The Royal Newfoundland Companies 1824-1862

Over the next several years both the 74th Regiment of Foot and the 60th Regiment provided garrison duties in Newfoundland. In 1824 the Royal Veteran Companies arrived in St.John’s and would remain for the next thirty eight years. They were not a regular regiment but a company comprised mostly of former serviceman who were out patients from the Royal Hospital for Invalid Soldiers at Chelsea, England. In 1842 they were renamed the Royal Newfoundland Companies.

The Companies formed the Imperial Garrison in St. John’s from 1824 to 1862. They frequently lent color at ceremonial and social events such as the St. John’s Regatta and provided a guard of honor for important visitors. The Regiment performed a number of duties, ranging from fire fighting to operating the Port Signaling Service. The Royal Newfoundland Companies furnished pomp and color on ceremonial occasions and made an imposing show in the elaborate ceremonies which attended the three day visit of the young Prince of Wales to Newfoundland on the 24 day of July 1860.

The Royal Newfoundland Companies were accommodated in the barracks at Fort Townshend, the Regimental Headquarters, and Fort William in St.John’s. Throughout their tenure in the Newfoundland Station a number of attempts were made to house the troops in barracks located on Signal Hill. Guard Duty was the most common and also the most boring of the Regiment’s duties. Daily guards were mounted at Fort Townshend, Fort William, Government House and Signal Hill. The Regiment’s more arduous role was aid to the civil power, the performance of which made the men unpopular in certain quarters.

In 1862, the Royal Newfoundland Companies were absorbed into the Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment, partly in an attempt to improve military efficiency, but also to stamp out the memory of the election of 1861, when the Regiment opened fire on a hostile mob in downtown St. John’s on 13 May 1861 killing three and wounding several others. As a result of their actions and in keeping with a policy of financial constraints the Royal Newfoundland Companies were absorbed, the following year, into The Royal Canadian Rifle Regiment. The Royal Canadian Rifles were themselves removed from duty in Newfoundland in 1870 with the complete withdrawal of the imperial garrison from Newfoundland. Newfoundland responded to the loss of troops by reorganizing the Newfoundland Constabulary and charging that Police organization with the safety and security of its citizens. The colony was wholly unprepared for the looming crisis of alliances that would develop in Europe and which would eventually erupt into the Great War.