South Alberta Light Horse (SALH)
The South Alberta Light Horse and
Holy Trinity Anglican Church
Over the last 100 years, Canada’s military units have undergone many name changes and mergers. In 2006, the amalgamation of the South Alberta Light Horse with the 19th Alberta Dragoons formally joined Alberta’s two oldest cavalry units.
Cavalry Regiments were particularly suited to Alberta’s terrain and Canada recognized this capability early on. During the Boer War, many cowboys, farmers, and ranchers from across Alberta answered the call of duty and fought on horseback in South Africa as scouts and mounted riflemen. Upon their return, these veterans continued to pressure the Federal Government to stand-up official units in Alberta. For Edmonton, two key personalities who spear-headed this was a young William Griesbach and Frederick Jamieson, and their unit was born in 1908 as the 19th Alberta Dragoons.
While a Commanding Officer is charged with the overall well-being of his officers and soldiers, a Regimental Chaplain has traditionally accompanied soldiers with a view to addressing their spiritual well-being. With the stand-up of the new Regiment in Edmonton, the veteran Lieutenant-Colonel Belcher was selected as Commanding Officer and the first Regimental Chaplain was the Reverend Henry Allen Gray (who, prior to this time, had served as the first Rector of Holy Trinity).
By 1911, a Regimental Armoury was built at 10310 85 Avenue. This proximity to the Holy Trinity Anglican Church established a long-standing relationship to this day and is reflected by the two Regimental colours and one Regimental flag which have been laid up in this church since 1964.
With the stand-up of Edmonton’s first infantry unit in 1908, the Dragoons were asked to provide their Regimental Chaplain to consecrate the newly acquired Regimental colours of the 101st Edmonton Fusiliers. These Colours were duly consecrated by the Venerable Archdeacon Gray in 1911. Training for the Dragoons continued to be conducted in the local Edmonton area and included numerous church parades at the Holy Trinity Anglican Church. With the outbreak of the War in 1914, the Dragoons were mobilized and departed Edmonton for Camp Valcartier, and ultimately France. The prior year saw the appointment of Regimental Chaplain assumed by the Reverend C. Carruthers, Rector of Holy Trinity at the time.
Following the First World War, the Dragoons continued parading at the Connaught Armouries in Strathcona and at various other locations in Northern Alberta. The depression resulted in a decrease in Federal spending and a resulting decrease in Regimental activities. The Regiment continues to conduct its training on horseback and in 1939, provided the guard and escort for the visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. With war again on the horizon, thought turned to mobilization and recruiting up to strength but ultimately the Dragoons were to be made dormant and not called up. As a result, on May 3, 1942, the Regimental Flag of the 19th Alberta Dragoons was placed safely in Holy Trinity at a “Laying Away of the Colours” service under the direction of the Regimental Chaplain, Honourary Captain W.M. Nainby (Rector at the time). During the period between the outbreak of the war and 1942, the Regiment recruited over 75 officers and 1000 other ranks for service with the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
In 1946, the Dragoons were brought back to life and joined with Edmonton’s infantry regiment, the Edmonton Fusiliers. The Regiment was to retrieve its Regimental flag in 1950 from Holy Trinity with Reverend Captain Nainby overseeing their retrieval. Training continued with the Dragoons being charged with maintaining security on the Alaska Highway as an armoured car regiment. The three Regimental Colours were also trooped down Whyte Avenue in an official parade in 1952.
By mid-1950s, the post-war peace dividend had arrived and in 1964, the Dragoons were notified that they were to be once again made dormant. While not struck off the order of battle, the Regiment was to be reduced to zero strength. In November 1964, the King’s Colour of the 19th Alberta Dragoons, along with the Regimental Colours and King’s Colour of the 101st Edmonton Fusiliers, were laid up once more in Holy Trinity Church. The Regimental Chaplain, Captain Reverend Canon T.L. Leadbeater (Rector of Holy Trinity at the time), oversaw this ceremony.
In 1978, the Federal Government recognized that Edmonton required its armoured soldiers. B Squadron, the South Alberta Light Horse, was duly stood up to fulfill this requirement. The 2006 amalgamation of the 19th Alberta Dragoons and the South Alberta Light Horse officially linked the history and heritage of these two fine units under its current name. While the Dragoons were dormant for over 40 years, their exceptional history and close ties to Holy Trinity are now a part of the South Alberta Light Horse lineage.