Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry 1914-1919
By Ralph Hodder-Williams, formerly Lieutenant, P.P.C.L.I. with a foreword by The Lady Patricia Ramsay, Colonel-In-Chief of the Regiment and an Introduction by Lieutenant-Colonel A. Hamilton Gault, Honorary Lieutenant-Colonel, P.P.C.L.I. in two volumes (1923)

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment Returns to Canada] (1919)
On March 19, 1919, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) detrain in Ottawa after 4 years 6 months and 16 days of service overseas in the First World War. The film opens with a wreath honouring the dead and a portrait of Princess Patricia. The troop ship Carmania, loaded with the PPCLI, docks. Colonel Hamilton Gault watches his men disembark. The troops then board trains for Ottawa. The Mayor of Ottawa and other city officials welcome the regiment at the train station. The men then leave the station and parade through the downtown streets. The Governor General (the Duke of Devonshire) reviews them and gives a speech which is cheered by the troops. He then meets the regiment's officers. The men parade through the streets again as thousands cheer. The PPCLI's Black Watch and Machine Guns are seen observing Remembrance Day at the Toronto Cenotaph. Captain Sidney Lambert of the PPCLI officiates.

Always A Patricia, Nov 13 1989
Documentary about the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment. Following a week of solemn Remembrance Day retrospectives, Always a Patricia is a timely celebration of comradery and tradition." -The Calgary Herald.

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry 100th Anniversary Celebration 2014


The record of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry is a record of great and heroic deeds. The first Canadian unit to take the field in the Great War, the Regiment holds a place second to none in the annals of the armies which came from every part of our Empire to fight for the common cause. In this history of the Regiment we are privileged to follow the fortunes of the brave men who enlisted in its ranks.

The story has brought out the magnificent spirit of devoted service and self - sacrifice which has justly won for it so great a name. One of the traditions of the Regiment, a tradition in keeping with the noblest ideals in our history, and a tradition, moreover, which was preserved by all ranks throughout the War, was the effacement of the individual in securing the advancement of the unit. All those who read the following pages will feel that they owe a debt of gratitude to Lieutenant Hodder-Williams for the masterly manner in which he has told the tale of those who, by their service, brought honour to themselves and lasting glory to the memory of the Regiment.

I, who have the honour to be the Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, find it impossible to think impersonally of its men and of its glorious dead. I trust, therefore, that I may be forgiven if I take this opportunity of paying a just tribute to their heroism.

It is impossible to discriminate between man and man—whether it be Colonel Hamilton Gault, who had so much to do with the raising of the Regiment which he afterwards led, those other gallant Commanding Officers, Colonel Farquhar, Colonel Buller, Colonel Pelly, Colonel Adamson and Colonel Stewart, or the last and youngest recruit. The individual deeds of bravery were many, the individual devotion to duty was unanimous, and, alas, the individual sacrifices were very great indeed.

I am sure that it will be with the deepest emotion that all readers, whether people of Canada or people of the Mother Country, will study this record of imperishable deeds. And the book will have served a noble purpose if it brings—as I hope and trust that it will bring—comfort and pride to those 1 whose nearest and dearest fell fighting in the ranks , of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.


On the demobilization of the Service Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry the need of some permanent and official record was felt by a large number of its personnel. To this end Mr. Ralph Hodder-Williams, M.C., M.A., an ex officer of the Regiment, and until lately Associate Professor of History at the University of Toronto, most kindly consented, at the writer’s request, to devote his services, and for the past three years has been engaged in his spare time upon the compilation of all available military data bearing upon the life of the Battalion during the European War of 1914-1918, and in the writing of the regimental history of the Patricias.

The difficulties of preparing the narrative of a unit engaged throughout the late War only become apparent when the historian is confronted with the mass of material which he must examine before his task can be embarked upon. Battalion records alone are insufficient to provide the student with more than a superficial glimpse of his subject, and it becomes necessary to collate Brigade, Division, Corps, and even Army orders and reports, before the relative importance of the unit in operations can be gauged. Sometimes these reports, written in the heat of an action and emanating from the various sections of the battlefield involved, are inevitably contradictory, and so upon the historian is imposed the added responsibility of disentangling the truth from a maze of conflicting data and the personal recollections of those who were engaged. Where reminiscence and documentary evidence clash, it is nearly always necessary to jettison the former, since, while frequently invaluable, it is, as all soldiers know, apt at times to throw the picture as a whole out of focus.

Through the courtesy and kindness of the Historical Sections of the War Office and the Department of National Defence at Ottawa, Mr. Hodder-Williams has had access to all the orders and records dealing with the operations in which the Battalion was engaged, both while brigaded in the 27th Division B.E.F. (1914-1915) and in the 3rd Canadian Division C.E.F. (1915-1919). To these departments I desire to convey the Regiment’s grateful appreciation for all the help and encouragement so generously extended to its historian, and in particular I should like to take this opportunity of thanking Major-General J. H. MacBrien, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., Chief of Staff, Department of National Defence, Canada, for kindly permitting Mr. Hodder-Williams to seek information and assistance from the departments under his control.

To Colonel A. Fortescue Duguid, D.S.O., with his staff at the Historical Section at Ottawa, and to Colonel J. S. Brown, C.M.G., D.S.O., Major J. B. Cochrane, and the staff of the Military Surveys Branch at Ottawa we are especially indebted; to the former for the meticulous care with which he has reviewed the manuscript, as well as for his practical suggestions and help on occasions too numerous to mention ; to the latter, for producing and printing the maps which illustrate the operations described in the succeeding pages. The originals of these maps were specially prepared for Mr. Hodder-Williams under the expert supervision of his friend Mr. Alan Coventry of the University of Toronto, and should be carefully studied by the reader in connection with each operation as it is reviewed, in order that the sequence of events described may be the more clearly understood. Mr. Coventry’s work has been literally “a labour of love,” and I cannot say too much in grateful appreciation of the service he has rendered towards the publication of this book.

In preparing the records of individual service, Mr. Hodder-Williams has been able to check and supplement the information contained in the nominal rolls of the Regiment from lists specially made by the Records Office of the Department of National Defence, Ottawa. When it is realized that the staff of the Records Office gathered this information from among thousands of individual dockets before the automatic Hollerith system for searching them was completed, it will readily be understood how great is our obligation to their labours.

To Colonel F. L. Armstrong, O.B.E., Director of Records, and his staff, I wish to offer sincere thanks, not only for this, but for much valuable information relating to Battalion records with which the Regiment has been supplied in years gone by.

Our deep gratitude is due to Mr. W. H. Blake of Toronto for his valued suggestions and literary criticisms, by which the author has been greatly aided in the successive stages of his work. Mr. Blake was closely connected with the Service Battalion by family ties, and so it is perhaps not strange that he should have taken so generous and active an interest in the writing of its history.

I also wish to express my grateful thanks to the publishers, Messrs. Hodder & Stoughton, who in undertaking the publication of this work have declined to accept any share in profits which may accrue, in order to benefit the Regimental Fund. Their interest, like that of Mr. Blake, is not entirely impersonal, and no words can adequately describe my sense of sincere appreciation of their generosity and kindness in this respect.

Throughout the work Mr. Hodder-Williams’ aim has been to give an impersonal, balanced, and authentic account of the story of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry from the day of its formation in August 1914, to the day of the demobilization of the Service Battalion in March 1919. Each section of the narrative has been submitted to, and approved by, the senior surviving officer of the period under review, and it is believed that no important statement of fact is without its corroborative evidence in official records. In it he has endeavoured to tell the tale of the joys and sorrows, the successes and trials of but one battalion of His Majesty’s Forces, purposely leaving to other historians the right and privilege of chronicling the magnificent feats of arms of their own Regiments. In this Introduction, however, I cannot refrain from mentioning the names of the sister battalions with which the Patricias were brigaded in the early days of the war, and from which the Regiment first learned the Army precepts of self - sacrifice, true comradeship, and team play. These were the King’s Royal Rifle Corps (3rd and 4th Battalions), the Rifle Brigade (4th Battalion), and the King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (2nd Battalion), as a brigade soon to be referred to by the Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, as “ The Stonewall Brigade,” after its defence of the Ypres Salient in May 1915. Could men have had finer examples or better friends than these with whom to enter the melting-pot of war ? Later, when the time came for army reorganization, similarly strong ties were formed between the Patricias and the Royal Canadian Regiment, the 42nd Battalion Royal Highlanders of Canada and the 49th Battalion from Edmonton in the brigade subsequently to be known in the Canadian Corps as the “ Fighting Seventh.” Nothing could have been more magnificent than the spirit of loyalty and comradeship which united together the battalions of these two brigades, and these bonds, forged and proven in the fire of battle, cannot rightly be overestimated by those entrusted with the organization of fighting troops.

It is needless to speak in detail of a battalion’s debt to other arms of the service, but to the Divisional and Corps Artillery, British and Canadian, which supported these infantry brigades, ever ready to defend the line by protective barrage or to prepare and make possible an offensive, I should like to offer my Regiment’s special tribute. Not always has the true importance of artillery been understood by that branch of the service called “ cannon fodder ” by the great Napoleon, but from the first a sympathetic understanding existed and gradually ripened into that close liaison between infantryman and gunner which so completely demoralized the enemy as the campaign wore on.

This Introduction would be incomplete without mention of those who, in the early days of August 1914, contributed towards the organization of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.

To the late Lieut.-General Sir Sam Hughes, K.C.B., my thanks are in particular due, for it was he who as Minister of Militia and Defence accepted and endorsed with enthusiasm the proposals which were to culminate in the formation of a fighting unit for immediate service overseas.

To Major-General Sir Eugene Fiset, C.M.G., D.S.O. (Deputy Minister of the Department of Militia and Defence), to Lieut.-General Sir Willoughby Gwatkin, K.C.M.G., C.B. (Chief of the General Staff), the late Major-General D. A. MacDonald, C.M.G., I.S.O. (Quartermaster-General), and the late Colonel J. F. MacDonald (Director of Ordnance) is due a deep debt of gratitude for their distinguished and untiring services in equipping and despatching an infantry unit at full strength in the surprisingly short space of fourteen days, as well as to the many gentlemen throughout Canada who voluntarily acted as recruiting officers in those early days and arranged for the transportation of the first drafts to Ottawa.

The kind and sympathetic assistance of many personal friends cannot be overlooked in these pages, and I should particularly like to thank Sir Vincent Meredith, Baronet, President of the Bank of Montreal, for the encouragement and aid which were given at a time when all the world was beginning to think of war, and to record the kindness of those gentlemen who, prior to the embarkation of the Battalion for overseas, insisted upon giving their horses as officers’ chargers to the Patricias.

Less than a year later, when the heavy toll of casualties was being felt and the shortage of reinforcements was causing grave concern to the senior officers of the Regiment, the new drafts raised by the Universities of Canada, and known as the “ University Companies,” began to come through, and were for more than a year the chief source of reinforcement to the Patricias. The personnel of these drafts was magnificent, and I take this opportunity of expressing the Regiment’s gratitude to all those gentlemen throughout the Universities of Canada who were responsible for the movement which so largely maintained the Battalion during a very trying and difficult period of its existence. While several of these gentlemen became officers of the Regiment, there are many others whose very names I unfortunately do not know; but I should like particularly to recall those of Majors A. S. Eve and C. M. McKergow, both of McGill University, whose untiring efforts had so much to do with the successful raising of the earlier of these six companies.

From the outset of the campaign all ranks of the Patricias became indebted to “The Women of Canada ” for many kindnesses and welcome gifts, which brought material comfort from across the seas into the front-line trenches; and, on behalf of the Regiment, Lady Evelyn Farquhar and other ladies devotedly organized and maintained local societies which largely contributed to the welfare of the Battalion’s personnel. To all whose generosity and sympathy helped to alleviate the lot of the fighting troops “ somewhere in France,” it is my privilege here to express most grateful thanks on behalf of every officer and enlisted man of the Regiment.

To my friend Mr. Hodder-Williams, who has so kindly undertaken the work of writing this history at my request, is my final acknowledgement due, and I shall always be deeply grateful to him for making possible the idea of presenting the Regimental Record of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to my old comrades and friends, as well as to the public at large.

In conclusion, I would speak of the Regiment’s pride in having bestowed upon it the signal honour of bearing the name and carrying the Colour of H.R.H. Princess Patricia of Connaught to the battlefields of Europe.

Many will realize the inspiration which this meant to men who were about to face the ordeal of fire in their country’s cause ; but few will understand how great an incentive this became to the formation of regimental esprit, and to all that goes to create the soul of the fighting machine. Yet this gage was not all that was given to the Regiment, for throughout the war this gracious lady was ever at hand with encouragement and sympathy for all who were in need. Many there are who will cherish the memory of her kindness in hospital and home, and will proudly recall, as long as they live, the intimate ties which came to bind all ranks of the Regiment to her whose name it bears. To H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught and to the Lady Patricia Ramsay, Colonel-in-Chief of the Regiment, is the loyalty of all who had the honour of serving with her Colour ever respectfully subscribed.

These volumes are published with a threefold purpose. It is thought that they may prove of interest to the student of military history as a guide to some problems of infantry tactics in modern warfare ; it is believed that they will serve as a memorial of comradeship in the field for survivors of the Service Battalion; but most especially is it hoped that the story of the Regiment in which so many gallant comrades laid down their lives at the call of country may be a source of consolation to the proudly sorrowing hearts of their relatives and friends, and that the memory of the great deeds in which the Regiment played its part will point the way to duty for countless generations of Canadians yet unborn.

For nearly four years in the forefront of the battle, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, from oldest veteran to latest joined recruit, never faltered, never wavered; each officer and man steadfast in his purpose, ever ready to sacrifice himself for his Regiment’s need. Such was the undying spirit of our fallen comrades living on in the hearts of those who came to fill the ranks ; and such is the Regiment’s proud tradition, left as an imperishable heritage to Canada.


The Lady Patricia Ramsay has honoured me by accepting the dedication of this book and by writing in a Foreword to it a moving tribute to the memory of all who served with her Colour. My old comrades will readily appreciate how high a value I place upon our Colonel-in-Chief’s approval of this history of her Regiment.

My wife has given me the constant help and encouragement without which I could never have completed such a task, undertaken out of regular hours. Mr. W. H. Blake, placing his great critical gifts whole-heartedly at my service, has devoted many hours of labour to the correction of my manuscript, to its very great profit. One old friend and colleague, Mr. Alan Coventry, has given me invaluable assistance by superintending the preparation of maps, while another, Mr. Ralph Flenley, has made many suggestions which have been incorporated in the narrative. My secretary, Miss Apha I. Hodgins, has verified my references with minute care and has spent many weeks at the arduous routine of checking the data collected in the Appendix dealing with individual services.

I have frequently appealed, on specific points, to members of the Service Battalion, P.P.C.L.I. Limitations of space permit me to name but two : Colonel Agar Adamson has passed on to me his immense store of papers and reminiscence, with the generosity that all who served under him know so well; Major Ten Broeke has read and corrected many parts of the narrative upon which no man living can speak with quite the same authority. In thanking these two, I desire to thank all; I have not made one request that has not brought a quick and helpful reply. I must also acknowledge for my own part the ready assistance, to which Colonel Gault has already referred, given to me by the authorities in several departments of the Ministry of National Defence at Ottawa, and by their staffs. Particularly great is my sense of obligation toward Colonel A. Fortescue Duguid, Chief of the Historical Section, for advice and constructive criticism at all times, and especially during the final revision. To all these helpers, and to any others whom I have unwittingly failed to mention, I wish to express my gratitude. Almost all suggestions, I think, have been accepted; but since final decisions have been placed unreservedly in my hands, I must of course assume undivided responsibility for every mistake either of omission or commission.

I owe the greatest debt of all to Colonel Gault. My pride and delight at being invited by him to prepare this record were tempered by some slight foreknowledge of the difficulties of the task; and as a condition of undertaking it I stipulated for his advice and help at every stage of my progress. Generously indeed has he interpreted a promise the implications of which neither of us could see in 1920. His enthusiasm and his countless practical expressions of sympathy have sustained me throughout the journey ; and I wish my last word to be one of deep appreciation of all that his example has meant to the Regiment and to its historian.

R. H-W.

Volume 1  |  Volume 2

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry
Regimental Manual (pdf)

The Escape of a Princess Pat
Being the full account of the capture and fifteen months imprisonment of Corporal Edwards, of the Princess Patricia s Canadian Light Infantry, and his final escape from Germany into Holland by George Pearson (1918) (pdf)

Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry War Diaries 1914-1919 Transcribed by Michael Thierens, 1914, 1915 and part of 1916 proofread and commented on by Donna Walker & Ross Toms. The Complete War Diary was proofread by Stephen K. Newman (pdf)

Agar Adamson
Lieutenant Colonel, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry

Return to our Armed Forces Page









This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.