THE BRITISH COLUMBIA DRAGOONS
VERNON’S OWN REGIMENT
Compiled and written by Ron Candy, former Director/Curator
Greater Vernon Museum & Archives
A MILITIA UNIT IS BORN
Efforts to form a mounted (cavalry) militia unit in the North Okanagan date back to as early as 1884 when a meeting was held between interested proponents in the district. There were a number of hurdles to get over before a unit could be approved. The least of which was securing funding for equipment, uniforms, and salaries from Ottawa.
There were upwards of sixty names attached to the 1884 petition including Cornelius O’Keefe and Price Ellison. However, the effort was badly timed as it came on the eve of the Northwest Rebellion. Naturally, Ottawa saw its commitment to suppressing Louis Riel more of a priority than birthing a militia unit in the Okanagan.
Another attempt to establish a militia unit in the Okanagan took place in 1887; again without success. This time Ottawa was not only burdened with the price tag for the Rebellion (5,000,000.00), but it was now contending with mounting costs associated with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway. (In order to meet the 1885 completion date for the railway, many cost-cutting shortcuts were taken. As a result, construction crews had to go over much of the line again and make corrections before regular transcontinental service could begin).
In 1896/97, a third attempt was undertaken to organize a troop of militia. Two of Vernon’s prominent citizens, A.E. Lowes and C.F. Costerton were among the leading forces behind the formation of this unit. A.E. Lowes wrote a letter to Hewitt Bostock, Member of Parliament for the Yale-Cariboo District, saying…
“As there is nothing of the nature of a military organization anywhere in the interior of the province, or in fact, I believe, between Calgary and Vancouver, nor yet along the southern boundary, it appears to me that the government should be only too pleased to have the residents organize a corps of militia…”
Lt. Col. J. Peters, the newly appointed District Officer Commanding, also gave support for a Vernon based militia. But, it wasn’t until 1898 before approval was granted to form a unit known as the Vernon Mounted Rifles. Unfortunately, by this point in time, some enthusiasm had waned and there was difficulty in securing an officer to take command and completing a full roster of men. These and other issues compelled Lt. Col. J. Peters to recommend that the authorization be withdrawn because he believed “…a company would not be a success in this locality.”
After 1902, the strength and efficiency of Canada’s militia system improved somewhat with the return of veterans from the war in South Africa. Then, a few years later, in April 1908, through the efforts of E. Copley-Thompson (a veteran of the Riel Rebellion), Price Ellison, J.A. McKelvie, and others, an independent squadron known as the Canadian Mounted Rifles (unofficially dubbed the Okanagan Mounted Rifles) was authorized for Vernon. This unit went to camp for the first time in 1908 under the command of Major H.A. Perry, D.C.M., a veteran of the South African War (Boer War). Later, in December 1911, the unit was granted authority to change its name from the Canadian Mounted Rifles to the 1st Regiment, B.C. Horse; the roots of the present day B.C. Dragoons. In 1912, the B.C. Horse became the 30th Regiment, B.C. Horse. Despite the changes, the name, Okanagan Mounted Rifles, stuck with the unit for years.
THE CANADIAN MILITIA
The threat of an invasion into Canada from the United States was a serious concern in the early years of the 19th century and was one of the reasons why the British continued to maintain a strong military presence in this country right through to the end of the American Civil War in 1865.
The Fenian raids of 1866 was the last time an invasion into Canada took place. The Fenians were a group of Irish-Americans, many of them Union Army veterans from the Civil War, who believed that by siezing Canada, certain concessions could be had from the British government with respect to their policies in Ireland. Needless to say, the raids proved fruitless. But, for Canadian politicians who were locked in negotiations that were leading up to the Confederation agreement of 1867, the raids only served to remind them that the British military was downsizing its operations in Canada and the country would soon be vulnerable to any form of attack both inside and outside its borders.
Once Confederation was in place, the Canadian government assumed full responsibilty for the defence of the country. The government then passed the Federal Militia Act of 1868. In theory, the Act allowed the government to conscript for service, when needed, every able-bodied man between the ages of 18 and 60. In reality, the defence of the country rested on the services of volunteers who made up active militia which, in 1869, numbered over 31,000.
The most significant early tests for the militia were the expeditions against the Métis rebel forces of Louis Riel and the subsequent Red River Rebellion of 1869-70 and the North-West Rebellion in 1885 when the militia teamed up with the North-West Mounted Police against the Métis and their allies.
