The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment)

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name=The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment)

caption=Cap badge of The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry
dates=December 15, 1936
type=Line Infantry
role=Light Role
size= One battalion
command_structure=Royal Canadian Infantry Corps
garrison= Hamilton
ceremonial_chief= HRH The Duke of Edinburgh
ceremonial_chief_label=Colonel in Chief
colonel_of_the_regiment= Colonel James C. Forsyth, CStJ, CD
colonel_of_the_regiment_label=Honorary Colonel
nickname= "The Rileys"
motto= "Semper Paratus" (Always Ready)
march= Quick: "Mountain Rose"
The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment) is a Primary Reserve unit of the Canadian Forces based at John W. Foote VC Armouries in Hamilton, Ontario.

The regiment has a long history, descending from the 13th Regiment, formed December 11, 1862 on a general order issued by the Governor General. It has earned thirty-nine battle honours in the two World Wars. Most recently, members from the regiment have deployed to Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). They suffered their greatest single day of losses at Dieppe, France on August 19, 1942. [ [ RhLI website] ] The anniversary of Dieppe is recognized each year by the regiment.

History 1862–1913

The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry has a rich history in Hamilton and Wentworth County. The regiment has two direct antecedents, and indirect antecedents include the 1st and 2nd Companies of Volunteer Rifles (Hamilton), formed in 1855, and the Volunteer Highland Company (No. 3 Company) formed in 1856.

The RHLI’s earliest direct ancestor is the 13th Battalion of Volunteer Militia established in 1862. The regiment also traces ancestry to the 77th (Wentworth) Battalion of Volunteer Militia. Founded under that name in 1872, it was renamed the 77th Wentworth Regiment in 1900.

The regimental cap badge still bears the supposedly unlucky number from its oldest official antecedent. The 13th Battalion first saw action at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866 against a force of Fenian invaders from the United States. In 1870, another contingent from the battalion served in Manitoba during the Red River Rebellion.

Between 1899 and 1902, during the Boer War, many members of the 13th served in South Africa as members of the 2nd (Special Service) Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment and the 1st Canadian Mounted Rifles. Not asked to mobilize for the war, the 13th Battalion remained in Canada and was redesignated "13th Regiment" in 1900 and "13th Royal Regiment" in 1910.

History 1914–1938

When the Great War began in 1914, Colonel Sam Hughes, Canada's Minister of Militia, scrapped the original national mobilization plan and asked the commanding officers of Militia units for volunteers to serve with battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF). Consequently, many members of the 13th Royal Regiment went overseas with the 4th Battalion, CEF, part of the famous First Contingent. Throughout the war, the unit served as a depot regiment that enrolled and trained men before despatching them to deploying CEF battalions. The CEF was not the only destination, either; the Royal Flying Corps accepted 82 men from the 13th, and 81 went to the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve. Locally raised CEF battalions that received soldiers from the 13th included the 19th Battalion, CEF (145 men), 36th Battalion, CEF (124 men), 76th Battalion, CEF (506 men), 86th (Machine Gun) Battalion, CEF (600 men), 120th (City of Hamilton) Battalion, CEF (625 men), and the 205th (Tiger) Battalion, CEF (704 men). Of these, the 120th (City of Hamilton) Battalion CEF had the closest affiliation with the 13th Royal Regiment, so on May 28, 1916, that battalion formally accepted the Regiment's Colours and took them overseas. The Colours were laid up in Westminster Abbey until March 5, 1919, when the Dean of Westminster returned them to veterans of the 120th (City of Hamilton) Battalion, which was broken up to reinforce other CEF battalions in 1917.

In the interwar period, the Canadian Militia underwent two major reorganizations (in 1920 and again in 1936) and several minor ones. The Hamilton area did not escape, and in 1920 the two most significant RHLI antecedents acquired new names: "The Royal Hamilton Regiment" and "The Wentworth Regiment". In 1927, the former became The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry, and the final reorganization in 1936 brought all but one company of The Wentworth Regiment into the RHLI, which then received its current title: The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment). To this day, the regiment is informally known as The Rileys.

History 1939–1945

On the outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, all the units of the Non-Permanent Active Militia of Canada were mobilized for overseas service. (This was not done in 1899 or 1914 because the original terms of sovereignty under the British North America Act -- amended by the Statute of Westminster in 1931 -- did not include authority to deploy troops outside Canadian territory.) The Rileys were mobilized with the Canadian Active Service Force on September 1, 1939, reinforced from the 2nd Battalion at the regiment's home station, which began recruiting for home defence in early 1940. In November 1940, the active service battalion was redesignated the 1st Battalion, RHLI.

The 1st Battalion was assigned to the 4th Infantry Brigade in the 2nd Canadian Infantry Division. The battalion saw combat for the first time at Dieppe on August 19, 1942. Of the 582 soldiers who landed that morning, only 102 (18 percent) were not among the casualties: 197 killed, 174 captured and 194 wounded (including 85 also captured). [ [ RHLI website] ] The Dieppe survivors suffered great physical trauma and psychological distress as a result of the battle and the loss of so many of their friends and comrades in a battle that lasted only about eight hours.

The most highly decorated member of the battalion was the chaplain, Honorary Captain the Reverend John Foote, who remained at Dieppe with his wounded and captured comrades rather than accept evacuation to Britain. Padre Foote was nominated for the Victoria Cross while still a prisoner of war; the award was made after VE Day.

