An era comes to an end in Winnipeg — PPCLI depart for Shilo

After 34 years of being continually  stationed in Winnipeg, the Second Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry has departed.

The majority of the soldiers who had called Kapyong Barracks at the corner of Kenaston and Grant their home are now stationed in Shilo, Manitoba. More than 100 vehicles, including 45 light armoured vehicles, made their way to Shilo, Manitoba in the first weeks of September. All that remains in Winnipeg are about 50 military personnel whose job is to make the final preparations for the closure of the ex-Canadian Armed Forces Base.

Most of the soldiers had left by June, their passage from local history marked by a special Sunset Ceremony on June 8 in Memorial Park. 

On June 19, the Second Battalion bid Winnipeg goodbye after being granted Freedom of the City. Members of the regiment marched through the city’s streets with bayonets fixed, drums beating and  colours flying.

It was the last of several Freedom of the City ceremonies that the regiment was granted since its arrival in 1970. The previous times it was granted Freedom of the City were in recognition of special events. The first on June 15, 1972 marked the anniversary of the regiment’s move from Edmonton. Another on May 21, 1980 was a tribute to the members of the Second Battalion who served as UN peacekeepers. More recent ceremonies were held in 1993 prior to the posting of the battalion to Croatia for UN duty and in 1995 prior to another UN posting in Bosnia.

History of PPLCI

The following history of the Second Battalion’s history in Winnipeg is by Captain N.J. Grimshaw of the 2PPCLI.

Since April 1920, Winnipeg has been the regiment’s home on several occasions. 

The Princess Patricia’s were originally formed in August 1914  as a result of the offer of Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault to provide $100,000 to finance and equip a battalion for overseas service. Mobilization began on August 11 and included old soldiers from all across Canada, including Winnipeg. 

The regiment was named after Princess Patricia of Connaught, the youngest daughter of the Duke of Connaught, the governor general of Canada at the time. Princess Patricia was appointed as the regiment’s first colonel-in-chief. 

The regiment’s first formal parade took place on August 23 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa. On September 27, 1914 the Patricia’s left Canada to join the 27th British Division which then landed in France on December 21, a mere four months after the regiment was formed. 

For the next four years, the Patricia’s, who were nicknamed the Pat’s, fought alongside their Commonwealth allies at such battles as Ypres, Frezenburg, Vimy Ridge, Passchendale and Mons. The regiment suffered heavy casualties during the First World War but also firmly secured its place in Canadian history.

On March 20, 1919, the regiment was selected as one of the three infantry units to form the Permanent Active Militia or Permanent Force. It is here that the regiment’s close relationship with Winnipeg was truly formed. The regimental headquarters, and A and D companies were located at Fort Osborne Barracks, overlooking the Assiniboine River in April 1920. The remainder of the Regiment was stationed in Esquimalt, B.C. 

During the interwar years, the regiment was reduced to 209 all ranks and was restricted to low-level training with only a few occasions to gather as a formed battalion. For the Winnipeg based companies, most summers were spent training at Camp Shilo. Ironically, this is now the home base for the Second Battalion. Following summer training in Shilo, A and D companies would return to Winnipeg and enjoy some much deserved annual leave in September. 

Training at Osborne Barracks consisted of many activities including compulsory boxing matches and unarmed combat training lessons. Matches were often held in the evening and the public were usually invited as guests. 

The first Trooping of the Colours in Winnipeg took place on March 17, 1938 at Fort Osborne Barracks, which also marked the colonel-in-chief’s birthday. Over 700 guests attended this event. Also during this time, the Patricia Club of ex-members held their annual dinner in Winnipeg. 

During King George VI’s and Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Canada in May 1939, the regiment provided guards at the Manitoba Legislature and in Assiniboine Park while the Royal couple conducted a visit.

The Patricia’s were mobilized for active service on September 1, 1939. Soldiers were recruited in Winnipeg and on Vancouver Island, and the battalion was brought up to full strength in October of that year. The unit was concentrated in Winnipeg under the command of Lieut-Col W.G. “Shorty” Colquhoun, MC, and departed for Europe on December 21, 1939 as part of the 1st Canadian Infantry Division. 

The regiment spent three years in Great Britain, training and taking part in coastal defence operations. On July 10, 1943, the Patricia’s landed in Sicily as part of the 8th Army, which marked the beginning of the regiment’s fighting during the Second World War. 

The Patricia’s fought up through Italy at such locations as Leonforte, Ortona, the Hitler Line, the Gothic Line, San Fortunato and Rimini. During the Italian Campaign, the regiment upheld its traditions of professionalism, tenacity and aggressiveness in the presence of the enemy. 

