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History of the York Rangers
Chapter XIV

Annals of the 12th Since 1885

SINCE 1885, the 12th has steadily fulfilled its periodical trainings which have been ordered biennially or annually or otherwise according to the caprice or poverty of the administration.

During the earlier years of this last quarter century of militia soldiering, the organization of our forces was depressingly modest,. There used to be officials called D.A.A G’s and D.O.C’s., and a modest brigade and a modest lieutenant-colonel brigadiering, and also some machinery which resulted in the company commanders of any rural corps (even as the company commanders of the older Flank Companies and Volunteer Companies) each bringing over to camp about two lieutenants, three sergeants, three corporals, one bugler, who could not bugle and twenty or thirty private citizens of leisure, but not means. Since then we have undergone tremendous changes of an almost revolutionary character by which we have read of not only brigades, but divisions and then the Canadian Army, and back to the Canadian Militia. The “battalions” have become “regiments,” while the gentlemen whose function is that of beneficially interfering with the regimental officers have been variously enlarged to colonels, brigadiers and generals.

And the complete and total result to the rural infantry, at any rate to the 12th, has been that at our annual camp the captains bring over to Niagara about two lieutenants, three sergeants, three corporals, the indispensible and inharmonious bugler and the twenty or thirty private citizens of the Empire.

The South African War

There was some little mild excitement when on September 16th, 1899, Lieut.-Col Lloyd, the then commanding officer offered the services of the battalion under his command in aid of the Imperial Government in the Transvaal.

The characteristic reply of the authorities wavers between flattery and irony. We give it in full as a model of official correspondence, in cases where the correspondent has no intention of taking any action.:—

To A.G. 084.500
From D.O.C., M.D., No. 2
Toronto, 29th September, 1899.
The Officer Commanding 12th Battalion.
The Battalion Offer of Services for South Africa.

Referring to your letter of the 10th inst., upon the subject named in the margin, I am instructed to forward for your information and action, a copy of the remarks of the General Officer Commanding, viz.:

2. The Major General Commanding will have much pleasure in forwarding the letter of the Officer Commanding 12th Battalion, in which lie offers the battalion under his command in aid of the Imperial Government in the Transvaal.

3. The Major General Commanding cannot refrain from expressing his satisfaction at the patriotic feeling shown by Lieut.-Col. Lloyd and those under his command.

4. I am desired to request that Lieut.-Col. Lloyd will be good enough to state more specifically the names of the officers and to give the exact numbers of the non-commissioned officers and men who are actually prepared to volunteer for service.

It appears to the Major General Commanding that the statement that the whole regiment is prepared to volunteer may not he in accordance with the feeling of every individual connected with the battalion.

By order

(Sgd) H. Foster, Col., C. S. 0.


The further information called for in paragraph four you will please furnish with the least possible delay.

W. S. Otter, Lieut.-Col.,
Commanding M.D., No. 2.


You will be good enough to furnish the Adjutant at once with the information asked for in paragraph four for your company.

T. H. Lloyd, Lieut.-Col.,
Commanding 12th Battalion.

While the response of the officers, non-coms, and men was hearty and practically unanimous the Government was not moved. The fact is the administration was stepping into the waters of Imperialism one toe at a time like a small boy going in for the first swim of the season. The recruiting for South Africa was at first merely permissive. It is only by degrees that the principle of Canadians taking part as a matter of course in Imperial wars has established itself; and there are even yet public men in Canada who repudiate the principle. In any event when the Government of Canada sends a contingent of active militia abroad, whether for service or ceremonial, there is only one proper system of making up the expeditionary force, namely by proportional represented on as far as possible of the various regiments. To select one corps would give the temporary advantage of regimental unity at the expense of the permanent disadvantage of slighting every other corps.

The offer of Lloyd raised some waspish criticism. One very unjust slander of that day was that the ranks of the 12th were filled during camp with members of the city regiments. Time has given the 12th its revenge. For during the camps of 1912, the city regiments having to undergo a camp found great difficulty in making a decent representation; while the 12th, as usual, was up to strength. The fact is that the night drilling population and the camp going population are two rather distinct classes and hitherto the 12th has organized the latter and the city regiments the former.

The regiment was not unrepresented by non-coms, and privates in the Boer War. The following were granted Ieave of absence for the purpose of such service:

B Company, Corp. T. H. Graham, Ptes. H. G. Brunton, H. Machin.
C Company Sergt. Jno. Fawcett,
E Company, Pte. Brettingham,
F Company, Ptes. Geo. Simpson, Jas. Davidson.

In addition to these the Quartermaster (now Major Gillies) folded up his own tent and stole away with Strathcona's Horse; returning with a decoration. Our present Adjutant, Capt. Dunham, joined the 12th after his war experience which included Paardeburg.

His Majesty’s First Visit

In 1901 the authorities in addition to the annual training called out the militia to give a reception to his present Majesty the King, then Duke of Cornwall and York. The streets of Toronto were lined with troops who stood for some hours amid a gentle but persistent drizzle which, however, could not damp their spirits. A review of ten thousand men in the Exhibition grounds gave the then Duke a fair idea of our military efficiency.

