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Victoria-based regiment marking 100 years of service

By TIM COLLINS September 28, 2012 · Updated 5:06 PM
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Capt. (ret.) Stephen Green of the Canadian Scottish Regiment stands surrounded by memorabilia in the military organization’s mess at the Bay Street Armoury. / Don Denton/News staff

As Capt. Stephen Green (retired) walks through the museum of the Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s) at the Bay Street Armoury, his pride in the regiment and its long history is apparent.

He points out the various artifacts on display in the museum, stressing that these are not just a collection of kilts, medals, swords and firearms. Rather, they are a testament to the more than 20,000 Greater Victoria residents who have been part of the regiment since its creation 100 years ago.

“These aren’t just souvenirs,” Green says. “These bits and pieces were used by real people.

“They carried these things with them, sometimes into battle. This is what’s left … and it helps us to remember the real people who sacrificed their talents, energy and often their lives to protect the country they loved.”

It’s appropriate that the selfless legacy of service and sacrifice to which Green refers is remembered on the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Scottish Regiment.

“When the regiment was formed in 1912, 200 men immediately volunteered. By 1914, when the Great War broke out, thousands had joined. This was at a time when … I’m not sure what the population of Victoria was … but it wasn’t very big. Yet all these men volunteered,” he says.

Photos of smiling soldiers and muddy battlefields are displayed in giant panels in the museum.

“These were very brave men,” Green says.

As a testament to that bravery, the museum also houses a host of medals and some of the 42 battle honours awarded to the regiment, including four Victoria Crosses, the nation’s highest military decoration for bravery. In an adjacent display case sits a large white cross, originally placed at Vimy Ridge, and a plaque that lists the names of the men of the regiment who fell in that battle.

As rich as the history of the regiment might be, Green says it’s not just the past that should be celebrated in its centennial year.

“The service continues – that’s the real story. This regiment is the embodiment of our community. It represents the commitment that our population has to standing by the principles of our freedom. They are all volunteers and always have been.”

At present, about 250 soldiers serve as reservists in the regiment, but they are anything but weekend warriors. They undergo constant training for the realities of today’s military, including the increasing incidence of urban warfare in civilian environments.

Members of the Canadian Scottish are also deployed to operations around the world. They leave their families and jobs behind to go off and serve.

More than 65 soldiers from the regiment have served in Afghanistan and in June of 2008, Capt. Robert Peel was awarded the Medal of Military Valour for action in that country.

“We’re proud of our past,” Green says. “But we’re just as proud of our soldiers today.”

Anniversary brings chances for public to join celebration

The Canadian Scottish Regiment’s 100th anniversary will offer various opportunities for people to share in its members’ pride. From Oct. 20 to Dec. 2, the Royal B.C. Museum is hosting a special display including the six Victoria Crosses associated with the regiment, and a host of pictures, uniforms and artifacts.

On Sunday, Oct. 21, the Regimental Church Parade will occur at Christ Church Cathedral in Victoria, followed by a wreath laying next door in Pioneer Square at noon. At 1:30 p.m. the full regiment, including members of the Pipes and Drums corps, will don full ceremonial highland uniforms and lead some 200 old guard (former) regimental soldiers and cadets from four Vancouver Island communities for presentation to Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra.

After the Princess, who serves as the ceremonial Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment, inspects the troops, a Freedom of the City parade through downtown Victoria will happen at about 3 p.m.

More information on the 100th anniversary celebrations of the Canadian Scottish Regiment and details of its history can be found at cscotr100.ca.

reporter@vicnews.com