In Remembrance: A Military History of Swift Current
It is always fascinating when local history intersects with international history, and military history is an excellent example of this. From Swift Current's strategic importance as a supply route during the 1885 Resistance, to the bravery that young men here demonstrated during terrifying situations in overseas conflicts, it is very interesting when our story intersects with the stories being played out on the world stage. This exhibition chronicles the contributions that Swift Current and southwest Saskatchewan residents have made to various international conflicts, as well as our "Free and Fearless" volunteer militia who remained ready to serve for over 50 years.
Image: WWII-era Uniform coat, pants and helmet from the Swift Current Museum collection.
Swift Current Connections in Pre-1900 Conflicts
Hill Gregory is likely Swift Current's first decorated veteran. He moved to Swift Current in 1883, one year after the railway line. Gregory earned a medal while fighting in the Fenian Raids in Niagara, Ontario in 1866. The Fenian Raids were a conflict between Britain and the Irish-Republican Fenians based in the United States, and he wore his medal proudly in Swift Current.
1885 Northwest Rebellion
At the outbreak of the Northwest Rebellions on March 26, 1885 Canada had no professional armed forces. Instead the national armed services were made up of a number of regional or provincial militia units, such as the Halifax Battalion who were stationed at Swift Current for the duration of the 1885 Rebellions.
The Halifax Battalion was selected to join the fight due to their long standing service record dating back to the 1790’s. The Battalion received the call to action on April 11, 1885. 382 officers and men left for Canada’s North West later that afternoon.
Under the command of Major – General J. Wimburn Laurie, a veteran of the Crimean War, the Halifax Battalion arrived in Swift Current on the evening of Thursday April 23rd, 1885. The Battalion was made up of the 66th Battalion Princess Louise Fusiliers, the 63rd Halifax Rifles and the Halifax Garrison Artillery. As well stationed at Swift Current for a short time was the 7th Canadian Fusiliers of London Ontario who were later moved to Medicine Hat. The Halifax Battalion were assigned to guarding supply depots at Swift Current, Moose Jaw, and at Saskatchewan Landing.
Image (left): CPR Station at Swift Current in 1885: The Halifax Battalion tents are to the right. The newly constructed CPR was an important factor in the quick military resolution of the Northwest Rebellion.
The Boer War
The Boer War was a war in South Africa between Great Britain and the Dutch-descended Boers, and 7000 Canadians volunteered to fight for Britain. Several early Swift Current settlers were veterans of the Boer War, in part because Boer veterans were given scrip for free land in Western Canada in exchange for military service.
Some Boer War veterans who settled in and around Swift Current were: Hubert Clinton, recruiter for the 76 Ranch; hardware store owner J.A. Johnson; prominent rancher Jim Smart; Health Department employee Maurice Leavesley; Milwarde Yates, a pioneer rancher who started the Swift Current Sun newspaper; and homesteader Ben Williams. The last three men listed also fought in World War I.
Image: Ben Williams in his Boer War uniform. Williams farmed in the Swift Current region.
Formation of the 27th Light Horse
Swift Current's first militia, the 27th Light Horse, was formed on April 1, 1910. The reserve force was organized by Lt. Col. Tuxford. The regimental headquarters was located at Moose Jaw, and the three squadrons were located at Moose Jaw, Swift Current and Maple Creek. Swift Current's first lawyer, W.O. Smyth, was the Commanding Officer of the Swift Current squadron. Before World War I began, the 27th Light Horse militia trained regularly at Camp Sewell (later called Camp Hughes) in Manitoba, in order to be prepared for the outbreak of war.
Whether knowingly foreshadowing future events or not, the same issue of the Swift Current Sun newspaper that announced the death of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, (whose assassination put the events leading up to WWI into motion) also mentioned that the 27th Light Horse was up to "war strength" at Camp Sewell.
Image: Lt. Col. Tuxford organized the 27th Light Horse militia in 1910.
Caption: Officers of the 27th Light Horse, 1911
Caption: 27th Light Horse at Camp Sewell, 1914
First World War
The 27th Light Horse and World War I
Swift Current learned that Great Britain had declared war on Germany on August 3, 1914. The men of the 27th Light Horse were the first to volunteer to serve the Empire. Members of the 27th Light Horse were from all of southwest Saskatchewan, including Cabri, Pennant and Shaunavon. After many warm receptions and much fanfare at home, they left for training at Val Cartier, Quebec on August 23, 1914.
