The fine thread of Canadian cavalry tradition to which our present day regiment and corps are legitimate heirs, can be traced back to shortly before the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759 when two troops of volunteer cavalry were raised among the young generation of Quebec. These young bloods owned their own horses and were allowed to equip themselves at their own expense. Splendid in uniforms of blue and silver, their sole purpose at the time was to wait upon the Governor and take part in ceremonial parades. However, in the battle against the English, both on the Plains and at St. Foy, they distinguished themselves with gallantry performing valuable services in patrols and communications.
Nearly fifty years later, the Corps of Volunteer Cavalry was revived in Quebec City. Many of the young gentlemen who joined were descendants of the originals and were amongst the first to volunteer their services in the War of 1812 against the Americans. In the domestic troubles of 1937, the Corps again served Canada in arduous and demanding duties, operating with an esprit de corps that rose above the differences in race and religion.
By 1855, the British, tired of providing an army to defend a colony already exercising independence of thought as well as action, decided to transfer the responsibility for defence to the colony itself by gradually withdrawing regular troops badly needed for service elsewhere in the world. Consequently, a bill was passed in the Canadian Legislature in 1855 providing for a voluntary active militia. The *Squadron of Quebec Volunteer Cavalry was to become a part of a school of cavalry under the direction of a regiment of British Hussars serving in Quebec. It played an active role in the last of the Fenain raids and the suppression of civil disorder so that in 1879, by way of reward, the Squadron received permission from the Queen to be designated the Queen’s Own Canadian Hussars.
No sooner had the US Civil War ended, then the Fenian raids (June 1866) were launched by what was grandly called the Irish Republican Army. Raised and equipped in the States by a firebrand Irishman, John O’Neil, who had been a cavalry officer in the Union Army, these raids revealed the deplorable weakness in Canadian defences. A new Militia Act was passed in 1883 providing for a permanent force for instructional purposes to consist of “one troop of cavalry, three batteries of artillery, and not more than three companies of infantry, the whole strength of which shall not exceed seven
hundred and fifty men”. Four years later, the establishment was raised to a thousand men with the addition of more infantry.
* As a result of the bill passed in 1855, the Quebec Volunteer Cavalry became officially gazetted with squadron strength in 1856. With the passing of this act, selected Lieutenant- Colonels went to England for attachment to English units in preparation for Canadian command. One of them was Lieutenant-Colonel J.F. Turnbull, a seasoned soldier with more than twenty-five years experience. On his return to Canada, Colonel Turnbull was authorized to organize and command “A” Troop Cavalry School Corps and School of Cavalry. The object was to train recruits and instructors for non-permanent organizations as well as to perform routine duties as cavalry. Thus, Turnbull’s appointment established him as the first Commanding Officer of what was to become The Royal Canadian Dragoons.
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