After much sacrifice, the regiment embarked en route to North West Europe on March 13, 1945. The Patricia’s operated once again with the 1st Canadian Division and assisted with the liberation of Holland. On May 5, 1945, Victory in Europe (VE-Day) was declared and the regiment began its preparations to return to Canada.

As the war in Japan continued, a Canadian Pacific Force was established. A new battalion of the regiment was formed, designated as 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, 2nd Canadian Infantry Regiment. 

This new battalion was assembled again at Camp Shilo but was not used in the campaign against Japan. Instead it was named the “Interim Force” until September 2, 1945 when it was officially named the Second Battalion, PPCLI, Canadian Infantry Corps. 

In the meantime, the regiment’s battalion in Europe, very much under strength, returned to Winnipeg in October 1945 and was demobilized. Shortly thereafter, the Second Battalion was moved from Shilo to Calgary in June 1946 and redesignated as Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry. This also marked the establishment of the regiment’s home station at Currie Barracks in Calgary.

In August 1950, following the invasion of South Korea by the Chinese Communist-dominated North Koreans, a Second Battalion of the regiment was again formed. Its first Commanding Officer was Lieut.-Col. J.R. Stone DSO, MC. The battalion set sail for Korea on Novemeber 25, 1950. 

On February 6, 1951, 2PPCLI joined the 27th British Commonwealth Brigade and became the first Canadian infantry battalion to be involved in the Korean conflict. 

The Second Battalion was involved in the Battle of Kapyong on April 24 and 15, along with the 3rd Battalion Royal Australian Regiment and A Company, 72nd U.S. Heavy Tank Regiment. After extremely heavy fighting in the Kapyong Valley, the Second Battalion was able to hold off the Chinese forces. By doing so, it saved the South Korean city of Seoul and countless UN lives. 

In recognition of “outstanding heroism and exceptionally meritorious conduct,” the units involved were awarded the United States Presidential Unit Citation. This citation is worn with honour by all currently serving members of 2PPCLI. 

During the fall of 1951, the Second Battalion was relieved by the First Battalion and returned to Calgary to take over the airborne role within Canada’s Mobile Strike Force.

From the formation of NATO standing armies in Germany in 1950 until 1969, Canada maintained a full combat brigade group in Germany. During this period, units rotated to Europe for two- or three-year periods. The Second battalion served in Germany from October 1953 until the fall of 1955. Also in 1953, Lady Patricia formally presented the Second Battalion with the Queen’s and Regimental Colours. This was the first time that 2PPCLI was presented with this regimental honour. 

In 1955, the Second Battalion was garrisoned in Edmonton at Griesbach Barracks until the fall of 1966 when it found itself again in Germany. In the fall of 1969, 2PPCLI returned to Canada, but this time was garrisoned in Winnipeg. The barracks were originally called Selkirk Barracks but were renamed Kapyong Barracks in honour of the Second Battalion’s actions in Korea. 

Just prior to the battalion’s departure from Germany in 1969, it was presented with new colours which would remain in service with 2PPCLI until 1991.

With the exception of a four-year stint in West Germany between 1984 and 1988 as part of the Canadian Forces in Europe, the Second Battalion has called Winnipeg its home for the past 34 years. Between 1970 and 1990, the unit also deployed on three UN peacekeeping tours to Cyprus. 

In 1991, 2PPCLI was presented with its third set of Queen’s and Regimental Colours, this time at Kapyong Barracks in Winnipeg. These colours remain in service with the Second Battalion today. In 1993, 2PPCLI found itself in a different part of the world as it deployed with the United Nations Protection Force (UNPROFOR) in the former Yugoslavia. 

The battalion spent six months in Croatia between April and October, during which time, it demonstrated outstanding professional conduct during the Medac Operations in Sector South. As a result, in December 2002, the unit was awarded with the Governor General’s Unit Commendation for its actions. All personnel currently employed at 2PPCLI wear this decoration, and all those who were present in the unit in 1993 in Croatia are permitted to wear this in perpetuity. 

The Second Battalion returned to the former Yugoslavia as part if the NATO Stabilization Force (SFOR) in Janunary 1997 for Operation Palladium Roto 0, and again in 2001 for Roto 7. Most recently, 2PPCLI was deployed to Bosnia for Roto 12 from April to October 2003. 

In addition to the operational duties in the former Yugolsavia, approximately 140 personnel from 2PPCLI were deployed to Afghanistan in 2002 as part of Operation Apollo with the Third Battalion PPCLI Battle Group. This unit was also awarded with the Governor General’s Unit Commendation in December 2003.