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A Brief History of the Ontario Regiment

Adapted from an article by the late Capt (ret�d) Alex Hill, 1990

 

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The 34th Battalion of Infantry

The history of military units in Ontario County (now Durham Region) in the Province of Ontario can be traced as far back as 1837. In that year (1837-1838), an infantry company was formed in Whitby. Several years later, in 1856, a Highland Rifle Company was formed by Capt James Wallace, in Whitby.

Four years later, in 1860, this rifle company became part of the 2nd Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada. This battalion changed its name in 1862 to the Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto, (later the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada). The Whitby Rifle Company became Number 6 Company of the Queen's Own. However, an important change soon took place in the battalion.

The Queen's Own, because of successful recruiting, was able to fill its ranks in Toronto. The Whitby Rifle Company, therefore, became independent in 1862. At this time there were nine independent companies in Ontario County. These companies were sent to the Niagara area during the time of the Fenian Raids, 1864-1866. Following their service at Niagara, these nine companies were reorganized in 1866 and given the name, the 34th Battalion of Infantry, with headquarters in Whitby. Company headquarters were located at Columbus, Brooklin and Uxbridge.

Some members of the 34th Battalion saw active service later during the North West Rebellion of 1885, and the Boer War, 1899-1902.

In 1900, the unit's name was changed from the 34th Battalion of Infantry to the 34th Ontario Regiment (Ontario, in this case, refers to the County of Ontario, not the province).

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World War One: The 116th and 182nd Battalions

DOWNLOAD The 116th Batallion War Diary Download .pdf (417K)

When World War I began in 1914, the 34th recruited soldiers from Ontario County for various Canadian overseas battalions.

Enough soldiers had been recruited by September 1915 to enable formation of a full county-based battalion. This new battalion was assigned the number 116.

Despite repeated attempts to break up the battalion in England and France, 116th remained together and fought in Europe as a complete fighting unit and served with distinction with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in England, France, and Belgium, earning battle honours as follows: Somme, 1916; Arras, 1917; Vimy, 1917; Hill 70; Ypres, 1917; Passchendaele; Amiens; Arras, 1918; Scarpe, 1918; Drocourt-Queant; Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord; Cambrai, 1918; Valenciennes; France and Flanders, 1916-18.

The 116th's commanding officer LCol (later Major General) George Pearkes VC PC CC CB DSO MC CD won the Victoria Cross at the battle of Passchendaele.

During the war, a second battalion was also raised in Ontario County and assigned the number 182. Although this battalion went to Europe as a complete unit in 1917, it was broken up to provide reinforcements to other Canadian battalions that had suffered heavy losses at Vimy Ridge.

 

When World War I began in 1914, the 34th recruited soldiers from Ontario County for various Canadian overseas battalions. Enough soldiers had been recruited by September 1915 to enable formation of a full county-based battalion. This new battalion was assigned the number 116.

Despite repeated attempts to break up the battalion in England and France, 116th remained together and fought in Europe as a complete fighting unit and served with distinction with the Canadian Expeditionary Force in England, France, and Belgium, earning battle honours as follows: Somme, 1916; Arras, 1917; Vimy, 1917; Hill 70; Ypres, 1917; Passchendaele; Amiens; Arras, 1918; Scarpe, 1918; Drocourt-Queant; Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord; Cambrai, 1918; Valenciennes; France and Flanders, 1916-18.

The 116th's commanding officer LCol (later Major General) George Pearkes VC PC CC CB DSO MC CD won the Victoria Cross at the battle of Passchendaele.

During the war, a second battalion was also raised in Ontario County and assigned the number 182. Although this battalion went to Europe as a complete unit in 1917, it was broken up to provide reinforcements to other Canadian battalions that had suffered heavy losses at Vimy Ridge.

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World War Two: The 11th Armoured Regiment (Ontarios)
 
After World War I, the 116th Battalion reverted again became known as the 34th Battalion of Infantry and continued its training as an infantry unit another reorganization of the Canadian militia in the mid-1930s.

