The Montreal Highland Cadets Unofficially Organised in 1889

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The Montreal Highland Cadets Unofficially Organised in 1889

Postby Spañiard » 23 Aug 2015 01:24

The Montreal Highland Cadet Battalion Corps Organised Without Canada’s Authority In 1889.

• Highland Cadet Battalion (of Montreal) (1899-1963).
• Location Montreal, QC.
• Formed Dec 20, 1899.
• Disbanded Sept 10, 1963.

It was the combination of two widely recognized Scottish characteristics or virtues which resulted in the organization of the Highland Cadets — the soldier instinct and national spirit. Early in the autumn of 1889 a deputation of youths, with their fathers, waited on Major Lydon who was then, and had been for many years previously, adjutant of the Fifth Battalion Royal Scots, with a request that he Mayor Lydon would organize a cadet corps with the abjectly of its being attached to and acting as a feeder to his regiment. Mr. W. Stuart, now a very efficient captain in the First Prince of Wales Fusiliers, then a lad, was the spokesman. It was intended, he explained, that the corps should be formed of two companies, the first of youths of sixteen years of age and upwards, and the second company to be made up of boys from twelve to fifteen years of age. Each company was to be limited in number to fifty.

Major Lydon promptly accepted the task and agreed to give all his spare time to drilling and otherwise organizing the corps, providing of course that his then commanding officer, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Caverhill, would give his consent and allow the corps the use of the regimental armoury to drill in and to store their arms, etc. This consent Colonel Caverhill very ready agreed to, and the cadets always met with the kindest consideration and encouragement from Colonel Caverhill, even after he had retired from the command of his regiment.

Colonel Caverhill caused a letter to be written to headquarters requesting that the cadets be officially attached to the Royal Scots, and also asking the Government for the loan of arms and accoutrements on the same conditions as they had been granted to college and school corps. This, however, the Government refused, on the grounds that there was no provision for any cadet corps except such as might be attached to educational institutions. This characteristic reply was a decided set back, as it meant, in addition to the expense of clothing, that arms and accoutrements would also have to be purchased by the corps. Nothing daunted, however, the organizers set to work, and in less than a fortnight the two full companies were in the ranks, and hard at work.

The two first captains were W. McB. Stuart (now captain in the First Prince of Wales Fusiliers), captain of No. 1 Company, and Allan Bain, captain of No. 2 Company. Captain Bain is or was till very lately, a very efficient sergeant in the Victoria Rifles, and amongst the crack shots of this very good shooting regiment.


The conditions of membership insisted upon by Major Lydon and ever since rigidly enforced, were that each member should be a total abstainer from intoxicating liquors, and it was also provided that the cadets should not enter saloons where liquors were sold, either in uniform or not. A great many times charges have been made through the press or in other ways that this rule was not strictly adhered to, but investigations have promptly been made where possible, and they have proved the charges invariably unfounded. In this connection, it is interesting to give the conditions of enlistment crystallised into a formal declaration plainly printed on the attestation form, which every recruit must sign on joining.

This declaration reads as follows:

1. I am a total abstainer from all intoxicating liquors.
2. I pledge myself not to enter any saloon or other place where intoxicants are sold, either in uniform or not.
3. I promise to take proper care of all property of the Government and corps, and to return same to the armoury in proper order on leaving the battalion.
4. I promise to obey all orders of my superiors, and to attend all drills, unless prevented by sickness or work.
5. I promise to pay an entrance fee of $1.00, and a monthly subscription of 10 cents, to be paid on or before the 15th of each month.
6. I also promise to pay a deposit of $1.50 on receipt of my uniform, which deposit I am to receive on leaving the corps, providing I return all property of the battalion in good order; failing to return my uniform as above, to forfeit my deposit.


It was not until the Highland Cadets had done ten years of hard, conscientious work, that the splendid little corps received official recognition. There is nothing very exceptional, unfortunately, in official failure to recognize service and merit in the Canadian military service, but it is none the less discouraging. It is a reasonable, manly axiom of the profession of arms, that the soldier must not do his duty with a view of receiving any other reward than the sweet consciousness of duty well performed; but, however good a soldier a man may be, he must be excused for some degree of disappointment, and for some loss of zeal, even, if subjected to constant official neglectful, and absolute discouragement...................

During the ten years of its existence the Highland Cadets battalion has given each year many splendid volunteers to the-corps in the Montreal division, all well drilled, well set-up, and every man of them ready to take his place in the ranks, as an efficient soldier, without costing the country one cent for his training. But good, conscientious work and determination will obtain recognition some time, even in the Canadian militia service.............


Upon the occasion of the corps's first visit to Ottawa, Major- General Sir Fred. Middleton, realizing the military value of such an organization, after addressing the corps, promised to use his influence to try and have the Highland Cadets recognized as a part of the active militia in some wav or other. Before he could succeed in doing anything, however, the fine old soldier — one whose name deserves to be revered for all time in Canada, as that of the cautious old commander who conducted Canada's armies to victory in the Northwest, and who showed, in the face of the enemy, an utter disregard for his own life and a most fatherly care of his volunteer troops — was driven out of the country by a most unscrupulous combination of politicians and disappointed tuft-hunters; was made, in fact, a victim of political exigency.

" Earnscliffe, Ottawa, December 31st, 1898.

"Dear Major Lydon, I have read with great interest your excellent appeal to your young Highlanders, which you sent me with- the kindly Christmas greetings of your Highland cadet corps and yourself. I much appreciate your own and their thought of me at this season. It is, I am sure, unnecessary for me to tell you how pleased I am at the success your cadet corps has already attained, and how warmly I wish it increased success and prosperity under your able leadership during 1899.

• Believe me, yours very faithfully,
• Major-General.

The circular referred to read in part as follows:—
Montreal, December, 1898.

Memo to All Members.
With the compliments of the season, I address each member of the corps, and beg leave to point out to them that it is my wish and intention to commence the year 1899 with a determination to do all in my power, with your help, to put the Highland Cadets away above their previous record; and, to do this, I ask every one of you to loyally assist me. With the prospects of so many opportunities before us, of being able to show off the efficiency of the corps, apart from the annual competition for the Duke of Connaught's flag, constant and regular drills will be necessary, and those who now feel that they cannot give at least one night a week, for the months of January, February and March, and two, or perhaps more, during April, May and June, had better now retire and send in their uniforms.


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