Apparently this output of 1901 exhausted the military resources of the nation for we had to be contented in 1902 with a “skeleton” camp in September, composed of officers and non-coms. Lord Dundonald introduced some novalties on this occasion. He made the officers hang their swords up in their tents and substituted picks and shovels. The redoubt built under his orders by officers and non-coms. would have been a good place to herd an enemy into and shoot their heads off as they showed above the sky line. The blisters on our hands inculcated a great lesson against building unnecessary fortifications.

Another profound lesson was that skeleton camps and other economic evasions of annual training will not serve; it took two years to get the regiments back to strength.

His Majesty’s Second Visit

An extra parade,—the Tercentenary Celebration, varied the monotony of annual training in 1908, when a selected company of the 12tli took part in the review of 12,000 militia on the Plains of Abraham. This composite company was captained by Major Allan now lieutenant-colonel, and under him were Major Curran and Lieut. Curran. The troops were reviewed by the present King, then Prince of Wales, and sympathetically scrutinized by Lord Roberts. The City of Quebec was much crowded with visitors during this celebration and the officers responsible for supply and transport were much worried. However, among the advantages accruing to a regiment that goes to camp regularly is that the officers and non-coms, know how to see that their men both get rations and make the most of the rations they get. Whatever discomfort other battalions may have endured, the 12th came back smiling.

Migrations of the Companies

The companies of the 12th have migrated a good deal; have pulled up their headquarters from time to time and taken other fields. Recruiting apparently has exhausted the soil of the county like a strong crop. Thus No. 1 has come in from Scarboro to Riverside, No. 3,4 which once was at King came in to Seaton Village, No. 5 successively occupied Keswick. Sutton, Richmond Hill and finally West Toronto Junction. No. 6 moved to Parkdale and No. 8 to Yorkville. No. 7 moved from Sharon to Sutton; thence it recruited one year in Scarboro and afterwards had its nominal headquarters removed to Weston.

They do not of late years appear in any instance to fly outwards, but rather to gravitate inwards to Toronto.

Toronto was made a city in 1834, and for military purposes appears to have been distinguished from the rest of the county—as a battalion division in 1840. The 12th has never recognized any exclusion of the city from the county and has never ostracised a recruit because he is a Toronto man. As the city has absorbed the young men of the county and also absorbed the neighboring towns and villages, the regiment has followed its human material even as the shepherd follows his flock. It is true that the Militia List still carries Riverside, Seaton Village, Toronto Junction, Parkdale, York, Weston and Newmarket as the homes of seven of the eight companies. But Riverside. Seaton Village, Toronto Junction, Parkdale and Yorkville are now in Toronto, Weston is rubbing elbows with the city and the Newmarket Company has moved down Yonge Street, and is now recruited in the district which is shortly to be annexed.

The Aurora Company still stands as a creditable example of what can be done in a country town by an enthusiastic captain. But of the bulk of the regiment we may say that it has filled a want in the community by organizing the camp-going population of Toronto into soldierly material.

Our Splendid Armouries

This restless itinerancy of the companies has its penalties; the vagrants are homeless. The Armouries of the 12th have the merits of variety and improvisation. Outside of the buildings at Aurora used by No. 2 Company, the company

commanders in selecting or accepting their quarters have for consolation of the ancient maxim “better the worst shelter than the best bivouac.” The county authorities take refuge behind a profound mistrust of militarism and contribute nothing to the militia. The City of Toronto is more good natured and has granted the temporary use of various odd corners in its buildings where the captains can store their forty-two rifles and their stocks of coats, overcoats, canteens, water bottles, and all other the pomp of glorious war entrusted to their charge. This does not help recruiting and makes it cruelly difficult for the zealous officer to keep his men together between camps. For it is not easy to enjoy club and gymnasium privileges in a room without heating or lighting, and through whose flooring comes up the reek of horse manure from the city stables below. Can nothing be done?

The 12th As It Now Is

Of its present state as a camp-going regiment we may say that the 12th was never in better fettle. At Niagara this year (1912) the regiment was not a non-com. or man short of strength. On a few minutes notice it furnished headquarters with a guard of honor of one hundred men who went through the ceremonies like regulars. Since the camp, on short notice, it sent to the Thanksgiving manoeuvres two good companies. Whatever part or duty may be assigned to it, this regiment is willing to undertake. To what extent it is capable of performance we shall let others say. Not ourselves., but the Military Gazette, has written concerning the Niagara Camps of 1911:—

“In the first camp there was but one regiment in really satisfactory shape, the 12th York Rangers.

“Now this regiment is recruited almost exclusively from the large population of Toronto, and is a rural corps in little more than name. It is a shining example of what a city corps, for this it is, to all intents and purposes, can do, when given its training in camp instead of in and near an armoury. With all the smartness and exactness of the city corps it has also the practical knowledge of field work which comes of many year’s training in the open, with the resultant well experienced officers and non-coms. We believe that this corps, enjoying as it does such special advantages, is the best working aggregation of militia men in Canada.”

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