The first battle the Canadian Expeditionary Force engaged in during World War I was the Second Battle of Ypres. However, a group of soldiers did participate in earlier engagements. These men were members of Princess Patricia’s regiment.
Who were the Patricias?
When World War I erupted, Canada had a very small army called “the permanent force”. This force had only a few thousand individuals, too small to serve the nation’s needs in war.
Princess Patricia’s was founded in August 1914 by Capt. Andrew Hamilton Gault. He offered the government a battalion that he would finance and equip. After receiving parliamentary approval, the government provided equipment.
Its official name was Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry.
The unit was named after one of Queen Victoria’s granddaughters. Her father was governor general of Canada, the representative of the British monarch, for five years during the 1910s.
The majority of the 1,098 men who served in the battalion had previous military experience, having fought in the Boer War and/or with the British Army.
World War I Legacy
The battalion entered the trenches in January 1915, having trained separately from the rest of the CEF. Lt. Col. Francis Farquhar, the military secretary to the governor general and a veteran, trained the battalion.
The first major battle the battalion took part in was the Battle of Frezenberg in May 2015. Gault was seriously wounded, and several other officers were killed. The battalion suffered 461 casualties.
In December 1915, the battalion became part of the 3rd Canadian Division but maintained its name.
At the beginning of the war, it was a largely British born (85 percent) force, commanded by British officers. By the war’s end, however, the officers were mainly Canadians from all parts of the country.
The battalion earned 21 awards and suffered 4,076 casualties.
Updated: 22 October 2020
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