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The Regiment now reverted to its traditional peacetime role with the Army Reserve. By the early 1960s, the reservoir of veterans had dried up. Numbers shrank with the various changes in defence policy, and equipment became outdated. By the 1980s, the worst was over. Numbers have increased, and there is new equipment. With the “total force” concept has come a renewed emphasis upon individual and collective training, and the professional development of soldiers whatever their rank. While retaining its Highland traditions, the unit reflects the modern face of Canada, and Argylls serve Canadians whether combating natural disasters at home (66 deployed during the 1998 ice storm, and many volunteered during the 1997 Red River flood) or augmenting UN or NATO deployments abroad. In the 1970s and 1980s, five Argylls served in Cyprus and another three in Germany, but it was the 1990s and the first decade of the 21st century that saw the Regiment’s operational role increase dramatically.
Events in the former Yugoslavia made sufficient demands upon the Canadian Armed Forces that maintenance of its ongoing commitment necessitated the implementation of a total force concept. As such, the Army Reserve augmented Canadian deployments, thereby increasing the role of the Reserves and the 26 Argylls deployed there.
The long Canadian combat mission in Afghanistan broadened and deepened the trends apparent in the 1990s. The Army Reserve provided about a quarter of the strength of each deployment. The operational tempo increased dramatically during this period. Over 60 Argylls served in Afghanistan, some for more than one tour; they were there at the beginning and they were there at the end in July 2011 (the last Argyll posted there returned in late July on one of the final flights out).
Throughout two world wars, NATO and UN missions, and the Afghanistan mission, Argyll families waited anxiously for their sons and daughters to return home safely. In far too many cases, it did not happen, and it fell to the Regimental family (with a critical role played by the Women’s Auxiliary) and the community to provide solace for the loved ones of the fallen.
Regular training, no matter how hard, does not give rise to such concern. Argylls return tired, dirty, hungry, and satisfied (most of the time at least). Part of Argyll soldiering from the Regiment’s first parade in kilts in 1904 has been ceremonial; it is an important means of representing to the community the Regiment, its service, its traditions, and the Canadian principles they embody. Kilted Argylls have done so, in peace and in war, since 1904. Thus, 110 years later, the service of Cpls Nathan Cirillo and Brandon Robertson at the Canadian War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in our nation’s capital were but the latest manifestations of a fine and honourable tradition.
On Wednesday, October 22, 2014, Cpl Cirillo was murdered while standing vigil – kilted, respectful, and unarmed – as part of the Ceremonial Guard at these splendid memorials as Canada was preparing for Remembrance Day.
This craven act angered and outraged Canadians from all regions and all walks of life. They were instantly mindful that Cpl Cirillo’s mother and his son had suffered a grievous and permanent loss. No one had foreseen that Nathan’s service on this day would end as it did. Sacrifice is inherent in a soldier’s lot but, at a time of peaceful commemoration and in such a manner it is an affront to the decent sensibilities of Canadians.
And, unfortunately, this most recent page in the Regiment’s history has, again, been written in Argyll blood.
On Tuesday, October 28, 2014, the Regiment paraded in solemn ceremony, with kilts and bagpipes, as it laid to rest a fallen Argyll. His comrades escorted him, his comrades carried him, and his comrades paid their respects to his life and to his service.
Winston Churchill famously called the reservist “twice the citizen.” Soldiering is a profession, the profession of arms. Reserve soldiering represents a full-time commitment on a part-time basis. Reservists across the rank structure organize and reorganize their lives (personal, family, and occupation) to ensure administrative continuity of effort and training. And for 111 years that commitment has been supported by Argyll families, Argyll employers, and the greater community of Hamilton.
But there is more to the Regiment than its great symbols, the kilt and the pipes. Service and sacrifice have always been at the core of the Regiment’s existence. Since 1903, thousands and thousands of men and women from the Hamilton area have annually devoted several weeknights and weekends to train as members of the Army Reserve of this nation’s Armed Forces. The lure of the profession of arms, a sense of duty, the intense camaraderie, and the need for extra income explain, in part or in combination, the attraction to the Regiment.
For more than 110 years, scores of dedicated officers and NCOs have provided the cadres so essential to continuity of effort and maintenance of excellence as the Regiment suffered or prospered according to the dictates of fluctuating (sometimes wildly so) government policies. Their dedication has provided the framework for Argyll service during two world wars and civil emergencies, and for the augmentation by Argylls of UN and NATO deployments overseas. In the years after the Second World War, there were few opportunities for overseas service by the militia. That changed somewhat in the 1970s, more so in the 1990s, and completely in the 2000s.
While retaining its Highland traditions, the unit now reflects the modern face of Canada and Argylls serve Canadians, whether combatting natural disasters at home or augmenting Canadian deployments overseas with the United Nations or NATO.
The Argyll tradition is best defined by its greatest leader, Lt-Col J. David Stewart, DSO, ED, the victor at Hill 19, who said, “I figured my battalion was there to save lives, get a job done.” This terse and quintessentially Canadian epithet characterizes Argyll leadership and style. And for more than a century they have done just that!
25 officers; 168 personnel of other ranks, including the Pipes and Drums.
The Pipes and Drums also has 14 civilian volunteers to assist on ceremonial occasions.
The Argyll Regimental Foundation (ARF) was established in 1981 with the broad objective to maintain Highland dress and the traditions of the Regiment. A fundraising campaign – with a goal of $200,000 – was launched and, happily, within a short period of time the target was met and exceeded. Then and in the intervening years, the ARF has enjoyed broad financial support from within the serving battalion, the Regimental family, and the community at large. It mounted another successful capital campaign to celebrate the Regiment’s 100th anniversary in 2003. In a real sense, it continues in a formal organizational fashion the essential work identified when it was established. If the Regiment wants Highland dress, in large measure it must pay for it, and it has done so for 111 years.