Tracks and Trenches

The 12th York Rangers in the First World War

The 12th Regiment, York Rangers was a Canadian militia unit with a history that stretched back well before Confederation, to the earliest struggles for domination of the continent between the English and French. In 1914, as war fever gripped Canada, it played an instrumental role in raising four battalions for the Canadian Expeditionary Force and supporting many others.

The story of those four battalions—the 20th, 35th, 127th and 220th—is about much more than their individual exploits. Seen together, their story is that of how a Canadian militia unit experienced modern war, and how it was transformed by that experience. The men who served in those battalions went on to prove themselves in battle, winning accolades including two Victoria Crosses, but also created bonds that lasted for the rest of their lives. They went on to become prominent bankers, lawyers, writers, politicians (and even the Premier of Ontario). The story of the York Rangers is integral to that of Ontario and the communities they were drawn from—Toronto, certainly, but also Newmarket, Aurora and many others.

The York Rangers continue to serve Canada today in their modern incarnation, the Queen’s York Rangers (1st American Regiment) (RCAC). The battle honours won by those four battalions of the Canadian Expeditionary Force are emblazoned on the Regiment’s guidon, along with more modern ones such as Afghanistan.

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