Image: 27th Light Horse leaving at the Swift Current train station in 1914.
Although some men who enlisted with the 27th Light Horse ended up transferring to other military posts, many of the men stayed together. They became part of the 5th Battalion, 2nd Infantry Brigade, 1st Canadian Contingent. After shipping overseas they were posted to Salisbury, England, for training. Some letters home depict the enthusiasm for going to the front. The 5th Battalion was posted to France in February of 1915, where their experience with trench warfare began. A group of southwest Saskatchewan soldiers, mostly from the 27th Light Horse, distinguished themselves at the Battle of St. Julien in Ypres in the spring of 1915, where they were the last to leave, and the furthest into, enemy territory.
Second and Third Contingents
Not all men from the region necessarily enlisted in Swift Current. Some young men enlisted where they were attending school, and others such as the well-known barrister G.C. Thomson, returned to their home countries to enlist. (Thomson enlisted with the Royal Scots and ended up losing his arm at the Battle at Gallipoli in the Dardanelles in Turkey). However, the region between Swift Current and Maple Creek, including the "north line" and "south line" railways, raised and sent two more contingents of men before they even began to raise a battalion.
The 2nd Contingent left Swift Current on November 29th, 1914 to train in Manitoba. Over 2000 people came to the train depot to see them off. They were attached to the 32nd Battalion, 2nd Canadian Contingent, which was made up of others from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The 32nd Battalion reached England in March of 1915 and were at the Front in France by May.
Image (right): World War I infantry uniform. From the Swift Current Museum Collection.
Recruiting for the 3rd Contingent began in December of 1914, and they left for Camp Sewell in June of 1915. They were attached to the 9th Canadian Mounted Rifles, a regiment with headquarters in Saskatoon. By the time that the local recruiting league began recruiting of the 4th Contingent in July of 1915, recruiting was becoming more difficult. Physical requirements were lessened slightly and the recruiting league attempted to look for men who had not been targeted in previous campaigns, such as rural farmers. However, the 4th continent was not yet filled by the time permission was secured to organize a southwest Saskatchewan Battalion.
Drilling and Training in Swift Current
Between enlisting and being posted to Camp Hughes in Manitoba for more formal training, men would train at Swift Current in a manner that reflected camp lifestyle as much as was possible. The Imperial Hotel was used as a barracks for the enlisted men. the basement of the Lyric Theatre was converted to a gymnasium and a drill hall. The roller skating rink on Cheadle Street East was also used as a drill hall until it burnt down in 1916. The soldiers would practice manoeuvres at the west end park or in Ashley Park. However, while marching to Ashley Park they needed to break step over the "swinging bridge" across the creek, or the weight of their synchronized marching would cause the bridge to sway so much it looked like it would break! Enlisted men were also invited to parties and gatherings at many local clubs, lodges and theatres while they were in town.
The Formation of the 209th
W.O. Smyth secured permission to raise a southwest Saskatchewan Battalion in February of 1916. It was believed that an entire battalion of men who were from the same part of the country would fight together with more loyalty and cooperation. 223 men had already enlisted as part of the 4th Contingent, which was to join the 128th Battalion, headquartered at Moose Jaw. These recruits were given the choice of staying with the 128th or transferring to the 209th, and 193 men transferred. By the 209th's farewell party at the Princess Royal Theatre on May 29, 1916 1050 men had enlisted.
Image (above): The 209th Battalion at Camp Hughes in Manitoba, 1916. The 20th saw 167 casualties, 429 wounded and 51 decorated.
Proud of this achievement, the local newspaper exclaimed, "When we consider the number of men who had already been raised in this district and sent overseas, there probably was some excuse in the thoughts of many who said another full battalion could not be raised; but 'where there's a will there's a way.'" They left for Camp Hughes on the train on Thursday June 1, 1916 after the men who had been amassing at Maple Creek and Vanguard met them in Swift Current. Live music, speeches, and boisterous fanfare from the whole southwest Saskatchewan community accompanied their departure.
