Anniversary Of The Alliance Between
The Royal Canadian Regiment and The Jamaica Regiment
Yesterday, 12 June 2012, marked the 47th anniversary of the historic alliance between The Royal Canadian Regiment and The Jamaica Regiment. It was on 12 June 1965 that Queen Elizabeth II officially approved the alliance between the two Regiments. Technically, the Jamaica Regiment had come into existence on 31 July 1962, one week prior to Jamaica gaining its independence. It was on 31 July 1962 that the 1st Battalion The Jamaica Regiment had been created from the disbanded 1st Battalion of the West India Regiment. Simultaneously, a reserve battalion (now known as the 3rd Battalion The Jamaica Regiment (National Reserve)) had also been formed. A second Regular infantry unit, the 2nd Battalion The Jamaica Regiment, was established in May 1979. These three non-mechanized light infantry battalions formed (and continue to form) the backbone of the Jamaica Defence Force.
Through the West India Regiment, the Jamaica Regiment can trace its lineage back to 1794-1795. Indeed, the 1st West India Regiment (Whyte's Regiment of Foot), a regiment of the British army recruited in the Caribbean in 1795, had its own roots in the South Carolina Corps, a unit of Rangers and Pioneers raised in 1778 to fight for the British crown during the American War of Independence. At its peak strength at the dawn of the 19th Century, during the Napoleonic Wars, the West India Regiment consisted of some 12 infantry battalions, numbering about 10,000 men in all. The West India Regiment had a most distinguished history during the Napoleonic Wars, earning such Battle Honours as Dominica 1805; Martinique 1809; and Guadeloupe 1810. The Regiment even fought in the Battle of New Orleans (War of 1812) on 08 January 1815. Typically, these tough, hardened soldiers were chosen to fight in the most difficult climates and terrains, environments that inevitably took a fearsome toll on European troops. Subsequently, battalions of the West India Regiment would campaign extensively in Africa and even the Middle East, winning further renown and glory at Gambia 1849, 1855, 1861; Gold Coast (Ghana) 1863-64, 1873-74; Ashantee 1873-74; Sierra Leone 1883; West Africa 1887; Sierra Leone 1898-99; the First World War 1914-1918; Cameroons 1914-16; East Africa 1914-18, and Palestine 1917-18. The West India Regiment was disbanded in 1927, only to be revived in 1958 with the creation of the Federation of the West Indies, and then disbanded again in 1962.
One of the most important traditions of The Jamaica Regiment is the annual commemoration of the winning of two Victoria Crosses by members of the West India Regiment during the 19th Century. This yearly celebration takes place on or around 27 May and involves a formal Mess Dinner, Church Service, and holiday for all personnel of the Jamaica Defence Force. The Victoria Crosses in question were won by Private (later Lance-Corporal) Samuel Hodge of the 4th West India Regiment in Gambia on 30 June1866; and by Lance-Corporal (later Sergeant) James William Gordon of the 1st Battalion West India Regiment, also in Gambia, on 13 March 1892.
Samuel Hodge was born at Tortola, British Virgin Island in 1840. He subsequently served in the 4th West India Regiment. Hodge was involved in the assault on the walled town of Tubabecolong in Gambia, 30 June 1866 during a campaign to quell an insurrection by the Marabouts, an fierce, warlike Islamic tribe. The Commanding Officer of the British expeditionary force, Lieutenant-Colonel George D'Arcy, called for volunteers to rush the enemy stronghold and effect a breach in the stockade with axes. Private Samuel Hodge, a pioneer, was one of 18 such volunteers (D'Arcy himself, two officers and 15 men) to make up this "Forlorn Hope." In the rush to the stockade, 13 of the men were wounded and cut down and the two officers killed by musket fire at close range. Reaching the wall, Private Hodge and a Private Boswell were able to break into the stockade with their axes. At this point Boswell was shot and killed. Lieutenant-Colonel D'Arcy and Samuel Hodge now moved through the gap and proceeded to a gate in the stockade. Hodge attacked this with his axe, and despite sustaining several crippling gunshot wounds, was able to force the gate open before collapsing. Assaulting troops of the West India Regiment now poured through the gate and stormed the town at the point of the bayonet, killing some 500 Marabouts. With the battle won, Lieutenant-Colonel D'Arcy publicly hailed Private Samuel Hodge as the bravest man in the Regiment. Hodge was awarded the Victoria Cross on 24 June 1867, the first non-European to win the VC. Sadly, the now Lance-Corporal Hodge never fully recovered from his terrible wounds and died within a year while serving with the Regiment in Belize (British Honduras).
