Regiments awarded ‘Freedom of the City’ Saturday

Chilliwack will honour its military roots with a special parade through downtown Chilliwack Saturday.

Royal Westminster Regiment

Chilliwack will honour its military roots with a special parade through downtown Chilliwack Saturday.

The event will recognize army units that have had historic ties to the community, and remain important parts of the local landscape.

On Oct. 26 the City of Chilliwack will honour the 39 Combat Engineer Regiment, The Royal Westminster Regiment, and the 39 Service Battalion with the “Freedom of the City.”

The event will feature a parade down Spadina Avenue and a special ceremony at the cenotaph, beginning at 1 p.m.

The Freedom of the City is an historic honour dating back to ancient Rome.  At that time the “pomerium”, the boundary of the city, was regarded as sacred. Promagistrates and generals were forbidden to enter the city and resigned their imperium immediately when they crossed the city boundary. An exception was made for victory celebrations, during which the victorious general would be allowed to enter the city for one day only. The carrying of weapons by soldiers was also banned inside the pomerium for traditional religious reasons.

Similar laws were passed by European cities during the Middle Ages to ensure public safety and civic rights against drunkenness and looting by their own king’s soldiers. The Freedom of the City was an honour granted only to military units which had earned the trust of the local citizens.

Today, the Freedom of the City is a ceremonial honour bestowed upon a military unit having historical ties to the community as a token of appreciation for their long and dedicated service. Having received the honour, the unit will customarily “exercise the Freedom by marching through the city with drums beating, colours flying and bayonets fixed.”

The presence of military engineers in Chilliwack began in 1941 when Camp Chilliwack was opened at Vedder Crossing. The 39 Combat Engineer Regiment has regimental headquarters, administration squadron and 54 Engineer Squadron located at the Chilliwack Armoury.

The Royal Westminster Regiment has the longest connection with Chilliwack going back to 1910 when D Company of the 104th Regiment Westminster Fusiliers of Canada was raised here.  Their Armoury, built in 1913, is still a city landmark on Princess Street. Many Chilliwack volunteers served overseas with the Westminster Regiment during both world wars. The Westminster Regiment remained in Chilliwack until the 1960s when, due to army reorganization, D Company was closed. In 1967, Queen Elizabeth bestowed the honour “Royal” upon the Regiment which became The Royal Westminster Regiment. On April 1, 2013 the Regiment returned to re-establish D Company at the Chilliwack Armoury.