209th at the Front
After training at Camp Hughes for a few months, about half of the men of the 209th were given leave to go home for the harvest, as many of the recruits were from agricultural areas. They were due back at the Camp on September 15, 1916. They sailed from Halifax to England in November of 1916. After they arrived in England in late 1916, Private Richard wrote home, boasting that the British camp inspectors had called the men "the best looking bunch that had come for a long time."
Image (right): This crocheted sampler commemorates the 209th Battalion, and the other Battalions to which men from the 209th were posted.
As they began to be posted to various places in France in December of 1916, the 209th was split up and posted to other Battalions as reinforcements. 120 men were sent to reinforce the 102nd Battalion, which went on to fight at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. 30 men from the 209th died in the battle.
WWI Soldier Profiles
Lt. Col. W.O. Smyth
Swift Current's first lawyer and judge, W.O. Smyth was very active in Swift Current's armed defences both before and during World War I. He was the Commanding Officer of the Swift Current Squadron of the 27th Light Horse, but could not leave with the 27th for Active Duty because as a judge he was not permitted to leave his post. He was appointed a Lieutenant Colonel in October of 1914. It was W.O. Smyth who secured permission from Ottawa to raise the 209th Battalion of southwest Saskatchewan men. Smyth defied orders to not go on Active Service in order to accompany the 209th Battalion to Europe for a few weeks before he was called back to Canada by the Minister of Justice.
Captain David Meikle
Cpt. David Meikle from Pennant was the first man from this region to be injured during World War I. He was second in command of the 27th Light Horse when they left Swift Current. He had joined the regiment in 1912. Meikle wrote several informative letters to the Swift Current Sun newspaper, informing citizens of the health and good spirits of the boys from Swift Current whenever possible. He was wounded in the hand in April of 1915, but was eager to rejoin his Battalion in the trenches. He was killed in action that June on the Somme front a few days before his last letter, extolling the bravery of the Swift Current men at the Battle of St. Julien, reached the Sun.
Private Maurice Leavesley
The first man from Swift Current to be killed in action during World War I was Pte. Maurice Leavesley. He was a member of the 1st Battalion Rifle Brigade. Leavesley was sent to the front on September 22 and was killed on November 27th, 1914. In Swift Current he worked for the local Health Department, and had two young children. His wife received a small pension from the City of Swift Current to help with expenses. He is buried in Belgium.
Image (right): WWI Memorial Death Plaque given to the family of Maurice Leavesley. This plaque was issued to the next of kin of all who lost their lives in combat during the First World War. On loan from the family.
W.G. Bilbrough and the Lusitania
W.G. Bilbrough, the Swift Current businessman who built the Bilbrough Block on the zero block of Central Avenue in 1909, was onboard the ocean liner the RMS Lusitania when it was sunk by a German U-boat off the coast of Ireland in May of 1915. Fortunately, Bilbrough was able to retrieve his life jacket and swim to a lifeboat before the ship sunk. 1197 people were killed and 761 survived.
Allan W. McIntosh
Allan McIntosh enlisted with the 209th Battalion. He survived the war but was seriously injured from poison gas, which caused long-term infections and kidney problems. He died on January 23rd, 1923.
Decorated Soldiers from Southwest Saskatchewan During WWI
Lt. J.M. Grant of Swift Current, SK - 27th Light Horse - Military Cross
Pte. M. Hagen of Admiral, SK - 209th Battalion - Military Medal
Pte. C. Maynard of Success, SK - 209th Battalion - Distinguished Conduct Medal
Major A.G. Mackie of Swift Current, SK - 27th Light Horse - Distinguished Conduct Medal
*This is not a complete list of decorated soldiers from the southwest during the First World War. If you have a name to contribute, please speak to Museum staff.*
Between the Wars
14th Canadian Light Horse
The 27th Light Horse Regiment was re-designated as the 14th Canadian Light Horse at the end of World War I. From 1920 through 1939, the Regiment played many roles. As a military unit, it held weekly training sessions and attended summer camps. Personnel were trained in cavalry tactics and how to train and care for horses. The Regiment filled a social function as well. Each year a Regimental Dinner and Ball was held at one of the Squadron Headquarters (H.Q.). Regimental Headquarters moved throughout the training area depending on the location of the home of the Commanding Officer, thus Swift Current, Maple Creek, Shaunavon and Climax were all the home of the H.Q. Squadron during this period.
