Royal Regina Rifles

Gerry Carline

The Royal Regina Rifles, a Saskatchewan-based Reserve infantry unit of 38th Canadian Brigade Group, traces its origin to the 95th Regiment, formed in the Districts of Saskatchewan and Assiniboia, North-West Territories, in 1905. The 95th became a rifle regiment in 1908. During World War I , it provided drafts to units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, including the 28th Battalion, which fought as part of the 6th Brigade, 2nd Division. After the war, the regiment underwent several reorganizations and amalgamations until it became the South Saskatchewan Regiment on March 15, 1920. The 1st Battalion of this regiment, located in Regina, was renamed the Regina Rifles on May 15, 1924. Between the wars, the regiment was hampered by a lack of proper training facilities until the Regina Armoury was built in 1928, followed by a military training camp at Dundurn. On December 15, 1936, the Regina Rifles amalgamated with units of the 12th Machine Gun Battalion, retaining the Regina Rifles name.

Royal Regina Rifles on an Internal Security exercise, Regina Armoury, May 1986.
Don Healy (Regina Leader-Post)

In 1939, at the outbreak of World War II, the Regina Rifles were mobilized for local protective duty. In June 1940, the regiment recruited men from Regina, North Battleford and Prince Albert to form the 1st Battalion for overseas duty. The Battalion mobilized at Camp Dundurn. As there were many farmers in the unit, they were given the nickname “The Farmer Johns,” later shortened to “The Johns.” As the regiment went on to win distinction in one engagement after another, their proud battle cry “Up the Johns!” became one of the most famous in the Canadian Army. The Battalion was moved to Debert, Nova Scotia to become part of the defence force for the east coast of Canada. On August 24, 1941, the Regina Rifles embarked for Britain as part of the 7th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. After guarding the shores of southeastern England against the threat of invasion, the Regina Rifles were selected to be one of the initial battalions of infantry to land on Juno Beach as part of the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.

On June 6, 1944, the Battalion landed at “Nan” sector on the western side of Juno Beach. The Reginas destroyed German gun positions on the beach and moved onward, successfully clearing the village of Courseulles-sur-Mer and pushing further inland. The Regina Rifles suffered 108 casualties on the first day of fighting in Normandy, and moved the furthest inland that day towards its objective. After the assault, the regiment reorganized in time to repulse a counterattack by the tanks of the 12th SS Division.

After taking part in the capture of Caen, the 1st Battalion continued along the west coast of France, taking part in the battles for the Channel ports. Fighting through Belgium and the Netherlands, the Battalion attacked across the Leopold Canal, taking part in the battle of the Scheldt. It pushed on through Germany, and at the end of the war in Europe, on May 5, 1945, provided a 4th Battalion from its ranks to become part of the occupation force. The 1st Battalion was disbanded on January 1, 1946; a 2nd Battalion served in the Reserve Army throughout the war; and a 3rd Battalion was raised as part of the defence force for the west coast of Canada. As testament to its role in war, the Regina Rifles Regiment earned twenty battle honours, ten of which are depicted on the current regimental badge.

Following the war, the reserve battalion carried on the regiment's name and traditions. In 1951, the Rifles raised D Company of the 1st Canadian Rifle Battalion, 27th Brigade, for service with NATO forces in Germany. A second company was raised to became part of the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada, which served in the Commonwealth Division during the Korean War. In 1982, Queen Elizabeth II awarded the title “Royal” to the Regiment, and appointed the Princess Royal, Princess Anne, as its Colonel-in-Chief. Members of the Royal Regina Rifles have served in various overseas missions in Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Croatia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. The Royal Regina Rifles perpetuate the 28th (Northwest) Infantry Battalion, CEF.

George Bell

Further Reading

Brown, G. and T. Copp. 2001. Look to Your Front—Regina Rifles: A Regiment at War, 1944-1945. Waterloo, Ontario: Laurier Centre for Military, Strategic and Disarmament Studies; Mein, S.A.G. 1992. Up the Johns: The Story of the Royal Regina Rifles. Regina: Senate of the Royal Regina Rifles.