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Regiment celebrates 100 years

Gordon Keener (front, second from left) in 1984 in Wainwright, Alta., with the small arms team. - Photo submitted
Gordon Keener (front, second from left) in 1984 in Wainwright, Alta., with the small arms team.
— image credit: Photo submitted

At least two Williams Lake residents are lending their proud support as one of Canada’s most renowned infantry regiments, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, celebrates its 100th anniversary.

Royal Canadian Legion Branch 139 vice-president Gordon Keener, who served in the PPCLI from 1981 to 1990, and currently-serving PPCLI member Trevor Robbins, are joining in on the celebrations from afar.

One of three Royal Canadian Infantry Corps in the country, the PPCLI was officially formed on Aug. 23, 1914 after Hamilton Gault of Montreal offered to Canada to raise and equip a battalion for overseas service in the First World War.

On Aug. 6 the government accepted the offer, and the daughter of the Governor General at the time, Princess Patricia, agreed to lend her name to the about-to-form group of men largely of previous service.

The charter of the regiment was signed on Aug. 10 and recruiting began rapidly, being finished in eight days at Ottawa.

By the end of the war, as scholar James Kempling commented, the PPCLI had become a “Canadian icon.” The regiment has fought in every major conflict involving Canada, ranging from the First and Second World Wars, to the Korean War, to peacekeeping efforts during the Cold War and, most recently, in Afghanistan.

Throughout the year several major events have taken place and are continuing to be planned to celebrate the 100th anniversary, with activities centred on a triad of commemorations occurring in Edmonton, Ottawa and Frezenberg with the intention of bringing past and present regiment members together, and to connect them with Canadians throughout the country.

Keener, meanwhile, thinks fondly of his time serving in the PPCLI.

“I was going to join the airforce but when I went to the recruitment centre they said I would have to wait a year,” Keener said. “I asked about the PPCLI and they said I could join if I passed basic military indoctrinations and the PPCLI battle school in Wainwright, Alta. From there I was posted to third battalion.”

Keener began his military career in Victoria at Work Point Barracks spending four years on the small arms team. He then spent two years on the Corp of Drums in reconnaissance and worked in the peace keeping service in Cyprus — the same year Canada was awarded the Nobel Prize for peacekeeping.

“After leaving it I’m still missing it today,” Keener said.

Robbins, 25, joined the Canadian Army in 2008 after graduating from Columneetza secondary in 2007. He was deployed to Afghanistan in September of 2009 with the PPCLI second battalion.

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