Left: Trophy sponsored by the City of Swift Current for the winning squadron at the annual skills competition. Swift Current was Squadron A, Maple Creek was Squadron B, and Climax was Squadron C.
Second World War
16th/22nd Saskatchewan Horse Regiment
In July, 1940, the 14th Canadian Light Horse was joined with the 16th/22nd Saskatchewan Horse. The 16th/22nd was comprised of the 16th Canadian Light Horse and the Saskatchewan Mounted Rifles (formerly the 22nd Canadian Light Horse). All three had previously been cavalry regiments. However, they were mobilized to serve as an infantry battalion.
Colonel William Van Allen was the Commanding Officer. The regiment was stationed at several localities across Canada, including a brief few months in Ottawa where they happened to be filmed for an Air Force – Army sequence in the 1941 Hollywood picture “Captains in the Clouds.” The 16th/22nd was redesignated the 20th Army Tank Regiment in 1942 and retrained. It went overseas in June, 1943, where its personnel were dispersed to other regiments.
8th Reconnaissance Regiment (8th Recce)
During the Second World War the 14th Canadian Hussars provided reinforcements for the Canadian Corps in the field. The regiment mobilized on Jan 26, 1941, and was redesignated 8th Reconnaissance Battalion (14th Canadian Hussars) on Feb 11, 1941 (8th Reconnaissance Regt (14th Can Hussars) – 8 Jun, 1942. Reconnaissance is the exploration of an area, especially one made to gather military information about enemy positions or installations.
“I am certain in my own mind that if records were checked you would find that between D Day and the war’s end, 8 Recce had more action than any other unit in the Canadian Army. We were out of action only on the occasional day – as we were always holding river lines, etc. while the rest of the division rested or as the case on the Rhine – the infantry were re-training.” B. M. Alway
Commentary: Anniversary Parade – 17 Dec 1942
HO 1st Canadian Army
“A Squadron of the 8th Canadian Recce Regiment formerly the 14th Hussars of Western Saskatchewan. Although now mounted in armoured vehicles the regiment performs exactly the same duties of reconnaissance and protection that a divisional cavalry regiment did in the day of the horses.
Composed of scout troops, it can sweep the country with a screen of inquisitive armoured cars backed up by carriers full of highly trained speedy skirmishers. The carrier personnel are ready at a moment’s notice to vault from their carriers and rush into action and winkle out enemy holding up the armed cars from cover that is proof against the weapons of the armour.
This unit is a maid of all work and can not only recce and clear away light opposition in an advance, but can produce considerable firepower when disposed on the ground, and can impose, delay and harass superior forces who must deploy vastly greater numbers to attack it – then only to find that its mobile enemy has inflicted many casualties and much delay, and slipped off to the next position, ready to perform again.”
Directorate of History - NDH Ottawa
The Silver Salver
Brig Mann, as the first commanding officer of the 8th Recce Regiment felt a deep attachment for his infant regiment and while he was in command he purchased a silver salver and in the centre of it had the crest of the 8th Recce Regiment engraved. Around the outside he had engraved the crests of the 18 other units represented in the regiment. He presented it to the regiment on the condition that it would be taken into the campaign. It was and was highly prized by the men. The shield got nicked during one of the battles but the nick was not removed. It was left there as a battle honour. The salver is now in Canada, brought home by Lt Col BM Always who was a commanding officer during the campaign.
VIII Cdn Recce Regt 14 CH Battle Honours
Caen South Beveland
Falaise Twente Canal
The Seine 1944 Groningen
Antwerp-Turnout Canal Oldenburg
The Scheldt NW Europe 1944-45
Operation Totalize was designed to capture high ground north of Falaise as part of a larger plan to encircle and trap the enemy. “8 Recce, with a squadron of tanks from the Fort Garry Horse, a troop of flails (tanks with flails on the front for detonating mines) with 2 Div on their right and 53rd Highland Division on their right” performed a night attack using searchlights and tracers to move through the dark.
