A Brief History of
The Saskatchewan Dragoons

  RELATED PAGES

The family tree of The Saskatchewan Dragoons

The battle honours won by the 46th Battalion, and perpetuated by The Saskatchewan Dragoons

Victoria Cross Winners

The story of the 14th Canadian Hussars

Senior appointments of The Saskatchewan Dragoons, 1946 to Present

As is usually the case when a unit resides in a smaller city, The Saskatchewan Dragoons have very much become a "home-town regiment". The character of the Dragoons reflects the character of Moose Jaw and surrounding areas. Soldiers trained here have gone on to serve in many other arms and units, always taking a little bit of Moose Jaw with them. People from other areas who have come to Moose Jaw to serve have brought with them skills and attitudes which have been incorporated into the unique mosaic which is now embodied in The Saskatchewan Dragoons.

Beginnings

The Regiment traces its beginnings back to the formation of a "regiment of infantry" on 3 July 1905, when Saskatchewan was still a part of the Northwest Territories. (Saskatchewan joined Confederation on 1 September 1905.) The Regiment was redesignated 95th Regiment of Canadian Militia on 2 April 1907, 95th Rifles on 5 August 1908, and 95th Saskatchewan Rifles on 1 June 1909. Headquartered in Regina, the 95th Regiment had eight companies, with A and B Companies being located in Moose Jaw. On 1 April 1912, two companies in Saskatoon separated to become the 105th Regiment, and the remaining six companies became the 95th Regiment.

On 2 January 1913, A Company and B Company were separated and expanded to form a new regiment designated the 60th Rifles of Canada. H Company became the 52nd Regiment Prince Albert Volunteers, and the remaining three companies, all located in Regina, remained the 95th Regiment until 16 September 1913, when the unit was redesignated the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles.

Meanwhile, on 1 April 1910, Moose Jaw gained a cavalry unit when the 27th Light Horse was formed from "D" Squadron of the 16th Light Horse. They would later become the 14th Canadian Hussars.

 

"When in 1914 the German Emperor wanted to march against Russia and leave France neutral, he was told that this was impossible. The paper work, long since completed, provided no such alternative."

Len Deighton, in his introduction to Samuel Goodenough's "Tactical Genius in Battle"

World War I

War was declared on 4 August 1914. In that month, and again in November 1914, the 95th Saskatchewan Rifles and the 60th Rifles of Canada dispatched hundreds of volunteers to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force, which was being formed in Valcartier. By the end of the war, the 60th Rifles of Canada had organized the 128th and 210th Battalions in Moose Jaw, and recruited for many other units:

UnitOfficers  Other Ranks
11th Battalion13250
28th Battalion6250
46th Battalion14300
68th Battalion2160
128th Battalion321100
210th Battalion27700
229th Battalion17526

In addition, some two thousand other ranks were raised and despatched to Infantry, Service Corps, and Labour units, and an additional number to the Air Force. All told, the 60th Rifles was responsible for recruiting well over 5000 soldiers.

 

Cap badge of the 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion (South Saskatchewan)

The 46th Canadian Infantry Battalion (South Saskatchewan) was established on 1 February 1915, with its headquarters in the Moose Jaw Armoury. Command was given to LCol Herbert Snell, a Moose Jaw merchant and alderman who, up until then, had commanded the 60th Rifles. The 46th moved to Camp Sewell, Manitoba (also known as Camp Hughes) on 28 May 1915. On 18 October they left for Halifax, sailed for England on 23 October, and arrived at Plymouth a week later. Their strength on leaving Canada was 36 officers and 1115 other ranks. While training in England, parts of the battalion were broken off and farmed out to other units. In return, the 46th received personnel from other battalions such as the 65th Battalion (Saskatoon). They departed from Southampton on 10 August 1916, arriving at Havre in France the next day.

 

"In the chapel of St. Cyr (before it was destroyed during World War II) the memorial tablet to the dead of the Great War bore only a single entry for 'The Class of 1914.'"

