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Projects help to highlight military history of Swift Current

Posted on 24 August 2021 by Matthew Liebenberg

A new publication and a slideshow project about the 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars) highlights an important part of Swift Current’s military history.

The regiment was redesignated several times during its history, but is commonly referred to as the 8th Recce. Its association with Swift Current dates back to the 1920s, when it was headquartered in the city.

The regiment was disbanded in 1968, but during its operational tenure there were squadrons located in Swift Current, Maple Creek and Shaunavon. Sub units were also located in various villages and towns across southwest Saskatchewan.

The regiment had armouries in Swift Current and Maple Creek. The building in Swift Current is now used as a recreation centre. It was renamed in 2012 in honour of the regiment’s last commanding officer, Lt.-Col. Iver Clifton.

John Griffin, a member of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #56 Swift Current, compiled the information for the new publication. He is also the coordinator of the slideshow project on behalf of the Swift Current Legion branch.

The publication is titled Compiled Information on the 8th Recce (14th Canadian Hussars). He started the book project in late January as a way to honour his grandfather’s service in the regiment during the Second World War and as a dedication to members of the regiment who gave their lives in the service of their country.

He completed the project in May, and a book unveiling took place at the Swift Current Legion on July 24. He presented a hard copy of the publication to the Legion for its archives and also provided digital copies of the book in PDF format to the Swift Current Museum, the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society in Regina, and the VIII Recce (14th Canadian Hussars) Facebook group.

“I think people will get a good amount of use out of it,” he said. “I’m very honoured that the Legion has accepted my donation of my research paper as well as the other institutions.”

He felt the publication will fill a gap in the information available at the Swift Current Legion, where there is a similar publication on display with details for the local regiment that served during the First World War, the 209th Battalion.

“They didn’t have one for the local regiment during the Second World War,” he said. “I thought that the project that I was working on to honour my grandfather’s service would be a good fit for that.”

His grandfather was Trooper John Ivor Griffin. He was born on May 19, 1926 at Swift Current, the second youngest of five children. Both his brothers and his father served during the Second World War. He also wanted to contribute towards the war and lied about his age in 1942, when he was 16, in order to enlist with the 8th Recce.

He was a Bren gunner and returned to Swift Current after the war, where he was the yard master at the CPR rail yard for many years. The book does not include information about his grandfather, because he survived the war and all his medals were service and campaign related.

The publication includes a brief history of the regiment, details about members who received awards, medals and honours during the Second World War, information about regimental members who were killed in action, died of wounds, or died while in service during the war, and brief information about the war cemeteries where fallen members of the regiment are buried or commemorated.

“Getting the information wasn’t too difficult,” he said. “It was more time-consuming, just researching the individual soldiers and getting their information, and then compiling it into the book. A lot of the information can be found at the Library and Archives of Canada that holds all the military records for our service members up until 1997, and information on the burial plots can be found at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.”

According to Griffin this is probably the first time these details about the regiment have been compiled into a single publication. He also wanted to do this project as a way to provide a useful resource to people researching their family members who served with the regiment.

“The idea was to bring this information together to make it easier for people who are searching for their ancestors who served with the regiment,” he said. “It would be kind of a one-stop shop to get most of the general information and then if they want to get the actual service records, they could take that information and give it to the Library and Archives, which would then be able to provide them that information, or the person searching for that could find the actual service record that’s digitized in their online archives.”

The slideshow project was started by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch #56 Swift Current to collect photographs of the 8th Recce and its members.

“We decided to do this project as a way to engage the Swift Current and area public and to get people interested in the military history of our area, especially younger people,” he said. “To get younger people involved with not only learning about Swift Current’s military history but also in the Legion itself.”

Griffin already contacted local, provincial and national archives to obtain images, and the Legion is also putting a call out to Swift Current area residents and the general public to submit photos of family members who served in the regiment during four different time periods.

These time periods of the regiment’s history are the 27th Light Horse and First World War era, the interwar (1919-1939) and 14th Canadian Light Horse era, the Second World War (1939-1945) and 8th Reconnaissance Regiment (14th Canadian Hussars) era, and the post war and 14th Canadian Hussars era up to the disbandment of the regiment in 1968.

“The majority of the photos are from the Second World War,” he said about images already received. “The photos from the first era are going to be hard to come by, because obviously early 1900s, not a lot of those photos exist anymore.”

There has already been a good response to the project, and as a result of his own efforts and images received from people there are already over 250 images that will be part of the slideshow.

“When people are submitting photos to the project, we ask that they give as much information on the photo, as much as they know,” he said. “Maybe it’s who is in the photo, or where it was taken, maybe what type of artefacts are in the photo itself.”

The goal of the project is to create a slideshow that will be displayed on a television in the 209th Room at the Swift Current Legion lounge. The intention is also to make the slideshow available on the Swift Current Legion’s website for a wider audience.

“There’s quite a few interesting photos,” he said about images already obtained. “A lot of them are actually photos of members of the regiment overseas during the Second World War, and there’s some interesting photos from the post-war era too of parades and other functions being held at the armoury.”

Their intention is to have the slideshow ready towards the end of summer, but it will remain an ongoing project and images will be added whenever they are received.

“If someone finds photos or decides they want to submit photos after seeing the project, it can always be added,” he said. “But for the most part I think by the end of summer we’ll try to have a preliminary slideshow up that people can view and then if people want to add to it or if other photos come up from an archive or whatever that I receive, it can always be added.”

All photo submissions and information can be e-mailed to rclbranch56sc@gmail.com and anyone with questions or other enquiries about the project can contact Griffin by phone at 1-306-741-0876.

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