100th Regiment of Foot bring history alive in Stittsville park

(The 100th Regiment of Foot reenactment members could be found this summer in the W.J. Bell Rotary Peace Park practicing daily for their summer performances. Photos: Stittsville Central)

The 100th Regiment of Foot recreates an actual British Army Regiment from the Napoleonic War period. The Regiment has the unique opportunity to perform early 19th century military drills, musket firing, and music for visitors from all over the world right in the heart of Canada’s capital. The regiment’s members are dressed and equipped in a manner that accurately reflects the original unit through the years of 1813 to 1815.

Active throughout the year, the regiment spends much of the summer months on Parliament Hill and the adjacent Rideau Canal’s Ottawa Locks next to the Bytown Museum and the Chateau Laurier. The Rideau Canal is both a National Historic Site of Canada and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When not on Parliament Hill or at the Ottawa Locks, the regiment attends community events, parades, heritage days, and battle re-enactments in other parts of Ontario, Quebec, and New York State and have participated in events at the Goulbourn Museum.

The regiment is comprised of youth with a few being cadets. This volunteer program is year-round from February to November. Receiving an annual government grant since 2016, allows the regiment to offer employment to those who meet the grant requirements. With the number varying each year, an average of 19 positions is the norm. A number of cadets who did not get a camp look for something to fill their summer months and apply to the regiment. Anyone can apply starting at 10-years old for musicians and 15-years of age for the infantry company. There are two programs, one for youth and one for adults with all candidates going through an assessment and interview process.

This summer, the regiment discovered one of Stittsville’s local parks in which to practice their reenactments – the W.J. Bell Rotary Peace Park. The group was comprised of high school students and one university student leader and they practiced each day for a week. The sound from the corps of snare drums carried throughout the neighbourhood and soon there was an inquisitive audience to watch the practices take place. It was entertaining to see history being re-played right here in Stittsville.

Victoria Bell of Stittsville is the music program officer for the reenactment group and is in charge of all aspects of the corps of drums. Currently, and over the years, many Stittsville residents have been members of the 100th Regiment of Foot.

We spoke with William Sinka, who created the historical reenactment group and explained how it came to be. Did he have a connection to a descendant? “I moved to the region in 2010 from Montreal and was looking for something to do. I joined a War of 1812 re-enactment group based near Kingston and one day happened to visit the Goulbourn Museum. One of the staff mentioned why not do the 100th and explained the regiment’s connections to Richmond and the surrounding area. About a year later, Ken Cownley and I started looking at creating a historical society that would recreate the 100th. In 2013, we got together 5 area residents and incorporated the society. I have no connection to any of the original members of the regiment, but I have had the pleasure to meet and exchange emails with descendants now living all over the world,” William told us.

We wanted to know how youth and adults could become a member and what experience is required? William shared, “To be part of the volunteer program, no experience is required. We teach everything. For musicians, it helps if you can already read music and play a similar instrument, however, we provide free music lessons. For summer employment, those wanting to work as musicians need to already have learned a related instrument. Normally we get flute players for fife and trumpet players for bugle but this year our musicians played reed instruments instead for fife and trombone for bugle. For the infantry company it helps if you have done drill in cadets, however, most candidates have no previous experience with drill.”

Members wear jackets of different colours we noticed, what is the distinction? “During the period we represent (1813–1815) British infantry regiments of the line wore red coats with different colours for cuffs and collars. The 100th had red coats with a shade of yellow cuffs and collars. So the soldiers carrying muskets had red coats and the convention was that the field musicians (fifers and drummers) reverse the colours and so have yellow coat and red cuffs and collars. The only difference are the buglers who were attached to the light infantry company and wore the same red coats as the rest of that company,” William explained.

This synopsis of the 100th Regiment of Foot history takes you back to 1818 when many of the disbanded members of the regiment chose to stay in Canada. Of those who decided to stay, a large portion took their land grants in a new military settlement on the Jock River in North Eastern Upper Canada. There they established the Village of Richmond which is now part of the City of Ottawa.

These new settlers landed near the area where the Canadian War Museum now stands and setup camp. There they left their families and proceeded towards their new settlement cutting the Richmond Road.

Today you can visit the area where the settlers first landed, drive the Richmond Road, and visit the Village of Richmond where many of the streets are named after officers of the regiment. Many descendants of the original members of the regiment still live and work in the Ottawa area.

We look forward to having the 100th Regiment of Foot return to the W.J. Bell Rotary Peace Park next summer for their reenactments.

To read more on the 100th Regiment of Foot or to see where they are performing, visit their website at: recreated.100thregiment.org.


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