by Major DA Harris, CD, on behalf of the Commanding Officer of 3 PPCLI. The corps has placed first in BC three times in the past four years, placing second last year by ½ point.
Following in the foot steps of our sponsoring unit, the corps will, at the commencement of training in September 1970, be redesignated as: 2483 PPCLI (Esquimalt) Cadet Corps.
The Commanding Officer, Officers, Warrant Officers and cadets of this corps wish at this time to acknowledge, with sincere thanks and appreciation the very fine instruction and valuable assistance given to the corps by WO DS Ethell and Cpl JB Hicks of 3 PPCLI (late of 1 QOR of C)
Cadet WO 1 McAra and Cadet WO 2 Walmsley both reached the age of 19 during the year and were required to be SOS this corps as cadets. Both of these senior cadets have however returned to the corps as instructors, both as Lieutenants in the Cadet Services of Canada.
The next day, the 26th of April, the PioneerPlatoon were kept very busy removing all signs and insignias of the Queen’s Own Rifles and rapidly replacing them with those of the Third Battalion PPCLI. The crest of the Queen’s was installed on the left pillar of the front gate of Work Point Barracks by WO “Wally” Scharf.
This plaque is now on the right side of the entry into the military side of the CFB Esquimalt Naval and Military Museum at Naden, no telling where the PPCLI plaque which was on the right pillar of the Work Point gate ended up.
REDESIGNATION TO THE THIRD BATTALION
On the last weekend of April, 1970 a chapter in the history of the Canadian Armed Forces was completed. The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, on the celebration of their 110th anniversary, marched off parade and out of the Regular Order of Battle.
Preliminary planning for the 110th birthday commenced almost immediately following the redesignation announcement of 19 September, 1969, with the aim of ensuring that this birthday would be one that was un-equalled in Regimental annals.
Prior to the unit’s departure for Norway in late February, 1970 a committee under the chairmanship of the Regimental Adjutant was tasked with making all the necessary arrangements for the birthday, and by the time the first guest arrived on 21 April, everything was ready. In all, over 300 “Riflemen” made their way to the Home Station, for this was to be a celebration to remember.
The weekend got underway with a sports spectacular. Enthusiasm was undampened by the constant drizzle that plagued the events. All the old favouites were played and some new ones introduced. A variation of “telephone booth stuffing” was tried with the cargo compartment of a ¾ ton being substituted for the booth. Well !! Don’t knock it, unless you’ve tried it ! SP Company won this event with 48 bodies inside.
Winners of the various other events were as follows: bicycle race – A Coy; tug of war with boots – SP Coy; with running shoes – B Coy; grease ball (variation on push ball) – SP Coy; broom ball – Corporals defeated Riflemen and Sergeants beat out the Officers; Miss Greaseball 1970 was Cpl. K.M. Francis, SP Coy. Following the activities, all retired to the Men’s Mess for a luncheon, “free issue,” and presentation of awards.
On the evening of Thursday 23 April, Mess dinners were held in the Officer’s and Sergent’s Messes. Detailed accounts of these thrashes will be found elsewhere in these pages. The Officer’s wives gathered at the Commanding Officer’s residence for the evening where there was quite a reunion and chin wagging session. (It has been rumoured that some of the ladies tried to outlast their husbands that evening – what a hope !)
Early on the morning of Saturday 25 April, dark storm clouds lurked ominously in the western skies. For those who were awake, it looked bad ! The clouds persisted all morning and the threst of rain was imminent. Then, about an hour before parade time, the clouds parted and the sun shone through.
Words alone are inadequate to describe the spectacle which followd. Imagine if you can, five huge banners of red and green bunting lining the rear edge of the parade square, skirmishers lining the square, six of them from Third Battalion line the forward edge of the square as markers, resplendent in their Regimental period uniforms accurately detailing the various “battle orders” of dress from 1860 to 1970; the Naden Military Band playing selections of martial airs as the spectators fill the bleachers lining two sides of the square; a Troop of 5 (BC) Field Battery, RCA readying their guns for their part in the “feu-de-joie”; the Battalion in the forming up place making last minute adjustments to their dress; the Battalion Pioneers complete with beards, “clearing the ground,”; the Regimental Sergeant Major roaring “Markers.” This is all part of the preamble as the Pioneers and Bugles in their traditional Rifle Dress lead the Battalion on parade. The Battalion is dressed for the first time in the new Canadian Forces Green uniform.
Colonel J.G.K. Strathy, OBE, ED, CD, Colonel of the Regiment of the QOR of C, was accompanied by the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col. T.M.C. Marsaw, Cd, as he inspected the Battalion. The ceremonial parade and Feu-de-Joie which followed will be long remembered by those who saw it. The opinin of all the spectators, and the inspecting officer, was that determination had produced a spectacular parade ! The steadiness, the drill, the marching, the double past, the Feu-de-Joie – all were superb and executed flawlessly.
The next day the 26th of April, the Pioneer Platoon was kept very busy removing all signs and insignias of the Queen’s Own Rifles and rapidly replacing them with those of the Third Battalion PPCLI. The crest of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada was installed on the left pillar of the front gate of Work Point Barracks by WO “Wally” Scarf. Monday, 27 April 1970, opened a new chapter for the Battalion stationed at Work Point Barracks. Wearing combat clothing, adorned with PPCLI insignia, the Third Battalion PPCLI paraded for the Colonel of the Regiment, Major General C.B. Ware, DSO, CD. The Colonel of the Regiment warmly welcomed the new addition to the ranks of the PPCLI and issued the following “Special Order of the Day.” The Feu-de-Joie and rebadging ceremonies were barely over when the unit was requested to provide a 50 man guard to participate in the Liberation of Holland Memorial Service at the BC Legislative Buildings on 6 may, 1970.
With a ceremonial parade just completed, one would think a little 30 minute parade would pose no problems. This wasn’t quite true. All of the drill movements, the marching, and the commands had been in Rifles tradition and contrary to the old cliché that the timing never changes, the timing had changed. After several hours of “square bashing” under MWO Vardy, it was agreed that the standard of drill was acceptable. Even the RSM agreed.
On arrival at the appointed place and time, it was discovered that a change in format would occur. The Pipes and Drums of the Canadian Scottish (Princess Mary’s) Regiment wished to perform an abbreviated sunset ceremony instead of standing in one spot. The troops were informed of what had occurred and told simply to obey orders while the Guard Commander “played it by ear.” The first public parade of 3 PPCLI went off without any apparent difficulty. Off to Wainwright next.
In October 1970, the 3rd Battalion PPCLI began its first six month tour of United Nations duty in Cyprus and returned to Work Point in April 1971.
While 3 PPCLI soldiers were “aiding the civil power” in Quebec during the FLQ crisis, “Smokey” Green, taught wives of the soldiers how to fire a .22 rifle in the indoor range at the Transport Building in Work Point. Sister Marilyn became an expert shot.