No one knows for sure when Patricias started gathering in informal groups, however; we do know that it started shortly after the “Originals” were wounded. The Regiment was so closely knit that they sought each other out in hospital. Rank was not important, but sharing a Patricia cap badge forged a brotherly bond. What we do know is that a group of Patricias started a newsletter at the Cooden Camp hospital, in England, covering the whereabouts of those men in hospital, and distributed it back home and to those still on the front.
Men who were sent home to Canada and released as a result of their wounds still corresponded with those at the front and those in hospitals. Once home, they sought out their comrades, and formed loose groups that met on a regular basis to discuss the war, their wounds and how best to conform to postwar society.
Soon after, a dress code was in effect to distinguish Patricias from other veteran groups. A
blazer and tie, an arm band worn on the right sleeve, and a beret with a Patricia crest was worn. This was followed by the formal name: “The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Service Club.”
Over 5,000 men served in the Regiment during World War I. Patricia veterans from abroad reunited in Ottawa to welcome home the Regiment on 19 March 1919.
The date and location is unknown, but the first annual dinner of the Patricia Club took place during 1919. The second Annual Dinner of the Patricia Club took place on 28 February 1920 in Ottawa. Soon Branches of Patricia Clubs where formed across Canada. The first annual banquet of the Saskatchewan Branch was held on 6 January 1920.
Members of the Patricia Clubs kept in contact with the serving component of the Regiment by attending the annual Battle of Frezenberg memorial. They also took part in ‘The Trooping of the Colours’, regimental sports days and other events that the Regiment was involved in. Many members of the Patricia Club belonged to the National Rifle Association and fired many rounds down range alongside serving Patricias, in sport and competitively.
They also opened their homes and offered hospitality to serving Patricias passing through on leave or on course, and job offers were extended for those who sought retirement or release from service.
A keen interest was held by the members in the training and equipment of the Regiment and its members.
With the outbreak of World War II, the Patricia Clubs saw the Regiment off to Europe. This included the sons of Patricia veterans of the Great War, who now wore the red and white shoulder flash of the Regiment.
In Windsor Ontario on August 31st 1942 the Patricia Clubs became more official, instituting an official uniform for the Association, and began to raise funds for the war effort and the Regiment to helping to provide better aid to wounded Patricia’s returning home.
As the Regiment has always said, “we are a family”, which also includes wives and children. The wives took a very active part in supplying comforts for the boys overseas. By 1945, the six Branches of the Wives Club raised $27,886.75, 162,500 cigarettes, and 38,397 knitted articles for the troops overseas. The Esquimalt and Winnipeg Branches also sent many more items as well.
Both the Patricia Clubs and Wives Clubs continued long after the war. Finally, the Founder of the Regiment organized all clubs relating to the Regiment and formed the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Association, at 11:00 O’clock, on 24 October 1947 in Calgary, Alberta. Major Mac Dougald, representing the Regiment, fully agreed by stating that a closer bond between the Regiment and the Association would be welcomed.
The new PPCLI Association was accepted by all ranks, retired and serving. It continued to be home to Patricias who served and those still serving the Colours. The Association has always and continues to be a large presence in the regimental family. Whether in peace time or war, the kinship between the retired and serving component remains strong.
On 1 September 1953, the PPCLI Association was incorporated and remains so to this day.
The Association has kept abreast of changing times by creating various support programs. The Volunteer Patricia Program, offered by each branch, was started to assist those returning to civilian life and those with PTSD. Operation Small Pack was initiated to support those who were injured in Afghanistan and sent to Germany. Each small pack contained the basics required for personal grooming and clothing. They also sent money to the families left behind for children Christmas parties. In 2008, the Association was presented the Canadian Forces Medallion for Distinguished Service for support to the Regiment and the Canadian Forces. The Association also offers bursaries to all members of the Regiment and their families.
All serving members are welcome to any branch meeting across Canada, and are more than welcome to join while serving or after release. This includes all trades who have been attached to the Regiment.
Courtesy of Bob ‘Zub’ Zubkowski