Winnipeg Rifles mark their birthday while thinking about fallen soldiers in Ottawa, Quebec
Celebrating 131st aniversary
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 10/11/2014 (3065 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Standing guard at the corner of The Soldiers Monument for the Royal Winnipeg Rifles on Sunday, Master Corporal Neil Mitchell couldn’t help but think about another Canadian soldier recently shot and killed performing a similar duty.
Every year, members of the Rifles, one of the most vaunted Canadian military units in history, come together at St. John’s Cathedral, about a block off Main Street on Anderson Avenue, and its surrounding cemetery to celebrate the regiment’s birthday, but Mitchell said this year, the 131st, made him think.
“It means a little more this year,” Mitchell said Sunday, shortly after the ceremony ended at The Soldiers Monument.
“You can relate to Nathan Cirillo, because he was doing much the same thing. But other than that, this week is always very busy for us with our regimental dinner and Remembrance Day always falling on one of the four days.”
Cirillo, a reservist from Hamilton, was shot and killed at his post by the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier last month in Ottawa. It was just two days after Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, 53, was killed in a targeted hit and run in Quebec.
St. John’s Dean Paul Johnson said he mentioned both soldiers by name during his sermon, which featured the Rifles’ regimental band throughout the service.
“It’s a privilege to have this service — every year they come and we commemorate them — it’s a special day,” Johnson said.
“But it’s more poignant this year. Everything is still fresh in people’s minds about both here and overseas. But we even pray for our enemies, as we are called to do, and we pray for peace, which every soldier wants.”
The Royal Winnipeg Rifles were formed in 1883 as a citizen infantry reserve unit. It fought in the Northwest Rebellion, first at the Battle of Fish Creek and later at the Battle of Batoche.
In the wake of the first battle, one of the prisoners noted their dark green uniforms and said “the red coats we know, but who are those little black devils?” The regiment took the name as its motto and put an image of a devil on their badge. King George V conferred the Royal designation in 1935.
Every year, the regiment has a ceremony in the church cemetery at the tomb erected in 1886, where seven of their members killed during the Northwest Rebellion are interred. The church also houses the regiment’s drum, bugle and colours, while the stained-glass windows on the north end of the church show how it participated in military actions from its beginning all the way to Korea.
Maj. Richard Desjardins said the events of the last few weeks have made this year’s Remembrance Day services of “significance for the average Canadian, but for us it is not new.
“Maybe it has made it more in the public eye, but we do this every year. We will remember them.”
Bugle major Sgt. Claude Ouellette, one of several dressed in the regiment’s historic uniform, said with the events in Ottawa and “the fact our birthday falls so close to Remembrance Day, it brings a time for us to reflect and come together as a regimental family.”
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
Updated on Monday, November 10, 2014 12:37 PM CST: Changed to St. John's Dean Paul Johnson.