As we all know, The Canadian Grenadier Guards (CGG) is Canada’s 1st. Regiment. As such, its origins, for at least its first decade and more, was a deliberate attempt to reflect the ethnic mix of Montreal, and indeed Canada, at the time. To fully understand this, one must realize that Montreal at the time was, by far, the economic & major population centre of Canada, reflecting the ethnicity of all of what was then Canada. Indeed, for most of the 19th. Century, the majority of the population of the city itself was not francophone. It was truly a culturally diverse community.
The nine independent Volunteer Militia Rifle Companies that were amalgamated in November 1859 to form what later evolved into the CGG reflected this diverse mix of peoples, as follows:
- 1st, which later evolved into our (CGG) modern No. 1, Company. was the senior corps, formed originally in 1854 as a purely volunteer (non-government) unit known as the Montreal Rifle Rangers, perpetuating a similarly named active unit from the 1837/8 Rebellion, and also units that were active during the War of 1812.
- 2nd and 3rd, later No. 2 and 3, Companies (CGG) were in fact the then Montreal Volunteer Fire Brigade, whose origins dated back to the early 1840’s.
- 4th and 5th,, later No. 4 and 5 Companies were comprised of Irish Roman Catholics, who incidentally suffered from some major discrimination during this period leading up to the Fenian Raids (But this is a different story).
- 6th Company were Orangemen comprised of largely Irish Protestants.
- 7th Company were Scots, eventually wearing tartan trews, but including a kilted piper. Later this Coy. became No. 10 Highland Company, and then eventually transferred over en mass to a new unit which evolved into the modern The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada (BW) and finally:
- 8th and 9th, Companies, who were entirely francophone, and later evolved into what later became the modern Les Fusiliers Mont-Royal (FMR).
Incidentally, the modern Royal Montreal Regiment (RMR0 was originally formed in 1914 as the 14th Battalion, The Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) RMR from 8 Companies – three each recruited from CGG & Victoria Rifles of Canada (VRC), plus two from what later became FMR. So, not only did what later became CGG reflect the ethnic mix of Montreal of its day, as befits the 1st. Regiment, but we actually, in our story, include the origins of many other Montreal units as well.
Lieutenant-Colonel John Fletcher, CMG, is recognized as one of several early founding Officers of The Regiment for his role in having helped form the First Rifle Companies of the 1st Volunteer Militia of Montreal. In the late 1846, Fletcher was appointed Adjutant of The Montreal Fire Brigade. In 1855, then Captain Fletcher became Commander of the 2nd Volunteer Militia Company of Montreal. Fletcher’s Field, now Parc Jeanne Mance, in front of the Home Station (Armoury) was named after him.
Colour Sergeant John Dolbec, retired.
We welcome John Dolbec who for so many years who wrote many news articles about unknown historical facts about our Regiment’s history, Dolbec’s Corner’! John is quite active on Facebook where he shares his wisdom and knowledge of our Regiment. Look him up and become his friend.
We thank him for now contributing to a new medium.