Service Rifle Shooting Association
The recreated Perth Regiment is one of the thirty-five member units composing the Provincially-chartered, Museum of Applied Military History [MAMH.] In turn, the MAMH is an outgrowth of Service Rifle Shooting Association [SRSA,] founded in 1965. SRSA's founders were primarily interested in the collection and utilization of militaria, the association's activities grew to mounting active and static displays at Canadian Forces Bases and historic sites.
SRSA created two Second War elements to represent Canadian and German Infantry for the active displays. Service Rifle's repertoire of "impressions" grew to include Canadians of the War of 1812, the Fenian Raids, the North-West Rebellion, the Great War and Korea. A few foreign soldiers were portrayed such as French and American troops in Indochina/Viet Nam and Soviet infantry. The resources to create these widely varied impressions came from the members' extensive collections.
In a few years, Service Rifle's displays had earned an excellent reputation and were in considerable demand. Several members decided that the association should also recreate a specific Canadian regiment with a solid identity and history. Because it had proven difficult to assemble sufficient uniforms, accoutrements and firearms from the members' collections, it was decided that the members of the new unit would purchase and be responsible for their own damaged or lost equipment.
After two years of considerable debate, a section of the first recreated regiment came to life in 1975. All five of the section's men were Executive members of Service Rifle. In anticipation of the then upcoming American Revolutionary War Bicentennial, a United Empire Loyalist unit - the King's Royal Yorkers – had been selected. The choice seemed to be a natural. The Federal and Provincial governments were already representing a variety of British and French regiments at various historic sites; however, the Loyalists, who had fought throughout the conflict from Canadian bases and who founded Ontario after disbandment, were being ignored. In the American euphoria of breast-beating that was to start in 1976, the Loyalists would be vilified as traitors and the vast majority of Canadians would mindlessly nod their heads in agreement. The Royal Yorkers continue today, represented by a battalion gun and mortar; a set of Colours; Fifes & Drums; three infantry companies and a body of Camp Followers and refugees.
In 1977, Service Rifle obtained an Ontario charter for the founding of the Museum of Applied Military History. At the time, reenacting in Canada was in its infancy and the phrase 'living history' was not in use, so the adjective 'applied' was chosen. Unlike traditional museums, the MAMH does not occupy a building filled with static exhibits of artifacts. Instead, it forms a confederation of historical reenactment units representing five different eras of Canada's history. A government consultant advised the founders that 'museum' was the closest description to the stated objectives, and so the term stuck. The MAMH now includes thirty-five distinct units that represent five eras of Canada's military history animated by 590 members of both genders and all ages.
Maple Leaf Up
While a great deal of energy was directed towards developing and expanding the Royal Yorkers, much attention was also given to the World Wars. Demonstrators representing both wars were in demand at Armed Forces Days at Borden and Trenton, at Parks Canada sites and in New York State at old Fort Niagara. The MAMH formalized the structure of its two Second War units in 1985 in order to stage a mock battle at CFB Trenton's Armed Forces Day (later known as the Quinte International Airshow.) The Canadian element was christened Maple Leaf Up [MLU] after the ubiquitous Canadian Army road signs seen across Northwest Europe. The Canadian animators represented generic infantry and wore CANADA flashes on their sleeves and General List Cap Badges on their berets, while their German counterparts wore a variety of uniforms from different service branches and took the name Lehr Kampfgruppe Norden [LkgN,] a title which indicates a training formation constructed from the different services. Maple Leaf Up [MLU] had a life span of seven years with a peak membership of twenty-five.
The Athene Section
Simultaneously, the museum's female members began to develop meaningful exhibits illustrating the many, varied roles that Canadian women filled during the Second War. The members collected uniforms and clothing representing the three services, home front workers and volunteers and wore these while manning their displays. The small unit that created, maintained and animated the exhibits was christened the Athene Section in 1995.
The Perth Regiment
The King's Royal Yorkers reenactors, many of whom were also Maple Leaf Up members, talked about the enjoyment, challenge and honour of representing a real regiment of the American Revolutionary War. Consequently, the members of Maple Leaf Up decided to seek permission to represent one of Canada's Second World War battalions. After much research and effort, permission was granted by the Perth Regiment Veterans' Association and National Defence Headquarters to recreate elements of the 1st battalion, the Perth Regiment. The Perths had been the senior regiment of the 11th Infantry Brigade of 5th Armoured Division and had seen extensive service in Italy and Holland.
A committee of senior Maple Leaf Up members planned the approach to this new challenge. The majority of MLU members chose to re-badge as Perths and, when the project was launched at the Canadian War Museum in 1990, an astounding twenty-seven animator/soldiers attended. This turnout was all the more remarkable, as it represented close to the full paper strength of the operation. This event was particularly notable, as Brigadier General Bill Rutherford made an unscheduled appearance and caused a considerable stir. He had been of officer commanding the regiment during its baptism of fire at the Arielli River in January 1944.
The recreated Perths were first seen by the Perth veterans' association in 1991 at the biennial reunion in Stratford. A very large static display was erected in the Armoury; guards were mounted and drills conducted. As no formal announcement had been made to the vets about this participation, there was a mixed reception. Some veterans eagerly took to the rebirth and visited the displays and talked enthusiastically with the animators. Many others were disinterested. After that somewhat rocky start, over the following years, the recreated Perths developed a wonderful relationship with the veterans and are now most welcome at the reunions.
When the 50th anniversary of D-Day was celebrated in 1994, thirty-nine members participated in Ottawa in the National commemoration, encamping in Bell Tents in Majors Hill Park. All of the Perths re-badged for the event to represent units that had fought in Normandy. BGen Rutherford and his lady were the unit's guests of honour at the dinner held at Landsdowne Park on the Saturday evening.
The next day, twenty-nine members, again wearing Normandy insignia, appeared in Gananoque for the Royal Canadian Legion's official event. A highlight was coming ashore in two American Landing Craft onto a beach stoutly defended the LkgN.
In 1995, the Canadian War Museum hosted a National commemoration of VE-Day at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa. In this instance, all members proudly wore their Perth Regiment insignia. A large static display was erected and manned by MAMH's various Second War units. Immediately prior to Sunday's Church Parade, BGen Rutherford and his wife inspected the detachment. In the afternoon, the detachment mounted in Troop Carriers and paraded on Parliament Hill for a ceremony. The recreated Perth Regiment was the only unit outfitted as Second War troops and was congratulated by the Colonel commanding the parade for their steadiness and turnout. Victoria Cross winner, Ernest 'Smokey' Smith, Seaforth Highlanders of Canada, received the march past.
The Royal Canadian Legion again held an official event in Gananoque to commemorate VE-Day. In one of the town's central parks, the Perths, supported by Signals and Provost Sections, and opposed by LkgN simulated the last battle fought in Holland and the signing of the cease-fire agreement in a steady rainfall. This was followed by a wreath laying ceremony at the town's Cenotaph.
The strength of the recreated Perths peaked in 1998, with an attendance of forty-seven that spring at the regiment's annual General William Rutherford School at CFB Borden. In the fall, forty troops appeared at Odessa, New York for an annual wargaming event involving a wide range of American-based reenactment units. At the time, the unit was organized into two, full-sized platoons plus Scout and Sniper sections.
As happens to all reenactment units, the group's strength waxed and waned over the following years. In 2002, the unit was reorganized into a reinforced platoon of four sections and a small Scout section. At the annual fall event, the Perths fielded thirty-five members in three sections with Scouts. Current paper strength is sixty-five all ranks.