Royal Westminster Regiment

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The Royal Westminster Regiment
The Royal Westminster Regiment.png
Active 1 April 1910 – present
Country Canada
Branch Canadian Army
Type Line Infantry
Role Light Infantry
Part of Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
Garrison/HQ

RHQ - The Armoury New Westminster
A Coy - New Westminster

D Coy - Chilliwack Armoury, Chilliwack, British Columbia
Nickname The Westies
Motto Pro Rege et Patria (Latin: For King and Country)
March The Maple Leaf Forever
Commanders
Colonel-in-Chief Major General Gerald Grosvenor, 6th Duke of Westminster KG CB OBE CD TD DL
Abbreviation R Westmr R

The Royal Westminster Regiment is a Primary Reserve infantry regiment of the Canadian Army. It is part of the 3rd Canadian Division's 39 Canadian Brigade Group and is based in New Westminster, British Columbia at The Armouries, located at the corner of 6th and Queens.[1]

Lineage[edit]

  • Originated 1 April 1910 in New Westminster, British Columbia as the 104th Regiment
  • Redesignated 15 December 1913 as the 104th Regiment Westminster Fusiliers of Canada
  • Amalgamated 12 March 1920 with the 6th Regiment "The Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles" to form the 1st British Columbia Regiment
  • Redesignated 1 November 1920 the 1st British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own)
  • Reorganized 15 May 1924 into three separate regiments: the 1st British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own) (now the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own); The Vancouver Regiment (now The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own); and The Westminster Regiment
  • Amalgamated 15 December 1936 with C Company of the 11th Machine Gun Battalion, CMGC and redesignated The Westminster Regiment (Machine Gun)
  • Redesignated 1 April 1941 as The Westminster Regiment (Motor)
  • Redesignated 7 November 1941 as the 2nd (Reserve) Battalion, The Westminster Regiment (Motor)
  • Redesignated 31 January 1946 as The Westminster Regiment (Motor)
  • Redesignated 6 October 1954 as The Westminster Regiment
  • Redesignated 9 December 1966 as The Royal Westminster Regiment[2]

Perpetuations[edit]

The Great War[edit]

History[edit]

The Great War[edit]

The distinguishing patch of the 47th Battalion (British Columbia), CEF.

The 104th Regiment Westminster Fusiliers of Canada was placed on active service on 6 August 1914 for local protection duties. Subsequently, the Regiment raised the 47th Battalion (British Columbia), CEF, which was authorized on 7 November 1914 and embarked for Britain on 13 November 1915. It disembarked in France on 11 August 1916, where it fought as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th Canadian Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion disbanded on 30 August 1920.[2]

Sergeant Filip Konowal, VC, 47th Battilion, CEF

A member of the 47th Battalion, Corporal Filip Konowal, received the Victoria Cross for his single handed destruction of a German machine gun position.[3]

The 131st Battalion (Westminster), CEF, was authorized on 22 December 1915 and embarked for Britain on 31 October 1916, where its personnel were absorbed by the 30th Battalion, CEF, on 14 November 1916, to provide reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. The battalion disbanded on 17 July 1917.[2]

Between the Wars[edit]

The Westminster Regiment[edit]

In 1920 the unit was amalgamated with the 6th Regiment (Duke of Connaught's Own Rifles) and in 1924 it was reformed as The Westminster Regiment.

The regiment was re-designated as a machine gun battalion and titled The Westminster Regiment (M.G.) in 1936.

Second World War[edit]

With the German invasion of Poland, the Regiment's 1st Battalion was mobilized on September 2, 1939, as a machine gun battalion.[4]

During the Second World War the regiment formed a part of Major General Burt Hoffmeister's 5th Canadian Armoured Division ("The Mighty Maroon Machine")[5] taking part in the Italian Campaign before being transferred to Europe and participating in the liberation of Holland. The 2nd Battalion, Westminster Regiment served in the reserve force stationed in Canada.[6]

At that time of mobilization the regiment consisted of Battalion HQ, A and B Companies in New Westminster, C Company in Mission and D Company in Chilliwack.[4] The Commanding Officer was Lt Col C.J Loat, with Major "Little Joe" Sager as Deputy Commanding Officer.[4] Major Sager became CO at the end of 1939.[7] On May 27, 1940, the unit deployed to Camp Dundurn Saskatchewan for additional training.[7] Late in September 1940 the unit was deployed again, not overseas as they had hoped, but back to Vancouver for winter quarters at the then abandoned Hotel Vancouver.[8]

The Westminster Regiment (Motor)[edit]

