Brief History

In August 1855, as a result of a decision by the British Government to withdraw most of its troops, from the Province of Canada, the province parliament passed the Militia Act which included the creation of the Volunteer Militia Field Battery of Ottawa.  Since that historic founding, 2nd Battery has been the core of a militia artillery that has existed in Ottawa. The Regiment quickly attained its nickname, “The Bytown Gunners”, honouring the original name of Ottawa. The Regiment is the oldest militia unit in Ottawa and one of the oldest military organizations created in Canada.

It first assisted the local authorities in 1861 when the city requested the battery to demonstrate a “Show of Force” during a railroad disturbance. The Bytown Gunners subsequently contributed fighting forces to many of Canada’s early continental military campaigns in 1866 and 1870.  For instance, 2nd Battery was deployed along the Canadian border in eastern Ontario in response to potential Fenian Raids from the United States.  1885 saw the Bytown Gunners send individual augmentees to fight in the North-West Rebellion.

Ottawa gunners commenced their first overseas mission during the South African War.  The preeminent Canadian battery to come out of that war was D Battery, which fought a famous rearguard action at the Battle of Leliefontein.  Lieutenant Morrison of 2nd Battery, was the troop commander at this battle.  This composite battery was recruited from four different Ontario cities, however, for all intent and purposes this was largely an expanded 2nd Battery, as over one-third of the soldiers and four out of five officers were from 2nd Battery.  Among the officers was Lieutenant John McCrae, to become famous in the Great War for his poem “In Flanders Fields”. 

During the First World War, Lieutenant-Colonel Morrison became the regiment’s first wartime Commanding Officer.  The Bytown Gunners Headquarter battery and two field batteries were combined with other militia batteries to create 1st Brigade, Canadian Field Artillery.  It fought on the western front as part of the 1st Canadian Division.  As tactics developed during the war, there was a tremendous increase in the use of artillery shells.  For example, two of the brigade’s field batteries alone fired 1.2 tons of ammunition during just one, five-day battle - an average of 146 rounds per gun per day.  Morrison would go on to eventually command all Canadian artillery on the Western Front. 

In the Second World War the Bytown Gunners recruited four batteries for wartime service.  The 25th Light Anti-Aircraft Battery deployed to British Columbia for the duration of the war to defend against possible Japanese air threats (i.e. explosive laden intercontinental balloons and aircraft launched from both aircraft carriers and submarines).  The 51st Anti-Tank Battery, part of 1st Anti-Tank Regiment, fought through the Sicilian and Italian campaigns before deploying and fighting in Holland.  The 1st Light Anti-Aircraft Battery defended London during the Blitz before seeing action in France.  2nd Field Battery arrived in England in August of 1940.  Both 2nd and 1st batteries landed in Normandy, France in 1944 and fought from Caen to the Falaise Gap; through the Scheldt; across the Rhine; and eventually helped liberate the Netherlands.   Similar to the First World War, tactics and weapons development increased the requirement for artillery ammunition.  During the three most intense days in August 1944, 2nd Battery fired over 35 tons of shells – an average of 469 rounds per gun, per day. One Bytown Gunner, Brigadier Stanley Todd, commanded all the Canadian guns in North-West Europe, while another, Captain George Blackburn, would immortalize the brutal Normandy fighting of 2nd Battery in his internationally recognized book, “The Guns of Normandy”.

For over a century the guns of 30th Field Artillery Regiment have represented the Royal Canadian Artillery at national events in Ottawa, providing gun salutes for both visiting heads of state, as well as Canadian ceremonial occasions.  In 1965 The Bytown Gunners were granted the honour of the Freedom of the City, the first Ottawa militia Regiment to receive this distinction.

Domestically, The Bytown Gunners have assisted Canadians across Canada during emergencies. Recently these operations have included soldiers deployed to Winnipeg in 1997 to fight the Red River flood, and providing significant resources to assist the civil authority in Eastern Ontario during the 1998 “Ice Storm of the Century”.

Bytown Gunners have deployed on all major battle fields since the Second World War.  They have served with distinction in Korea, Europe (during the Cold War) and on United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization missions in Africa, the Balkans and the Middle East, as well as being present throughout the campaign in Afghanistan.

30th Field Artillery Regiment is the major Artillery Regiment of 33 Canadian Brigade Group, which is subordinate to 4th Canadian Division.  It is lodged in Morrison Artillery Park armouries in southern Ottawa.

The Bytown Gunners have 162 years of distinguished service to the citizens of Ottawa and Canada.

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