On the 15th December 1936, the unit, along with five other Canadian infantry battalions, was designated an armoured regiment within the Brigadier Frank Worthington's fledgling Canadian Armoured Corps and renamed The Ontario Regiment (Tank). It was with this title that the Regiment mobilized for war in 1939. The Regiment's named was changed to the 11th Canadian Armoured Regiment (Ontarios) in 1942 during preparations for its role in the Italy.

In 1943, entered action during the Sicily Invasion. The Ontarios fought with distinction through Sicily, on through southern Italy and into the extraordinarily tough battles in the Liri Valley, Ortona and Cassino. After a short respite after the fall of Rome, the Regiment moved into Northwest Europe and fought through the lowlands earning battle honours during the campaign to liberate Holland.

A second reserve Regimental battalion was raised during the war. Some of its members were utilized guarding German prisoners across Ontario and Quebec. Others members were sent to train at Camp Borden with some eventually seeing action in Europe the end of the war.

The Regiment earned the following battle honours during the Second World War:
Pursuit to Messina; Sicily, 1943; Colle d�Anchise; The Gully; Casa Berardi; Ortona; Point 59; Cassino II; Gustav Line; St Angelo in Teodice; Liri Valley; Aquino; Trasimene Line; Sanfatucchio; Arezzo; Advance to Florence; Italy, 1943-45; Arnhem, 1945; North-West Europe, 1945.

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Cold War Era

There were two more name changes for the Regiment after after World War II.

In 1946, the Regiment was designated the 11th Armoured Regiment (Ontario Regiment) and in 1958, the Regiment assumed the title by which it is known today: The Ontario Regiment, Royal Canadian Armoured Corps (RCAC).

During the post-World War II years, The Ontarios continued as an armoured tank regiment employing the Mark IV Sherman Tank. 

The Regiment was one of the last Canadian militia units to give up their Shermans in 1972 and was subsequently re-rolled as an armoured reconnaissance unit employing a variety of equipment including jeeps, the ferret (on occasion) and the M113 Lynx armoured reconnaissance vehicle.

The Ontarios were awarded the Freedom of the City of Oshawa and the County of Ontario in 1966. The Freedom of the Region was bestowed upon the unit by the Regional Municipality of Durham in 1979.

In 1980, the Ontarios were re-designated an armoured regiment, this time using the Cougar armoured vehicle. During the subsequent 25 years, the Regiment also maintained an Iltis-based armoured reconnaissance squadron or RHQ recce troop depending on its budget and tasking.

 

Many of the regiment's soldiers, NCOs and officers enjoy the unique distinction among their peers in reserve armoured regiments, having been trained and qualified in both armoured and reconnaissance roles.

With the retirement of the Cougar in the 2004, the Regiment was again re-designated an armoured reconnaissance unit, briefly employing and conducting trials on all terrain vehicles.

Today, the Regiment is in the midst of adopting the Mercedes-built LUVW G-Wagon as it assumes its armoured reconnaissance tasking.

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1990s - Present: Overseas Deployments

In recent decades, members of the Regiment have served on active duty with elements of Canada�s regular army including the 8th Canadian Hussars, the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Lord Strathcona's Horse (RC) at Canada�s former NATO mechanized brigade, based in Germany until 1994.

Several Ontarios have seen active duty in a range of United Nations, NATO, or European Union-led missions in Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia.

Most recently, members of the Regiment have deployed to Afghanistan in support of Operation Athena. Since 2003, seven Ontarios have served in theatre and returned safely to Canada. In August 2006, 1 captain and 5 corporals deployed to the region to serve on a six-month rotation scheduled to conclude in early 2007.

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An accredited Canadian Forces Museum

1000 Stevenson Rd N ● Oshawa, ON ● L1J 5P5 ● 905.728.6199  info@ontrmuseum.ca

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05.04.2012