By Adriana A. Davies, CA, Cav. D’Italia, PhD
Edmonton had a strong militia tradition and, in 1908, the 19th Alberta Dragoons and 101st Regiment were established. The latter, in 1909, became the Edmonton Fusiliers and, later still, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment. The men drilled, took part in marksmanship competitions and attended annual June training camps in Calgary.
When war was declared on August 4, 1914, the Alberta Dragoons mobilized and were among the first Edmonton soldiers to see active service in France (February 1915). Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) recruited in Edmonton and northern Alberta and, by August 14, 200 men left for the training camp at Valcartier, Quebec before shipping out. Some men from the 101st Regiment also joined the Patricias.
By 1915, 11 battalions had recruited in Edmonton: 9th, 31st, 49th, 51st, 151st, 63rd, 66th, 138th, 194th Highland Battalion, 202nd Sportsman’s Battalion and 218th Battalion Irish Guards. The Edmonton Morning Bulletin reported in November 1915 that 12,000 men had enlisted in Edmonton district.
The 49th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, had the closest association with the city. Scots, who had been organizing the Highland regiment, enlisted as a company in the 49th. As in other Alberta cities, the Exhibition Grounds became a training base and location for military displays.
The 49th Battalion fought in major battles of the First World War as part of the 7th Brigade, 3rd Division, of the Canadian Corps, and won numerous honours including two Victoria Crosses. In 1916, the 49ers fought in the Ypres Salient (Sanctuary Wood, Mount Sorrel and Passchendaele); at the Somme (Courcelette and Regina Trench), and, in 1917, at Vimy Ridge and then back to Passchendele. During the Last Hundred Days (summer and fall 1918), they were at Amiens, Arras, Canal du Nord and Cambrai, ending the war at Mons. The Battalion is perpetuated today by the Loyal Edmonton Regiment (4th Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry).
Discover the history of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment in the historic Prince of Wales Armoury Heritage Centre. Please visit their website at http://www.lermuseum.org/. The First World War is represented in the exhibits and the Archives contains copies of the Forty-Niner magazine.