4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards
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|4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards|
Badge of the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards
|Patron||Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll|
|Motto(s)||Pro aris et focis (For our altars and for our homes)|
|Colors||Blue tunics with white facings|
|March||"Men of Harlech" and "God Bless the Prince of Wales"|
Several independent troops of cavalry in the Province of Canada's volunteer militia were formed in the Kingston area starting in 1855. Four of these troops (in Kingston, Napanee, Loughborough and Picton) were united under a regimental headquarters in 1875, becoming the 4th Provisional Regiment of Cavalry. This regiment adopted hussar uniforms (with buff facings) and hussar customs in 1893.
Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the city's independent cavalry troop (formed in 1872) came under the patronage of the Princess Louise, Marchioness of Lorne, during her time there as vice-regal consort (1878–80), and the troop was expanded to an independent squadron named the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards. During the Second Boer War, volunteers from the squadron fought with the Imperial forces in South Africa. The squadron was again expanded into a regiment in 1903 as the 5th "Princess Louise Dragoon Guards".
The 4th Hussars and the 5th PLDG were not mobilized in the First World War, but they both contributed volunteers to and aided in the recruiting of the 8th Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles. The 8th CMR did not enter combat as a unit, its personnel being absorbed by the reserves in England and the 4th Battalion, Canadian Mounted Rifles, in France, but enough of its former members fought at the Battle of Mount Sorrel that the regiment qualified for a battle honour, which the PLDG perpetuates.
In the 1936 reorganization of the Militia, the PLDG and the 4th Hussars were amalgamated as the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards.
Second World War
The 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards was a Militia Regiment activated for Wartime Service with the Canadian Army (Active) in 1941. A former cavalry regiment with roots in the Ottawa area that dated back to the late 1800s it was assigned to the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps which itself had been activated in 1940. In 1942 it was redesignated the 4th Reconnaissance Regiment (4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards), the same year the first of its soldiers sailed for the United Kingdom where 4th PLDG joined 1st Canadian Infantry Division at Camp Aldershot.
4th Recce immediately began expanding its ranks, taking volunteers from infantry regiments serving in the United Kingdom and a steady flow of reinforcements from Canada. Four squadrons were eventually raised in addition to the Regimental HQ Squadron. A reserve squadron, based in Ottawa continued to provide reinforcements throughout the war as well.
"A" Squadron of 4th PLDG landed in Sicily on July 13, 1943, as part of the Follow Up Forces. Only "A" Squadron, commanded by Major Arthur Duck actually took part in the Sicily fighting. B and C Squadrons were not fully equipped with the requisite number of "Otter" Light, and "Fox" Heavy Reconnaissance Cars and Universal Carriers until October, when the regiment was serving on the Italian mainland. D Squadron was raised that winter when heavy rains and freezing temperatures rendered the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards' vehicles all but useless and the personnel from the latter squadron patrolled their sector on horseback instead.
4th PLDG took part in virtually all of the major actions in the campaign, which lasted just 38 days. The regiment landed at Reggio di Calabria, on the Italian mainland on September 3, 1943, on the heels of 3rd Canadian Infantry Brigade and immediately began providing 1st Canadian Infantry Division Headquarters with information with regard to the ground to the north including the condition of roads and bridges and the location and strength of enemy forces. Each of the squadrons was composed of three scout troops and assault troop, equipped with a combination of Otter Light Reconnaissance Cars and Fox Heavy Reconnaissance Cars. The Fox had a revolving turret fitted with a .50 calibre Browning machine gun as well as a Bren. 303 calibre light machine gun. The Otter mounted a single Bren as did the Universal Carriers used to transport the Scout and Assault Troops.
When a reporter asked squadron commander Major Harold Parker as to what he and his men did in Italy he replied: "We keep driving until the enemy shoots at us. Then we know he is there". Parker was doing just that when his armoured car was struck by a 75mm shell on the Torella-Duronia road. The major was killed and his crew badly wounded. The scouts, frequently operated well behind enemy lines: During the Hitler Line battles in May 1944 Sergeant Hubert Ditner, a farmer from Petersburg, Ontario, and his men took the opportunity to catch a few hours sleep in a roadside ditch. He awoke to find that his section was sharing it with grenadiers from 44th Hoch und Deutschmeister Division. Ditner, who spoke fluent German managed to get all ten to surrender without firing a shot.In a letter to his younger brother Ditner confessed that he "didn't know who was shaking more, Jerry or me."
