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“That’s what we call the Ric-A-Dam-Doo”

For the Week of Monday, January 2, 2017

On January 4, 1915, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) became the first Canadian regiment sent to the front in the First World War. The men went into battle with their red, gold, and royal blue regimental flag (also called colours), a symbol of the regiment’s unique royal connection.

Princess Patricia reviewing the PPCLI in England just before her wedding
© Library and Archives Canada / Government of Canada / 3397727

Montreal executive Hamilton Gault formed the PPCLI in Ottawa on August 10, 1914. Lieutenant Colonel Francis D. Farquhar was appointed commander of the regiment. Farquhar immediately proposed to name the regiment after the Governor General’s daughter, Princess Patricia of Connaught, who readily accepted. As a sign of her support for the new regiment, Princess Patricia hand-sewed the PPLCI’s regimental colours, which the regiment affectionately named the “Ric-A-Dam-Doo.” The origins of this name have never been confirmed, but the current theory is that it comes from Fhreiceadan Dubh, the Gaelic name for the Black Watch, a regiment to which Gault had a personal connection. Many Canadians might be surprised to learn that this regimental flag is the inspiration behind the popular campfire song, “The Princess Pat.”

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Capt. J.N. Edfar (left) and Capt. C. White (right) holding the regiment’s Ric-A-Dam-Doo
© PPCLI Archive and Museum

The Ric-A-Dam-Doo spent most of the First World War behind the front lines where it flew over the regiment’s camp, and helped to give the troops a sense of pride and identity. Today, Princess Patricia’s original flag is on display at The Military Museums complex in Calgary, Alberta. The old flag is weatherworn and contains a few bullet holes, a reminder of the dangers faced by the soldiers who fought under it.

For more information on the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, read “The Princess Pat’s: A Privately Funded Army” in the This Week in History archives.

Follow us on Twitter @ParksCanada, and be sure to visit the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada webpage. Explore Canada 150!

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