C M Y
THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
THE SPEC.COMTHURSDAY, NOVEMBER8, 2012
Welcome to a special section on a special day for aspecial regiment.The Royal Hamilton Light Infantry is commemorating its150th anniversary and today is especially notable in a year’s worth of activities. A $250-a-plate fundraisertonight will commemorate the Rileys at the John WeirFoote V.C. Armoury.The event will:
Raise money for Operation Yellow Ribbon, a charitythat helps soldiers returning from duty;
Host the local launch of a RHLI postage stamp and the“soft” release of the CD, Semper Paratus II by the RHLIband;
Feature the première performance of the song PrivateRiley by composer and Spectator reporter Mark McNeilwith the RHLI band directed by Major Michael Rehill.
To see a video of the Private Riley song, go to
. Annotated lyrics can be foundon Page 4 and 5 inside.To hear and purchase the song for $2 go to
. Money raisedwill be donated to
Operation Yellow Ribbon
You see them in their neatly pressedred tunics and bright white pithhelmets.They march at downtown paradesand play concerts at Dundurn Park. They’re the go-to music providerswhen royalty is in town. And when Lincoln Alexanderwasremembered in a poignant memorialservice a couple of weeks ago, theRoyal Hamilton Light Infantry wasthere to march along with hiscasket-bearers.But today the band is celebrating being recording artists as well. TheOperation Yellow Ribbon Gala dinnertonight will be the ofﬁcial “soft” launchof the RHLI band’s second CD, SemperParatus II.The band has a proud history almostas long as the regiment itself. It was formed in 1866 by PeterGrossman and was known as the 13
Battalion Band. But Grossman onlylasted a few years until George R. Rob-inson, a graduate of the British army’sRoyal Military School of Music, camealong.There was a bit of a false start. Rob-inson left in a huff over a disagree-ment. But he returned a year later tolead the band to glory over the next 45years. Robinson became one of Hamilton’smost famous musicians — the band-shell at Gage Park is named after him.He took a group of forgettable horn blowers and turned them into a tightlydisciplined unit that not only became asource of pride in Hamilton but re-nowned in military band circles acrossthe continent.It was a tradition carried on by Rob-inson’s son, William, and somethingthe current bandleader, Major MichaelRehill, takes great pride in.After a hiatus of several years with-out a military band — the RHLI got bywith a bugle corps rather than a full-ﬂedged military band — Rehill man-aged to talk the regiment into re-forming the ensemble in 1992. “I argued we could really use a mili-tary band. The regiment had a tradi-tion of a military band and they wentfor it.” Since then Rehill, who is renownedfor his military band arrangements,has brought the Robinson pride backto the band with dozens of perfor-mances every year.“It is really an honour to direct the band,” he says. “Hamilton has such arich musical history.”
THE ROBINSON LEGACY MARCHES ON
THE RHLI BAND
Instruments include brass,woodwind and percussion.
Forty to 50 performances a year attattoos, parades, royal visits,ceremonies and concerts.
Formed in 1866 and known as the 13
Director of music is Major MichaelRehill (shown above).
SEMPER PARATUS II
The second CD by the RHLI band
Features 16 pieces depicting thehistory of the regiment.
The CD includes a newly discoveredcomposition from longtime bandleaderGeorge R. Robinson, for whom theGage Park bandshell is named.
Cost: $15, available through the RHLI
S P E C I A L T O T H E H A MI L T O N S P E C T A T O R
The renowned RHLI band, pictured in 1940, remains a source of local pride.