9 August 44 - One company of SS were still holding the town; snipers were everywhere.
“That evening, the town was heavily bombed by the enemy and showered with delayed action incendiaries. In an hour it was a flaming inferno and it was necessary for the squadron to evacuate. This it did successfully, amid the darkness and confusion, also being instrumental in evacuating large numbers of civilians. Such nights usually become only memories with the coming of daylight, but that night at Falaise is often discussed when the troops gather during leisure moments. It was a mad confused episode in their lives and to this day no one can understand how the Sqn managed to escape without loss of lives, vehicles or equipment.” p 7On 17 Aug, the Allies captured Falaise; 8 Recce were among the first to enter the town.
“A Sqn Armoured Cars, one troop of tanks and a company of infantry made up the group which was to force the entrance to South Beveland. This drive failed. All the cars were lost, all tanks were knocked out and the infantry suffered severe casualties. It was then apparent that this was to be a long infantry job and the Regiment withdrew to await the time when the infantry had secured the entrance to South Beveland.” P 19
An interesting and descriptive account of the approach to and the fighting on Beveland is the following narrative by Lieut LA MacKenzie, commanding 1 Troop:
‘Having been detached from “A” Sqn the Armoured Car Section of 1 Troop along with the Car Section from another troop contacted the Essex Scottish north of Ossendrecht. Late of the night of the 23rd of October we were told that we would be leading a thrust of tanks and infantry onto the peninsula of South Beveland in the area of the main Woendrecht-Goes road. The other troop was to lead a similar thrust on the main road itself. At first light we were to pass through the forward infantry who were dug in on the dike west of Woensdrecht.
The approach was made at night, in utter darkness and pouring rain, over a complicated route which led us through narrow and muddy roads. The enemy had flooded the countryside so that only the raised roads and dikes were above water level. Thus a vehicle that went anywhere near the road verges either bogged down or else toppled into a six foot ditch of water. With conditions as they were it was a foregone conclusion that some vehicles would be lost. Quite early in the approach the decision was made to have but the one thrust on the main road. As the other troop had lost three vehicles out of four, we took over the lead with three armoured cars, while the troop of tanks followed. We finally got onto the main road after a slight engineering difficulty which involved the clearing of a gap through one of the dikes. The main road was about twenty four feet wide running on the top of a dike which was about six feet in height.
Our first obstacle consisted of some tellermines which were laid on a board stretched across the road. These were removed without difficulty and we pushed on. After an advance of about sixteen hundred yards the lead car sighted twenty ‘jerries’ and shot them up as they tried to cross the dike ahead of us. More tellermines were laid on the road and as we could not get out of our vehicles due to enemy fire, we removed them by blowing them up with our 37mm. An anti-tank gun on our right opened fire and hit Corporal McGillion’s car. Both McGillion and Corporal Gavin were blown out of the turret but neither were injured. When in quick succession this gun, or guns, knocked out both Sergeant Mercey’s car and my own. Next in turn were the tanks which were all hit and knocked out like sitting dicks. The amazing thing was that the only casualty was one driver, Trooper Hedberg. We all lay in a bomb crater while ‘jerry’ mortared the road and laughed like a bunch of fools.’ “
“A Sqn*, maintaining its momentum, pushed on to reach the extreme end of South Beveland. Here they found that the civilians of North Beveland were crying aloud to be liberated. Major CRH Porteous, DSO, commanding “A” Sqn, scratched his head in thought and then obtained permission to make the crossing. Loading his vehicles onto every type of craft he could find, he led them onto the island. It was a motley invasion fleet that sailed that day and one that would have caused raising of eyebrows among the instructional staff in a school of combined ops. The enemy, taken completely by surprise, gave up after a short stiff fight and two hundred prisoners were taken. The Commanding Officer, Lt Col BM Always accompanied the invasion fleet. Lieut EF McLeod, who commanded the leading troop, was first ashore and dashed across the island to take the main town practically single-handed. He was awarded the Military Cross for his part in the operation.”
*Sqn = Squadron
D Day: June 6, 1944
Operation Overlord encompassed a 50 mi. stretch of the Normandy coast
Canada was to land at Juno Beach.
The attack began with extensive Allied bombing. 15,000 Canadian troops had the objective of establishing a beachhead along a 5 mi. stretch fronting the villages of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Bernieres-sur-Mer and St. Aubin-sur-Mer. They would then push inland to Caen, where the Germans had established a major communications centre. Obstacles included concrete gun emplacements, mines and obstacles on Normandy beach, powerful German Panzer divisions and SS troops who were willing to fight to the death.
In the pre-dawn 450 paratroopers were dropped behind enemy lines. Next came the powerful attack of the RCAF, followed by navy shelling. Over 7,000 vessels, over 4,000 heavy and medium bombers and 3,700 fighters and fighter bombers supported troops before and during the landing.
After years of training in Britain, 8 Recce was finally going into action. The 2nd Division landed on Gold Beach on 6 July 1944; 8 Recce were the first of the division to hit the beach. By this time, the fighting was well inland; the regiment moved to Carpiquet, a former airport where they came under fire for the first time and learned the value of slit trenches.
“At the crack of dawn the Regiment moved off with three sqdns up.It was a competition, with all the sqdns hoping to have the honour of effecting the first entry into the town.”
“C” sqdn was held up because of a skirmish with retreating enemy. A few mines had to be removed just outside of the city.
“A” sqdn were the first to arrive in Dieppe. “Thousands of wildly cheering people climbed aboard the vehicles, covering the crews with flowers and plying them with liquor. Two Frenchmen began taking the pretty girls up to the turrets of the Humbers where they were soundly kissed by all members of the crews.”A Regimental parade was planned; 8 Recce were disappointed that they were not allowed to wear their berets, which they knew would allow them to be recognized as Dieppe’s liberators.
Once released from active service, returning soldiers of the 8th Recce Regiment were welcomed home in Swift Current with a public parade and formal celebration dinner.
Image: Returning members of the 8th Recce welcomed by residents of Swift Current in December 1945
Royal Air Force Service Flying Training School No. 39
One of Swift Current’s major contributions to the war effort in WWII was its involvement in the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. Swift Current was home to an Elementary Flying Training School from July 1941 to November 1941, and a Service Flying Training School from Dec 1941 to March 1944. No. 39 SFTS trained men to fly at night and in formation. They simulated bomb raids and learned to fly using only instruments (with no reference to the landscape). Service Flying Training Schools provided the last courses before trainees received their wings. Men came from all over the commonwealth, but the majority were British.
Image (right): Airmen posing in front of the RAF Service Flying Training School sign at the Swift Current Airport. From the Swift Current Museum Collection.
The BCATP ultimately supplied more than 130,000 fliers to the air forces of the allied nations. This program is considered by many to be Canada’s greatest contribution to the war effort because it was instrumental in the defeat of the German Luftwaffe. Click here to watch a video on R.A.F. Aerodrome at the Swift Current Airport, created as part of the Stories of the Great Southwest series.
WWII Soldier Profiles
Joe Gregory - Dieppe > Military Medal
(Awarded for individual or associated acts of bravery on the recommendation of a Commander-in-Chief in the field)
Corporal A.J. Gregory, a sniper and scout attached to battalion headquarters of the SSR, advanced alone into enemy territory to pick off enemy snipers and this clear the way for those who followed. In between these sorties he kept defences organized at headquarters. Cpl. Gregory lost an eye in the engagement but continued his duties until the withdrawal.
Although 'overage' (he was a WWI veteran), Gregory was selected for the raid because of his map-reading and reconnaissance skills. Gregory also survived the sinking of four different boats he was on during the evacuation and retreat to England.
From the Swift Current Sun: "Swift Current Man Seriously Wounded"
"Lieutenant NT Irwin, son of Dr. O.M. and Mrs. Irwin, Swift Current, was seriously wounded by shrapnel in Normandy and is now in hospital. Lieut. Irwin, 23, enlisted with the 14th Hussars in 1941."
After the war, Noble Irwin followed in his father's footsteps in the healthcare profession and was a prominent member of many service organizations in Swift Current. In 1999, the Dr. Noble Irwin Regional Healthcare Foundation was named to honour his contributions to healthcare and other areas of society.
Douglas J. Burke - Italy > Military Cross
(Awarded to commissioned officers of the substantive rank of captain or below or Warrant Officers for meritorious or distinguished services before the enemy.)
