Canada Post has issued a commemorative cover marking the upcoming 100th anniversary of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI), one of the three regular force infantry regiments in the Canadian Army. The cover is dominated by a photograph, taken in 1919, honouring the regiment for its service in the First World War. Princess Patricia of Connaught, first honorary colonel of the regiment, is shown with the regimental flag. As is traditional, the flag is carried by a junior officer, guarded by sergeants. Beneath the large photograph, are smaller photographs showing members of the regiment over the years. Both wartime and peacetime activities are depicted.
The stamp is a personalized postage issue, with the permanent-rate P mark. The stamp shows the regimental band in scarlet dress uniforms, formed up on an outside parade square, with the regimental crest and battle honours on display in the background. The cancel from Ottawa, where the regiment was formed, has the VP regimental cypher and crown with the date March 17. Today the PPCLI consists of three regular force battalions located in Edmonton, Alta., and Shilo, Man. The regimental headquarters is in Edmonton. A fourth battalion is a reserve unit, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment, (4 PPCLI). While regiments normally get a stamp commemorating their 150th anniversary, the formation of the PPCLI, nicknamed the Patricias, coincides with the start of the First World War.
Canada entered the war on Aug. 4, 1914. There was a demand for soldiers, and a belief that the war would be over quickly.
Inspired by the example of Lord Strathcona (Canadian railway baron Donald Smith), who paid for raising a cavalry regiment, Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault, a Montreal businessman and militia officer, offered the Canadian government $100,000 toward the cost of raising an infantry battalion. The government accepted, and along with Lieut.-Colonel Francis Farquhar, military secretary to the governor general the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Gault set about recruiting men. In order to get the regiment into action quickly the decision was made to recruit former soldiers because they were already trained, but who were not attached to any militia units, so they would not have to be transferred.
Princess Patricia of Connaught, daughter of the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, agreed to lend her name to the regiment.
The regiment was authorized on Aug. 10, just six days after the declaration of war. By Aug. 19 the authorized strength of 1,098 men had been selected from more than 3,000 applicants. Farquhar became the first commander and Gault was appointed to major and made second-in-command. Princess Patricia presented the regiment with a standard, nicknamed the Ric-A-Dam-Doo, which she designed and sewed by hand. The regiment was formed in Ottawa.
The Patricias arrived in England in October and in December were deployed in France, the first Canadian militia unit to enter the line of battle. It was initially part of the 80 Brigade of the British Expeditionary Force. A year later it was transferred to the new 7th Brigade of 3rd Canadian Division, part of the famed Canadian Corps. Gault was wounded three times in the war, losing a leg in 1916, and Farquhar was killed in March 1915 at the Battle of St. Eloi, the regiment’s first action. In May 1915, the regiment suffered nearly 500 casualties in three days, being reduced to 150 men. In the course of the war more than 1,270 Patricias were killed. At the end of the war Gault, who commanded the regiment when it returned to Canada, was one of only two original officers left.
After the war the PPCLI was placed in the active militia and relocated to Winnipeg, Man. On Sept. 10, 1939, the day Canada entered the Second World War, the regiment was mobilized for active service. It arrived in England in December of that year and was placed in the First Canadian Infantry Division. After spending more than three years in Britain, the PPCLI fought in Sicily, Italy, and Northern Europe. In 1945 a second battalion was formed for the Pacific theatre but never left Canada. The regiment was retained for the permanent force at the end of the Second World War.
In 1950 the PPCLI was selected to serve in Korea as part of the British Commonwealth Brigade. It was the first Canadian unit to serve in that war. During the Battle of Kapyong the second battalion, PPCLI earned the United States Presidential Unit Citation. Since then the PPCLI has served in Germany, and participated in peacekeeping missions around the world. In 2002, the third battalion was deployed to Afghanistan, again amongst the first Canadian troops to be sent to an engagement. Over the course of the war, all three battalions were deployed to Afghanistan several times.