The unit was converted to a motor battalion and designated The Westminster Regiment (Motor) in early 1941. On May 27, 1941, the unit entrained at the CPR station in Vancouver for deployment to Camp Borden. At Borden the unit became part of the 1st Armoured Brigade, 1st Armoured Division.[9] The regiment sailed from Halifax on HMT Andes for Great Britain on November 13, 1941, exactly 26 years from the day that the 47th Battalion CEF had sailed for Europe from the same port.[10] The unit disembarked in Liverpool on November 24, 1941.[11]

Great Britain[edit]

The brigade and the division were both re-numbered on arrival and the Westminsters were now part of 5 Brigade of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division under command of Major General Burt Hoffmeister, based at Aldershot for more training.[11] Subsequently the unit was moved to Farnham, Hove, Pippingford Park, and Cranwich Camp Thetford, Norfolk.[12]

In March 1943 the Westminster's CO, Lt Col Sager, was promoted to Brigadier and given command of 4 Canadian Infantry Brigade. Command of the regiment passed to Lt Col RL Tindall, who had been recently second in command of the Perth Regiment.[13]

Deployment to Italy[edit]

On November 15, 1943, the regiment sailed aboard RMS Samaria for Algiers.[14] Next the unit was sent by rail to Phillipeville and immediately embarked on the HMT Cameronia for Naples, Italy where they joined the 8th Army.[15] The regiment went into the line and engaged in combat first at the town of Guardiagrele, near Monte Mariella.[16] The unit's first casualties were suffered on January 22, 1944, during patrolling on this static part of the front.[17] After eight days on the line the unit was withdrawn to the Sangro River on the night of 25–26 January.[18] The regiment returned to the line on January 31, relieving the 1/9 Gurkhas at Sararola.[19] During this action the Westminsters developed the tactic of sending out patrols by night to lay over behind enemy lines in a deserted house through the day, calling in artillery and mortar fire by radio and then returning to their own lines the following night.[20]

On February 14, 1944, Lt Col Gordon Corbould, a former Westie company commander and regimental 2IC, returned from his posting as second in command of the Irish Regiment of Canada to assume command of the Westminster Regiment. He would command the unit for the remainder of the war and through its hardest actions.[21]

Corbould Force[edit]

On March 1, 1944, the regiment was relieved from the line by the Perth Regiment and sent for rest in Roatti.[22] It was soon re-deployed as part of a battle group under Westminster CO Lt Col Corbould, known as "Corbould Force". The unit took part in the Battle of Monte Cassino, holding the line near the villages of Vallirontonda and Aquafondata, starting on April 11, 1944.[23] The unit was relieved on May 3, 1944, and moved to a rest area at Pignataro.[24]

Battle of the Melfa River[edit]

Major Jack Mahony, VC, OC "A" Coy, Westminster Regiment (Motor) at the Battle of the Melfa River (Photo from The Royal Westminster Regiment)

On May 11, 1944, the attack on the Gustav Line and the Hitler Line commenced with the Westminsters and the 5th Armoured Division forming the exploitation force, hoping to break into the Liri Valley and the assault on Rome.[25] The advance through the Liri valley included the Westminster's most famous action, the assault water crossing at the Melfa River. The Officer Commanding, "A" Company at the Battle of the Melfa River, Major Jack Mahony, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry and leadership under fire during that action fought in conjunction with the tanks of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). This action cemented a friendship between the two regiments that has endured since the Second World War.[26]

The Gothic Line[edit]

The entire division was relieved from the line on May 30, 1944, and carried out "rest and refit" duties near the villages of Baia and Latina.[27]

By August 1944 the Anzio Bridgehead force had broken out, Rome had fallen and the advance to the Po River commenced.[28] The Westies joined the fight on August 6, 1944, at Montefalco in the advance to the next German defensive position, the Gothic Line which the regiment engaged starting on August 26.[29] The unit was involved in the crossing of the Fogia River.[30] and the Conca River.[31] The unit completed the action on September 5, 1944.[32]

Coriano[edit]

After a few days out of the line the regiment was thrown into the Battle for Coriano Ridge, starting on September 13, 1944. The regiment prevailed despite heavy shelling and losses, being relieved by the 4th British Division.[33] The regiment was moved back for rest at the coastal town of Riccione on September 14, 1944[34]

San Mauro and the Rubicone River[edit]

The regiment was soon back in action, following more training. They were assigned to pass over the Uso River bridgehead held by the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards and take the village of San Mauro. The attack commenced on September 23, 1944, with the bypassing of San Giustina, which had not been captured and was held by stiff German resistance. "A" Company and "B" Squadron of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) led the advance.[35] The advance continued into the flat country under heavy fire to capture San Vito.[36] On September 25, the order was received to continue the advance and cross the Rubicone River, this time with the tanks of the Governor General's Horse Guards in support.[37] The attack ran into thick minefields and heavy shelling, but no German infantry and regimental casualties were few.

Porter Force[edit]

The Westminster regiment was assigned to Porter Force on November 10, 1944. This ad hoc formation was intended to work with Popski's Private Army and Italian partisans in the forward area south of Ravenna. The mission was to hold the existing line, put pressure on the enemy and advance when the opportunity presented itself. Regimental HQ was in Vincoli with "A" and "B" Companies in San Stefano and "C" Company in Gambellara. The action consisted of extensive night patrolling and night advances to contact the enemy.[38] The pressure forced the enemy back across the Uniti Canal and into San Pancrazio.[39]

The regiment advanced through patrol actions across the Ronco River to the Scolo Lama canal, where bitter German resistance was encountered.[40] Consolidating the advances by November 26, 1944, the Westminster's held a line of 7,000 yards (6,400 m), a very long front for a unit of this size in this type of warfare.[41] The campaign to clear the Po River valley was severely hampered by the Italian climate and the rain at this time of year turned the flat valley into lakes and rivers.[42]

The Porter Force membership ended with over 40 German prisoners taken and many more casualties inflicted on the enemy.[43]

Adriatic battles[edit]

The regiment was employed as part of the 1st Canadian Corps which was given the role in the winter of 1944 of assaulting over the Montone River, capturing Ravenna and the surrounding area, all with the aim of reducing pressure on the Fifth US Army operating near Bologna.[44] The attack was commenced at 0800 hours on December 2, 1944, and the unit captured the town of San Pancrazio quickly.[45]

After a month in continuous combat the unit was put under command of 11th Canadian Infantry Brigade and crossed the Lamone River in a night attack. The lead elements engaged in a difficult battle in the town of Villanova, where "A" and "C" Companies successfully engaged a column of German tanks with small arms and PIATs.[46]

The regiment was next engaged in the battles for the Naviglio Canal and the River Senio between 12–22 December 1944. Both actions were continuous and involved dealing with heavy German opposition in concert with the tanks of the Strathconas once again.[47]

On December 23, 1944, the regiment was withdrawn for rest at Ravenna after 43 days and nights of continuous combat.[48]

Villanova[edit]

The regiment returned to action near the town of Villanova on December 27, 1944. The action was to advance and take the town of Rosetta in the flat country of that area. The battle was against a formation of the Waffen-SS and the fighting was fierce against the determined resistance. As the Westie tradition dictated the regiment was not deterred and the objective was captured, the enemy forced to withdraw.[49]

The unit was relieved by the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Regiment and a squadron of the RAF Regiment on December 29, 1944.[49]

Conventello[edit]

Early in the New Year the regiment was sent to fill a gap in the line at Conventello and bore the brunt of a German counterattack in that area with the aim of recapturing Revenna.[50] The attack included massed German artillery and infantry attacks. The result was that the Westminsters in cooperation with the Strathconas' tanks and the Irish Regiment of Canada held the line and 200 wounded and prisoners were taken, with over 200 German dead.[51]

On January 13, 1945, the unit was moved to Fano and on to San Severino Marche for rest and refitting.[52]

Departure from the Italian Campaign[edit]

The Westminsters were dispatched to Livorno on February 21, 1945, and from there embarked on United States Navy shipping and conveyed to Marseilles, France. The unit mounted its own transport and drove through the Rhone Valley to Belgium, where they leaguered at Deinze.[53]

Northwest Europe[edit]

The regiment was deployed to Meulebeke in Belgium as part of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, now part of the First Canadian Corps, First Canadian Army. Most of the unit was sent on leave when the order came on March 17, 1945, to prepare to move into battle again.[54] The first area of operations was on the Maas River and Waal River lines near Nijmegen where the Westminsters relieved the 12th Manitoba Dragoons and commenced active patrolling and used the battalion mortars against the German positions across the Waal in Tiel.[55]

On April 5, 1945, the regiment was deployed to an area between the Waal and the Neder Rijn in conjunction with two companies of the 2nd Belgian Fusiliers.[56] This was in preparation for a major offensive, which commenced on April 12, with a move to Doesburg, just west of Arnhem. The division was given the task of exploiting the breakthrough created by the British 49th West Riding Division and driving to the Zuider Zee. At this point the unit's anti-tank platoon was issued Stuart tanks, unusual for an infantry regiment. The unit carried out a night attack across the IJssel River on the night of 12/13 April 1945 and passed through Arnhem.[57] Pressing the attack, the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, in concert with the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. During the attack Lt Oldfield won the Military Cross for the action of his "A" Company Scout Platoon in clearing a German position and taking 40 prisoners.[58]