1912: SIGNIFICANT BEGINNINGS
The 30th B.C. Horse was initially under the command of Lt. Col. C.L. Bott, a veteran of the South African War. The regiment, with headquarters in Vernon, consisted of "A" Squadron from Lumby and Coldstream, "B" Squadron from Vernon, "C" Squadron from Armstrong and Enderby, and “D” squadron out of Kelowna.
In his annual report to Ottawa, District Officer Commanding Colonel R.L. Wadmore stated…
“I consider…all squadrons of the B.C. Horse much superior to the average Eastern cavalry as these men can ride…These mounted units in B.C. are therefore a distinctly valuable asset to the Defence Force of Canada.”
In 1912, the same year the 30th B.C. Horse came into being, a permanent annual district summer training camp for cavalry and infantry militia units was established in Vernon. The camp was located on Mission Hill; the same area used today for cadet training.
Talk of forming a local cadet corps was mentioned as early as 1908. At that time, the commanding officer of the Okanagan Mounted Rifles, Major H.A. Perry, gave lessons in drill to a few public school students. Then, in 1912, a cadet corps was established and authorized for Vernon. About 40 boys were enrolled in the corps that was officially known as No. 368, The 30th British Columbia Horse Cadets. Their uniform was not unlike that of the regiment itself.
THE VERNON CAMP
The annual district training camp that took place in Vernon during the first two weeks of June 1913 attracted about 800 soldiers. In addition to the 30TH B.C. Horse taking part, there was also the 31st B.C. Horse (headquartered in Merritt), the Armed Service Corps from Vancouver, the 102nd Regiment of Infantry, Royal Canadian Garrison Artillery, the Rocky Mountain Rangers, and other militia units. Four boxcar loads of equipment and supplies weighing in at over 60 tons were shipped to the camp from Victoria.
The population of Vernon at this time was barely 3,000 individuals. Needless to say, the presence of hundreds of military men had a profound economic and social impact on the town. Concerts were often given by various regimental bands in the evenings at City Park and, at the end of the two-week training session, spectators from throughout the region would come to Vernon to see ceremonial parades and a “military sports day” held at the camp. Regiments would compete in tug-of-war matches, horseracing, obstacle races, horseback wrestling, and tent pegging (A mounted horseman riding at a gallop attempts to pick up and carry away a small ground target or a series of small ground targets using a lance or sword).
In June of 1914, the number of military personnel at the camp reached 2000.
THE WAR TO END ALL WARS
The spark that ignited World War I was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria-Hungary in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. Sarajevo was the capital of Bosnia, a province of Austria-Hungary at the time with a large Serb minority. Gavrilo Princip, a Bosnian Serb and the leader of a ring of seven assassins, shot the archduke in the neck as his car drove by.
The archduke's assassination was the first and only conspiracy that the seven plotters conducted together. Princip later told investigators that the plot had been, "Born in our hearts." However, the group did receive arms and other assistance from the "Black Hand," a secret society of Serbian officers and a powerful faction in Serb politics.
Immediately after the assassination, Vienna naturally favoured strong military action to be taken against Serbia. But, Serbia was an ally of Russia and, in order to resist any threats Russia might impose, Austria-Hungary determined it needed German support for any actions taken against Serbia. Consequently, Austro-Hungarian foreign Minister Count Leopold von Berchtold sent a note to Berlin stating Serbia "must be eliminated as a power factor in the Balkans." On July 5, Kaiser Wilhelm II responded by assuring Berchtold of his support, now known by historians as the famous "blank check."
Despite risking a war with Russia, Germany, painted into a diplomatic corner by Wilhelm's public support of Austria-Hungary, also viewed this situation as a way of breaking up the entente shared by Russia, France and Britain. After all, it was thought, France and Britain might be reluctant to enter a war with their Russian ally over an “incident” that took place in Serbia. Then again, some historians believe Germany may have had a desire to provoke a fight with Russia. At the time, Russia was still weak militarily, having recently lost a war with Japan in 1904-05 over a rivalry for domination in Korea and Manchuria.
A month after World War I began, Germany drew up some far-reaching war aims, the least of which would include breaking apart French power, reducing Belgium to subordinate status, and carving out a colonial empire in Africa and elsewhere.
