Thursday, February 17, 2011





by Permission of the RHQ

PPCLI, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

by: Ron "Scoreboard" Johnston

The founding of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry was undoubtedly in response to the unfolding
events that led to the First World War. Captain Andrew
Hamilton Gault, the founder of the Regiment, had the
foresight to understand the severity of the situation in Europe and the willingness to create an army unit that would be able to mobilize quickly in an international crisis. The creation of the PPCLI enabled Canada to expedite a military force overseas in 1914.

On August 4th, 1914, Germany's invasion of Belgium forced Britain into the war. As a loyal member of the Empire, Canada also declared war.

Great Britain's Declaration of War made Hamilton Gault's proposal even more credible to the Government. Lieutenant-Colonel Francis Farquhar, DSO, was an officer with the Coldstream Guards and Military Secretary to Canada's Governor General, His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught. He was enthusiastic about Gault's proposal and knew the Government was seriously reviewing the idea. Farquhar and Gault decided that they should recruit men who had previous active service but were not obligated to militia units. L.T. Colonel Farquhar approached the Duke of Connaught for permission to name the Regiment after his daughter, Her Royal Highness, Princess Patricia of Connaught. Princess Patricia had already become a much admired figure in Canada because of her appreciation of the country's vast wilderness and people. The request was made to the Princess and she was delighted. On August 6th, 1914, the Canadian Government provisionally accepted Hamilton Gault's offer.

Canada's quick response to the war was due in part to the wealthy and distinguished Montreal businessman and Captain of the Royal Highlanders of Canada, Hamilton Gault. As a veteran of the South African war, Gault remained personally involved with the Canadian political responsibility to Britain as part of the Empire. As the climate of war overshadowed the international community in early August 1914, Hamiltion Gault ventured by train to Ottawa with a proposal. He would personally raise and equip a mounted unit of Canadians for the Imperial authorities. The proposal was set in front of Colonel Sam Hughes, the Canadian Minister of the Militia and Defense. Colonel Hughes was attracted to the offer but thought that an Infantry unit, as opposed to Cavalry, would be more useful to Britain.

Authority for the creation of the Regiment was granted on August 10th, through a charter embodied in a report of the Committee of the Privy Council of Canada to raise and equip an infantry battalion. As detailed in the charter, Hamilton Gault would contribute $100,000 to finance and equip the battalion with the remainder of expenditures being covered by the Department of Militia and Defense.

Mobilization of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry progressed quickly. The recruiting project began on August 11th and was completed eight days later as veteran soldiers flocked to Ottawa from every part of Canada. The recruitment campaign extended to six cities: Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. By August 19th, 1098 ranks had been accepted from 3,000 applicants and of them 1,049 had seen previous service throughout the British Empire. It is said that all but one unit in the British Army was in the ranks of the new Regiment as well as men from the Royal Navy and Marines.

The Regiment's first formal parade was held on August 23rd. Princess Patricia presented her Regiment with a Camp Colour that she had designed and worked by hand. On it the initials "VP" (Victoria Patricia) in gold were entwined upon a blue center on a crimson background. The "Ric-A-Dam-Doo", as it later became known to all Patricia soldiers, was affixed to a staff cut from a Government House maple tree. The Colour was carried into every battle in which the Regiment fought in the First World War. The Edmonton City Pipe Band traveled to Ottawa under the leadership of Pipe-Major C. Colville, a veteran who reported for duty in Hunting Stewart Tartan and announced to Commanding Officer that "We came (Sir) to pipe you to France and back again".

The Regiment left Ottawa on the 28th of August, 1914 and embarked at Montreal on the MEGANTIC.

On the 22nd of December, 1915, the Regiment became part of the newly formed 3rd Canadian Division as a unit of the 7th Brigade. Other units of the Brigade were: the 42nd Battalion (Black Watch); the 49th Battalion (The Edmonton Regiment); and the Royal Canadian Regiment. The Regiment fought in many actions throughout the rest of the World War I and was part of the Canadian Corp which captured Vimy Ridge on the 9th of April 1917.

The full title of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Mobile Infantry was too long for everyday use and the new unit became known as "PPCLI", with "PP's", or "Pip Pip's, the most common variants.

The Regiment was best known to the public as "Princess Pats" or merely "Pats", but this partial abbreviation is discouraged within the regiment which now prefers to be known as the "Patricia's".

The PPCLI was the last privately raised Unit in the Commonwealth.

The researcher of this web site, Ron Johnston's, father-in-law, Earl Middleton, served with the PPCLI at Vimy Ridge in WW 1. As an underage orphaned youth, he ran away from his foster home, lied about his age, and joined the PPCLI. With bombs and shells exploding around him he found himself buried up to his neck on the battlefield at Vimy. He told of having to scream, "Don't step on my head!" as other soldiers ran by going toward the battle.

He survived the war after being buried up to his neck twice and being wounded on the battlefield. He was left with shrapnel in his leg which pained him the rest of his life. It had to be surgically removed in later life and a pin was inserted, leaving him with a permanently stiffened leg.

Princess Pat and the Ric-A-Dam-Doo

"Ric-A-Dam-Doo" is a nickname for the original Camp Colours of the PPCLI. Various sources claim that "Ric-A-Dam-Doo" is, a presumably phonetic version of, the Gaelic for "cloth of thy mother"; but it is not clear that this claim has been confirmed by an actual living, fluent speaker of Gaelic. The Ric-A-Dam-Doo was hand-sewn by Princess Patricia and presented to the Regiment. The selection of verses here describes some regimental history, and the origin of the unique title of the song refers to the regimental colours. It has been covered by many Canadian children's musicians, including Sharon, Lois, and Bram.

The Ric-A-Dam-Doo is the Patricia's regimental song, and holds a special place in the regiment's history. Long in the public domain, the song was first composed and sung by soldiers in 1916. The selection of verses here describes some regimental history, and the origin of the unique title of the song, which refers to the regimental colours.

The Princess Pat's Battalion They sailed across the Herring Pond, They sailed across the Channel too, And landed there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo ...

The Princess Pat's Battalion
They sailed across the Herring Pond,
They sailed across the Channel too,
And landed there with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.
The Bombers of the Princess Pat's
Are scared of naught, excepting rats,
They're full of pep and dynamite too,
They'd never lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.
Old Hammy Gault, our first PP,
He led this band across the sea,
He'd lose an arm, or leg or two
Before he'd lose the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.
And then we came to Sicily.
We leapt ashore with vim and glee.
The Colonel said the Wops are through
Let's chase the Hun with the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.
The Ric-A-Dam-Doo, pray what is that?
'Twas made at home by Princess Pat,
It's Red and Gold and Royal Blue,
That's what we call the Ric-A-Dam-Doo,
Dam-Doo, Dam-Doo.