Barbara W. Tuchman, "The Guns of August", Afterword

The 46th Battalion served with the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division from 11 August 1916 until the Armistice. The unit has come to be known as "The Suicide Battalion". The 46th Battalion lost 1,433 killed and 3,484 wounded - a casualty rate of 91.5 percent - and won 16 battle honours in 27 months.

Sergeant Hugh Cairns, who had come to the 46th Battalion from the 65th Battalion, was awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously for his actions at Valenciennes on 1 November 1918. He was the last Canadian to win the Victoria Cross in World War I. The armoury in Saskatoon is named in his memory, as is a street in Valenciennes - the only street in France named after a non-commissioned soldier of a foreign army.

 

Original photograph on display in the Saskatchewan Dragoons Orderly Room. The Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan,
Sir Richard Lake (in top hat), inspects the
46th Battalion in front of the railway station
at the foot of Main Street in Moose Jaw
on 9 June 1919. The battalion was
demobilized later that day.

In turn, two former members of the 46th Battalion were awarded the Victoria Cross posthumously, while serving with other units: Private William Johnstone Milne, who farmed near Moose Jaw, while serving with the 16th Battalion, Manitoba Regiment (Canadian Scottish); and Sergeant Arthur Knight of Regina, while serving with the 10th Battalion, Alberta Regiment.

The 46th Battalion left France on 26 April 1919. After a month in England, it departed from Liverpool aboard the SS Empress of Britain, arriving in Quebec on June 5. The unit returned by train to Moose Jaw on 9 June 1919, marched up Main Street to the armoury, was demobilized, and passed into history. The 46th Battalion's Colours, and the King's Colour that had been presented to the battalion on 24 March 1919, were eventually "laid up" in St. Andrew's Church in Moose Jaw, and were lost when the church was destroyed by fire in December 1963.

 

Cap badge of the 128th Canadian Infantry Battalion (Moose Jaw)

The 128th (Moose Jaw) Battalion Canadian Infantry trained in Canada and sailed for England, where in February 1917 it became part of the 5th Canadian Division. In May 1917, the 128th was "absorbed by the 15th Canadian Reserve Bn" - that is, the battalion was dissolved and its members assigned to other units. Some were assigned to the 46th Bn, which was already in France. The 5th Division itself was dissolved in February 1918.

The Saskatchewan Dragoons perpetuates the 46th and 128th Battalions, and thus carries the sixteen battle honours won by the 46th Battalion in World War I.

 

Cap badge of the 210th Frontiersman Battalion

LCol Seaborn's widow presented his sword to the Saskatchewan Dragoons in 1960. Every year, the officer judged most proficient in the Unit is permitted to carry the Seaborn Sword on those parades where swords are carried.

The 210th Frontiersmen Battalion was raised in Moose Jaw by LCol W.E. Seaborn, formerly of the 128th Battalion. The Frontiersmen was an organization of "men who had experience of work or action abroad" who had "come together for comradeship and service to the State in times of need." The 210th was looking for outdoorsmen, men who were used to hardship, and had little trouble in recruiting them.

The 210th Battalion embarked for England in April 1917, but like the 128th Battalion, it was broken up and its men assigned to various other units, including the Remount Depot, the Canadian Railway Troops, the Forestry Battalion and the Royal Flying Corps. All NCOs and officers reverted to the ranks of private and lieutenant respectively when reassigned.

The 46th Battalion and the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles between them received 75% of the former members of the 210th. Of those who were assigned to the 46th, 52 were killed in action or died of wounds; 127 were wounded, and three were taken prisoner.

The battalion had laid up its colours at St Andrew's Church in Moose Jaw prior to embarking for England. The colours were destroyed in the same fire that destroyed the 46th Battalion's colours. The flagstaff heads survived the fire, and are on display in the Saskatchewan Dragoons Senior Ranks Mess.

Much of the preceding information on the 210th Battalion is drawn from an article by Barry William Shandro, Historical & Archives Section, Legion of Frontiersmen of the Commonwealth.

