South Alberta Regiment
(31ST. Battalion C.E.F.)
This history was prepared in 1930 by Capt. H.E. Whiffin and is a historical record of the First Battalion, South Alberta Regiment, Medicine Hat, Alberta. It was sent to us by Capt. Whiffin’s son Doug Whiffin. The original manuscript sent was 29 pages in duration. I have condensed it and in other places omitted, for the sake of brevity some of the listings of officer’s names. I have attempted to capture some of the more interesting points in the history of the 31st Battalion, using Capt. H.E. Whiffin’s own words. The following excerpts are from that history.
The history of the First Battalion South Alberta Regiment, or the “S.A.R.”, as it is commonly termed, has been one of achievement and progress, making it one of the most active of post-War Units of the Canadian Militia.
Since the date of it’s Organization in 1920, two years after the conclusion of the Great War, up to the present time, it’s Officers, N.C.O.’s and Men, have worked and strived with a most splendid example of Esprit-de-Corps, with the resultant reward from such co-operation, namely: “A Regiment that every Member is proud to belong to, and one that the Dominion may be proud to claim”.
Like all Peace time Militia Units the 1st S.A.R. has had it’s up and downs, it’s difficulties and criticisms to contend with, but it has at all time faced them boldly and squarely, with the knowledge and feeling that “right is might” so that today the Unit has a place and a name in the Community and Province, and also among the other Militia Units in Canada of respect and honour.
The Unit as originally organized was named the First Battalion, Alberta Regiment (31st Bn.C.E.F.) with Headquarters and “A” companies in Medicine Hat, “B” Lethbridge, “C” Calgary and “D” at Red Deer. In the early part of 1924 it was found advisable to divide the Unit into two separate organizations, with the 1st Battalion North Alberta Regiment, stationed in the Northern part of the Province, and the 1st Battalion South Alberta Regiment in Southern Alberta. On a re-localization of Companies Headquarters, “A” & “D” Companies were stationed at Medicine Hat, “B” at Lethbridge and “C” at Redcliff.
The Alberta Regiment, from which sprung the 1st Bn. S.A.R. was organized in the Autumn of 1920 to perpetuate the 31st Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force, also the 89th, 113th, 151st, 175th, 167th and 191st Battalions C.E.F. and the Unit is entitled to the full Battle Honours of the 31st Battalion C.E.F.
The Year 1920
1920 saw the re-organization of the 31st Battalion C.D.F. and preliminary formation of the First Battalion Alberta Regiment as part of the first Canadian Militia. Also, the appointment of Lt. Col. Nelson Spencer D.S.O. as first Commanding Officer of the Unit from June 21st 1920.
The Year 1921
The year 1921 witnessed the first real activities of the Battalion.
The first man to enlist in the Unit, as shown by the First Part 11. Order was Regimental Number 1. Pte. Claude Johnson. 76 “Other Ranks” are shown enlisted in this first Part 11 Order dated January 19th 1921. The First Part 1. Order was issue don January 1st 1921. The First R.S.M. was #76 R.S.M. John Roberts D.C.M. The First R.Q.M.S. was #25, R.Q.M.S. John H. Bannan.
The Armoury first occupied by the First Battalion Alberta Regt. Was on Second Street in the building known as the old Quebec Bank Building and by M.O. #84 (1921) it was designated as “2nd St. Armoury, Medicine Hat”.
The first Second in Command of the Unit was A/Major W.Allan McGregor M.C. appointed May 1st 1921, and the command of “A” Company was given to A/Major James M.Taylor M.C.
The Year 1922
The first regular training Parade of the Unit commenced on Wednesday evening January 4th 1922, at the 2nd Street Armoury, Medicine Hat and parades were held three nights a week thereafter on Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays. The first Smoker and Social Evening of Unit was held on Friday evening, January 13th 1922, at the Second Street Armoury.
The first General Inspection of the Unit was conducted by the District Officer Commanding M.D.#13, General C.H. Bell C.M.G. (former Officer Cmdg.31st Bn.C.E.F.) on Friday evening at 7 p.m., February 17th 1922.
The Localization of “C” Company was changed from Calgary to Redcliff, Alberta in October 1922. The Battalion was authorized to train 230 all ranks for 9 days at Local Headquarters for the year 1922-23.
The first Annual Dance of the Battalion was held in the G.W.V.A. Hall in December 1922. Proceeds were for the benefit of the Battalion hockey team.
The Year 1923
The Canadian Corps Platoon Shield open for Competition amongst the Companies of the Alberta Regiment was won for the year 1923 by “C” Coy. Redcliff who made an excellent showing.
The strength of the whole Battalion on March 3rd 1923 was 22 Officers and 265 other ranks.
