The hidden date for this stamp can be found on one of the soldier's leg.
The rise of American military strength during the American Civil War (1861-1865) made the governments of Upper and Lower Canada uneasy. In addition to witnessing a build up of arms among their neighbours to the south, Canadian leaders no doubt considered that if Americans were willing to wage war against their own countrymen, then they would have no qualms about attacking the nascent nation north of the 49th parallel. In response to this perceived threat, they authorized the formation of militia regiments throughout the eastern half of the country. As settlement spread west—and Confederation formed, regiments continued to spring up wherever brave Canadians saw the need to stand on guard.
While the often complex and highly descriptive names of many of the regiments have changed over the decades, there are several active regiments that can trace their history prior to Confederation. This stamp issue salutes three regiments celebrating a century and a half of active duty.
Founded in 1862, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) of Canada was presented its first colours in that same year as the 5th Battalion “The Royal Light Infantry of Montreal.” First called out for military service in the 1860s against Fenian invaders, over the past century and a half, tens of thousands of Canadians have served in Canada’s Black Watch in foreign wars, United Nations peacekeeping and stabilization missions, NATO interventions, and crises at home. Six members of the Regiment have been awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest military honour bestowed by the Commonwealth, and over one thousand individual operational decorations have been awarded to members of the Regiment. The Red Hackle, its distinguishing emblem, is worn proudly—a symbol of tradition, duty and sacrifice.
With the motto Semper Paratus (Always Ready) The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry—nicknamed “the Rileys,” is also celebrating 150 years of active duty in wartime battle, peacekeeping and home-based relief efforts. Founded in 1862, as the 13th Battalion Volunteer Militia (Infantry), Canada, in 1936, it merged with the Wentworth Regiment to become The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (Wentworth Regiment). Two members have been awarded the Victoria Cross and the Regiment has earned close to 40 battle honours in recognition of actions undertaken by its soldiers.
In 1861, fearing invasion from a war-torn U.S., nearly 200 men met in Toronto to raise a volunteer battalion. Eventually, their efforts lead to the formation of what would become The Royal Regiment of Canada, a regiment that would eventually win battle honours on three continents and earn a top-notch reputation among Canadian units. Formed March 14, 1862, as the 10th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles, Canada, its members saw their first action in 1885. The Regiment’s name changed several times until February 11, 1939, finally becoming The Royal Regiment of Canada. Today, members participate in peacekeeping missions around the world, most recently in Sudan and Afghanistan, and are deployed at home when needed.
One of the challenges of approaching a century and a half of history for three distinctive organizations that had gone through many changes internally over the years—and to create a cohesive series of stamps—was in finding an element common to all three regiments throughout their history. According to David Sasha, partner at Sputnik Design.
“We set out to depict and honour the service and sacrifice of every single person who has served proudly and bravely for this great country since 1862. That wasn’t easy, since no one person, event or place can serve to represent the regiments’ long and memorable history. So we decided to focus on the aspects that are common to all parts of their history— the uniforms, the colours and the symbols that stand for these great regiments. Using the evolution of the uniform captures a moment in history and ties all the regiments together, while celebrating the differences among them. We honour each regiment individually as well as celebrate them collectively for serving Canada over the last 150 years.”
Montréal illustrator Sharif Tarabay helped to bring these stamps to life. Sasha notes, “He was perfectly suited to do these illustrations as he had previously illustrated all 100 recipients of the Canada Victoria Cross. We didn’t want the illustrations to be a photographic representation of the soldiers, but rather something that had much more depth to bring out the personality of the individual soldiers and to bring the story behind them to life. Each soldier stands at attention and encompasses the look and feel from that time period. As you look at the stamps you immediately see a reflection of 150 years of dedication and service to a country that these individuals were willing to give their life for.”
Colour, through the use of fabric, was added to the stamp booklets to distinguish the respective regiments—the unique tartan of the Black Watch; the scarlet red that is synonymous with The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry and the CADPAT digital camouflage pattern for The Royal Regiment of Canada. The crests for each of these regiments is also unique and helped to distinguish each within the booklets, especially on the souvenir sheet where they sit side by side.
David Sasha explains, “We decided that the crests should also be depicted in the same manner as the soldier illustrations, and we had the illustrator render them to give complete harmony to the design. The stamps jump off the page as they are surrounded by historical images from the regiments. This continues to give more perspective on the soldiers, the battalions and the battles that were fought. These images are in muted, earthy colors to give a historical feel and to enhance the brilliance of the stamp illustrations and the regiment crests.”
This issue most certainly represents the stamp-as-storyteller approach. Sasha adds, “Our goal was to create an in-depth perspective of the past 150 years for three of Canada’s great military regiments without the need for a word of narrative—and we believe we’ve been successful.”