The Ancient Roman tradition, Freedom of the City, will come to life in Brantford, Ontario on Sept. 24 for the celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the 56th Field Artillery Regiment RCA.
“Units or soldiers weren’t allowed in cities, it was consider a major threat. But on special occasions they were allowed in the city and if they had become familiar to the locals they were granted with something called Freedom of the City, which means they are now allowed to act as soldiers, in a soldiers capacity, within the city walls,” said Capt. Karl Fitzgerald-Sloman, adjutant of the Regiment.
The 56th Field Artillery Regiment was granted this honour by the city of Brantford in 1966 and will be reenacting the ceremony for their 150th anniversary.
The 56th Field Artillery Regiment is one of the oldest regiments in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). They came together as a regiment on Sept. 28, 1866 but can trace some of its original roots back to 1812. This primary reserve regiment is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the entirety of the Regiment.
Located in southwestern Ontario, the Regiment has played an active role in all the major conflicts of the 20th and 21st century, sending soldiers in First World War, Second World War, Korea, peacekeeping missions and the conflict in Afghanistan.
“The Regiment has a proud history and many of the soldiers that served overseas have don every well in that capacity,” noted Fitzgerald-Sloman.
The Regiment consists of three batteries, 10th Battery, 54th Battery and 69th Battery.
“Because of its location in southwestern Ontario, its had its fair share of being involved in conflicts and hostilities. More so than a number of other outfits, but it’s always answered the call,” commented Fitzgerald-Sloman.
Because of the Battery locations in St. Catharines and Simcoe, the Regiment has extended ties with various communities. 56th Field Artillery Regiment also has strong ties with the people of the Six Nations of the Grand River Band with a number of the members of the Six Nations attending Saturday’s ceremonies.
The Regiment has been working on Saturday’s plans for several months now. After the Freedom of the City parade, which will have Commanding Officer LCol. Robert Christopher march to the city hall and reenact with Mayor Chris Friel the proceedings of proclaiming Freedom of the City, close to 150 members will gather for a formal dinner in the evening. The dinner will feature entertainment with several members of the Regiment performing.
Celebrating such a significant historical milestone helps to reflect on the important people that have made the regiment what it is today, says Fitzgerald-Sloman.
“I look at these people [pictures from 1909] all strange faces, but they all lived full lives, they all had stories to tell, they were all part of the organization; which they could not even conceive of in the 21st century which is now known as 56th Field Artillery Regiment and we the soldiers that carry on that particular legacy that these individuals set up for us, that’s a pretty humbling thing,” stated Fitzgerald-Sloman.
The Freedom of the City parade will begin at 1 p.m. and start at the Brantford Armoury and end at the Brantford City Hall.