Lt. Horace E. Whiffin, was taken on strength of Unit and took over duties of Adjutant as from September 10th 1921, on his transfer from 1st. Bn. Edmonton Fusiliers.
The Year 1924
The Alberta Regiment was divided into two Regiments in the early part of 1924.
The North Alberta was localized with Headquarters at Red Deer. The South Alberta Regiment was localized with Headquarters at Medicine Hat and was the establishment of the present S.A.R. The personnel of “D” Coy., Alberta Regiment were transferred to the North Alta. Regt.
The Year 1925
The Annual Inspection of the Unit was held Wednesday February 11th 1925 by the D.O.C. Gen. A.H. Bell and Staff.
A Smoker and Turkey Shoot of the Unit was held on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 1925.
A Re-localization of Companies transferred “D” Company to Lethbridge as from June 24, 1925. The period of Tenure of Command of Lt. Col. W.T. Bannan, Officer Commanding was extended to August 22, 1926.
The Year 1926
Early in the year 1926 the O.C. Lt. Col. Bannan and the Adjutant Capt. H.E. Whiffin, re-organized the Battalion Band with great success and enlisted a number of the best Bandsmen and musicians in the City, together with a few High School boys musically inclined. The band worked so diligently and well that they were able to play at the Annual Inspection and presented a grand concert at the Empress Theatre in May 1926. Capt. H.E. Whiffin was appointed Band President and John Ingles was made Band Sergeant. By the beginning of May the membership of the band has increased to over 40 players. P/Lt. Chas. Bell was appointed Band Director and in charge of the band April 1st 1926. The Command of the Battalion changed to Lt. Col. M.E.Patterson, August 23rd 1926, vice. Lt. Col. W.T. Bannan M.C. who was transferred to Reserve of Officers. Lieut. & M.O. G.G. Elder confirmed in rank, March 16/26. (Lt. Elder later went on to Command the SAR). Capt. Horace E. Whiffin “A” to Command “A” Coy, Sept. 27, 1926. Lt. Norman White. “A” taken on strength December 14th 1926 (Lt. White later served with the SAR during WW11.
The Year 1927
The first parade of the year 1927 was held on Monday January 3, 1927 and continued each Monday, Wednesday and Friday until the Annual Inspection.
The Annual Smoker of the Unit was held on Wednesday march 9, 1927 at 3rd St. Armouries and proved a very enjoyable affair.
The Officers of the Unit organized a Badminton Club this year and prepared a court on the main floor of Armouries. During the Spring of 1927 each Monday evening was devoted to physical training, sports and recreational training and games which proved a great success in keeping the member of the Unit together and encouraged young men of good physical and character to join as recruits.
The Band gave a concert in Riverside Park on June 15th and gave proceeds to Dominion Day Diamond Jubilee Celebration Committee.
The Diamond Jubilee of Confederation (1867 to 1927) was celebrated by the Dominion of Canada on July 1st 1927 and the First Battalion, South Alberta Regiment, took a prominent part in the day’s activities. On the Grand Parade in the morning the Unit made an exceptionally smart and neat appearance.
The Battalion Band in their new scarlet and blue uniforms took their place in the parade nearly 40 strong, making a splendid showing and assisted further in the programme during the day and played for the Public Street Dance and Fireworks Display in the evening.
A Regimental Dance was held at 3rd St. Armouries Friday November 4th 1927 which was attended by all Ranks of the Unit and their lady friends. A most enjoyable evening was spent. The 31st Bn. Orchestra under Bandsman Wm. Lakey supplied the music.
The N.C.O.’s of Unit held their first Mess Dinner and organization meeting on Monday December 19th 1927.
P/Lieut. R.A. Lindsay, “A” Taken on May 2, 1927 (note of interest – P/Lt. Lindsay later joined the PPCLI in 1939 and became the Commanding Officer of the PPCLI in 1943.
The Year 1928
The N.C.O.’s of the Unit held a very successful dance in the Park hall on January 23rd and they held their Mess Dinner on February 8th 1928.
“D” Company of the Unit was re-localized in Medicine Hat and organization of the new Company was commenced in March 1928.
The Battalion attended camp at Camp Sarcee, Calgary from June 30th to July 9th 1928 and all ranks made an exceptionally good showing. This, the first regular Camp of the Unit, was greatly enjoyed.
The Year 1929
On May 24th the Battalion had an all day outing at the Julian Byng Rile Ranges west of the City. Rifle and machine gun shooting was indulged in and the day was greatly enjoyed by all Ranks.
During the early Spring a new Band was organized in the Battalion consisting chiefly of boys. Lt. Q.M. Roy Osborne who was instrumental in organizing the Boy’s Band was appointed Band President, while Mr. Frank Novak, one of the City’s best musicians was appointed Director. The Boy’s Band gave their first public concert in Riverside Park on Sunday June 9th 1929 and made an excellent showing both in their music and their neat and tidy appearance in scarlet and blue uniforms.
