Collection MG 20.5 - Cape Breton Highlanders Collection

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Cape Breton Highlanders Collection

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  • Textual record
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Collection

Reference code

MG 20.5

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  • 1910-2000 (Creation)
    Creator
    Cape Breton Highlanders

Physical description area

Physical description

28.7 cm of textual records and other materials

Note: includes 183 photographs (b&w), 532 photographs (colour), 19 postcards, 14 maps, 16 newspapers, 8 poster boards, 5 microfilm reels (35mm), 14 patches, and 1 leather pouch.

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Name of creator

(1871-)

Biographical history

The Cape Breton Highlanders have a long and proud history of serving Canada dating back to their initial formation in 1871 as the Victoria Provisional Battalion of Infantry. Authorized on October 13, 1871, the unit consisted of four companies from Baddeck, Middle River, and Grand Narrows that was led by Captain William Bingham. The unit would receive several name changes and by 1900 was known as the 94th Victoria Regiment “Argyll Highlanders.”
With the outbreak of war in 1914, men of the 94th were placed on active duty around Cape Breton. In 1915, Captain Allison Borden raised the 85th Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders later followed by the 185th Battalion, Cape Breton Highlanders as well as the 193rd and 219th battalions. The 185th did not see direct action during the was as they were part of the 5th Canadian Division which was primarily reserves. Many men of the battalion would transfer out to fight with many going into the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders).
Following the war in 1920, the Cape Breton Highlanders perpetuated the 85th, 185th and 94th as a reserve battalion. In 1931 with approval from King George V, the Cape Breton Highlanders were designated as a non-permanent active militia and allied with the Cheshire Regiment of the British Army. In 1932, unit headquarters was moved from Baddeck to Sydney and in 1937, new companies were established: HQ Company (Sydney), A Company (Baddeck), B Company (Sydney), C Company (New Waterford), and D Company (Glace Bay).
Once again, the Cape Breton Highlanders were called to active service in 1939 with war in Europe. The unit spent time training in Canada between various locations before being sent overseas to England in 1941 where they would train until November 1943 when the unit would be sent into Italy to begin combat. The Cape Breton Highlanders served in Italy between November 1943 and March 1945 as part of the 5th Canadian Armoured Division in the 11th Infantry Brigade alongside the Perth Regiment of Canada and the Irish Regiment of Canada. The unit saw intense fighting throughout the Italian Campaign and saw action at locations such as Ortona, Arielli River (“Valley of Death”), Cassino, Melfa River, Montecchio, and Coriano Ridge among others. In March 1945, the unit began moving towards Holland where they would spend the remained of the war and conclude the fighting with the battle at Delfzijl from April 30 to May 4, 1945. The Cape Breton Highlanders remained in Holland until being returned to Canada in January 1945.
The Cape Breton Highlanders unit was officially demobilized in February 1945 and assumed the title of The 2nd (Reserve) Battalion. In 1954, the unit was amalgamated with other Nova Scotia units and renamed the 2nd Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders with the named adapted to 2nd Battalion Nova Scotia Highlanders (Cape Breton) in 1955. The unit would also receive new colours in 1959.
In modern times, The Cape Breton Highlanders served in the war in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014. In 2011, the unit saw their true name, The Cape Breton Highlanders, restored. The unit received new colours in October 2021 as part of celebrations for their 150th anniversary and saw Afghanistan added to their battle honours.

Custodial history

The collection is an amalgamation of multiple donations including, the Cape Breton Highlanders Association, Charles MacDonald, Ralph Davies, Mark Johnstone, and Glen MacNeil.

Scope and content

Collection consists of records related to the Cape Breton Highlanders including documentation spanning a century of service. Various iterations of the unit are included beginning with the 94th Victoria Regiment "Argyll Highlanders," 185th Overseas Battalion Cape Breton Highlanders, Cape Breton Highlanders (World War II), 2nd Battalion, Nova Scotia Highlanders (Cape Breton Highlanders) as well as records of the Cape Breton Highlanders Association. The records focus heavily on activity during World War 2 and post-war service by members of the Association.

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General note

The majority of the records were donated by Charles 'Sharkey' MacDonald and include paper belonging to his friend Ralph Davies.

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