The regiment attacked in concert with the Strathconas and the British Columbia Dragoons, capturing Deelen Airfield. The armoured drive continued against intense German opposition in fluid mobile operations, by-passing points of resistance to clean them up later. The unit advanced through Voorhuizen and Barneveld. German defences were in chaos and many prisoners were taken in the drive to Putten. When the operation had ended on April 18, 1945, the unit had covered 33 miles (53 km) and participated in cutting off thousands of German troops in the Amsterdam area.[59]

The unit commenced coast watching and patrolling near Groningen to prevent the escape or infiltration of German forces still holding the islands off shore.[60]

The unit's final action was the capture of the German anti-aircraft battery at Termunterzijl.[61] The battery's 128 mm guns controlled the whole area and the operation was hampered by the lack of artillery and air support. The action was hard-fought against stiff German defences built in great depth to protect the battery. Relentless pressure form the Westminsters forced the abandonment of the battery and the withdrawal of the remaining German forces.[61]

End of the Second World War[edit]

Hostilities ended in Europe on May 7, 1945. The unit was repatriated after a long wait for sea transport and passed through New York City, Toronto and finally to Vancouver by train. They marched up New Westminster's Columbia Street to Queen's Park where the final dismissal was given on January 19, 1946.[62]

War record[edit]

During the Second World War 4,236 men passed through the Westminster Regiment (Motor). Of these 134 were killed in action.[62]

The unit was noted for never having failed to make an objective assigned.[62] The Commander of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division, Major General BM Hoffmeister, described the regiment's war record as "a record of particularly outstanding accomplishment".[63]

Post-Second World War[edit]

The Westies lost their "Motor" designation in 1954, but gained their "Royal" title in 1966.[64]

In May and June 1948, The Westminster Regiment (Motor) provided aid to the civil power during the Fraser River Floods. This operation took place over three weeks.[64]

Then in 1954, the Major General Howard Kennedy Report was completed and made some recommendations to reorganizing the army. The report concluded the following: training would be required to be flexible, remove the coastal and air defence units, increase the number of armoured units, decrease the number of headquarters from 35 to 26.[64]

Between 1956 to 1964, the concept of the Militia units mobilizing overseas and contributing to those efforts was changed quite dramatically. Therefore, the role of the Militia was changed and the funding and size was reduced. The role in 1957 was changed to civil defence in light of the substantial nuclear threat. From 1964 to 1969 the Militia was further reduced in personnel from 23,000 to 19,000.[64]

On 24 May 1963 the Westminster Regiment was granted freedom of the city by the City of New Westminster.[65] and in Pitt Meadows, British Columbia on Saturday, Sept. 22, 2012.[66]

The Royal Westminster Regiment has provided personnel for many United Nations missions such as Cyprus (UNFICYP), Egypt (UNEF II) 1973–79, Golan Heights (UNDOF) 1974–present[64] and the former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR) 1992–1993.

Afghanistan[edit]

The regiment contributed an aggregate of more than 20% of its authorized strength to the various Task Forces which served in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014.[67]

Battle Honours[edit]

In the list below, battle honours in capitals were awarded for participation in large operations and campaigns, while those in lowercase indicate honours granted for more specific battles. Those battle honours followed by a "+" are emblazoned on the regimental colour.[68]

Great War[edit]

The Second World War[edit]

War in Afghanistan[edit]

Armouries[edit]

Site Date(s) & Architect Designated Location Description
New Westminster Armoury
530 Queen's Ave
1895
Thomas Fuller (architect)
Canada's Register of Historic Places; Recognized - 1987 Register of the Government of Canada Heritage Buildings New Westminster, British Columbia large, low-massed, rectangular Neo-Gothic style structure on a centrally located sloping site houses Royal Westminster Regiment

Badges[edit]

Cadet units[edit]

There are several Royal Canadian Army Cadets units spread across British Columbia which are affiliated with the Royal Westminster Regiment.[72]

Corps Location
1789 RCACC Agassiz
1922 RCACC CFS Aldergrove
2316 RCACC New Westminster
2822 RCACC Surrey
1838 RCACC Maple Ridge

Cadet units affiliated to the Royal Westminster Regiment receive support and also are entitled to wear traditional regimental accoutrements on their uniforms.[citation needed]

