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Regular British and Canadian Regiments in the Canadas

The following note is provided by Rodney T. Lee, author of A Directory of Officers & Men of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment 1795-1816.

In 1803 the British prepared for action in North America. London gave orders to establish four regiments of “Fencibles” – Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canadian, These Fencible Regiments were subject to the same laws, regulations and conditions of service as other corps of the British army, and were considered a full part of the Regular British Army. The Fencible infantry Regiments were different in only one respect; they were to serve in North America only.

British Infantry Regiments in the CanadasDate of Arrival
1st, Royal Scots (The Royal Regiment)1812
3rd, Buffs1814
5th, Northumberland1814
6th, Warwickshire1814
8th, King’s1810
9th, East Norfolk1814
13th, First Somersetshire1813
16th, Bedfordshire1814
27th, Inniskilling1814
37th, North Hampshire1814
39th, Dorsetshire1814
41st,  Welch  (todays Welch Regiment)1799
49th, Hertfordshire1802
57th, West Middlesex1814
58th, Rutlandshire1814
70th, Glasgow Lowland1813
76th Regiment1814
81st Regiment1814
82nd Prince of Wale’s Volunteers1814
88th Connaught Rangers1814
89th Regiment1813
90th Regiment Perthshire Volunteers1813
97th Regiment Queen’s Own1814
100th Prince Regent’s County of Dublin1805
101st Duke of York’s Irish1813
103rd Regiment1812
British North American Fencible RegimentsDate of formation
Royal Newfoundland Fencible Infantry1803
104th Regiment of Foot (originally New Brunswick Fencible)1812
Nova Scotia Fencible Infantry1803
Canadian Fencible Infantry1803
Glengarry Light Infantry Fencible1812
New Brunswick Fencible Infantry (see above)1803
Provincial Corps of Light Infantry (Voltigeurs)1812
Michigan Fencibles1814

The British Regiments are numbered by their seniority, based on their formation date. Thus, The Royal Scots (founded in 1633) were the 1st Regiment of Foot, or ‘The Royal Regiment’, or more simply, ‘The First of Foot’. The full regimental title for these regiments is ‘xx Regiment of Foot’. It should be noted that of the impressive list of British Regiments serving in Canada, only 10 regiments were present in Canada prior to 1814. In addition to the 10 British Regiments were two Swiss Regiments which arrived in Canada 1813. This list does not yet include units that served in the Atlantic region.

As Rodney Lee pointed out above, the Fencible Infantry Regiments were British line regiments, and were considered regular troops, with many long-serving and well-trained regular officers and NCOs. Their distinction as ‘Fencible’ indicated they were required to serve only in North America. These regiments were known simply as ‘xx Fencibles’, or more fully as ‘xx Regiment of Fencible Infantry’. It is not clear why the British Regiments were designated ‘Foot’ and the Fencibles as ‘Infantry’.

Honours and Awards

Individual medals in the War of 1812 consisted of the following:

General Officers Gold Medal

Field Officers Gold Medal

Military General Service Medal (Of the 911 medals issued, 4 were awarded to Royal Newfoundland Fencible soldiers for Fort Detroit of which one was awarded to Lt Bulger, and 2 for Chrysler’s Farm.)

Naval General Service Medal One awarded to Captain Bulger, Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

These individual medals were awarded for service at Fort Detroit, Chateauguay, and Crysler’s Farm. It is not clear why individual medals were never awarded for Queenston Heights and Lundy’s Lane, two bitterly fought battles of high significance for the outcome of the war.

Collective battle honours were awarded for the capture of Fort Niagara, 19 Dec. 1813, to:

100th Regiment

1st, Royal Scots Regiment

41st Regiment

The following units were recognised for service at Lundy’s Lane, 25 July, 1814:

1st Bn Royal Scots

1st Bn of  8th King’s Regiment

2nd Bn of 89th Regiment

103rd Regiment

The Glengarry Light Infantry

41st Regiment flank companies (perpetuated today by the Welch Regiment)

19th Light Dragoons

Royal Artillery

104th Regiment (originally New Brunswick Fencible Infantry)

The above units were  given the right to carry the word ‘Niagara on their colours. The 41stalso carry Detroit, Queenston, and Miami.

(From G. Stanley, War of 1812)

The following statement by George Stanley, made in his 1983 book The War of 1812 Land Operations is of interest:

It is to be regretted that no Canadian regiment of the day, regular or reserve (militia), is authorized to carry any of the battles or engagements of the Canadian War of 1812 as “battle honours” on their colours. A case could be made for designating some existing militia units as perpetuating units of those which took part in the principal battles of the war (p. 431).

On September 14 2012, the Canadian Government attempted to adjust this error or oversight by awarding Battle Honours to Canadian Regiments, including The Royal Newfoundland Regiment, which is now recognised as perpetuating the Royal Newfoundland Regiment of Fencible Infantry. The Honours awarded to the Royal Newfoundland Regiment in 2012 were Maumee’, ‘Detroit’, and ‘Defence of Canada 1812-1815’.

A truly remarkable photograph appears below. It is of a group of 1812 war veterans, who gathered on a lawn in Rosedale, Toronto, in 1861. It is not clear why the group in the foreground is separate from the group in the background, but it is possible both groups were veterans. Photographs of  public events not in studio settings were in their infancy. At this time (1861) photographs of battle scenes of the American Civil War were just coming to wide public attention.