It started with a storyI worked onabout a teenage RHLI soldier namedPrivate James Henry Morrison, whodied in 1866.Earlier this year — as part of RoyalHamilton Light Infantry 150
anniver-sary ceremonies — he was honouredin a graveside ceremony as being theﬁrst RHLI fatality, the ﬁrst of morethan 1,100 battle deaths to follow overthe next century and a half.He was only 17 when he died. Itseems he’d joined the regiment to makea little extra money after his fatherdied and he was left to care for hismother and sisters.He probably never dreamed he’dﬁnd himself in a dingy cattle car enroute to Ridgeway near Fort Erie tohelp take on a group of Civil War-hardened Fenians who were strikingout at the British-controlled, pre-Confederation Canada.He and his fellow soldiers werepoorly trained and equipped. Theyhad little food or water. In desperationin the sweltering heat, many drankditch water, which made them sick. It’s believed this caused the severe illnessthat killed Morrison weeks later. Afterwriting that story, I found myself thinking about all the other RHLIsoldiers in similarly horriﬁc circum-stances on battleﬁelds such as Dieppe,Vimy or Kandahar.So I thought there was a song in this. Songs are part of my other life awayfrom The Spec, where I have workedsince the early 1980s. I have four al- bums out. I perform regularly andhave made more than a dozen appear-ances at Hamilton’s largest outdoormusic event, the Festival of Friends.I called the song Private Riley be-cause members of the RHLI call them-selves Rileys and I thought a compos-ite soldier would be a good way to tellthe bigger story about the regiment.I believed it would help get acrossthe truth about warfare, that whiletechnology, battleﬁelds and enemieschange, individual soldiers essentiallyremain the same — young people sentoff to do horrible duty.After I ﬁnished the song, I played itfor various audiences and it was well-received. Then one day, I pulled senioreditor Carla Ammerata aside and saidI had an idea for a Spectator websiteitem — a slide-show video to go alongwith a new song I’d recorded in myhome studio about the RHLI for its150th anniversary. She loved the ideaand it soon had enthusiastic supportall the way up to publisher Dana Rob- bins. Then I thought: Wouldn’t it be ﬁttingto have the RHLI band play on therecording? I met with Major MichaelRehill, who has been bandleader for 20years, and Tim Fletcher, the co-ordina-tor of 150
anniversary activities forthe RHLI. They were ecstatic about theidea and said they would do whateverit took to help out. Rehill agreed towrite a military band arrangementthat could be mixed into the song I’dalready put together. Fletcher said hewould gather whatever information Ineeded.Meanwhile, back at The Spec otherpeople were thinking that an eight-page RHLI commemorative sectionand other web items should also be puttogether to go with the song video. So today, in the pages of The Specta-tor and on thespec.com, just beforeRemembrance Day, we commemoratethe proud 150
anniversary of theRHLI. And all the Private Rileys whohave served through its rich history.
ASOLDIER AND A SONG
The Hamilton Spectator
Young Riley who died in 1866 inspires composition about RHLI heroes
H A MI L T O N S P E C T A T O R F I L E P H O T O
In 1962, the RHLI pays tribute to those who died at Dieppe.
Video and photography:
To RHLI bandleader
for arranging andconducting the RHLI band for the songPrivate Riley; drummer
and other membersof the band;
Sgt. Tim Fletcher (ret.), Sgt.Stan Overy (ret.), Capt. JordanSpoelstra, 2nd Lt. Richard Moll
for research assistance;
for mixing andmastering the song and
for transcription assistance.
BEHIND THE SCENES
THE ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRY
ALWAYS READY FOR 150 YEARS
At Thursday’s RHLI Operation Yellow Ribbon Gala, a new Canada Post stamp celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry will be oﬃcially unveiled in Hamilton. It showcases four uniforms from the regiment’s history.
A COMMEMORATIVE STAMP
Members of the regiment would have worn this uniform when the battalion was formed in 1862. Notable is the Shako hat and the Enﬁeld musket with bayonet. The uniform would have been used at the Battle of Ridgeway in 1866.
Second World War
The soldier in beret is wearing a battle dress style that was introduced in 1939 and is typical of what RHLI soldiers would have worn in the Second World War, including on the beaches of Dieppe.
By 1910, headgear was changed to a pith helmet with a red band, symbolizing the battalion having become a Royal regiment. This uniform would have been worn by a bugler and is similar to what is used today by RHLI band members.
This uniform was designed for desert warfare and uses a computer-generated camouﬂage pattern that reduces the chance of being detected by night vision devices. It was used in Afghanistan by members of the RHLI over the last several years.
SOURCES: CANADA POST, ROYAL HAMILTON LIGHT INFANTRYDEAN TWEED // THE HAMILTON SPECTATOR
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