In the spring of 1912, the citizenry of Victoria, concerned with the lack of a defence force on the coast and the Victoria area, decided to promote the creation of a Militia Infantry Regiment to augment the existing Militia Artillery Regiment, the 5th Regiment, Canadian Garrison Artillery.

There was no concern that a second Militia unit would have a negative impact on the 5th Regiment, in fact they welcomed the new formation, while the idea of a “Kilted Regiment” had been abandoned owing to the need of more funds than were obtainable. The intention of the new unit was not to be a “Drill Hall Regiment” but one with regular active service manoeuvres.

It had also been recognized for some time that Victoria lagged behind in promoting militia units compared with other cities in the Dominion, particularly noting Halifax. The Permanent Force Garrison of Work Point Barracks at the time numbered only 150 officers and men, their services were inadequate and could only support the Military District No.11 Headquarters and the defences in Esquimalt.

Lt Col AW Currie, of future fame and the current Commanding Officer of the 5th  Regiment, was instrumental in the resolution proposing the formation, to be called “The City of Victoria Regiment of Fusiliers. This formation was endorsed by Victoria Mayor John Beckwith and Richard McBride, Premier of British Columbia. The 88th Regiment (Victoria Fusiliers) was officially authorized and established as a Canadian Militia Regiment, approaching 100 years ago, on September 3, 1912.

Plaque commemorating the contribution of the 88th Fusiliers.

As tensions in Europe increased in 1913 and 1914, the 88th Regiment increased in size and training commitments as did a third Militia unit formed in 1913, the 50th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders of Canada).  

On August 7, 1914, the 88th Regiment marched displaying their new colors to quarters at the Dockyard, where they were to reside and train prior to departing from Victoria on August 28th , destined for “over the seas” to the front.

The following excerpts from the newspapers reflect the local fervour for the 88th Regiment and its activities -

Daily Colonist, August 8th. “A picturesque incident yesterday afternoon was the informal showing of their new regimental colors to the men of the 88th Fusiliers by the Daughters of the Empire as the troops passed their headquarters on Langley Street on their way to Esquimalt. They were received with the utmost enthusiasm and admiration.”

Daily Colonist, August 25th. “There will be a parade of the 88th Fusiliers band at 8 p.m. today at the Esquimalt Dry Dock and it will be continued every evening until further notice.”

Daily Colonist, August 28th. “Five hundred Victoria volunteers will leave this morning for Valcartier, Quebec, preliminary to sailing for the front. They will include the representatives of the 50th Gordon Highlanders and the 88th Regiment of Fusiliers. The former will parade at the Willows camp at 8:45 o’clock and the latter will fall into line at 8 o’clock at the Esquimalt Dockyard.”…. “The pipers will provide music for their corps to the dock while the band of 88th Fusiliers will play their contingent from Esquimalt to the boat.”

The Daily Colonist printed a supplement on August 28th with photographs and lists of the names of the officers and men of the three regiments who were departing from Victoria as well as reference to other associated units. Volunteers from the 5th Regiment, C.G.A. had left on August 26th.

Daily Colonist, October 31, 1914. Writes From England – A.F. Jackson, of the 88th Fusiliers, has sent Mr. F. Baker, of this city, a short letter announcing his safe arrival with the first Canadian contingent in England. The communication is dated October 15, from the SS Virginian, in the harbour of Davenport. He says, in part:

“The yards here are full of warships, old ones being fixed up and new ones being finished. On the trip across, all kinds of rumors were afloat as to the German battleships being in wait for us, but we did not see any. The grub only just lasted out for us. We are tied up at the wharf now, but can’t get ashore. We’ve now been on this boat three weeks, so shall not be sorry to land. Our first sight of English papers says: “Germans Marching on Ostend,” but just wait until the 88th get busy.”

The 88th Regiment (Victoria Fusiliers) pictured in 1914, the year of their departure to fight in the Great War.<br/><br/>Photo courtesy of View Royal Archives

Daily Colonist, September 5, 1915.   88th REGIMENT HAS SPLENDID RECORD.  

“When the war broke out, every officer of the corps volunteered for overseas service within one hour of the receipt of the monumentous news. Of the N.C.O.’s and men, 95 per cent followed suit. But it was impossible for everyone to go, and, although many were forced, for various reasons, to remain, it was only three weeks later that a force of 270 officers and men of the 88th Regiment marched from their camp, then situated at the Esquimalt Dockyard, to the C.P.R., en route to England and the front."

The 88th Victoria Fusiliers Regimental and Kings Colours, so proudly displayed as they marched into the Dockyard that day, are currently preserved in St. Mary’s church in Oak Bay along with a commemorative plaque.

The Canadian Scottish Regiment (Princess Mary’s), formed by combining the 50th and 88th Regiments in 1920, is hosting Centennial Celebrations this year and next.