One of the most notable engagements fought by 4th PLDG took place at Miglionico. A pair of Assault Troops, under Lieutenant Don White used a rail tunnel to infiltrate the rear area of positions held by Oberst Ludwig Heilmann's 3rd Fallschirmjager Regiment and launch the attack that killed an estimated 50 paratroopers and destroyed several trucks, an armoured car and a large quantity of ammunition.
All three squadrons were active, on the Italian mainland by the time 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards was transferred to the Infantry Corps. The regiment was assigned to 12th Infantry Brigade of the recently arrived 5th Armoured Division on July 13, 1944. The decision was the result of 8th Army commander General Montgomery's concern that the division lacked the sufficient number of infantry battalions to protect the division's tanks against attacks by enemy infantry armed with shoulder fired anti-tank weapons and self-propelled guns. The regiment, having established a reputation for courage and tenacity while operating as scouts, soon distinguished itself in its new role. It was ordered to take Monte Peloso on September 1, 1944, also known as Point 253. The hill, part of the enemy's Gothic Line was targeted by 1st Division's gunners for the better part of an hour before C-Squadron began closing on the position at 13:10. As the Princess Louise began climbing it they ran headlong into patatroopers from 3rd Fallschirmjager Regiment, preparing to mount a counterattack on nearby Point 204 and there was a furious, close-quarters gun battle prior to Lord Strathcona's Horse joining 4th PLDG in the assault on the main German defences, a handful of farm buildings midway up the slope. The Shermans blasted the startled paratroopers from the buildings and the waiting Princess Louise cut them down with small arms fire. By last light Point 253 was in Canadian hands. The first battle as infantry had cost the regiment dearly, however: 35 men were dead and another 94 wounded.
A message penned by 8th Army's commander, General Leese, congratulated the Princess Louise for their victory, made that much more remarkable based on the unit's very brief training as infantry.
On a humorous note, members of the unit were once urged by General Simonds (GOC 1st Canadian Infantry Division) to beat a U.S. Army unit into the Sicilian village of Enna and thus take credit for its capture. A mixed bag of NCO's and troopers mounted their armoured cars and headed for the town only to be halted by a demolished culvert. Not to be denied, the soldiers commandeered a mule and continued the race arriving in the village just as troops from 1st Infantry Division did so. Though the weary Canadians were only too happy to clamber aboard one of the latter unit's jeeps and ride the rest of the way into town, the regimental history of the 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards maintains that Corporal Jackson was first to dismount in Enna's piazza rendering the Canadian Army as the rightful liberators of the town.
The regiment was returned to its reconnaissance role, and Armoured Corps status on 15 March 1945 and finished the war in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, after being transferred to the theatre as part of Operation Goldflake. Fighting in a number of engagements with the heavily armoured German divisions as they fled, a role the unit had performed with some distinction in Italy, 4th PLDG suffered heavy losses. Battlefield deaths, all ranks, for the entire year of 1944 were 150. In the four months 4th Recce fought in North West Europe, a third of the time it was in Italy, it lost some 187 men (4th PLDG History Page 306).
The 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards was moved to the Supplementary Order of Battle of the Canadian Army in 1965.
In the list below, battle honours in small capitals were awarded for participation in large operations and campaigns, while those in lowercase indicate honours granted for more specific battles. The battle honours in bold type are emblazoned on the regimental standard.
- South African War
- First World War
- Second World War
Uniform and traditions
Though transferred to the infantry in July 1944, 4th PLDG retained the black beret of the Canadian Armoured Corps and continued to refer to its sub-units as "squadrons" and "troops" instead of "companies" and "platoons"; the traditional infantry designation. Its motto was "For Our Altars and Our Homes".
- "Herbie" the cartoon soldier that appeared in the Canadian Army's newspaper, The Maple Leaf, was the brainchild of Sergeant William Garnet "Bing" Coughlin of 4th PLDG.
- Major-General Harry Wickwire Foster (Harold Wickwire Foster), commander of both 4th Canadian Armoured Division (North West Europe) and 1st Canadian Infantry Division (Italy). In 1941, (then) Lieutenant Colonel Foster assumed command of 4th Reconnaissance Regiment - 4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, the recently activated scout formation assigned to 1st Canadian Infantry Division in England.
- "Dress Regulations for the Officers of the Canadian Militia". Militia Department. 1907. p. 18. Retrieved 29 October 2012.
- canadiansoldiers.com armoured regiment listing
- "4th Princess Louise Dragoon Guards". Volume 3, Part 1: Armour, Artillery and Field Engineer Regiments – Armour Regiments. Directorate of History and Heritage. Retrieved 26 October 2012.