Needless to say, France's immediate aim was to expel German troops from its territory. In the longer term, it wanted the return of the provinces of Alsace-Lorraine, a French region annexed by Germany after the war of 1870-71.
Britain went to war because it saw a German victory as a threat to its security. For centuries, Britain had fought to maintain the balance of power in Europe, to ensure that no state became overly powerful. In particular, Britain was highly sensitive about Belgium. In the hands of an enemy, Belgian ports became a major threat to British naval supremacy and hence the security of the British Isles. Thus, Britain had no real option but to go to war in 1914. Further, If France had been defeated, Britain would have been faced with the nightmare that since the days of Elizabeth I it had fought to avoid: the continent dominated by a single, aggressive state.
At the end of July in 1914, Britain informed Canada of the deteriorating situation in Europe. Canada immediately offered troops to Britain for overseas service. On August 6th, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany and on the same day accepted Canada’s offer for troops.
Meanwhile, in the Okanagan, during August of 1914, the 30th B.C. Horse were preparing for active service. By November that same year, the regiment had left for Victoria for training at the Willows Camp. In May of 1915 Camp Vernon became a central mobilization camp and training centre. By 1916 there were more than 7000 men training at the camp while the city of Vernon had a population of barely 3000.
At war’s end, it was determined that 710 men from the Vernon area volunteered for active service overseas, a figure that represented over 20% of the population.
WORLD WAR I AND THE
2ND CANADIAN MOUNTED RIFLES
At the outbreak of war in 1914, the 30th B.C. Horse was mobilized and brought up to strength. Orders were received in November that the 30th BCH would amalgamate with an independent Squadron of Horse at Willows Camp in Victoria, B.C. to form an overseas unit, the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. The 2nd CMR went overseas in June 1915. Once in Britain, the regiment became part of the Mounted Rifle Brigade in the 2nd Canadian Division and in September was sent to the trenches in France. In December, the mounted brigade was converted to infantry and transferred to the 3rd Division.
During its service in France, the Regiment took part in a number of battles including Ypres, Somme, Vimy Ridge, Cambrai, and Passchendaele. A total of 686 members of the regiment were killed in action or died from wounds. By the end of the war the 2nd CMR Regiment won ten battle honours. Two members of the regiment, Captain John MacGregor and Major George Randolph Pearkes, each won the Victoria Cross.
Vimy Ridge: April 9/10, 1917.
“Five minutes to zero came, and still all was quiet, the darkness being only occasionally lit by the usual flares from the Hun lines. Thirty seconds before zero, two Wombat mines, near Chassery Crater, were blown up by our sappers, and almost immediately the air was full of brilliant signals of different colours put up by the alarmed Bosche sentries, but zero had come, and with one great shattering roar, every gun behind our lines came to life. Looking back, everywhere were great flashes of red and white flame from the leaping guns, while looking forward, the fires of hell seemed to raining on the doomed German lines; near by, our shrapnel barrage showed as a line of red hot fragments in the still dark morning, moving forward at the rate of one hundred yards every three minutes; further up, thermite and H.E. (high explosive) bursting on the German defences looked like miniature spouting volcanoes; best of all, one could see by the light of the bursting shrapnel our men moving steadily forward. Thirty seconds after zero the enemy’s protective barrage came down…”
From the personal diary of
Lieut. Colonel G.C. Johnston D.S.O., M.C.
2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles (30th B.C. Horse)
With the armistice, the 2nd CMR returned to Canada in 1919 and were immediately demobilized. However, the 2nd CMR's history and traditions were carried on with the formation of the British Columbia Mounted Rifles in 1920 (an amalgamation of 2nd CMR and 30th BC Horse regiments) Its first commanding officer was Lieut. Col. G.C. Johnston. This unit was renamed The British Columbia Dragoons in 1929 to better reflect the Regiment's cavalry heritage.
TO MECHANIZED WARFARE
The B.C. Dragoons trained as a mounted unit up until 1939 and the eve of World War II. In light of the deepening crisis that was taking place in Europe, Ottawa called out militia units in Canada on August 25, 1939 to defend vital locations throughout the country. In British Columbia’s interior, this task was given to the B.C. Dragoons and the Rocky Mountain Rangers.
