The British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) was formed on October 12, 1883 in Victoria and New Westminster, and is older than the City of Vancouver in which it serves today.
The first authorized regimental band was formed on November 9, 1883. With the conversion of the Regiment from Artillery to Rifles in 1900, the Band evolved into a brass band and a drum and bugle corps. Bugle-Majors have been part of the Regiment’s heritage ever since.
When the Regiment marched off to war, the Band went overseas and several of its World War I drums sit with honour in the Regimental Museum. Serving the Regiment throughout World War II, the 1950s, and the early 1960s, the Band was well known and won many band competitions. Unfortunately, in the cuts to the Canadian military establishment with unification of the Army, Navy, and Air Force in the late 1960s, the Band was disbanded and the band members were absorbed into the Regiment.
Twenty years passed before RSM (Band), Don Shale, and former Band Officer, Major Jim Barrett, decided to try to re-form a regimental band in 1987. After obtaining permission from the Regiment, the Commanding Officers’ Committee of retired colonels, and Major Fred Smith (ret.) of the British Columbia Regiment Association, the Band was re-formed as a volunteer band. It played its first performance for the men’s Christmas Dinner that year. Warrant Officer Claire Archer was the new band’s first Band Director, assisted by Bugle-Major John More. As the Band grew, Captain Ken Whitney, CD, took over the Band Director’s position in 1988. The Band played for regimental dinners, Remembrance Day, and enjoyed an annual trip to Powell River playing for the British Columbia Regiment Cadet Corps located there. When Captain Whitney’s duties with the Cadet Corps pulled him away from the Band, Acting Captain Ron Pajala, CD, assumed the role of Band Director in 1990. Over the following ten years under Ron’s leadership the Band grew to 40-50 members. Major Ken Whitney returned in 1999 as Assistant Band Director, becoming Band Director shortly thereafter, until succeeded by Acting Honourary Captain Norman Stanfield in 2003, and Bombardier Brian Smith, CD, in 2004.
In 2006, following the Band’s participation in the Thank You to Canadian Veterans in the Netherlands in 2005, the Band uniform was revised to better distinguish the volunteer Band members from the enlisted members of the Regiment.
The Regiment also formed a Pipe Band, under Pipe-Major Gordon Barrett. The British Columbia Regiment Irish Pipes and Drums wear Irish kilts and caubeens.
The Regiment is proud of its bands and volunteer bandsmen who act as visible ambassadors of the Canadian Forces and The British Columbia Regiment in the eyes of the community.
(Thanks to Major J.D. Barrett for contributing to the above narrative.)