31 August 2018
Voltigeurs de Québec
The presence of the Voltigeurs de Québec regiment in Québec City led to the construction of the Armoury. The militia unit needed a well-located training ground big enough for it to perform various military manoeuvres and exercises. Officially formed in 1862, the regiment is the oldest French Canadian military force still operating today.
The 9th Regiment of the Voltigeurs de Québec is a light infantry unit of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve and a part of the 35th Canadian Brigade Group. It is based in Québec City and has about 250 members, including a marching band of some 30 musicians.
Members are reserve soldiers training part-time to be ready to serve. They can assist civil authorities for local operations, such as in the case of natural disasters, and serve as backup for regular military troops on missions abroad.
Militias always played an important role in defending the colony. They trace their history back to the time of New France when militias were present in the St. Lawrence Valley and particularly Québec City. The tradition continued under the British regime and even after Confederation.
History of the Regiment
The Voltigeurs de Québec regiment was founded in 1862 as the 9th Battalion Volunteer Militia Rifles. Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-René Léonidas de Salaberry was the First Commander. He was the son of Charles-Michel de Salaberry, Commander of the Canadian Voltigeurs militia unit and hero of the Battle of Châteauguay, where the French Canadian troops defeated the Americans, despite the U.S. numerical superiority.
It was therefore no accident the name “Voltigeurs de Québec” was chosen for the new battalion and the Salaberry family arms placed at the centre of the battalion’s insignia. The crown represents service to the British monarch. Its motto, “Violence to the strong, mercy to the weak,” warns enemies to be ready to put up a good fight.
The original battalion was created by merging five Canadian militia companies founded between 1857 and 1862 to make up for the absence of the British Québec garrison troops, sent to fight in Crimea.
The battalion became a regiment in 1900 and officially adopted the name “9th Regiment Voltigeurs de Québec.”
Operations and Active Participation
From its beginnings, the Voltigeurs de Québec regiment took part in several major conflicts. In 1864–1865, soldiers were sent to the American border to defend Canada against a possible attack from its southern neighbour. They defended against the Fenian raids by extremist Irish patriots in March 1866 and fought the Métis in the North-West Rebellion in the 1880s, earning their first military honour. They also served in Africa on the Nile expedition in 1884 and in the Second Boer War in 1899.
The Voltigeurs remained an active presence in the 20th century. During World War I, they were brought into active service on August 6, 1914, to provide local protection services in France in the Somme, in Amiens, and in Ypres and Arras. Interestingly, the Voltigeurs were the only Québec militia regiment mobilized during that war.
Some 3,000 Voltigeurs volunteered to serve overseas in World War II. They even served in the ranks of other French Canadian regiments fighting at the front lines: In northwestern Europe, they helped the De la Chaudière and De Maisonneuve regiments and the Fusiliers Mont-Royal, and in Italy they contributed to the success of the Van Doos, the Royal 22e Régiment.
Since the end of World War II, the regiment has continued to take part in UN and NATO peacekeeping missions, including in Cyprus, Egypt, Israel, ex-Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan.
La Musique des Voltigeurs
La Musique des Voltigeurs de Québec is one of the grandest military music formations and holds the honour of being the oldest active music ensemble in Québec City. It was founded on February 14, 1866, and quickly earned a solid reputation with military authorities and the general public. At the time, leading Québec City music figure Joseph Vézina was its musical director.
The ensemble took part in the first playing of Calixa Lavallée’s composition Ô Canada at the June 1880 Sociétés Saint-Jean-Baptiste patriotic convention.
Tout au long du 20e siècle, la Musique des Voltigeurs de Québec continue de perfectionner son répertoire et son art, s’impliquant dans la communauté et s’affichant comme l’un des meilleurs ensembles musicaux de la Réserve au Canada.
Throughout the 20th century, La Musique des Voltigeurs de Québec ensemble continued perfecting its repertoire and craft, remaining involved in the community and proving to be one of the best musical ensembles of the Canadian Reserve.
To this day, La Musique des Voltigeurs de Québec regularly takes part in parades, mess dinners, masses, and benefit concerts. Most of the forty or so professional musicians that make up the ensemble trained at the Conservatoire de musique de Québec or at Université Laval’s Faculty of Music. In 2016, the ensemble celebrated the 150th anniversary of its founding.
You can contact La Musique des Voltigeurs de Québec for your events. The ensemble will add an authentic touch to your occasions at the Voltigeurs de Québec Armoury.
A Duty to Remember
A museum was created in the early sixties to preserve and present the most beautiful pieces that marked the history of the Voltigeurs de Québec. Luckily, the 2008 Armoury fire did not destroy all of this precious collection.
Numerous uniforms, pieces of equipment, and regiment musical instruments are on display in the Armoury’s Commemorative Hall. They evoke the past and present of what is―to this day―the oldest French Canadian military force. The Commemorative Hall is open daily to the public, 9:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. For information call 418 648-4422 or click here.