Following the German invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939, Canada mobilized the Canadian Active Service Force. On September 10th, 1939 Canada declared war on Germany.
Germany’s successful trek across Europe during the spring of 1940 (Denmark, Norway, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Belgium, and France) made it clear that mechanized warfare was replacing cavalry. Thus, in May of 1940 the B.C. Dragoons entered camp at Vernon to train as a mechanized unit. However, armoured cars, tanks, etc. were not yet available. A few military trucks and vehicles borrowed from civilians made up the essence of what the regiment’s new role would be.
At the annual sports day events, there was some effort to keep the cavalry tradition alive with the tent pegging competition. The difference being the troopers used bayonets instead of lances and sat on the pillion (passenger) seat of a motorcycle rather than in a saddle.
Then, in July of 1940, Lieut. Col. G.C. Oswell, Commanding Officer of the B.C. Dragoons, received authorization to form the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment (BCD) Canadian Active Service Force. For the first time in its history, the regiment would no longer have a need for horses.
PREPARING FOR WAR
In July of 1940, work was underway to expand and upgrade the facilities at the Vernon Army Camp. Water and sewer lines were extended, and a few buildings slowly began to emerge. In addition to the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment (BCD), other units began to arrive at the camp for training.
Unfortunately, the arrival of equipment, uniforms, and other supplies wasn’t coming into camp as quickly as the troops. Entries in the regiment’s War Diary read…
July 24, 1940:
“We have received no uniform, blankets or equipment of any kind. Men drilling in civilian clothing. Most of men sleeping home, those without homes are bunking down on armoury floor using whatever blankets we could find – horse and saddle blankets included. Strength 126 all ranks.”
July 25, 1940:
“…No arms or equipment yet. Some men suffering from worn out shoes. Strength 153 all ranks.”
July 26, 1940:
“Men without homes to go to, being fed at restaurants on 85 cents subsistence allowance. Strength 186 all ranks.”
Equipment shortages plagued the camp throughout the summer. By August 30th, 1940 the ranks had swelled to well over 400 men. The average age was estimated between 18 and 21 years.
In September it was announced that the Vernon Army Camp would become permanent and would be upgraded to comfortably house 1,200 soldiers. Indeed, by mid-month hundreds were employed erecting barracks and storerooms, and building roads. By the third week in September over 40 buildings were under construction.
By September 1940, the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment (BCD) was relocated from Camp Vernon down to Victoria for further training. A short time later, in February 1941, the unit was re-organized to become the 9th Canadian Armoured Regiment (BCD). The unit transferred to Camp Borden, Ontario (located about sixty miles northwest of Toronto) in June to join the 5th Canadian Armoured Division.
On arrival, the regiment only had seven U.S. made tanks (1917 models based on a French design Renault FT-17) to train on. These two-man tanks had been stripped of their weapons and were virtually obsolete. They had been purchased from the U.S. for the price of scrap iron ($20.00 per ton or $120.00 per tank). However, at the outbreak of the war, Canada had fewer than a dozen tanks in its arsenal and no means by which to manufacture any. Consequently, the U.S. tanks were all that was available at the time. A few months later “Camp Borden Iron Foundry” received another two trainloads of “scrap iron” from the “neutral” country of the United States. A total of 250 tanks were eventually shipped across the border.
In October 1941, an advance party from the 9th Armoured Regiment, commanded by Lieutenant Donald Cameron, was sent overseas. The following month, the balance of the regiment along with the division left Camp Borden for England.
For the next two years, the regiment received intensive training in armoured combat warfare while stationed at Marlborough in Wiltshire. Then, in the fall of 1943, the 5th Division was sent to the Mediterranean Theatre. The 9th Armoured Regiment (BCD’s) landed in Italy just before Christmas.
The regiment fought a number of decisive battles in Italy beginning with the task of leading the 5th Armoured Division through the Hitler Line, a German defensive line in central Italy fortified with concrete bunkers, machine-gun emplacements, and anti-tank guns. It was part of the strongest German defensive lines south of Rome.
While pushing through the Hitler Line on May 24th 1944, the B.C. Dragoons were the first to knock out one of Germany’s new 45-ton Panther tanks (the Sherman tanks used by the Dragoons were 30 tons). The Dragoons then advanced north through the Liri Valley to Rome. In August, the Dragoons were instrumental in the break-through of the heavily fortified Gothic Line.
