On Thursday, 5 June, The Duke of York visited Canada in his position as Colonel-in-Chief of the Queen’s York Rangers. The Duke of York is a fitting representative for them not only because of his title, but also because he has strong ties with Canada from his time as a student at Lakefield College in Ontario in 1977.
Founded in the late 1700s, the Queen’s York Rangers is one of the oldest English-speaking regiments in North America. The York Rangers have two squadrons, one based in Aurora and one in Toronto, Ontario. The Duke of York first attended a small lunch reception at Oakville Terrace Reception Centre in picturesque Aurora, where he was greeted by dignitaries including Aurora’s Mayor Geoff Dawe, Member of Parliament Lois Brown, and York Rangers’ Honourary Colonel Darrell Bricker and Lieutenant-Colonel Phil Halton.
The Duke of York gave a brief address to the guests, including some members of the York Rangers. “How many men do you have – 60,000?” the Duke quipped to the soldiers flanking him. “I’m not doing too badly then – I only had 10,000 a few days ago!” Speaking without notes, he then commended Canada for its dedication to its soldiers. “Canada has supported its troops in a way that has shamed many other countries, including the UK, because we did not recognize those who returned from Afghanistan either injured or killed in action. It’s only because of the actions that you have taken that we have begun to do the same.”
After chatting briefly to guests at the reception, Prince Andrew unveiled the Diamond Jubilee Park Plaque before making a hasty exit to drive down to Old Fort York in downtown Toronto, where he was scheduled to review troops.
Excited guests expressed delight at meeting The Duke. “I’ve wanted to see him since he was at Lakefield College. We all wanted to meet him back then!” said Sandra Humphries, who was accompanied to by two friends. She said The Duke was more informal than she had expected. “We were told we had to stand up when he came to our table, but he said, ‘No, sit down, sit down!’ He came around to every table.”
Later that afternoon, Andrew attended the Trooping of the Guidon at Old Fort York, a historic fort in downtown Toronto. The Guidon is a flag carried by a regiment and historically used as a marker or rallying point.The Duke of York had been invited to celebrate the awarding of five new battle honours to the York Rangers. Four honours celebrated historic battles, such as the War of 1812, and one commemorated the war in Afghanistan. The afternoon also included a parade of soldiers in costume from the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Great War, with uniformed soldiers riding horses as they had at the turn of the last century.
Wearing the green uniform of the York Rangers, The Prince reviewed the troops and gave a few brief remarks to the guests, who included family of the troops. He told the guests that the soldiers could be grateful for the support of their family and friends back home. He added that the parade not only commemorated history, but also showed the strength of the modern York Rangers regiment. He called the Guidon “the centre point that every member of the regiment rallies around. It represents not only the past, but the character of the regiment as it is today.”
After his departure from Old Fort York, Andrew was scheduled to remain in Canada for a few more events, including a reception and dinner at Lakefield College, before returning to the UK.
Photo Credit: Rachel Baarda