Sgt William James Gordon, VC
James William Gordon was born in Jamaica in 1865. He would serve in the 1st Battalion of the West India Regiment. On 13 March 1892, while on campaign in Gambia, Gordon would participate in the storming of the walled town of Toniataba. At the height of the battle, an assault party of 12 men from the 1st West India Regiment, under the command of a British officer, Major G.C. Madden, were attempting to batter down the southern gate of the town with a heavy beam. At this juncture several enemy engaged the storming party at close quarters through loopholes with muskets. Seeing some of the muskets pointed directly at the back of Major Madden from a range of not less than six feet, Lance-Corporal James William Gordon, with great dash and bravery, interposed himself between the enemy and Major Madden, taking the brunt of their fire and saving the life of the British officer. Lance-Corporal Gordon was shot through the lungs. Amazingly, Gordon would recover from his terrible wounds and would subsequently be awarded the Victoria Cross. He would rise to the rank of Sergeant and continue to serve in the West India Regiment at Kingston, Jamaica until his death in 1922. The VC won by Sergeant Gordon is on permanent display at the Jamaica Military Museum, Up Park Camp, at Kingston.
The Colonel of the Regiment of The RCR, Major-General Daniel Charles Spry, during an official visit to The Jamaica Regiment in Kingston, Jamaica, 24 July 1967.
With the alliance between The Jamaica Regiment and The Royal Canadian Regiment proclaimed on 12 June 1965, both Regiments moved quickly to cement the relationship. In July 1966 Major F.M. Vine, Commanding Officer of The RCR Depot (05 January 1964 - 08 December 1968), was to visit the allied regiment in Jamaica. On 24 July 1967, the Colonel of the Regiment of The RCR, Major-General Daniel Charles Spry (26 May 1965 - 10 July 1978), made an official visit to The Jamaica Regiment at Kingston and was hosted by Lieutenant-Colonel R.G. Green, CO of 1st Battalion The Jamaica Regiment (1966-1972). Many Small Unit Exchanges have occurred between sub-units of the battalions of the two Regiments ever since. In fact, such an exchange is currently taking place this month between 2nd Battalion The Royal Canadian Regiment and the 2nd Battalion The Jamaica Regiment, involving hundreds of personnel. During the last Regimental Indoctrination Course held at Wolseley Barracks, London, Ontario during November-December 2011, Lieutenant-Colonel Dillon Christopher Lobban, CO of the 2nd Battalion The Jamaica Regiment, briefed course candidates on contemporary urban operations being conducted by The Jamaica Regiment. Recently, the Colonel of the Regiment, Colonel W.J. Aitchison, OMM, CD, represented The RCR during the annual VC Day Commemoration at Up Park Camp, Kingston, Jamaica on 25 May 2012. There is every indication that the already firm bonds that link The Jamaica Regiment and The Royal Canadian Regiment will grow even stronger in the future.
The current Commanding Officers of The Jamaica Regiment are as follows:
- 1st Battalion, The Jamaica Regiment (1 JR), Up Park Camp, Kingston:
CO - Lieutenant-Colonel Gary Spencer Rowe;
- 2nd Battalion, The Jamaica Regiment (2 JR), Moneague Training Camp (MTC), St Ann:
CO - Lieutenant-Colonel Dillon Christopher Lobban;
- 3rd Battalion, The Jamaica Regiment (National Reserve) (3 JR (NR)), Curphy Barracks, Up Park Camp, Kingston:
CO - Lieutenant-Colonel Winston William Walcott