Kilts and bagpipes are the symbols of a tradition rooted in Canadian military history — the Highland regiment. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise’s) was established on 16 September 1903 as the 9lst Regiment Canadian Highlanders. Since then, the Argylls have become known for exemplary service, in peacetime as in two World Wars.
While retaining its Highland traditions, the unit now reflects the modern face of Canada and Argylls serve Canadians, whether combatting natural disasters at home or augmenting Canadian deployments overseas with the United Nations or NATO.
It has been said of the Argylls that “its history is written in blood.” At the core of 100 years of service is sacrifice. During the First World War, the Regiment provided 145 officers and 5,207 other ranks for service in C.E.F., especially the 19th Battalion and the 173rd Highlanders. The Argylls perpetuate both units. While the latter was broken up for reinforcements, the former provides the most intimate connection with the Great War.
In the Second World War, the unit lived up to, and expanded, these traditions. Its first major action in Normandy, Hill 195, would epitomize its record. A brilliant and unorthodox success, it is described as “the single most impressive action of Operation TOTALIZE.” Innovation over orthodoxy, superb leadership and humanity, great spirit and style, excellent administration; these were the benchmarks of Argyll success and the unit’s legacy.
The Argylls have earned 34 battle honours in two World Wars. In the First, 1,174 Argylls gave their lives; in the Second, 285 Argylls made the highest sacrifice.
The Argyll tradition is best defined by its greatest leader, Lt.-Col. J. David Stewart, DSO, ED, the victor at Hill 195. “I figured my battalion was there to save lives, get a job done. This terse and quintessentially Canadian epithet characterizes Argyll leadership and style. And over 100 years they have done just that.
The piper symbolizes a Highland regiment. It is not just the distinctive dress that sets the piper apart It is the music itself — powerful, wild, sombre — capable of evoking every human emotion without a touch of sentimentality. There are few cultures in which one instrument is so deeply intertwined with a people. And the individual piper so cherished by Highland society achieved even higher prominence and greater symbolism with the emergence of Highland regiments and their pipe bands. They achieved a lofty prominence built upon personal character, superior musicianship, bandsmanship, and soldierly attributes.
It is an age-old axiom that one picture is worth a thousand words. Two images stand out in the history of the Regiment:
13 December 1918, Rhine River, Germany.
On a cold, wet day with the Union Jack snapping smartly in the wind, the Commander of the Canadian Corps, General Arthur Currie took the salute. The victorious Corps marched between the reviewing stand and the Pipes and Drums of the 19th Battalion which played them into Germany. Currie noted: “… they looked to be in the very pink of condition and I did not see one unhappy face during the day.”
21 July 1945, Berlin, Germany.
The day was fair and cool. Once again, Canada celebrated victory; and, once again, the Argyll Pipes and Drums were there as one of only three Canadian units picked to represent Canada in the large, British Victory Parade before the Allied heads of state.
Pipe bands symbolize Highland regiments and in the two great conflicts of the 20th century, the Argylls’ Pipes and Drums represented not only the Regiment but also the country itself.
“Above all we heard the pipes. They piped us into Niagara-on-the-Lake in July ‘40 and they led the Allied Victory Parade down Unter den Linden in ‘45. My most poignant memory of them was when were the advance party at Nanaimo. We … were waiting for the main party. They didn’t come and they didn’t come. Then, like Jessie’s dream in Lucknow, when she dreamt she heard the pipes of Colin Campbell’s (those ubiquitous Campbells) relief force, we heard the faint elfin sound of pipes born to us on some fragrant Pacific breeze. It faded and all was silent. Then we heard them again far away but now continuous and soon the glorious music was passing through the lines.Those sounds we heard and when we think of them we are back in the Regiment …”
Maj R.A. Paterson, OC, C Company, A&S H of C (1940-46)
And “these sounds” stir the Regimental spirit, now as then. Generations of pipers and drummers from the legendary Lt Charles Dunbar, DCM, have been attracted to a band in which they are both soldiers and musicians. The son of a drummer who stood on that Rhine bridge in 1918 marched in Berlin in 1945.
In the post-war era, the Pipes and Drums have carried on the band’s traditions and developed an international reputation playing five times in the prestigious Edinburgh Military Tattoo — a record for overseas acts. It has been the core of the Hamilton International Tattoo since its inception in 1991. The band’s ranks have always included composers and many tunes have been written and recorded by Argyll pipers and pipe majors.