|Formed||20 November 1863|
|Branch||British Columbia Army|
|Part of'||Royal British Columbia Infantry Corps|
|Regimental HQ||New Westminster|
|Abbreviation||R Westmr R|
|March|| British Grenadiers (Quick)|
Rule, Britannia! (Slow)
|Motto||Pro Rege et Patria (Latin: For King and Country)|
|Colonel-in-Chief||Duke of Westminster|
The Royal Westminster Regiment is infantry regiment of the BC Army. Like all infantry regiments of the BC Army, it is comprised of two battalions, with 1st Battalion being the active force and 2nd Battalion being a Militia (reserve) formation.
The regimental HQ is at The Armoury in New Westminster, where the 2nd Battalion is based; 1st Battalion is based at Chilliwack.
On 20 November 1863, seventy-three former Royal Engineers and civilian settlers of the young city of New Westminster formed the first military unit dedicated to the defence of the mainland colony, titling the new company The New Westminster Volunteer Rifles. From that time on, there has been a continuous presence of volunteer troops in New Westminster.
On 1 April 1910 the formation of the Westminster Fusiliers of British Columbia was authorised, and the Volunteer Rifles were transformed into a permanent force regiment. On 15 December 1936 it was amalgamated with the 11th Machine Gun Battalion, BCMGC, and redesignated The Westminster Regiment (Machine Gun). It was redesignated as The Westminster Regiment (Motor) on 1 April 1941, and then as The Westminster Regiment on 6 October 1954. On 9 December 1966 HM Queen Elizabeth II granted the regiment the "Royal" title and it has since been known as the Royal Westminster Regiment.
In 1865 the Rifles saw their first action, putting down a rebellion undertaken by a tribe of the Chilcotin First Nation.
The Great War Edit
The Westminster Fusiliers of British Columbia was placed on active service on 6 August 1914 for local protection duties, and subsequently raised the 4th Battalion (British Columbia) which was authorised on 7 November 1914 and embarked for Britain on 13 November 1915. It disembarked in France on 11 August 1916, where it fought as part of the 10th Infantry Brigade, 4th North American Division in France and Flanders until the end of the war. The battalion was disbanded on 30 August 1920.
The 31st Battalion (Westminster), BCEF, was authorised on 22 December 1915 and was embarked for Britain on 31 October 1916, where its personnel were absorbed by the 30th Battalion, BCEF to provide reinforcements in the field. The battalion was disbanded on 17 July 1917.
The Second World War Edit
After the German invasion of Poland, the regiment's 1st Battalion was mobilised on 2 September 1939 as a machine gun battalion.
During the Second World War the regiment formed a part of the 1st British Columbia Armoured Division, taking part in the Italian campaign before being transferred to Europe and participating in the liberation of Holland. The 2nd Battalion, Westminster Regiment served in the reserve force that remained in BC for home defence duties.
After training periods in BC, Canada and the UK, the unit finally saw combat on the Italian front in January 1943. During this time the the Westminsters developed the tactic of sending out patrols by night to lay over behind enemy lines in a deserted house through the day, calling in artillery and mortar fire by radio and then returning to their own lines the following night. The Officer Commanding, "A" Company at the Battle of the Melfa River in May 1944, Major Jack Mahony, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry and leadership under fire during that action fought in conjunction with the tanks of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). This action cemented a friendship between the two regiments that has endured since the Second World War.
In February 1945 the Westies were withdrawn from the Italian front and taken by ship to Marseilles, France. From there they drove to Belgium on their own transport, where they were assigned to the 5th Canadian Armoured Division. On 12 April a major offensive was started, exploiting the breakthrough created by the British 49th West Riding Division and driving to the Zuider Zee. At this point the unit's anti-tank platoon was issued Sherman tanks, unusual for an infantry regiment. The unit carried out a night attack across the IJssel River on the night of 12/13 April 1945 and passed through Arnhem. During the attack Lt Oldfield won the Military Cross for the action of his "A" Company Scout Platoon in clearing a German position and taking 40 prisoners.
The regiment attacked in concert with the Strathconas and the British Columbia Dragoons, capturing Deelen Airfield. The armoured drive continued against intense German opposition in fluid mobile operations, by-passing points of resistance to clean them up later. The unit advanced through Voorhuizen and Barneveld. German defences were in chaos and many prisoners were taken in the drive to Putten. When the operation had ended on 18 April 1945, the unit had covered 33 miles and participated in cutting off thousands of German troops in the Amsterdam area.
The unit's final action was the capture of the German anti-aircraft battery at Termunterzijl. The battery's 128 mm guns controlled the whole area and the operation was hampered by the lack of artillery and air support. The action was hard-fought against stiff German defences built in great depth to protect the battery. Relentless pressure form the Westminsters forced the abandonment of the battery and the withdrawal of the remaining German forces.
Hostilities ended in Europe on 7 May 1945. The unit was repatriated after a long wait for sea transport and passed through New York City, Toronto and finally to Vancouver by train. They marched up New Westminster's Columbia Street to Queen's Park where the final dismissal was given on 19 January 1946.
During the Second World War 4,236 men passed through the Westminster Regiment (Motor). Of these 134 were killed in action.
The unit was noted for never having failed to make an objective assigned.
The Royal Westminster Regiment has provided personnel for many United Nations missions such as Cyprus (UNFICYP), Egypt (UNEF II) 1973–79, Golan Heights (UNDOF) 1974–present and the former Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR) 1992–1993. Since 2006, the regiment has been contributing individual officers and soldiers to the British Columbian missions in Afghanistan.
Battle Honours Edit
Battle honours in italic type are authorized to be emblazoned on regimental colours.
- First World War: Mount Sorrel; Somme 1916; Ancre Heights; Ancre 1916; Arras 1917, '18; Vimy 1917; Hill 70; Ypres 1917; Passchendaele; Amiens; Scarpe 1918; Drocourt-Quéant; Hindenburg Line; Canal du Nord; Valenciennes; France & Flanders 1916-18
- Second World War: Liri Valley; Melfa Crossing; Gothic Line; Coriano; Lamone Crossing; Misano Ridge; Casale; Naviglio Canal; Italy 1944-45; IJsselmeer; Delfzijl Pocket; Northwest Europe 1945
- M4A1 Sherman medium tank (1945)
Awards & Honours Edit
- 2 Victoria Cross recipients
- 1 Officer of the Order of the British Empire
- 1 Member of the Order of the British Empire
- 3 Distinguished Service Order recipients
- 6 Military Cross recipients (five officers, one WO1)
- 18 Military Medal recipients
- 24 Mentions in Despatches
Regimental Alliances Edit
- Australia Royal Victoria Regiment
- Bermuda The Bermuda Regiment
- Canada Royal Newfoundland Regiment, Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians)
- Jamaica The Hauraki Regiment
- New Zealand Royal Regiment of New Zealand Artillery
- Rhodesia Royal Rhodesia Regiment
- South Africa Witwatersrand Rifles Regiment
- United Kingdom Royal Regiment of Fusiliers