Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was founded by an act of philanthropy as a result of the acceptance of the offer of Captain Andrew Hamilton Gault, a Montreal entrepreneur, on the 3rd of August 1914 to provide $100,000 to raise and equip a battalion for overseas service. PPCLI has served Canada and Canadians continuously since its founding in Ottawa on 10 August 1914. Since then more than 1,850 Patricia’s have fallen in the service of Canada, in her wars, in peacekeeping and peace support operations in Canada and elsewhere. In addition, many thousands of other members of the Regiment have been wounded or injured through their service of Canada.
On 6th August 1914 Captain Gault’s offer was provisionally accepted by the Canadian Government. Authority was formally granted on 10th August (by way of a Report to the Privy Council of Canada (PC 2112)) to raise and equip an infantry battalion, with the remainder of the cost being defrayed by the Department of Militia and Defence.
On 10th August 1914 the Charter of the Regiment was signed and on the next day mobilization began. Eight days later, it was completed, as old soldiers flocked from every part of Canada to Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, where the Regiment was assembled. Out of 1,098 all ranks accepted into the new Regiment, 1,049 had seen previous service in South Africa or in the regular forces of the British Empire. In addition to personnel from the Royal Navy and Marines, almost every unit in the British Army was represented.
Lieutenant Colonel Francis D. Farquhar, DSO, an officer of the Coldstream Guards who was Military Secretary to His Royal Highness, the Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, The Governor-General of Canada, was selected to command the new battalion. Farquhar suggested the Regiment bear the name of the Duke’s youngest daughter, Her Royal Highness Princess Patricia of Connaught. The request was made to the Princess, who graciously consented to the Regiment bearing her name. The Light infantry came about because Captain Gault, a veteran of the South African War, liked the “irregular feel” it gave the Regiment.
The full title of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry was too long for everyday use, and the new unit became known as “PPCLI”, with “PP’s” or “Pip Pip’s”, the most common variants. The Regiment was best known to the public as “Princess Pats” or merely the “Pats”, but this partial abbreviation is discouraged and the Regiment prefers to be known as the “Patricia’s”.
The Edmonton City Police Pipe Band had enlisted in Ottawa under a gallant old Highlander, Pipe Major C. Colville. Reporting in full Highland Kit with the Hunting Stewart tartan, they announced to the Colonel that they had come “to pipe you to France and back again”. Colonel Farquhar was able to take them into the Regiment and they lightened many a march for the Regiment and proved stouthearted stretcher bearers in action as well.
Being the first Canadian arms unit into battle in World War I, the Regiment began a history of service to the Nation that continues today. The PPCLI have been in every major operation undertaken by Canada since including Sicily, Italy and Western Europe in World War II, Korea, Germany as a part of NATO, UN peacekeeping operations, Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan. Domestically the Regiment has participated in numerous operations including the Olympics of 1976, 1988 and 2010, flood relief in the Red River Valley on several occasions, and the ice storms of 1998. More than 1850 members of the Regiment have given their lives and countless others have suffered wounds or injury (in many cases resulting in permanent disability) from their service to Canada.
The Regiment’s mission today has not changed: to provide an excellent infantry regiment for service to Canada. The serving component of the Regiment is currently located in Edmonton Alberta (1 PPCLI, 3 PPCLI and Regimental Headquarters), Shilo Manitoba (2 PPCLI) and several Patricia’s serving in various capacities throughout the Canadian Forces. The retired component consists of members of the PPCLI Association in 10 branches located across Canada.