Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) (LdSH (RC)) is one of three regular armoured regiments in the Canadian Army. The regiment was established in 1900 during the Boer War and has fought in all the country’s wars since then. The Strathconas have also participated in several peace support operations. The regiment has been based in Alberta since 1970 and is part of 1st Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, 3rd Canadian Division.
The Boer War (or Second South African War) was fought between Britain (and its colonies and Dominions) and the Afrikaner republics of Transvaal and the Orange Free State from 1899 to 1902. In December 1899, the Boers inflicted a series of defeats on the British. An important factor was the mobility of the Boer commandos, many of whom were on horseback and were therefore highly mobile.
Lord Strathcona, a wealthy Scottish Canadian, was concerned by these losses. He realized the hard-riding cowboys and frontiersmen he had seen in Western Canada would be better on the vast South African veldt than foot soldiers.
In January 1900, he made a formal offer to the British government to raise and equip at his expense a mounted regiment, recruited in Western Canada. His offer was quickly accepted. Strathcona’s Horse arrived in South Africa in April 1900, where it was often used for scouting ahead of the British Army.
The Strathconas returned to Canada in March 1901 and were disbanded. In 1909, the regiment was reformed. It was designated Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) in 1911.
Did you know?
On 5 July 1900, Corporal Arthur “Tappy” Richardson became the first member of a Canadian unit to earn the Victoria Cross (VC) when he rescued a comrade under enemy fire.
Lt. Harvey, VC, of Lord Strathcona's Horse with Regimental Standard presented by Lady Strathcona (February 1919).
(Courtesy Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada)
First World War
In September 1914, the Strathconas mobilized for war. (See First World War.) They sailed to England with the First Canadian Contingent in October. In May 1915, they went to France with the Canadian Cavalry Brigade and initially fought as infantry with 1st Canadian Division.
In early February 1916, the unit returned to its horses and the brigade joined the British Cavalry Corps. There were limited opportunities for mounted action, however, due to the static nature of trench warfare and the unsuitable terrain for horses between opposing forces on the Western Front. Mounted soldiers — and their horses — were also vulnerable to the firepower of modern weapons; the days of the mass cavalry charge were ending. On 27 March 1917, Lieutenant Frederick Harvey earned the Victoria Cross for single-handedly capturing a German machine-gun post.
On 30 March 1918, the Strathconas participated in one of history’s last great cavalry actions. At Moreuil Wood near Amiens, the Cavalry Brigade charged advancing German troops during the enemy’s spring offensive. Although the regiment suffered heavily, the charge stopped the German advance. Lieutenant Gordon Flowerdew received a posthumous VC for his actions in leading C Squadron.
The Battle of Amiens on 8 August marked the beginning of the period known as “Canada’s Hundred Days.” As the Germans retreated in the face of Allied advances, the Strathconas participated in several mounted attacks. In October, the regiment assisted in the capture of Le Cateau, its last action of the war.
After the war, the regiment returned to Canada, where its primary task was training militia cavalry units in the West. With the approach of war in Europe, the government began to consider armoured warfare. The Strathconas received a few light reconnaissance vehicles in 1936.
Tanks of Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) and infantry prepare to assault the Hitler Line and cross the Melfa River, Liri Valley, Italy, 24 May 1944.
(Photo by Strathy Smith, courtesy Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-140208)
Second World War
In September 1939, the Strathconas were placed on active service. (See Second World War.) They mobilized in July 1940 and became an armoured regiment.
After training at Camp Borden, Ontario, the Strathconas sailed to England in November 1941, where they trained in armoured warfare. The regiment sailed to Italy in December 1943 and fought as part of 5th Armoured Brigade, 5th Canadian Armoured Division, I Canadian Corps. (See Canada and the Italian Campaign.)
On 24 May 1944, during the operation to breach the Hitler Line, the regimental reconnaissance troop seized a bridgehead across the Melfa River. The troop held it against repeated German counterattacks with the assistance of an infantry company.
Following additional battles in Italy, the regiment moved to northwest Europe with the rest of I Corps. There it participated in the liberation of the Netherlands in April 1945.
M4A3 Sherman tanks of B Squadron Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) grind up a trail from the Imjin River, Korea, 16 July 1952. B Squadron had just replaced C Squadron and taken over its tanks, which still bear C Squadron names.
