Queen's Own Rifles
The Queen's Own Rifles is Canada’s oldest rifle regiment, whose history can be traced back to April 1860.
The QOR's battle honours are many and distinguished and include service during the Northwest Rebellion in 1885, and both World Wars. During the First World War, they fought as the 3rd Battalion CEF, and distinguished themselves in most major battles of the war, including Ypres, St. Julien, Hill 70, Mount Sorrel, the Somme, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, The Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord and the Pursuit to Mons, earning 382 decorations and 4 Victoria Crosses.
The Regiment also fought during the Second World War, landing at Juno Beach on D-Day, and then fighting throughout Northwest Europe until the wars end, earning 85 decorations and one Victoria Cross. In recent times they have served on peacekeeping duties in several countries including Korea, Cyprus and with NATO forces in Germany during the Cold War.
The Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada
This is a tribute to Canada's oldest and best known Rifle Regiment, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada. The forerunner of the "Queen's Own" was born on 26 April 1860 with the formation of the Volunteer Militia Rifles of Canada. It was renamed Queen's Own Rifles of Toronto on 18 March 1863 and became the Queen's Own Rifles of Canada on 13 January 1882.
Rifle Regiments have traditionally been military organizations with unique tactics, training, dress and weapons. The training of Queen's Own Riflemen included the development of individual initiative, resourcefulness and lightly equipped speed of movement. Emphasis was placed on marksmanship and flexible battle manoeuvrability as opposed to traditional battle lines, drills and rigid obedience to orders. In short, the Rifleman was taught the use of stealth, hit and run guerilla tactics and the value of cover and concealment during battle.
This is evident by the dress of Riflemen. The principle of concealment, not adornment, is followed. The forest green uniforms with black, unpolished horn buttons enabled the Rifleman to conceal himself, or move with stealth much more easily than could a regular infantryman wearing shiny brass buttons, a gleaming hat badge and carrying noisy gear.
Even the Queen's Own Rifles hat badge, a Canadian Maple Leaf, is worn unpolished. Originally, the rifles carried by the Riflemen were lighter and shorter than traditional infantry weapons. The Riflemen's bayonet was actually a somewhat longer weapon, to this day referred to as a "sword." The longer bayonet was purposely intended to make up for the loss of reach lost by the shorter rifle, thus giving the Rifleman the same advantage as his enemy during hand to hand combat.
Speed is vital to the Rifleman's role of tactical reconnaissance and guerilla warfare, thus a faster marching pace of 140 paces to the minute is used, as compared to the traditional infantry marching speed of 120 paces to the minute. When required to cover a lot of ground quickly, Rifle units march at the "double," approximately 180 paces to the minute.
The Queen's Own Rifles battle honours are many and distinguished and include the Relief of Battleford during the Riel Rebellion. Led by Lt. Col. W. D. Otter, the first professional Canadian soldier to command the Regiment, the Queen's Own engaged Chief Poundmaker and the Cree at the Battle of Cut Knife Creek on 2 May 1885.
Other battle honours include South Africa 1899–1900 and during the First World War, Ypres, St. Julien, Hill 70, Passchendaele, Amiens and the Pursuit to Mons. Soldiers of the Regiment earned 382 decorations, among them four Victoria Crosses during the First World War.
Battle honours during the Second World War include, LeMesnil-Patry, Caen, Bourguebus Ridge, Falaise, Boulogne, The Scheldt, The Rhineland, The Hochwald and The Rhine, during which 85 decorations were awarded, including one Victoria Cross won by Platoon Sergeant Aubry Cosens, killed in action on 26 February 1945 at Mooshof Holland.
Thousands of distinguished Canadian soldiers have worn the "Rifle Green," among them the first Canadian born Governor-General, The Right Honourable Vincent Massey, MGen (Retd) Lewis W. MacKenzie, The Hero of Sarajevo and Col (Retd) Donald Ethell, Canada's most decorated United Nations Peacekeeping soldier.
Sadly, this proud and noble Canadian Rifle Regiment is no longer part of Canada's regular military. The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada was "struck off strength," during the Trudeau government's massive military cutbacks in June 1969 which is ironic, considering the Regiment's Motto; "In Pace Paratus" (In Peace Prepared). Today the Regiment remains an active member of Canada's reserve militia establishment.
The Story of a Canadian Soldier's Heroism
According to the eye witness account of Major Ben Dunkelman of the Queen's Own Rifles during an assault against the Germans in the village of Mooshof Holland, Sgt Aubry Cosens took command when his Platoon Commander, Lt Lloyd McKay, was seriously wounded.
According to Major Dunkelman; "It was a desperate situation, Lt McKay was wounded as he directed the attack from the top of a tank. Sgt Cosens immediately jumped on the tank and took command. Firing his sten gun, the sergeant directed the tank at three houses containing German soldiers and crashed the tank into each house. Sgt Cosens action killed many enemy soldiers and captured 20 prisoners. No man could have done more than Sergeant Cosens. He personally broke the back of the German resistance and the objective was taken."
Major Dunkelman went on to say; "Later in the morning, Sergeant Cosens was shot in the head by a German sniper and killed instantly. The Queen's Own has lost as fine a fighting man as ever donned the uniform." The action at Mooshof took place during Operation Veritable, the first phase of the Battle of the Rhineland.
Today there is a commemorative plaque mounted on the side of a farmhouse in Mooshof, the actual site of the battle in which Sergeant Cosens was killed. The plaque reads: "In commemoration of Sgt Aubrey Cosens, VC, 1st Battalion, The Queen's Own Rifles of Canada, who, on the night of 25/26 February 1945, led the four remaining surviving Riflemen of his platoon in the capture of these farm buildings which were vital to the success of future operations of the 8th Canadian Infantry Brigade. For his gallantry, initiative and determined leadership, Sgt Cosens was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross."