The Royal Newfoundland Regiment

Past and Present

Beginnings

When Newfoundland entered into confederation with Canada in 1949, the Royal Newfoundland Regiment as it exists today was re-established as a unit of the Canadian Army.

The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Advisory Council (RAC) was established sometime later, but the date is not known. It is a fact that the RAC was functional in 1965.

The RAC membership at that time consisted solely of serving military; this included the Commanding Officer, the Honourary Colonel, Honourary Lt Col, and former or retired Commanding Officers. In addition, the Secretary was a serving officer, Major John O’Flaherty.

A major accomplishment of the RAC in 1967 was the successful organization and launch of the Signal Hill Tattoo. The Tattoo provided a tangible  and publicly visible re-creation of Newfoundland soldiers of the 18th-19th centuries who were the military defensive garrison of St. John’s in the colony of Newfoundland. Furthermore, visitors to St. John’s were attracted by the Tattoo to learn more of the history of Newfoundland, and in particular Signal Hill.

With the retirement in 1968 of Lt Col Jack Allston as CO, the RAC passed into a period of relative inactivity due largely to the transfer of unit command to LCol Jim Molloy in Grand Falls. A notable exception was the publishing of periodic issues of The Caribou by Major O’Flaherty, with contributions volunteered by officers of the Regiment. Funding came from advertisements solicited by The Caribou.  RAC activities became more organized in 1975 and an attempt was made to revitalize the RAC to obtain to better organize such activities as the June 30 Mess Dinner to commemorate the Battle of Beaumont-Hamel, the 1 July Memorial Day ceremony, purchasing Regimental accoutrements (such as collar dogs, hat badges, crests) from suppliers, and assistance from local tailors for dress uniforms. Remembrance Day coordination on November 11 was obtained by negotiation with the Royal Canadian Legion and the CLB. In addition, RAC was involved in assisting Canadian Forces Station St. John’s and Government House for arrangements and timing of New Year’s Day Levee events. Communication and relationships with allied Regiments (Royal Scots, and Royal New South Wales) was maintained by the RAC. Finally, the RAC assisted in efforts to preserve retired and neglected Regimental and Queen’s Colours, and liaison with provincial museums, notably the 8th floor Museum in Confederation Building. Memorabilia and furniture exhibited in the Regimental Officer’s Mess within regimental lines in Building 311 was also under the care of the RAC.

Changes

In the mid-1970’s, it was apparent that a change in direction and purpose of the RAC was needed. Lacking above all was lack of contact of the Regiment with its founding community. As well it was clear there was excessive  DND direction as to how and when the Regiment should  communicate with the community through the media and how recruiting should be carried out.

The membership of the RAC was reviewed and changes were made in the by-laws in 2006 to allow ‘anyone who supports the objects of the Corporation’ to be elected to membership if nominated by a member of the RAC. The RAC became incorporated in 1975 and a chartitable organization status for donations was approved.

The membership was broadened considerably. First, serving or former Regimental officers and NCOs were elected. Later, citizens with substantial community standing, who also had significant interest in the Regiment, were also elected. The end result of this change was a membership consisting of both serving and former officers, and community leaders of solid reputation were also added. Executive of the RAC were elected from both segments of the membership. Membership on the RAC for NCOs began with the election of CWO Jerry O’Grady to the RAC, and he subsequently accepted the role of Secretary for may years.

A change in bylaws in 2012 created a new Vice-Chair (Central and Western Region) to give 2nd Battalion better representation.

Results

Many different initiatives to improve our community relationships became evident. Articles about the Regiment’s activities and exercises appeared in the media. Recruits started to appear in the unit lines to join up instead of at the Recruiting Centre. The city and province became aware of various anniversaries celebrated by the Regiment – Regimental birthdays, WW1 anniversaries, service in Cyprus for UN Peacekeeping, providing enemy force for a large-scale regular force exercise in Garnish and Frenchman’s Cove (1978), and the increasing demand for reserve soldiers to serve for fixed periods in regular force positions (e.g. NATO postings to 4 CIBG in Lahr, Germany).

Also at this time (1989) a Regimental Museum was formed to manage the large number of artifacts the Regiment had accumulated in its Officers Mess. This development coincided with the transfer of the Regimental Mess to the Station Officers Mess. The Museum was located in Bldg 308, 2nd floor, above the Station Officer’s Mess. After retiring in 1989 as Chair, Col Allston was elected Regimental Historian and Curator for the Museum. He was later followed by LCol Aubrey Halfyard, then later Graham Skanes. The Museum became a major RAC activity and was later moved to DND quarters in the Paddon Building in 2013. The Museum is supported by a very active and enthusiastic Museum Committee chaired by Frank Gogos. This Committee in turn attracted the attention of generous regimental  donors from the community.

The RAC benefitted from the service of a number of exceptional leaders as Chairmen; Cam Eaton, Jim McLoughlan, Ian Wishart, Jim Lynch, Kevin Hutchings, and Ron Penney. No serving COs, or retired COs, served as Chair in these years.

Some of the projects initiated and completed by the RAC during this phase:

  • 1996 – 80th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel. Contingent and Band sent to France
  • 1991 – Colonel In Chief HRH The Princess Royal, Anne, visited both battalions of the Regiment and commemorated the 75th anniversary of Beaumont-Hamel
  • 2015 – Gallipoli Pilgrimage
  • July 1 Wreaths Laid at Ottawa War Memorial (annually) and at Fort York (anniversary of Defence of York in War of 1812)
  • Regimental history presentation at St. Pierre
  • Transfer of artifacts from family of LCol Hadow, former CO at Beaumont-Hamel (1916)
  • Visit of students from Beatrix Potter School, South London, in cooperation with Ted Blades, CBC (2016)
  • War of 1812 Battle Honours awarded to the Regiment
  • Second visit by Colonel In Chief HRH The Princess Royal at Presentation of Colours, 2010
  • Public presentations (The Rooms) on WW1 battlefield archeology and films by Andrew Robertshaw
  • Research and agreement (1975) on date of Regimental birthday

(updated 2024-07-05)

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