The B.C. Dragoons remained in Italy until February 1945 when they were transferred to the battle raging in North-Western Europe.
When one sifts through the pages of the 1944 spring and summer issues of the Vernon News it comes as no surprise that life in Vernon during this time was anything but restful. A war was on; Canadian troops had already given their lives at Dieppe and Hong Kong and now they were fighting in North Africa, Italy, in the skies over Britain and Europe and, most recently, on the coast of Normandy and into northern France.
The citizens of Vernon had received more than their share of tragic news up to this point. Dozens of young Vernon born men had been killed in action and many parents and friends were sick with the worry that dozens more would die before the war was over.
The presence of the Vernon Army Camp, just walking distance from the downtown, served as a constant reminder that the country was at war. At the height of World War II training, there were in excess of 7,000 troops at the camp at any given time. For those living near the camp, the constant sounds of bugle calls, men shouting drill orders, trucks, and the distant resonance of exploding mortar shells and gunfire during practice sessions became part of their daily life. However, with so many soldiers in town, Vernon’s economy thrived.
“There were upwards of six dance halls and a dozen orchestras going full tilt every night, except Sunday. The Café’s and ice cream parlours flourished along with the theatre and the downtown bowling alley on 30th Avenue.”
Quote from: “Camp Vernon” Kettle Valley Publishing, 2003.
The Canadian Legion War Services Recreation Centre in Vernon had 82,500 servicemen pass through its doors during the first five months of 1944. Local food suppliers including cattle ranchers, poultry producers, farmers, and fruit growers provided the camp with huge quantities of meat, vegetables, dairy products, and fruit. Many Vernon residents worked at the camp itself.
In spite of the uncertainties wartime weddings became a major aspect of life in Vernon. At one point, All Saint’s Anglican Church went through a whole book of marriage certificates and had to order more. But, the honeymoons were often short as husbands were quickly shipped overseas.
The pages of the Vernon News during 1944 also illustrate to us that optimism reigned. Sporting events, fairs, community picnics, and other cheerful pastimes took place regularly. New businesses appeared and people still invested in the future. Many enthusiastic articles tell of post war plans and development for the city and the surrounding area.
MARSEILLES TO THE NETHERLANDS
The B.C. Dragoons landed in Marseilles, a Mediterranean seaport on the south coast of France on the morning of February 20th, 1945. Six hundred miles north, between the border of Germany and the Netherlands, the Allied forces were preparing to launch Operation Blockbuster; an offensive that was to drive the enemy out of the territory west of the Rhine River.
By February 24th, the BCD’s were traveling north with their tanks, covering an average of 100 to 150 miles each day, arriving in Belgium less than a week later. By April, they were on their way to the Netherlands.
On April 11th, the B.C. Dragoons crossed the Rhine River just east of the town of Nijmegen in preparation for an advance on Arnhem and regions to the Northwest. The regiment encountered heavy resistance as they advanced and local civilians assisted in reporting the whereabouts of enemy troops who were, for the most part, disorganized. One account of the event written later by Lt. Col. H.H. Angle states…
“Prisoners began to give themselves up in ever increasing numbers, and it soon became apparent that the BCD’s were some miles behind the German main position which was facing the other Canadian forces around (the town of) Apeldoorn…The BCD’s were fighting Germans in all directions and the Germans obviously became confused as the day progressed.”
The speed by which the BCD’s advanced also meant exhaustion for the men themselves. Being well ahead of the infantry meant tank crews had the additional work of having to carry out patrol duties, rounding up prisoners, re-stocking ammunition, etc; work that was usually carried out by infantry personnel.
For the B.C. Dragoons, the end of the war came on May 2nd as they attacked and seized one of the enemy’s last organized defenses: the town of Delfzijl; a town located in the northeast corner of the Netherlands bordering on Germany.
The same day Delfzijl was captured, all German forces on the Italian front had surrendered and the City of Berlin fell to the Russians. On the morning of May 7th, 1945 the Chief-of-Staff of the German Armed Forces High Command, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender documents for all German forces to the Allies. The war in Europe was over.
In his book, “Sinews of Steel: The History of the British Columbia Dragoons” R.H. Roy points out that… “During the course of the war, the B.C. Dragoons suffered 289 casualties. From this number, four officers and 78 other ranks had been killed while 27 officers and 180 other ranks had been wounded. The average strength of the unit while in battle had been approximately 33 officers and 600 other ranks. That means that the percentage of officer casualties was almost 100 percent, while other ranks was slightly over 40 percent.”
