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1939 Royal Escort

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Role of the Royal Canadian Hussars during the 1939 Royal visit to Montreal

 

Both the 6th Duke of Connaught’s Royal Canadian Hussars and the 17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars rode as escorts to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth during their 1939 visit to Montreal. 

This page provides links to two films on YouTube that describe the escort.  The first video portrays the escort during the visit, and the second portrays the practices of 17th before the visit.

 

Outline of the film – Roll of the Royal Canadian Hussars during the royal visit of 1939

This film was prepared for educational purposes only by extracting video clips from several different films in the public domain and placing them roughly in the order of the royal procession through Montreal. The source films focused on the Royal Couple, but they also showed the escorts. This film puts together different extractions focusing on the escort.

The music for the film was provided by the Montreal Welsh Male Choir and the Royal Canadian Hussars Association and Cadets, featuring Claude-Marie Landré as soloist and Polina Gubnitskaia as pianist. It was recorded in 2017 at a practice session before this group performed it at a military tattoo at the Bell Centre.

 

 

 

Outline of the film – 17th Duke of York’s Royal Canadian Hussars training for the 1939 Royal Visit

This film was taken by a young lady, Miss Mary Grant who was engaged to Lieut. C. Victor Vickers, second in command of the escort.  The commander was Capt. Alec M. Fordyce.

The horse-mounted escort shown in this film is described in the old Cavalry Training Manual as a “Captain’s escort without Standard” with a Captain and Lieutenant flanking the Royal carriage and thirty rank and file. On the move, an escort is a tactical march formation.

In advance of the Royal carriage, two troopers called “points”, then following at an interval, a single trooper called the “connecting file” is in front of a leading party of three sections (12 soldiers)  then the Royal carriage with the two officers flanking on either side with the commander on the King’s side. Immediately behind the car is another three sections followed by another connecting file and two rear points.

 

 

The first few feet of the film are for practice taken, by Miss Grant, of the winter streets of Brockville. After the last of the snow there were only a few weekends to work out on the streets before the event. The rest of the week the officers and men were busy at their civilian jobs.

 

Minutes/Seconds Activities
 

The first street rides were to work up the muscles of the horses and men to the pounding of the hard pavement.

0:37 Next, the practice with the sword at the “carry” for long periods. This is at the ceremonial trotting gait.
0:50 The first practices were at Park Avenue Station where the King and Queen were to arrive.
1:54 To test the effect of noise on the horses the engineer of a steam locomotive was asked to blow his whistle. You can see that some of the horses were startled.

2:32

The riders had to practice forming the line of the escort with a moving car. You can see one horse aiming a kick at the car which did not connect.
3:43

Now a practice ride over the entire route in full dress to get the participants accustomed to the ride.

The Hussar full dress is dark blue with considerable gold braid, a dark brown fur head-dress, called a busby with a tall egret or ostrich plume.

The escort covered about five miles on their practice rides; first from Park Avenue Station via Outremont to the junction of Park and Pine Avenues; then from Mount Royal Park to the Windsor Station via Westmount. The route in between was covered by a military motorcycle escort provided by the 6th Hussars.

5:58

Returning to the armoury. Riding at the rear are two spare officers in case of mishap in the training period. Troopers are walking the horses to cool them down before stabling. One horse is enjoying a sand bath.

7:01 Bleachers were set up in front of the Hussars Armoury for regimental guests. The gentleman is Brigadier General J. B. White, Honorary Colonel of the regiment.
7:26

On the Sunday before the Royal Visit, a timed rehearsal was run using the special open cars provided for the tour. This is on Westmount Boulevard. The Mayor of Montreal, Camillien Houde, is “sitting in” for the King. Note the Royal Standard plaque above the windshield. The escort is wearing khaki service dress for this rehearsal to keep the full dress clean for the Royal event.

8:25 At the corner of Cote St. Antoine and Sherbrooke Street. You will notice the other Royal Tour cars following behind the mounted procession. During the Royal Visit they carried the Prime Minister and other dignitaries.
8:41 At Windsor Station the escort forms sections left into line as the Royal car draws up to the station entrance. The man in the black coat, speaking to the commander is Colonel Van Den Berg, principle staff officer responsible for the arrangements.
9:33

Finally, the great day. From the bleachers Miss Grant filmed the King and Queen with their escort as they pass the Armoury on their way from Mount Royal Park to loop around Westmount en-route to Windsor Station.

Taken from the notes of Alec M. Fordyce, Ottawa Ont. May 8, 1978.

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