The Oxford Rifles fonds

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The Oxford Rifles fonds

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  • ca. 1850 - 1989, nd. (Creation)
    Oxford Rifles Militia

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Physical description

approx. 142 cm of textual materials

  • including 3 oversized volumes

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(1798 - 1970)

Administrative history

The first militia unit in the County of Oxford was raised by Benajah Mallory in the Township of Burford as part of the 1st Regiment York Militia and consisted of 65 men between the ages of 18 and 60. However, the Oxford Militia was not officially created until the summer of 1798 by a proclamation by Lord Russell. In doing so, Col. William Clause, upon his appointment as Lieutenant, was authorized to raise four companies designated as the First Regiment, Oxford Militia. The fourth companies were known as Burford, Blenheim, and the 1st and 2nd Oxford Companies. These companies participated in the War of 1812 taking battle honours at Detroit (16 August 1812), Fort Erie (28 November 1912), Nanticoke Creek (13 November 1813), Lundy’s Lane (25 July 1914) and Malcolm’s Mills (6 November 1814).

In the Rebellion of 1837, the Militia again played an important part with officers and men of the Oxford Regiment taking part in the sinking of the Caroline in Niagara Falls.

A year later provisions were made for the organization of five separate corps in the County of Oxford; one at Burford, one within the limits of Blenheim, Blandford and Woodstock, one in the Townships of Zorra, one in the townships of Burford and Oakland and one within the limits of Nissouri, East, West and North Oxford. By an act in 1851, Brant County was formed and the five units were reorganized according to the new county boundaries. The Oxford Militia remained active as a county organization until the regiment was formally reorganized in 1863 as the 22nd Battalion Volunteer Militia, The Oxford Rifles, under the command of Lt. Col. W.S. Light, Brigade Major of the eighth Mil. Dist.

The Headquarters of the 22nd Battalion was located in Woodstock and consisted of the following six Volunteer Militia Rifle Companies:
No. 1 Company, Woodstock – Capt. Hugh Richardson
No. 2 Company, Embro – Capt. Isaac Wallace
No. 3 Company, Beachville – Capt. George Greig
No. 4 Company, Wolverton – Capt. Louis B. Cole
No. 5 Company, North Oxford – Capt. John Henderson
No. 6 Company, Princeton – Capt. Cowan.

In 1864, Lt.-Col. Light passed away and Major John B. Taylor was promoted to the command of the Battalion. That same year, the regiment was active participating in the Fenian Raids with two companies doing border service in Quebec. By 1866 all eight companies were on service at Ridgeway, Fort Erie and Sarnia. In 1868 the militia was called out in the County of Oxford to aid with civil power in the event know as “The Whisky Riots”, when the Mayor of Woodstock, William Grey, requested assistance in dispersing a crowd which had collected and threatened two “whiskey detectives”.

In 1899, the Oxford Rifles were once again called to arms at the outbreak of the South African War (Boer War), when they furnished a detachment of ten men for the Royal Canadian Regiment of London under the command of Capt. J.M. Ross. It was the first time Canadian troops fought overseas. Following the war, the Armoury in Woodstock was built in 1904 as a headquarters, which included a gymnasium, bowling alley and ballroom, for the regiment and a year later the regiment was reorganized once again as a city corps, with mounted infantry formed in the rural areas. The latter cavalry unit became known as the Grey’s Horse.

With the outbreak of the Great War (1914-1918), details were called out from the Oxford Rifles as guards on public works and buildings, while a large detachment of officers and men along with members of the 24th Greys Horse under Major D.M. Sutherland (later Lt.-Col. The Hon. D.M. Sutherland, Minister of National Defence) formed part of the 1st Battalion, C.E.F. Other members of the regiment later proceeded overseas with the 18th, 34th, 71st and 168th Battalions as well as other units. Over 2,500 men from the Oxford Rifles served in C.E.F. units and earned the regiment battle honours at Somme (1916), Arras (1917-1918), Ypres (1917), Hill 70 (1917), Amiens (1918), Hindenburg Line (1918) and Pursuit to Mons (1918).

Following the war, the Oxford Rifles were asked to surrender the use of the numerals “22” since the titled 22nd regiment also belonged to the famous Van Doos of the Permanent Force, and became known by the single name “The Oxford Rifles”. In 1920, the Oxford Rifles were reorganized with three companies based in Woodstock and one in Ingersoll. During this time they were referred to as The London and Oxford Fusiliers.

The Regiment was mobilized for World War II, but did not embark for the United Kingdom until January 1945. When they were mobilized, the Oxford Regiment was broken up into two parts, one in the Bennetts Barracks at Listowel and the second quartered at the Woodstock Armouries. On May 12th 1942 the officers and men of the Oxford Rifles moved into semi-permanent barracks at Carling Heights, London and stayed there until they received orders to move to British Columbia to help guard against a threat of a Japanese invasion.

Following the end of the war and the changing security environments created by the Cold War, the old militia structures became increasingly untenable. The Oxford Rifles remained as its own separate regiment until 1954 when it was amalgamated with the Canadian Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) into the Third Battalion.

On March 8th 1970 the Oxford Rifles were officially decommissioned as a militia unit as their battle honours were laid to rest in Old St. Paul’s. Its legacy lives on, however, in the 4th Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment of Canada Reserves.

Custodial history

The records were created by members of the Oxford Rifles between 1850 and 1989 outlining the history and functions of the Oxford Rifles Militia including the activities of the Oxford Rifles Band and the Oxford Rifles Association. These records were donated to the Woodstock Museum under the condition that all item and documents were to remain in Woodstock, later the records were transferred to the County of Oxford Archives when it moved to the newly-renovated Governor's House of the Old Oxford County Jail in February 2012.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of various materials relating to the history of the Oxford Rifles and is organized into the following Series and Subseries:

Series 1: Administration
a) Constitution/By-laws
b) Minutes
c) Financial
d) History

Series 2: Military papers
a) Regimental/Service/Enlistment Rolls
b) Orders
c) Certificates/General Military documents
d) War Diaries
e) Correspondence

Series 3: Oxford Rifle Band
a) Financial
b) Concerts
c) Sheet Music

Series 4: The Oxford Rifle Association
a) Financial
b) Newsletters
c) Reunion

Series 5: Scrapbooks

Series 6: Miscellaneous

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Physical condition

Some material require conservation work.

Immediate source of acquisition

The fonds was acquired in February 2012, by the County of Oxford Archives from the Woodstock Museum.


Language of material

  • Canadian English

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Restrictions on access

The fonds is open to public research. However, please contact the archivist responsible for the records regarding access, as some materials may be too fragile to handle. The Archives will make every effort to supply reference copies where feasible.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Copyright is held by the archives. Researchers are responsible for observing copyright regulations that may apply to the publication of their research. If you wish to publish any of this material, please contact the archivist responsible for the records.

The Archivist has the right to restrict reproduction if the material is in a fragile condition.

Finding aids

An item level description is available for researchers.

Associated materials

RG2 – County of Oxford fonds

  • Series 1: Minutes
  • Series 2: By-laws
  • Series 4: Clerk
  • Series 8: Administration of Justice
  • Series 11: Oxford Patriotic Association

COA40 Don Coles Military fonds

COA44 Edwin Bennett fonds

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No further accruals are expected.

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