The first of the returning Dragoons arrived in Kelowna on January 19th, 1946.
Later, in 1946, the British Columbia Dragoons resumed its status as a Reserve Armoured Regiment and were stationed in Vernon, Kelowna, and Penticton. Since then, the regiment has provided individual members and formed sub-units to the Regular Force for United Nations (UN) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations. Most recently, BCD members have served in Afghanistan.
THE MEN IN UNIFORM
Major Herbert R. Denison
Herbert R. (Bert) Denison was born in Calgary in 1888. A short time later in 1893, his father, Herbert F. Denison, bought orchard land in the Coldstream and moved his family to the Okanagan.
At the age of twenty, H.R. Denison joined the Canadian Mounted Rifles (Okanagan Mounted Rifles) in 1908. In 1911, when the unit was re-organized as the 1st Regiment, B.C. Horse, he was appointed troop sergeant. He received his commission as an officer (Lieut.) in 1912 with the 30th B.C. Horse.
With the outbreak of World War I, the unit was again reorganized and Lieut. Denison found himself part of the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles. He was shipped overseas in May of 1915 and was in France by September.
During his time in the trenches, Lieut. Denison was promoted to captain and then to major. He was severely wounded at Sanctuary Wood near Ypres and was then sent to England to recover. By January of 1917, he was back in France. In March, he was the victim of a gas attack and was again invalided to England. Although Denison recovered, the effects of the gas poisoning left him unable to do anything physically strenuous. Rather than return to the trenches, he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps.
Denison was stationed in Montrose, Scotland and qualified to pilot Sopwith Camels. This led him to being appointed Officer Commanding (Lieut. Col.) of ground instruction at Montrose Air Station. After the war, he was placed on reserve and given the rank of major.
During World War II, Major Denison served in Moncton, New Brunswick as an indoctrinization officer for the Royal Air Force.
Captain Horace W. Galbraith
Horace W. Galbraith was born at Camden East, Lennox and Addington County, Ontario, in 1896 and moved with his family to Vernon in 1911. His father, John Galbraith, a well-known Vernon businessman, was a member of Vernon City Council from 1918 to 1925, and held the position of mayor in 1924 and 1925.
Horace Galbraith served with the 2nd C.M.R’s. in France during World War I. He was seriously wounded in April of 1918 resulting in the loss of a leg. Later, he received the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. Galbraith earned his law degree in 1921 and practiced law in Vernon for the next 50 years.
Horace Galbraith was 43 at the beginning of World War II. Like many World War I veterans at the time, Galbraith re-enlisted and once again served his country. Galbraith was given the rank of Captain in the British Columbia Dragoons. The ribbon bar seen on his uniform, which is now in the Vernon Museum’s collection, tells the history of his military career. From left to right are the Military Medal, British War Medal, and Victory Medal from WW I. The next two, the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal and War Medal: 1939-1945, are both from WW II. It is also interesting to note extensive polishing of his brass buttons over the years has almost removed any trace of insignia. Horace Galbraith died in 1992 at the age of 95.
Lieut. Colonel David Kinloch, CD
David F.B. Kinloch was born at Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland on November 16th, 1914. He came to Canada with his parents as a child in 1919 and grew up in the Coldstream.
Kinloch attended the Vernon Preparatory School and Vernon High School before being sent to Brentwood College on Vancouver Island. In 1934, he enrolled at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario where he became interested in journalism and joined the Canadian Officers’ Training Corps.
In 1939, Kinloch returned to Vernon and was commissioned as a second lieutenant with the British Columbia Dragoons. Two years later, in November 1941, he was sent overseas to England. By 1943 Kinloch and his regiment were in Italy. It was there, while commanding a tank squadron just north of Rimini in the Po Valley, that Kinloch suffered the loss of his leg by an artillery barrage.
Kinloch arrived back in Canada in February of 1945 and two months later became Clerk to the Municipality of Coldstream. He remained with the reserve BCD’s and, in 1947, became regimental commanding officer.
