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The Québec Citadel
Known as the Gibraltar of America, the Québec Citadel dominates Old Québec and the St. Lawrence River from the heights of Cap Diamant. The Citadel, which was designated a National Historic Site in 1981, has played a variety of military roles over the years, and is today the home of the Royal 22e Régiment. This pentagon-shaped fortress was built by the British between 1820 and 1831 to strengthen Québec City’s defences, which were established between 1608 and 1871. It was host to an active garrison for the British army until the British forces left in 1871. A unit of the Canadian artillery arrived at the Citadel that same year and remained until 1922. The Royal 22e Régiment has been closely associated with the Citadel since 1920. This French Canadian regiment is renowned for its considerable military accomplishments and for its contribution to the usage of French in the Canadian Army. The reasons for designation of the Québec Citadel have been expanded to include the contributions of the Royal 22e Régiment.
The imperial fortress of Québec City was the centrepiece of the colonial defence system. The permanent citadel strengthened the defences of this system by providing protection from artillery fire from both the river and the Plains of Abraham. After the withdrawal of British troops in 1871, Canada maintained an active garrison in Québec City, posting Canadian Artillery batteries there until 1922. The Artillery ensured the security of Québec City and ran an artillery school, but its manpower was inadequate to fill all the Citadel’s accommodations. Since 1872, the Citadel has been one of two official residences of the Governor General of Canada, who spends part of the year at each of them. As such, the citadel has a prominent role in the protocol and official function of the office.
The 22e Régiment was assigned the guard of the Citadel on May 22, 1920. The rich history of this prestigious regiment began during the First World War. In an era when English was the only language used in the army, there was a call for the creation of a unit that would enable French Canadians to serve in their own language. Raised in October 1914, the 22nd Battalion was the only Francophone infantry unit that was active on the front during the Great War. It was disbanded at the end of the conflict, but was reactivated on April 1, 1920, as the 22nd Regiment (its name did not officially become French until 1928) as part of the formation of Canada’s Permanent Active Militia. Many milestones in the history of bilingualism in the armed forces were laid by the “Van Doos”. For example, in May 1958 they became the first Canadian Army unit to have their battle honours in French. Through their enduring presence, role and history, the “Van Doos” have advanced the use of French in the Canadian Army.
In addition to spearheading bilingualism in the Canadian Army, the Royal 22e Régiment is recognized for its indisputable military accomplishments. The Battalion participated in many operations during the First World War, including the battles of Vimy and Passchendaele. During the Second World War, the Royal 22e fought on the Italian front, where it took part in the invasion of Sicily, and also participated in operations in the Netherlands and Northern Germany. In the decades that followed, members of the Royal 22e Régiment also served in the Korean War and in many military and peacekeeping operations.
On June 1, 1921, in recognition of its valour in combat during the First World War, the 22e Régiment received the “Royal” title. In addition to this distinction, the members of the “Van Doos” have been awarded 44 battle honours, three Victoria Crosses and one Cross of Valour, decorations that testify to their courage and dedication over the past century.
As the home of the Royal 22e Régiment, the Québec Citadel has played a key military role which has changed over the years. It continues to be an important aspect of the life of Québec City, a Canadian military city of major importance, and of the historic neighbourhood of Old Québec, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Title of the Image: Personnel of Le Royal 22e Régiment getting ready for disembarkation in Villapiana, Italy in 1943.
Source of the Image: Collections Canada, Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3396545
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Hon. Catherine McKenna Parks Canada History and Archaeology
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