Royal Westminster Regiment Museum[edit]

Royal Westminster Regiment Museum
Location The Armouries, 530 Queens Avenue, New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada
Type Regimental Museum

The museum acquires, identifies, preserves and exhibits a permanent collection of military artifacts and memorabilia from the experience of the Regiment and its antecedents. The museum encourages within the community, a realization of the contribution to the community and the nation made by the Regiment and its antecedents. The museum`s goal is to imbue a spirit of pride and selflessness in those who continue to serve.[73]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Department of National Defence (February 2009). "The Royal Westminster Regiment". Retrieved 4 October 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ a b c d Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces. Volume 3: Combat Arms Regiments.
  3. ^ Oldfield, page 28
  4. ^ a b c Oldfield, page 3
  5. ^ Oldfield, page 135
  6. ^ Tripp, F.R.: Canada's Army in World War II, Badges and Histories of the Corps and Regiments, page 82. Unitrade Press, 1983. ISBN 0-919801-11-0
  7. ^ a b Oldfield, page 5
  8. ^ Oldfield, page 7
  9. ^ Oldfield, page 9
  10. ^ Oldfield, page 10
  11. ^ a b Oldfield, page 12
  12. ^ Oldfield, page 19
  13. ^ Oldfield, page 21
  14. ^ Oldfield, page 29
  15. ^ Oldfield, page 31
  16. ^ Oldfield, page 43
  17. ^ Oldfield, page 45
  18. ^ Oldfield, page 48
  19. ^ Oldfield, page 49
  20. ^ Oldfield, page 55
  21. ^ Oldfield, page 54
  22. ^ Oldfield, page 58
  23. ^ Oldfield, page 62
  24. ^ Oldfield, page 68
  25. ^ Oldfield, page 69
  26. ^ Oldfield, page 107
  27. ^ Oldfield, pages 102-3
  28. ^ Oldfield, page 108
  29. ^ Oldfield, page 111
  30. ^ Oldfield, page 113
  31. ^ Oldfield, page 118
  32. ^ Oldfield, page 122
  33. ^ Oldfield, page 123
  34. ^ Oldfield, page 125
  35. ^ Oldfield, page 127
  36. ^ Oldfield, page 129
  37. ^ Oldfield, page 132
  38. ^ Oldfield, page 136
  39. ^ Oldfield, page 139
  40. ^ Oldfield, page 140
  41. ^ Oldfield, page 143
  42. ^ Oldfield, page 145
  43. ^ Oldfield, page 146
  44. ^ Oldfield, page 147
  45. ^ Oldfield, page 148
  46. ^ Oldfield, page 161
  47. ^ Oldfield, page 163
  48. ^ Oldfield, page 166-167
  49. ^ a b Oldfield, page 168
  50. ^ Oldfield, page 171
  51. ^ Oldfield, page 172
  52. ^ Oldfield, page 179
  53. ^ Oldfield, page 181
  54. ^ Oldfield, page 182
  55. ^ Oldfield, page 183
  56. ^ Oldfield, page 186
  57. ^ Oldfield, page 187
  58. ^ Oldfield, page 188
  59. ^ Oldfield, page 192-193
  60. ^ Oldfield, page 195
  61. ^ a b Oldfield, page 196
  62. ^ a b c Oldfield, page 206
  63. ^ Oldfield, page xii
  64. ^ a b c d e Department of National Defence (February 2009). "R Westmr R - Post-War Era". Retrieved 4 October 2010. [dead link]
  65. ^ freedom of the city
  66. ^ Freedom of the City
  67. ^ http://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2014/05/09/south-west-asia-theatre-honours
  68. ^ Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces. Volume 3: Combat Arms Regiments.
  69. ^ Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces. Volume 3: Combat Arms Regiments.
  70. ^ Canadian Forces Publication A-DH-267-003 Insignia and Lineages of the Canadian Forces. Volume 3: Combat Arms Regiments.
  71. ^ "South-West Asia Theatre Honours". Office of the Prime Minister of Canada. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
  72. ^ RCSU (Pacific) (January 2009). "Contact Information Cadet Units in BC". Retrieved 2009-07-27. [dead link]
  73. ^ A-AD-266-000/AG-001 Canadian Forces Museums –Operations and Administration 2002-04-03

Bibliography[edit]

  • Oldfield, Major J.E.: The Westminster's War Diary, page 10. Mitchell Press, 1964.

Alliances[edit]

Order of precedence[edit]

Preceded by
The Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada
The Royal Westminster Regiment Succeeded by
The Calgary Highlanders

External links[edit]