“I figured my battalion was there to save lives and do a job!” – LCol Dave Stewart, DSO (CO 1943-45)
This was LCol Stewart’s definition of the Regiment. His quintessentially Canadian epithet coupled with the forceful injunction of LCol Lionel Millen, DSO (CO, 19th Btn, 1916-19), “to live life well while you can” inform the Argyll style.
As the 91st Canadian Highlanders (1903), the name was almost certainly deliberate. Despite the new Regiment’s roots within the Scottish military tradition and the efforts of Scottish-Canadians to foster a distinctive tradition within Canadian society and its military, the name said it all – Canadian Highlanders.
The Regiment’s great icons have always been kilts and bagpipes. In the conflicts of the 20th century, the P&D represented not only the Regiment but also the country itself. Yet there is more to a Regiment than its symbols. At the core is service. Since 1903, thousands of Argylls have devoted several nights weekly and one weekend or so monthly to train as the nation’s reserves. The lure of the profession of arms, a sense of duty, the intense camaraderie, and the need for extra income explain, in part or combination, the Regiment’s attraction. But an Argyll’s lot has never been an easy one requiring sacrifice of personal time beyond most extra-curricular pursuits and a sustained commitment. The challenge is enormous and the Argylls meet it – yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Through two wars, the time in between, and the time after, the Regiment has been Canadian without qualification. And now as then, it represents the face of Canada. Kilted Argylls have represented the Regiment and Canada in the victory celebrations of two wars – piping the Canadian Corps across the Rhine River in late 1918 and leading the Canadian Berlin Battalion (a composite battalion commanded by the Argylls) in Berlin in July 1945. Kilted Canadian Highlanders trooped their colours first in 1904 and most recently in 2002 - proud of their Regiment, conscious of what it had done, mindful of what it represents, and determined to carry its traditions and style forward into another century - and again, before a mournful nation, in October 2014. The service and sacrifice cohere in the 35 battle honors from the First War to Afghanistan; they embody the Regiment’s humanity, morale, compassion, and style – in peace and in war – chapters of a tale partially written in blood.
From 1903 to this day, the Regimental padre has been a mainstay of battalion life in peace and in war. In some respects, the job of padres job is more difficult, and they shoulder its burden with a courageous commitment to the fulfilment of their often awful duties. As Capt Charlie Maclean (1943-46) said, “You had to be all things to all people … so I tried to treat everybody alike” hearing “the whole gamut of human emotions and troubles….” He worked in the RAP alongside the MO and reverently buried the fallen. He steeled himself to “put up with it.” Soldiers always recalled him working “hard” and “covered in blood.” He wrote consolingly to families, handled battle fatigue compassionately, and performed services everywhere. It could easily be a description of Rob Fead or other great Argyll padres. ”Great” guys, “nice” guys, “much liked,” and deeply respected, they “saw life in the rough” and recognized the soldiers as” fine fellows.” As Maclean noted, “I had great respect for them all and it broadened my faith.” Rob Fead was a padre cast in this fine mold and, for all of them, their service would “leave its mark.” Maclean was “so glad to get home” to his family, just as Rob always longed to get home to Veronica. Life and death are their stock in trade, and Argylls have always been the better for their care, their concern, their solace, and the hope that attends their every action.
Robert L. Fraser, Regimental Historian