 

Cap badge of The South Saskatchewan Regiment

Between The Wars

On 2 February 1920 Moose Jaw gained an artillery presence. On this date, 10th Brigade, CFA, was formed with the 18th Battery, CFA in Regina and the 77th Battery, CFA in Moose Jaw. The brigade would eventually evolve into the present-day 10th Field Artillery Regiment, but the 77th Battery would not be a part of it.

The 95th Saskatchewan Rifles amalgamated with The 60th Rifles of Canada on 15 March 1920 to form The South Saskatchewan Regiment. On 1 October of that year, the regiment was reorganized into ten battalions, the 1st through 5th being active battalions and the 6th through 10th reserve battalions. The 1st, 2nd, 6th, 7th, and 8th battalions each perpetuated a battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force.

On 15 May 1924 the Regiment was reorganized into five regiments, each consisting of an active and a reserve battalion of the ancestor unit:

  • The Regina Rifle Regiment;
  • The Weyburn Regiment;
  • The Assiniboia Regiment, headquartered at Moosomin;
  • The Saskatchewan Border Regiment, headquartered at Estevan; and
  • The South Saskatchewan Regiment, headquartered at Moose Jaw.

This new South Saskatchewan Regiment was formed from the 2nd Battalion and 7th (Reserve) Battalion, which perpetuated the 46th Battalion CEF and the 128th Battalion CEF respectively. On 15 September 1924, the regiment was redesignated the King's Own Rifles of Canada.

 

Cap badge of The King's Own Rifles of Canada

On 15 December 1935, the regiment became The King's Own Rifles of Canada (MG) on absorbing B Coy, 12th Machine Gun Battalion of the Canadian Machine Gun Corps. The 12th Machine Gun Battalion, which had been created on 1 June 1919 with headquarters in Regina, ceased to exist on that date, and its perpetuation was assigned to the Regina Rifle Regiment.

 
PA163415
Canadian soldiers in the Aleutian Islands - Kiska, Alaska, August 1943.

World War II

The outbreak of the Second World War found the King's Own Rifles of Canada (MG) critically short of equipment, to the point where the influx of volunteers practiced drill and performed sentry duty carrying wooden cutouts in the shape of rifles. Many of its members transferred to 77 Field Battery, which was mobilized early in the war. At least three more ended up in the 1st Special Service Force, popularly known as "The Devil's Brigade". Former KORC member Major (later Lieutenant Colonel) D.V. Currie won the Victoria Cross while serving with The South Alberta Regiment.

The regiment mobilized on 29 January 1942 for coastal defence, with their name reverting to The King's Own Rifles of Canada on this date. The 1st Battalion was assigned to coastal defence duties in British Columbia until it was demobilized on 30 March 1946. Tradition has it that elements of the 1st Battalion served in the Aleutian Islands, part of Alaska, two of which were occupied by the Japanese as a diversionary ploy prior to the Battle of Midway, although this cannot be substantiated from official records. The tradition probably arose from the service of several members of the regiment with the First Special Service Force ("The Devil's Brigade"), which participated in this action. The 2nd Battalion served in the Reserve Army throughout the war.

All told, fully one-sixth of the population of Moose Jaw served in uniform during World War II.

 
LCol (ret'd) D.L. Calfas
A Saskatchewan Dragoons Sherman tank manoeuvres across open ground while another watches from the tree line.

LCol (ret'd) D.L. Calfas
Saskatchewan Dragoons Sherman tanks leave Camp Dundurn for the training area.

LCol (ret'd) D.L. Calfas
The band of The Saskatchewan Dragoons marches up Main Street in Moose Jaw.
Note the battledress uniforms worn by the colour party.