In 1951/52 Kinloch served as commander of the Vernon Army Cadet Camp. He was appointed aid de camp to then Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia Frank Mackenzie Ross in 1958 and subsequent Lieutenant Governors (Pearkes, Nicholson, Owen, and Bell-Irving) up to 1981.
Kinloch never really left the militia or the regiment. He was appointed the BCD’s honourary Colonel in 1973 and continued in that capacity until 1997. Colonel Kinloch died in 2003. His many B.C. Dragoons uniforms, footlocker, and medals are now part of the Vernon Museum’s collection
Lieut. Col. Donald Cameron
On June 17th, 1943 The Vernon Daily News ran an article that read…
Capt. Donald Cameron, aged 23, born in Vernon, son of Mr. And Mrs. W.T. Cameron…has achieved outstanding military distinction for one so young. In May, about a week before his 23rd birthday, he was promoted from Captain to Acting Major, after being O.C. (officer commanding) of a squadron of the 9th Armoured Regiment, now serving in England. He is believed to be one of the youngest, if not the youngest, major on active service with the Canadian forces anywhere on the globe.
Cameron was offered a commission (2nd Lieut.) on the formation of the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment (BCD) in August of 1940. The bulk of his training was at Camp Borden, Ontario. However, he received additional training at the U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning, Georgia. While stationed there for six weeks, he trained with the 2nd U.S. Armored Division.
Cameron went overseas in October 1941 as O.C. of an advance party of the 9th Armoured Regiment in preparation for the arrival of the main body of the unit. By 1943 Cameron, and his regiment were in Italy as part of the Italian Campaign. Later, in 1944, Cameron was transferred as a replacement to the 12th Armoured Regiment (Trois-Rivières Regiment) and preceded with them through France, Belgium, and Holland to victory in Europe. Upon returning home to Vernon, Cameron signed on for service in the Pacific. However, the war ended before he was shipped out.
Cameron was the great-grandson of Sir Charles Tupper, one of the Fathers of Confederation, former premier of Nova Scotia, and the 6th Prime Minister of Canada. Lieut. Col. Donald Cameron died in August of 1980. His B.C. Dragoons dress uniform is now part of the Vernon Museum’s collection.
Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM)
Robert Hodgson was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1905. His family moved to the Okanagan in 1919 after Hodgson’s father returned from fighting in World War I. In 1921, the family purchased a 17-acre fruit farm in the Vernon area.
By the age of twenty, Hodgson began working seasonally at the Vernon Fruit Union packinghouse. By 1936, he became so proficient at his job, that he was declared the Okanagan Valley Champion Box Maker. Meanwhile, Hodgson joined the 2nd Canadian Mounted Rifles in 1929; the same year they became the B.C. Dragoons.
When the B.C. Dragoons were mobilized as the 5th Canadian Motorcycle Regiment in 1940, Hodgson was promoted to squadron sergeant major. Hodgson remained with the unit when it was transferred to Victoria in the fall of 1940 and became the 9th Canadian Armoured Regiment and in 1941 when the unit was transferred to Camp Borden in Ontario. Hodgson was then promoted to regimental sergeant major.
When the regiment was sent overseas in November 1941, their training on tank and armoured warfare intensified. Hodgson also undertook two months training with Britain’s famous Coldstream Guards. Officially known as Her Majesty’s Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards, it is the oldest regiment in the British Army in continuous active service. Originating in 1650 in the town of Coldstream on the Scottish border.
Hodgson accompanied the 9th Armoured Regiment during the Italian Campaign in 1944 through to France, Belgium, and Holland until the surrender of Germany in May of 1945.
Hodgson returned to Vernon in 1946 and re-joined the B.C. Dragoons as regimental sergeant major under Lt. Col. Dave Kinloch. The following year, he and his wife, Marg, founded the Vernon Girls Trumpet Band. Hodgson retired from the B.C. Dragoons in 1960. At the time of his retirement, he was the longest serving RSM in the Canadian Army.
In 1973, Hodgson was appointed honourary sergeant major of the BCD’s. Hodgson died in 1983. His uniform (battledress) is now part of the Vernon Museum collection.
The Shumay Brothers
In July of 1940, three brothers from Vernon, John, Fred, and Nick Shumay, enlisted to fight in the war in Europe. All three were with the 9th Canadian Armoured Regiment (B.C. Dragoons) and fought in Italy and through Europe ending up in Holland in 1945. All three brothers survived the war.