Douglas Burke was awarded the Military Cross because of exemplary action in a number of situations. One that is well remembered is the assault on Point 253 in the Battle of Tomba di Pesaro (Gothic Line).
The IV Princess Louise Dragoon Guards history says "the advance was halted for a few moments because of a strong enemy position in and around a farm, machine guns making any progress past the house impossible. Prompt action by Capt Burke in command of the leading troops on the left, soon overcame and destroyed the position."
Burke recalled that heavy mortaring had left him with only a Corporal and ten men. "As soon as we started to advance we came under small arms fire and machine gun fire from the farm building on our front. C Squadron Straths tans gave us covering fire and put several shells into the buildings and machine gunned the German troops as they started to withdraw. Being previously armoured we were able to relate to the tanks. We used Bren guns with tracer to indicate where they should fire and worked far enough ahead of them so they could not be ambushed by anti tank rockets."
Swift Current's Military Presence After WWII
14th Canadian Hussars Militia
The 8th Recce was released from active service on December 1945 and the Regiment took on the role of a local reserve unit. Many overseas veterans joined as civilian soldiers and new members were welcomed from those with no previous service experience. Activities included regular drills and training of the men alongside a well-established army cadet program. Many used the Militia as a stepping stone to joining regular units.
Image (left): 14th Canadian Hussars in formation during a military inspection at the Armoury.
Image (below): 14th Canadian Hussars driving military tanks in the annual Frontier Days parade in Swift Current.
Regimental headquarters were in Swift Current, with squadrons based in Vanguard, Gull Lake, and Climax. An armoury was built in Swift Current (present day Recreation Centre) and served as a training centre. The regimental area extended from the South Saskatchewan River in the north to the U.S. boundary on the south; and from Chaplin in the east to the Alberta boundary. This area included more than 16,000 miles, the largest regimental area in Canada. The 14th Canadian Hussars Regiment was a fixture in the Swift Current community and often participated in parades and community events. A regimental band was formed in 1956 and continued to be a part of the community after the regiment disbanded.
Disbanding of the 14th Canadian Hussars
In December, 1967, the Government of Canada made the decision to restructure the country’s military services by combining the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and the Royal Canadian Air Force into one service: the Canadian Armed Forces. As a result, the 14th Canadian Hussars Regiment was reduced to zero strength and transferred to the Supplementary Order of Battle List. The Regiment officially disbanded on February 8, 1968. Over its nearly 58 year period as a military unit, over 4,000 men had been members of the Regiment.
Commanding Officers of the 14th Canadian Hussars Major J. Booker 1945 – 1948 Lt. Col. D. Burke 1948 – 1953 Lt. Col. L. McKenzie 1953 – 1956
Major G. White 1956 – 1957
Lt. Col. D. Burke 1957 – 1960
Major E. Reardon 1960 – 1965
Lt. Col. I. Clifton 1965 - 1968
The Swift Current Armoury was built by the National Department of Defence in 1954 and was turned over to the 14th Canadian Hussar Regiment for administration, training and equipment storage purposes. It contained a drill hall, sergeant’s mess, officers’ mess, men’s canteen and full-sized military garage. As recreation played a role in the training program, included was accommodation for a basketball court, 3 badminton courts and 3 volleyball courts.
After the disbandment of the Regiment in 1968, the City purchased the building and converted it into the Swift Current Recreation Centre. Early intentions to commemorate the contributions and history of the 14th Canadian Hussars Regiment were fulfilled on February 21, 2012 when the Swift Current Recreation Centre had its name changed to the Lt. Colonel Clifton Recreation Centre in honour of the last commanding officer of the 14th Canadian Hussars Regiment.
The Sherman Tank
A demilitarized Sherman Tank was brought to Swift Current in 1971 from the Canadian Forces Base in Calgary. It was put on display outside the former armoury building. Sherman tanks had played an important role in the military life in this area, with four of them being used by the Hussars for training purposes from 1955-1965. The 31 ton machine was to serve as a lasting memorial of the Second World War, and its use by the 14th Canadian Hussars. It was officially dedicated to the 8th Recce and 14th Canadian Hussars in a ceremony held on D-day in 1995.
Image (right): Dedication ceremony of the Sherman Tank in honour of the 14th Canadian Hussars and 8th Recce on May 5, 1998.