The Post-War Era

The 77th (Reserve) Field Battery, RCA was disbanded on 31 March 1946. On the following day, the King's Own Rifles of Canada became an armoured unit when it was redesignated The 20th (Saskatchewan) Armoured Regiment. The Regiment was renamed The 20th Saskatchewan Armoured Regiment on 2 February 1949, and The Saskatchewan Dragoons (20th Armoured Regiment) on 31 July 1954. (It is from this numerical regimental designation that the unit bears the Roman numeral "XX" on its cap badge.)

On 19 May 1958 the unit lost its Sherman tanks. The "20th Armoured Regiment" designation was dropped, and the unit became known as The Saskatchewan Dragoons. The unit continued as a reconnaissance regiment, using jeeps as surrogate armoured vehicles.

On 3 May 1970, the Guidon of The Saskatchewan Dragoons was presented to the unit by His Excellency the Right Honourable Roland Michener, Governor General of Canada.

1 September 1970 was a black day in the regiment's history. On that day, the unit was reduced to the status of an independent squadron - technically, "A" Squadron, The Saskatchewan Dragoons, with the remaining squadrons and the Regimental Band reverting to nil strength.

A brief revival of the armoured role began in 1984 when the unit received an operational tasking and began to train on Cougars. (The Cougar is a six-wheeled thinly-armoured vehicle with the turret from a British Scorpion light tank mated to it, intended for use as a tank training vehicle.) The four-vehicle Cougar Troop quickly adapted to "crash and bash" tactics, but the unit retained a reconnaissance troop to utilize those who could not be accommodated in the Cougar Troop.

This turned out to be the Unit's salvation when the Cougars were withdrawn to the Armour School in April 1989. The open prairie around Moose Jaw provides ideal terrain for reconnaissance training, so logically and logistically it has been a good move - in spite of the recruiting implications inherent in surrendering highly visible and relatively impressive-looking armoured vehicles for jeeps. The jeeps were later replaced by even less impressive-looking Iltis light utility vehicle. These in turn are being replaced by the SMP (standard military pattern) Mercedes-Benz G-Wagon light utility vehicle for reconnaissance, supplemented by the MilCOTS (Military Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) Milverado -- a militarized Silverado pickup truck -- for headquarters and echelon use.

On 12 June 1988, the Moose Jaw Armoury was renamed the "Lieutenant Colonel D.V. Currie VC Armoury" in honour of a late citizen of Moose Jaw who won the Victoria Cross at St. Lambert-sur-Dives on 18 August 1944 during the Battle of the Falaise Gap, while serving with the South Alberta Regiment, and who later served as the first Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel of the Saskatchewan Dragoons.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II approved the appointment of His Royal Highness the Earl of Wessex, KCVO, as Colonel-In-Chief of The Saskatchewan Dragoons on 22 June 2003, with the investiture held that same day. The investiture ceremony was a formal parade, in which His Royal Highness accepted the guidon from the Commanding Officer to symbolize his acceptance of the appointment. Participants on parade included a troop from 1856 Royal Canadian Army Cadet Corps and the band of the Royal Winnipeg Rifles.

 
2Lt Ron Kapchinsky
Tpr Ken Moore fights a forest fire in British Columbia in the summer of 2003.

Today

The Saskatchewan Dragoons is currently tasked to provide a reconnaissance troop. The Squadron also operates a second reconnaissance troop in Moose Jaw and a third in Swift Current, as well as a headquarters troop and an A1 echelon.

Members of The Saskatchewan Dragoons have been, and continue to be, actively involved in United Nations peacekeeping operations and operational taskings such as Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Bosnia, Croatia, and Afghanistan. The unit has also provided aid to the civil power, including contingents that served during the floods of 1997 and 2011, and 28 soldiers who fought British Columbia forest fires as part of Operation Peregrine in 2003.

Major ongoing projects include the quest for a return to regimental status and development of the sub-unit in Swift Current. With continued strong performance from the unit and with these projects in the works, The Saskatchewan Dragoons continue to display their:

ESPRIT D'INITIATIVE

 

Last updated 8 December 2011.

Copyright © 2002, 2011 The Saskatchewan Dragoons. All rights reserved.