The Ontario Regiment (RCAC) - History


The Ontario Regiment (RCAC) is one of the oldest continuously serving regiments in Canada and one of the senior armoured regiments. Militia units have existed in what is now the Region of Durham since the earliest days of the 19th century.

In 1856, A Highland Rifle Company was raised by Captain James Wallace, in Whitby, and became Number 6 Company of the 2nd Battalion, volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada, later named "The Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto" in April 1860. During the period of national tension that gripped Canada in the early 1860's, other volunteer militia infantry companies were formed in Ontario County. In 1862, two formed in Oshawa, two in Whitby and one each in Prince Albert, Greenwood, Uxbridge, Columbus and Brooklin. Many men were mobilized for service during the tensions of 1864-1866, when Fenian invaders massed south of the Niagara Frontier. The Oshawa Rifle Company took part in the Battle of Ridgeway, in June 1866, as part of a Provisional Battalion of Ontario Infantry.

The Ontario Regiment was officially formed from the nine independent rifle companies on September 14th, 1866. It was called the 34th (Ontario) Battalion of Infantry. In later years, men of the Regiment served in the Northwest Rebellion of 1885 when they were attached to the Queen's Own Rifles and the 10th Royal Grenadiers (now the Royal Regiment of Canada), and during the South African War, when Ontario’s were attached to the 1st (Special Service) Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment as well as The Royal Canadian Dragoons.

In September 1915, the Second-in-Command of the 34th (Ontario) Battalion, Major Sam Sharpe was authored to raise the 116th Battalion CEF, from Ontario County. This Battalion fought with great distinction in France and Belgium. Another Battalion, the 182nd was also raised from the county, but it did not serve in action as a unit, being broken up after its arrival in England and its men sent as reinforcements to other Canadian Battalions. The Ontario Regiment became a tank battalion at Camp Borden during the late 193O's, then mobilized for the Second World War on September 1st, 1939. Within six days, 594 men had enlisted for active service. The Regiment fought with distinction in several theatres during the war, beginning in Sicily in 1943, and on through Italy at the battles of Liri Valley and Cassino. In 1945, the Regiment entered the Northwest European Theatre winning honours at Arnhem.

Following the Second World War, the Ontario’s continued as an armoured regiment. From 1969 until 1980 the unit was tasked with a reconnaissance role. In 1980, the unit was re-designated as an armoured regiment but still maintained a reconnaissance troop along with an armoured squadron, a recruiting and training squadron, and a headquarters squadron.

Since 1928, the regiment has valued its alliance with the Welch Regiment (now The Royal Regiment Of Wales) of the British Army. Several exchange visits have taken place over the years including July 1989 when a 35 man guard represented the Regiment in Cardiff, where HRH Charles, Prince of Wales inspected the Royal Regiment of Wales on the occasion of the Regiment’s Tercentenary. The Ontario Regiment received the Freedom of the city of Oshawa and the County of Ontario in 1966 and the Freedom of the Region of Durham in 1979.

Many of the Regiment's soldiers, NCOs and officers enjoy the unique distinction among their peers in reserve armoured regiments, having been trained and qualified in both armoured and reconnaissance roles. With the retirement of the Cougar armoured vehicle in 2004, the Regiment was again re-designated an armoured reconnaissance unit, briefly employing and conducting trials on all-terrain vehicles. Today, the Regiment has adopted the Mercedes-built LUVW G-Wagon for its armoured reconnaissance tasking.

In recent decades, members of the Regiment have served on active duty with elements of Canada’s regular army including the 8th Canadian Hussars, the Royal Canadian Dragoons and the Lord Strathcona's Horse (RC) and at Canada’s former NATO mechanized brigade, based in Germany until 1994. Several Ontario’s have seen active duty in a range of United Nations, NATO, and European Union-led missions in Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Cambodia, and the former Yugoslavia. Most recently, members of the Regiment have deployed to numerous African countries, including Sudan, and Sierra Leone. Since 2003, over a quarter of the Regiment has deployed on operations in Afghanistan and returned safely to Canada.

More history on The Ontario Regiment can be found on the History and Heritage website.

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