149TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FORMATION OF A & B BATTERIES
Following the American Civil War, Britain’s policy was to make self-governing colonies responsible for their own defence and, in 1871, all Imperial troops in Canada, excepting the Halifax garrison were withdrawn. In response, Militia General Order No. 24 dated 20 October of that year, authorized the formation of “A” and “B” Batteries of Garrison Artillery and Schools of Gunnery at Kingston and Quebec City respectively. They were commanded by Lieutenant Colonels G.A. French and T.B. Strange, on secondment from the British Army, and manned by officers and men on attachment from Active Militia field and garrison batteries around a nucleus of instructors formerly of the Royal Artillery. They were very much “total force” units and their impact was profound.
As distinguished Canadian historian George F.G. Stanley states:
“… the Royal Schools of Gunnery at Quebec and Kingston, within a few years, provided the militia artillery with a leaven of well-trained NCOs and gunners which it had never before possessed. Owing to this, perhaps more than to anything else, the artillery established itself as the most efficient branch of the Canadian militia service and acquired a pride in itself which it has never ceased to possess. “
Today’s “A” and “B” Batteries of 1st Regiment, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery are direct descendants of the two batteries formed in 1871. The significance of their establishment transcends the heritage of a single regiment or corps – even one as large and deeply rooted as the RCA. Replacing as they did the withdrawing British Army garrisons, their formation marked a watershed in Canadian military history. Henceforth, Canada would bear responsibility for its defence commensurate with its new political autonomy. Thus, the 149th anniversary of this event is of historical importance not only for The Royal Regiment but, we would suggest, for the Canadian Army and Canada itself.