(courtesy Library and Archives Canada, PA-115496)
After the Korean War broke out in June 1950, the Strathconas began three year-long squadron rotations between May 1951 and May 1954 in support of 25th Canadian Infantry Brigade. C, B and A Squadrons were equipped with Sherman tanks rented from the US Army and took part in several actions.
In 1951, Canada established a brigade for service in West Germany to support its NATO allies. (See Cold War.) The Strathconas provided an armoured squadron from 1953 to 1955 and a reconnaissance squadron from 1957 to 1959. After Canada increased its European contribution to NATO, the entire regiment served in Iserlohn from 1965–70.
Peace Support Operations
From the 1950s to the early 2000s, detached reconnaissance squadrons participated in United Nations peacekeeping operations in Egypt and Cyprus. The entire regiment served three six-month tours in Cyprus in the 1970s and 1980s, manning observation posts. A Strathconas battle group and detached reconnaissance squadrons served in the Balkans between 1997 and 2001.
A smiling tank driver from Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) gives the thumbs up as he manoeuvres a newly arrived leased Leopard 2A6M tank from Germany at the Khandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, August 2007.
(Courtesy Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians))
The Strathconas contributed both reconnaissance and tank assets to the war in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2010. In 2002, reconnaissance squadron was part of a Canadian battle group during the American-led invasion. It returned for six months in 2004 as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
In October 2006, B Squadron, equipped with Leopard C2 tanks, was the first of eight Strathconas tank squadrons to serve in Afghanistan. B Squadron’s deployment saw Canada’s first use of tanks in combat in more than 50 years. Various Leopard 2 models subsequently replaced the C2s.
A Leopard C2 tank from Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) equipped with a mine plough in Afghanistan. When lowered, the plough pushes aside mines and IEDs as itmoves forward.Leopard C2 tanks served there in 2006 and 2007.
(Courtesy Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians))
The Strathconas have deployed on several domestic operations in response to national disasters and led army security for the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. Internationally, Strathconas have provided soldiers to missions in Ukraine and the Middle East and led the NATO battle group in Latvia in 2020.
South African War: SOUTH AFRICA, 1900–01
First World War: FESTUBERT, 1915; SOMME, 1916, ’18; Bazentin; Pozières; Flers-Courcelette; CAMBRAI, 1917, ’18; St. Quentin; AMIENS; HINDENBURG LINE; St. Quentin Canal; Beaurevoir; PURSUIT TO MONS; FRANCE AND FLANDERS, 1915–18
Second World War: LIRI VALLEY; Melfa Crossing; Torrice Crossroads; GOTHIC LINE; Pozzo Alto Ridge; CORIANO; LAMONE CROSSING; Misano Ridge; Casale; Naviglio Canal; Fosso Munio; ITALY, 1944–45, Ijsselmeer; NORTHWEST EUROPE, 1945
Korean War: Korea, 1951–53
South-West Asia: AFGHANISTAN
Note: Battle honours in upper case indicate those awarded for participation in large operations and campaigns, while those in bold type are approved for emblazonment on regimental Colours, known as Guidons in armoured units.
Regimental Traditions and Insignia
Badge: The coat of arms of Lord Strathcona surrounded by a banner inscribed “LORD STRATHCONA’S HORSE ROYAL CANADIANS,” which is surrounded by a wreath of roses, thistles, shamrocks and maple leaves surmounted by a scroll inscribed “PERSEVERANCE,” all surmounted by the Crown.
After 1911, the abbreviation for the Strathconas was LSH (RC). In May 1942, during an inspection of the regiment in England by King George VI, His Majesty pointed out that the correct abbreviation for Lord was Ld. Since then, the regiment’s abbreviated title has been LdSH (RC).
Mounted Troop: Since 1977, the Strathconas have supported a full-time mounted troop consisting of unit soldiers dressed in period uniforms. Every year, the troop performs a musical ride as well as demonstrations of military equestrian skills at several public events.
Regimental Celebrations: Moreuil Wood Day (30 March 1918), Melfa River Day (24 May 1944)
Histories: W.B. Fraser, Always a Strathcona (1975)
Ian Barnes, Sean Henry and Mike Snell, Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians): A Pictorial History (2015).