Whether you have Scottish blood in your veins or not there are few battle hymns as stirring as “Bonnie Dundee” played on the bagpipes.
That particular tune will definitely be in the air the final weekend of September when Sarnia honours “C” Squadron of the proud First Hussars Regiment and its 55 years in the Imperial City.
The 55th Reunion is a chance for residents to both celebrate the city’s storied military heritage and demonstrate our appreciation for the continued service of these devoted citizen soldiers.
The First Hussars trace their lineage to 1856. Members have served with distinguished gallantry in the Boer War, the Great War and Second World War, and numerous peacekeeping and peacemaking operations – in Cyprus, the Golan Heights, Bosnia, the Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan. At least 80 members of the First Hussars served in Afghanistan, many of them from Sarnia.
The unit fought with distinction at Vimy Ridge in 1917, and especially during the “Hundred Days” series of fights in late 1918, when Canadians took the lead in chasing the defeated German army back toward the Rhine.
On D Day, June 6, 1944, the First Hussars’ Brandy Conron drove a tank named “Calamity” as Canadian troops stormed ashore at Juno Beach. Amid the fierce fighting, Conron was the only tank commander to reach his assigned point that day. Today, a Sherman tank christened “Calamity” sits outside the Royal Canadian Legion Hall on Front Street, honouring the First Hussars and Conron’s exploits that day.
“C” Squadron can trace its own heritage to Lambton’s 149th Battalion, 7th Field Regiment, and to 11 Squadron of the Royal Canadian Engineers.
When the Army, Navy and Air Force were consolidated as the Canadian Armed Forces in 1964, serving members joined the First Hussars, a heavy armour unit, as the Regiment’s new “C” Squadron.
The Squadron later converted to a Light Armoured Reconnaissance Regiment.
On Saturday, Sep. 28, an Open House will be held at the George Stirrett Armoury on Confederation Street. The Armoury’s name honours another famed Sarnia First Hussar of the Great War.
The following day, on Sept. 29, the public is invited to gather at Calamity on Front Street for a Remembrance Service and wreath laying. It will be followed by a march, to the strains of Bonnie Dundee, from the Legion to Veteran’s Park for similar observances.
Even in the days before Confederation, soldiers and citizen soldiers of Sarnia have responded in impressive numbers to every call to King or Queen and Country.
On Sept. 28-29, please join me in honouring the brave and devoted men and women of the First Hussars by attending the Open House and Remembrance Services.