Birth of a Regiment


Customs and Traditions

The Regimental System

The Regimental System common to armies based on the British model is much more than an organizational entity. In many was it is more akin to a family, clan or tribe than a conventional organization. Members typically join a regiment as new recruits and will then remain with that regiment throughout their time in uniform. Even when they leave the army, links are maintained through regimental associations.  Beyond those in uniform, the Regiment reaches out to include the families of soldiers.  From the earliest days of the Patricia’s, wives and families were active supporters of the regiment and in turn, the regiment sought to provide support to the families of its soldiers.  Regimental wives sent gifts to soldiers in the field, visited the wounded in hospital and comforted the grieving.  Commanding officers and company commanders were expected to write to the next of kin of those killed or seriously wounded.  Gifts arranged by regimental wives and supporters ranges from creature comforts like wool socks and cigarettes to trench periscopes, morphine and machine guns.  The Comedy Company was sent cast of dresses as costumes for their skits and the band provided uniforms and instruments.  With a regiment like the Patricia’s, with strong links to wealthy and powerful families at home, the gifts were often substantial.

Traditions of the Regiment

Many of the traditions practiced today in the Regiment can trace their roots back to the First World War.  Much in the same way the new arrivals were introduced to the Colours, today new recruits will visit the Regimental Museum where they can see the tattered colour that was carried in the trenches.  It is common practice too that when the Commanding Officer dines with the Senior NCOs and Warrant Officers, he will take with him the Regimental Colour. A practice initiated by Agar Adamson in 1917.  Although the Regiment no longer has a full pipe band, there have always been pipers in the Regiment who will play at regimental functions.  Perhaps the most distinct links to the early days of the regiment are through its music and the regimental colour.

The Ric-a-dam-doo

The original colour, made by Princess Patricia, officially was simply a camp flag and hence exempt from the restrictions applied to official colours.  Historically, regimental colours were carried in battle as a rallying point for the troops. As the nature of warfare changed the risk of loss or capture by the enemy began to outweigh the practical value of a rallying point.  It then became common practice to lay up the colours in a church for protection during war.

From the outset, the Patricia’s always accorded the original colour the respect due a formally consecrated colour.  Its protection was assigned to an officer and an armed escort.  It was affectionately know as the Ric-a-dam-doo.  Although the origins of the term are lost in time, legend has it that it was originally a gaelic term meaning either cloth of our mother or refering to the favour or scarf presented to a knight by a lady.  Whether this is true of not, it makes a good story.  It may well be the the label originated with Brigadier “Batty Mac” MacDonnel who commanded the 7th Brigade in 1916-1917.  He spoke gaelic and would often regale kilted troops like the PPCLI band in the language even if they understood not a word of what he was saying.

The Ric-a-dam-doo remained with the Regiment throughout the war and was formally consecrated 0n January 28th 1919 as the final official act of the Regiment on French soil.  On their return to England, the Regiment assembled at Bramshott Camp to formally say good bye to their Princess. There, she decorated the colour with a wreath of laurel in silver gilt inscribed:

To the P.P.C.L.I from the Colonel-in-Chief, Patricia, in recognition of their heroic services in the Great War, 1914-1918.

That this simple ceremony was reported in the New York Time is a testament to both the popularity of the Regiment and its well honed skill in maintaining its public profile.

Today all battalions carry a replica of the wreath on their regimental colours. The Ric-a-dam-doo remained in service until 1922 when it was replaced by a replica because of its deteriorating condition. Despite some efforts by Gault to have it retained for very special occasions as a third colour, it was finally laid up and remains today as the centre piece of the Regimental Museum in Calgary. An official Regimental Colour recognized by the College of Heralds and bearing ten battle honours from the Great War was presented in 1934.

Regimental Music

Most infantry Regiments select for their march past stirring marches by famous composers designed to be played by military band. Not so for the Patricia’s. Instead the Regiment chose three popular songs that soldiers would sing on the march. The quick march includes Has Anyone Seen the Colonel, The Madamoiselle from Armentieres and Tipperary. In a similar vein, the slow march is Lili Marlene.

The Regiment faced some difficulty maintaining the pipe band during the war. When Pipe Major John Colville was stuck off strength in May 1917, he was replaced by Pipe Major William Campbell. He is shown here next to RSM Fred Gillingham as the NCOs prepare to move off to attend the wedding of Princess Patricia and Commander Ramsey in 1919. A brass band was also added during the war with instruments provided by Hamilton Gault.

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