This Week in History


The Princess Pat’s: A Privately Funded Army

For the week of Monday August 25, 2014

On August 28, 1914, the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (also known as the “Princess Pat’s”) left Ottawa to prepare for their service in the First World War.

A short poem praising the Princess Pat’s. The end states, “The Princess Pat’s among the rest / Respond right well: Are they dismayed? / NO! “LET 'EM ALL COME” who’s afraid!”
© Canadian War Museum / George Metcalf Archival Collection / CWM 20010083-001
Several days after Great Britain declared war on Germany, automatically committing Canada to the fight as well, Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault offered to personally finance and equip a battalion for overseas service. He spent $100,000 (the equivalent of about $2 million today) doing so. On August 10, 1914, the Canadian government gave the authority to raise the Princess Pat’s and arranged for additional costs to be diverted to the Department of Militia and Defence.

Lieutenant-Colonel Francis D. Farquhar suggested that the battalion be named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, daughter of the Governor General Prince Arthur. Both the Princess and her father agreed enthusiastically.

By August 19, the regiment’s mobilization was complete. Canadians from across the country who had served in the British Army during the pre-war years formed roughly 95 per cent of the Princess Pat’s’ ranks. This made it more experienced than the new volunteer corps being raised at Valcartier, Quebec.

The Princess Pat’s spent a month in Lévis, Quebec, fine-tuning their combat skills. It took almost three week sailing to reach Salisbury Plain, England, on October 18.

Princess Patricia inspects the infantry unit named after her, 1919
© The Central News Ltd. / Library and Archives Canada / PA-139714

Once in Europe, the Princess Pat’s joined the 27th British Division. They were deployed with them to France, where they eventually joined the Canadian Corps in 1915 as part of the 7th Infantry Brigade and fought in many battles, including the storming of Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and in Flanders in 1918.

After the war, the Pat’s became part of the Canadian regular army and continued to serve in global conflicts such as the Second World War (1939-45), the Korean War (1950-53), and more recently the war in Afghanistan. The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry has been as an integral part of the Canadian military experience for a century.

There are many national historic designations related to the First World War, including representations of service such as Aboriginal Military Service in the First World War, The Japanese Canadian Soldiers of the First World War, and No. 2 Construction Battalion national historic events.

This year is the first in the centennial of the First World War. For more This Week in History stories, see August 1914: Canada Prepares for War, Canadian Japanese Volunteer Corps Founded, United at Vimy Ridge, Billy Bishop: An Ace up Canada's Sleeve and Forever Remembered.

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