The Unit went to Sarcee Camp, Calgary on June 29th 1929 to spend a week under canvas remaining until July 7th. During the camp the Battalion gave a display before the rest of the Militia Units in Camp of a Platoon at War Strength and were highly complimented on their display by the D.O.C. and the HQ. Staff. Sgt. John Sillak won the Burns Trophy Cup for shooting. The Batallion won the machine gun competition at the Camp.
On November 11th 1929, the Armistice Day, the Officers of the Unit held their first Armistice Military Ball. The affair was held at the I.O.O.F. Hall 3rd. St. and patronized by over 150 couples. The kahki uniforms, mess blues and dress suits and gorgeous dresses of the ladies made one of the most spectacular, enjoyable and successful dances ever staged in Medicine Hat. The decorations of black and orange were most artistic and remarked upon by all present. Capt. H.E. Whiffin acted as business manager. Lt. D.S. Hawthorne and Mr. H. Matthews handled decorations while a strong committee under Lt. Col. Patterson and other Officers all combined to make the Ball the great success mentioned.
The Year 1930
The year 1930 opened with considerable activities in the way of training and sport in the Unit. Parades were held 1 and 2 nights a week throughout the winter months. In addition to the regular training special attention was given to shooting and recreational sports.
On May 24th the Medicine Hat Companies had an all day outing which took the form of an attack on Redcliffe. The Redcliffe Company of Unit acted as defenders of the position, which was along the hills and ravines between Main Road and River about half way between Redcliffe and Medicine Hat. The day proved a marked success and was thoroughly enjoyed by all Ranks. The Batallion proceeded to Sarcee Camp Calgary for 8 days vigorous training under Canvas on Saturday June 29th 1930. The advance party left for camp one day earlier. Approximately 14 Officers and 101 other ranks attended the 1930 camp.
2/Lt. Gerald S.Grant. “D” Taken on Strength Jan. 1, 1930 (note of interest – He later served with the SAR in WW11)
The Year 1931
The year 1931 although a year of world financial and economic depression was nevertheless an important year of achievements for the 1st S.A.R.
The Championship for the whole of Canada in the Dominion of Canada Rifle Association Winter Indoor Series was won by the Ist. S.A.R. Rifle Association. This was indeed a worthy achievement.
No Camps were authorized by the Department this year (lack of funds).
The Regimental Dance was held on April 17th 1932 and largely attended by all ranks in uniform and their ladies. The Band rendered concerts in the City Park Sunday evenings during the summer months which were well patronized by the citizens.
Major Horace E. Whiffin was appointed to second in Command of the Battalion on June 21st 1931.
The Band gave a very successful concert in the Empress Theatre on March 1, 1931 and were assisted by a very fine gymnastics display by members of the Unit. The Armstrong Trophy was won by the 1st S.A.R. Rifle Association Team at the Alberta Provincial Rifle Meet in Sarcee in July 1931. Members of the team were J.G. Sillak, G.P. Reeves, Wm. McKenzie and F.H. Wright.
The City Basketball Championship for 1931 was won by the 1st. S.A.R. basketball team.
The first Long Service Medal in the Unit was awarded to R.S.M. William Borlase on December 15, 1931 and presented to the recipient by the C.O. during parade on January 29, 1932.
The Year 1932
The year 1932 opened in the midst of a period of uncertainty and continued world depression. In the East China and Japan were at arms, (although war had not been declared) over Manchuria, and there was certain unrest over civil disobedience campaign in India. The World Peace and Disarmament Conference was to open in Geneva on February 4, 1932.
The Sergeants received their scarlet Sashes in January and they have caused the parade to assume an added appearance of brilliancy, while the Armouries are scarcely large enough to accommodate the extra expansion carried on chests of aforesaid Sergeants.
The Unit entry in the City Volleyball League won the competition and the silver cup.
A tactical exercise without troops was held on September 11th in the vicinity of Dunsmore. Approximately 20 officers attended. Fall training was resumed on Thursday September 8th. The Annual Church Parade was held on November 6th to the Baptist Church. A blinding snowstorm greeted the boys as they turned out but the Unit paraded in full and the minister Rev. Gunn commented the Unit in this regard.
Maj. & Bt. Lt. Col. R.B. Eaton, 2nd Res.Bn. retired with rank 10/6/32.
Major H.E.Whiffin transferred to Ros. Of Officers with rank 9/3/32.
Capt. R.A.Lindsay appointed Aide-de-Camp (Hon) to His Honor the Lieut. Governor of Alberta.
The Battalion had the extreme satisfaction of winning the trophy put up by the Canadian Infantry Association for Annual Competition for the year 1931.