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Eastern Canada Volunteer Cavalry, 1896-1914

August 23, 2015
by René Chartrand
The following text and artwork originally appeared in the Journal of the Company of Military Historians, as part of their Military Uniforms in America series.
In the 1890s and early 1900s, large numbers of immigrants came to Canada. One of the results of this increase in the nation’s population was the organization of new regiments of volunteer militia, especially cavalry units. While the majority of the new regiments of volunteer cavalry were raised in the newly settled western provinces (see MUIA 852), a substantial number were also raised in the east and joined the older units already existing there. Thus, from 1903, the 7th Hussars (Bury, Québec), the 9th Mississauga Horse (Ontario), the 11th Hussars (Richmond, Québec), the 13th Scottish Dragoons (Waterloo, Québec), the 14th Hussars (1904, Middleton, Nova Scotia), the 17th Duke of York’s Canadian Hussars (1907, Montréal), the 24th Grey’s Horse (1908, Ingersoll, Ontario), the 25th Brandt Dragoons (1909, Brantford, Ontario), the 26th Stanstead Dragoons (1910, Coaticook, Québec), the 28th New Brunswick Dragoons (St. John, New Brunswick), the 33rd Vaudreuil and Soulanges Hussars (1912, Vaudreuil, Québec) and the 36th Prince Edward Island Light Horse (existing since 1901, but numbered in 1913, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island) were organized as regiments. They joined the Governor General’s Body Guard (Toronto), the 1st Hussars (London, Ontario), the 2nd Dragoons (Burford, Ontario), the 3rd Prince of Wales Dragoons (Cobourg, Ontario), the 4th Hussars (Kingston, Ontario), the 5th Princess Louise Dragoons (Ottawa, Ontario), the 6th Royal Canadian Hussars (Montréal) and the 8th Princess Louise’s New Brunswick Hussars (Sussex, New Brunswick).
Units in eastern Canada wore uniforms that followed closely the styles worn in the British Army’s cavalry, although some units might have differences regarding some items of dress. By 1904-1905, the “pillbox” undress caps were being replaced by the dark blue “naval pattern” peaked caps with a white cover worn in the summer. All had pantaloons made of sturdy brownish tan “Bedford” cord.
Canadian hussar regiments all wore the same uniform, that of the 13th British Hussars, whose full dress was dark blue with a buff (actually white) collar, double trouser stripes, Busby bag and plume, all decorated with yellow cords. Some regiments had white pith helmets in full dress in the 1890s, but many units replaced them with fur Busbies in the early 1900s. In practice, because of the cost of full dress, most hussars wore the all dark blue serge frock introduced in 1896, which had a yellow crow’s foot at the cuffs and yellow piping edging the bottom of the collar, with a dark blue peaked cap having a white band and piping. Our hussar figure is based on a photo of a trooper of Montréal’s 6th Hussars shown in full dress.
Other cavalry units all wore various types of dragoon uniforms; some had dark blue tunics (all of which were faced with white), others had scarlet tunics with distinctive regimental facings. All had dark blue trousers with white or yellow stripes. A few units had a squadron or a squad or just some officers in full dress while most men wore serge frocks and peaked caps. For regiments wearing dark blue, the serge frock was the same as for hussars. For regiments wearing scarlet, their scarlet serge frock had a collar of the facing colors (all had yellow facings except myrtle green for the 9th and black for the 26th). From 1909, all frocks had shoulder straps of the facing color. A few of the lesser known units are here presented.
The famous Governor General’s Body Guard in Toronto had the title, but the unit that did the actual work of escorting the Governor General of Canada in Ottawa, the nation’s capital, was the 5th Princess Louise Dragoons. Since the 1870s, it had a full dress dark blue tunic with white collar, cuffs and piping, brass/gilt buttons, dark blue trousers with white double stripes, brass helmets with a white horse hair plume. Its undress dark blue peaked cap had a scarlet band and piping, a unique distinction granted to this unit.
The 26th Stanstead Dragoons, or at least some of its officers, wore the full dress scarlet tunic with black velvet collar, cuffs and piping, gilt buttons, dark blue trousers with a broad yellow stripe, gilded helmet and badge (except for enameled center and silver scroll) with a black over white hair plume.
Officers of the 36th Prince Edward Island Light Horse were dressed as dragoons. Full dress consisted of a scarlet tunic with yellow collar, cuffs and piping, gilt buttons, dark blue trousers with a broad yellow stripe. Instead of expensive gilt helmets, the volunteer officers opted for a white colonial pattern helmet with gilt regimental badge, chin strap and spike surmounted by a red over white hair plume. The NCOs and men wore the scarlet serge frock, dark blue trousers with a yellow stripe and peaked caps of dark blue with yellow bands and piping.
Art: Robert Marrion

Art: Robert M. Marrion

  • Canadian Militia List, published annually in Ottawa, years 1902 to 1914 ; Regulations for the Clothing of the Canadian Militia, Part II (Ottawa : Government Printing Office, 1909), pp. 37-38; for officer’s uniforms, see: David Ross and René Chartrand, ed., Canadian Militia Dress Regulations 1907 illustrated, with amendments to 1914 (St. John: The New Brunswick Museum, 1980). See the text of MUIA 852 for arms, accouterments and equipment.
  • Regimental uniform notes taken in the Benson Freeman Collection, Army Museums Ogilby Trust, London, England (now closed) by the late Gen. Jack L. Summers in 1972, and transmitted to the author; “Short History of the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards”, The Salute, January 1936, pp. 11-14; William Y. Carman, “26th Canadian Horse (Stanstead Dragoons)”, The Bulletin of the Military Historical Society, August, 1985, pp. 26-28; 36th PEI Light Horse helmet in Worthington Museum, Canadian Forces Base Borden, Ontario; silken prints of Canadian uniforms done in 1913 for the Tuckett’s Tobacco Company of Hamilton, Ontario.

See the related article on Canadian Western Cavalry uniforms

From → Uniforms

  1. They did know how to dress in those days.

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  1. Canadian Western Cavalry 1903–1914 | MilArt

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