The 2nd Canadian Division came under command of the newly formed II Canadian Corps in Britain, and after almost two years of training after Dieppe, returning to France after D-Day, to fight through the Battle of Normandy from early July on. During Operation Spring, the Rileys earned the distinction of being the only assault unit to hold their objective (the village of Verrières). During the winter of 1944-1945, the Rileys fought through the Battle of the Scheldt and the Rhineland, and on V-E Day was deep into Germany.

History 1945–1999

In the post-war period, the regular battalion was demobilized and the reserve battalion consequently lost its number. It looked like the RHLI would revert to the genteel neglect of the interwar period, until the Cold War interrupted. Some Rileys served in the United Nations Special Force in the Korean War and in 1955 the regiment was represented in the 27th Brigade that served on NATO duty in West Germany.

At home, its armoury was renamed in honour of Padre Foote, VC. In 1978, Prince Philip was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the regiment. The RHLI, formerly part of the Hamilton Militia District, became part of Land Forces Central Area’s 31 Canadian Brigade Group in the 1990s.

The town of Dieppe, France, has set aside a small park at the western end of the esplanade in which it has erected a memorial of its own. Standing in the centre of the Square du Canada (Canada Square), the Dieppe-Canada Monument is a testimony to the long and warm association between Canadians and Normans which has existed since Samuel de Champlain sailed to found New France. The names of people and events which have linked Canada and Normandy over the centuries have been recorded on the monument. Mounted on the wall behind it is a plaque that commemorates the Raid on Dieppe:

:"On the 19th of August 1942 on the beaches of Dieppe our Canadian cousins marked with their blood the road to our final liberation foretelling thus their victorious return on September 1, 1944." [translation from the French]

Recent activities

Members of the regiment have augmented Regular Force contingents on many operations including serving in the Balkans with United Nation forces (UNPROFOR) in the early 1990s, and NATO from 1995-present. Over the past decades members have also served in; Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Sierra Leone, Congo, Haiti, and Afghanistan. They were also on alert for the feared millennial or Y2K crisis which failed to materialize.

The City of Hamilton dedicated Dieppe Memorial Park in the Hamilton Beach neighbourhood on August 19, 2003, the 61st anniversary of the Dieppe Raid. Among the 250 invited guests and 1,000 onlookers were the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario and 18 of the 24 Riley Dieppe veterans known to survive.

Current parade strength is typical of Canadian militia units at approximately 200-250 all ranks. The RHLI currently consists of two rifle companies; "B" Company (Hamilton) and "C" Company Burlington) and an administration company, "A" Company, also at battalion headquarters in Hamilton. Battalion structures are maintained throughout the militia to allow for expansion in time of war.

erving in Afghanistan

Most recently, soldiers from the RHLI have deployed to Afghanistan as part of the Canadian Forces contribution to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). This is the first time since WWII serving members from the regiment have taken part in combat operations. Most notably this included Operation Medusa in 2006. Members from the RHLI in Afghanistan have also served with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and as members of the Force Protection Unit.


*GBR - The Rifles

Order of precedence

Notable soldiers

*Denis Whitaker, a prewar professional football player, rose to command the 1st Battalion of the regiment in the Second World War. After the war, he rose to the rank of Brigadier and published many books on Canadian military history with his wife Shelagh.


*Soldiers of the regiment are colloquially known individually and collectively as "Rileys" referring phonetically to RHLI.
*Exercise Resolute Riley: held annually since 1997 at Valens Conservation Area in Hamilton. This event, which historically takes place the second weekend in September, tests soldiers physical fitness as well as teamwork while completing a grueling swamp crossing, cross country run, ruck sack march and water crossing. The winning team is awarded the Nicolazzo Trophy (named after MCpl Frank Nicolazzo who was killed in 1996). The current trophy holders are Pte. Louis Progosh and Pte. Robert Grzeszczuk. The race is followed by a Regimental Family BBQ.
*Silver Cap Badge: This honour is awarded annually to the top soldier within the following rank groups; Private/Corporal, Master Corporal, Sergeant and Junior Officer. Awarded during the Regimental Christmas Dinner, the Silver Cap Badge is then worn by the recipient for one year to display the accomplishment to their peers. The following soldiers were awarded the 2007 Silver Cap Badges: Cpl Jeff Simser, MCpl Brad Hillmer, Sgt Peter Fairchild.

Basic facts

*Name: The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment), gazetted December 11, 1862 as the 13th Battalion Volunteer Militia (Infantry) Canada
*Regimental Church: Church of the Ascension, Anglican, Hamilton, Ontario

Regimental History

Greenhous, Brereton, ed. "Semper Paratus: The History of The Royal Hamilton Light (Wentworth Regiment) 1862–1877." Hamilton, Ont.: The RHLI Historical Association, 1977.

ee also

* The Canadian Crown and the Canadian Forces

Other links

* [ The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (WR)] regimental website
* [ Regimental Band of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry] Regimental Sub Unit Website
* [ RHLI Heritage Museum] in Hamilton, Ontario
* [ RHLI(WR)] from Commonwealth regiments website
* [ John Foote] , VC, Veterans Affairs website
* William Merrifield, Victoria Cross recipient

Contact information

John W. Foote, VC, CD Armoury
200 James Street North
Hamilton, Ontario
L8N 4C1
(905) 972-4001


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