Thursday, 19 July 2012

Freedom of the Town

The Freedom of the Town is the act of granting the privilege to a specific military unit to march through the town with "drums beating, colours flying, and bayonets fixed". The Governor General's Horse Guards were invited to pay a visit to town in June.
It's quite an unusual sight to see this 1944 Sherman tank rumbling along Main Street closely followed by a parade of military vehicles.

The Freedom of the Town tradition originates from British military history.  British cities were opposed to having regular standing armies, due to their war-like impression “disturbing the peace and appearing to be a threat to the ancient civic rights of the city fathers.”

The First and Second Guard follows the Horse Guard.

It became a custom for any military unit to request the permission of the chief magistrate, the mayor, before entering a community.

2012 is the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812.. From 1809 to 1812, the threat of invasion across the border from the United States became very real. Many influential American politicians openly urged the annexation of the Canadian provinces, by military action if necessary. Canada had to fight back. In fact, British and Canadian troops got a s far as Washington, and set fire to the President's mansion in 1814. It was repaired and the burnt bits were painted white... hence the name, the White House.
Inspecting the troops.... Mayor Emmerson and Member of Parliament Paul Calandra with the Guard’s Lieutenant-Colonel.

Major General Isaac Brock was sent to Upper Canada in 1810 as Commander-in-Chief to improve the defences of the colony. Part of the defence force was Button's Troop, commanded by Major John Button, a highly respected local farmer. Dr. John Button, who is a direct descendant of Major John Button, was one of the dignitaries in attendance st this event.
The Cavalry Squadron provides a horse-mounted ceremonial presence at public and regimental events, to perpetuate Canadian cavalry traditions.
The Governor General's Horse Guard band includes three specialized musical sub-units: the Fanfare Trumpeters, the Brass Quintet, and the Woodwind Quintet.
Button's Troop of dragoons and light cavalry was formed from the prosperous farmers of Markham Township under the Militia Act of 1808. It was initially designated 11th Company, 1st York Regiment of Militia, and was the first Militia cavalry unit organized in Upper Canada.

Freedom of the Town commemorates local history in relation to the War of 1812 and honours the Governor General's Horse Guards, a military unit that had their origins in Major Button's Troop formed in 1810.
The aftermath.... all cleaned up an hour after the parade was finished.
 More pictures here. Look at Image 13, bottom left hand corner.... that's ME!


  1. Nice pics of a colourful event!

    Good to see a Sherman still going strong - those things were built like, um, tanks! Great vehicles so long as they didn't get hit...

  2. Seeing a tank roll through your town is very exciting. There is an annual event in my home town of Dorchester called The Dorchester Day Parade. I believe it celebrates the annexation of Dorchester by the city of Boston. Anyway, it was a big deal parade when I was a kid, and the biggest deal of all was seeing the tank come down Dorchester Avenue each year. The driver would veer left and right a bit, giving the kids a thrill by appearing to be coming for them specifically! Great fun!

  3. Fascinating parade and great photos Shammie.
    I love all the confetti in the last one.

  4. Great photos - I love a parade.

    btw - I thought you may be interested in the origin of 'Dragoons'.

    Dragoons were invented by Count Ernst von Mansfeld, one of the greatest German military commanders, in the early 1620s. There are other instances of mounted infantry predating this. However Mansfeld, who had learned his profession in Hungary and the Netherlands, often used horses to make his foot troops more mobile, creating what was called an "armée volante" (French for flying army).

    The French refined this process to subjugate or persecute by the imposition of troops and by extension to compel by any violent measures or threats. The verb ('dragoon') dates from 1689, at a time when dragoons were being used by the French monarchy to persecute Protestants. There is no differentiation between 'dragon' and 'dragoon' in the French language.

    The British took it one step further and used green coated dragoons to cause havoc and mayhem amongst American farmer-settlers in the war of Independence and their actions are attributed to a 'swelling of the American uprising'.

    Wellington employed private companies of dragoons in the Peninsula Campaign and the Napoleonic War(s) - they were regarded as little more than a Guerilla Force - fast moving mounted infantry, looting and living off the land and who struck wherever the opportunity arose. Wellington used them to harry the oppositions' foot infantry advancing behind mounted heavy cavalry and to continue chasing them id the tide of battle turned in his favour or to delay any further advance if he had to 'get out in a hurry'.

  5. Nice summary, JohnD!

    Yes, a dragoon was originally a soldier who rode a horse but was intended to fight on foot, providing mobile firepower in support of the true cavalry. By the early 18th century they were being transformed into true cavalry, although often remaining lower in status and having poorer horses than other regiments until later.

    In the modern British army, the Dragoon units now drive tanks...

  6. Just as a matter of interest regarding dragoons.... my great-great grandfather William Tolman Leveridge was a farrier (blacksmith) with the First Dragoon Guards in England in the 1850s.... and was looking after the regimental horses in India and China.

  7. Wow, he would have seen some amazing stuff -and of course, how far would a cavalry unit have got with no shoes? Did he go to The Crimea? I can't remember if they were part of the Heavy Brigade or not.

  8. Sadly, I never learned much about the War of 1812. I'm curious to know what we'd hear if we did a "man on the street" type of interview.

  9. This looks like quite a fantastic event! Thanks for sharing all this. I had never head of this before.
    LOVE the
    The entire thing looks like it was really fabulous!

  10. After Waterloo, when all the fighting had settled, and hundreds of thousands of allied troops were loose on Belgium and French soil, Wellington had a 'discipline problem', stopping his troops from rape, pillage and plunder. He solved most of this problem by redeploying his hired dragoons as Military Police units with written authority to deal summarily with offenders in the field. He issued them with a red sash to be worn over their green tunics from their right shoulder to their left waist.

    The "Red Sash", so worn, remains part of the dress uniform of many Cavalry and Military Police units to this day.

  11. I’m happy that Canadian provinces were not annexed to America. I’m a bit terrified to see tanks rolling through city streets even in peace time (because I imagine how it would be in wartime) but military band parade is so much fun to see and hear. All your photos are superb, especially the reflection.


  12. Really interesting account of a great looking parade - I especially like the cavalry squadron and who put the shine on that bell!

  13. I love a bit of pomp and ceremony. Although with the amount thats going on over here at the moment, I could be all 'pomped' out. lol!

  14. That was a very interesting post. Thanks for the info and fotos.

  15. How interesting! I knew nothing about this.

  16. Thank God you stood your ground, Sham! I can't imagine Canada being part of the USA! We NEED you to be Canada, ha!

    Congratulations for finding yourself in the crowd. Loved the link.

  17. There you are! I see you! I see you!


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