|Halifax Volunteer Battalion soldier, c. 1860|
When Britain declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary in the summer of 1914, the Halifax Rifles responded by sending a draft of volunteers to the 14th Battalion (Royal Montreal Regiment), one of the units that sailed to England in October 1914 as part of the first Canadian contingent. The regiment's officers, however, were not satisfied with simply providing personnel for other units. On January 1, 1915, the Canadian government authorized the creation of the 40th Battalion, under the command of Lt. Col. W. H. Gilborne (R. C. R.). Built around military personnel enlisted in the Halifax Rifles, the newly created regiment immediately set out to raise a Nova Scotian battalion for overseas combat.
|A member of the 63rd Halifax Rifles at McNab's Island camp, September 1914|
Having spent the summer in training at Valcartier, the 40th Battalion boarded the SS Saxonia and departed Canada on October 18,1915. Eleven days later, its 1143 personnel landed at Plymouth, England and proceeded to Bramshott Military Camp, becoming the first Canadian infantry battalion to be stationed there. The 40th was assigned to the 9th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division and continued its training in anticipation of deployment in France.
|C. R. Fulton, Upper Stewiacke, NS (center) & J. Miller, Fogo, Nfld. (right) of the 63rd Halifax Rifles in CEF uniform|
Eventually, the 40th Battalion absorbed the remaining personnel of the 64th, 104th, 106th (Nova Scotia Rifles) and 172nd Battalions. The unit later returned to Bramshott, where it was re-designated the 216th Reserve Battalion. When its manpower dwindled, the 216th was absorbed by the 17th Reserve Battalion.
|40th Battalion Cap Badge|
After the end of the war, the Halifax Rifles continued to operate as a militia unit. As time passed, its active membership dwindled, particularly in the years after the Second World War. In 1965, the regiment was placed on the "Supplementary Order of Battle", its strength having been reduced to "nil". The unit was reactivated as a reserve force on May 10, 2009, its personnel training to perform armoured reconnaissance. Its resurrection is a fitting tribute to the men whose military exploits in defence of their country began with a small militia unit created in Halifax, Nova Scotia over 150 years ago.
The Halifax Rifles (RCAC). Wikipedia. Available online.
Hunt, M. S.. Nova Scotia's Part in the Great War - 1920. Archives CD Books Canada Inc., Manotick, Ontario: 2007.
Orders and Decorations - Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC). Veterans Affairs Canada. Available online.