The Royal Canadian Legion No. 56
The origins of the Legion in Swift Current date back to the formation of the Swift Current Army and Navy Club, in September of 1916. All army and navy veterans were eligible for membership, and a club room was furnished. The new club held their first "smoker" that November, and there were about 200 veterans in attendance. The following October, the organization became a branch of the Great War Veterans' Association, which was organized Canada-wide in 1917. In 1926 the G.W.V.A. became the British Empire Service League, and began to be referred to as the "Legion."
In 1930, the Legion took over sponsorship of Swift Current's Citizen's Band, which had been active in Swift Current since the turn of the century. The Legion Band won some distinction throughout the 1930s. The Legion in Swift Current did not have a hall of its own until 1934, when it asked the City for the vacant lot north of the Elks Hall. The Legion moved an unused railway building to this lot in the spring of 1934, and the organization celebrated its fine new home. In 1948, the Legion was expanded when an airbase building was attached to the east side of the existing Legion, doubling its size.
The current Legion Hall was built from 1966 to 1967, although elements of the earlier buildings have been incorporated. It was built to be a modern structure with both a large public hall and a recreation area for members. The reading room has been named after the 209th Battalion.
Swift Current's Contribution to Modern Conflicts
The Canadian military was part of the United Nations force that fought to stop Korea from becoming a Communist country. Three young men from Swift Current who served in the Royal Canadian Navy were posted to Korea. Glen (Dutch) McGregor, Jack Caswell and Dick Lopeter were posted on a ship called Sioux. They took part in an evacuation under enemy fire, as casualties were flown to the ship by helicopter. Swift Current natives Jacob Batsch and John Rouzault both served in Korea with the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (P.P.C.L.I.), and Batsch was killed. LAC L. Myrhaugen of Leinen served in the Royal Canadian Air Force, and participated in the Airdrop operations in Korea. Women's organizations and some schools in the region put together quilts and care packages for the Korean people.
When the Korean War plaque was dedicated on the Swift Current cenotaph in 1995, the only Korean veteran in the region who attended was Reuben Stehr, also of the P.P.C.L.I.
Caption: Dedication of the Korean War plaque on the Swift Current cenotaph featuring Lt. Col. Iver Clifton and Korean veteran Reuben Stehr.
Many Vietnamese citizens fled their country after the Vietnam War in the late 1970s. The Government of Canada settled 50,000 Vietnamese refugees across the country. Swift Current received a group of Vietnamese refugees, often referred to as the "Boat People". The refugees were sponsored by a number of local churches, and members of the community were encouraged to help the families adjust to Canada. The Swift Current Multicultural Council distributed literature with titles such as "Food and Your Indochinese Family." Eventually, all of the "boat people" moved away from Swift Current, but it was Swift Current's first large-scale experience with immigration in the modern era, and the beginning of Multiculturalism.
Harvey Wiebe was born and raised in Swift Current. He spent his career in the Canadian military, from 1969 to 1993, working as a mechanic and a carpenter. He has been stationed all over Canada, from Halifax, Nova Scotia to Chilliwack, B.C., to the far north post of Alert, Nunavut.
Harvey did three tours as a Canadian Peacekeeper overseas. He spent 6 months in Egypt working for the United Nations from 1976-1977 after the Six Day War. He worked as a mechanic for NATO in West Germany in 1980 while the country was still divided by the Soviet Union. He was posted to the Golan Heights in the Middle East as a carpenter for the U.N. from 1988-1989, where he remembers seeing the damage to the cities caused by years of fighting. Being in the armed forces gave Harvey a chance to see the world while using his skills as a carpenter and mechanic to contribute to the stabilization of dangerous parts of the world.
The Letter Wall
Throughout the run of the exhibition, a bulletin board was mounted on one wall where visitors were invited to write a message to soldiers, past or present, acknowledging their sacrifice and commitment to Canada's freedom.
Students from a grade 5 class from Ashley Park School visited the museum on a field trip to view the exhibit and contributed many letters to the wall.
Stephanie Kaduck, Rachel Wormsbecher, Cindy Hoskin and Lloyd Begley.
Royal Canadian Legion No. 56
Saskatchewan Military Museum
Veterans and their families